In times like these, with changes that the global pandemic brings, even great couples can be put to the test. Little did we know that when we joked with our partners about being our ‘ride or die,’ we would actually have to prove it!
So…how is your ‘ride or die’ partnership working out for you?
I’d be willing to bet that even if you’re still getting along and (mostly) speaking kindly to one another, your sexual intimacy is struggling. (Of course, if you and your partner are having difficulty communicating, you will want to address that before focusing on your sexual world.)
Our routines have been changed by necessity, not by choice. All of our lives have been directly impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. One client joked with me that this is most likely the closest we will ever get to the feeling of being locked in prison. These unknown times lead to heightened levels of stress in our minds and bodies.
What doesn’t respond well to unpredictable stress? Sexuality and eroticism.
For the last three weeks, I have been helping clients navigate these shifts. Many people are needing help and feeling lost in how to create closeness. I too have also been personally applying some new strategies in my romantic relationship.
Below are three ideas to start with to cultivate more erotic intimacy in your relationship during this lockdown.
- Allow for individuality and space
Sex, desire, and lust are driven by the unknown. We need to feel safe and we also need some tension to bump up against to build erotic energy.
When a couple is locked in the same house the day-to-day becomes routine. Maybe you are feeling that your life is more like the movie Groundhog Day than real life? This SIP leaves very little room to have your own unique adventure.
Esther Perel is one of the most famous writers about this idea of desire. In her book Mating in Captivity, Esther stresses the importance of independence when it comes to our sexual lives. If a couple is too intertwined and codependent, their sexual connection will fade.
So, what do we do when a quarantine removes the built-in opportunities for individual experiences and energies that are necessary to keep the erotic connection alive?
We create the space for some alone time.
Some things to try:
- Exercise separately
- Take solo walks
- Listen to your own podcasts (with your headphones on)
- Have your own chat with friends (calls without the other)
- Create a meal for the two of you, but only one person makes it (you are looking for the feeling ‘I accomplished something myself’)
- Take an online course (alone)
Basically, do some things by yourself.
You might be thinking, “Um…Keeley, having shared experiences allow people to feel close.” Yes, it is important to share our worlds, thoughts, feelings, and activities to create closeness. However, closeness does not create lust. It has been found, over and over again, that over-enmeshment kills erotic desire.
This independence seeking might also look like allowing yourselves to have differing opinions on the state of the world right now. Maybe you want to be proactive about life, gain new skills, or watch the news obsessively while your partner wants to spend more time talking about feelings and be more restful.
Allowing space for you both to have different ways to move through these changes is not only okay, it is essential to maintaining your individuality.
It is important to clarify this is not about putting walls between you and your partner. I am not suggesting you push them out or act cruel. We actually need to be more kind during times of stress. Our hearts are scared and many people are on edge.
So, while it is important to have quality bonding time, your sexual connection is heightened when you give yourselves a chance to miss each other.
- Connect daily with your appreciation for your partner
How often are you connecting with gratitude for your lover?
One of the most powerful ways to quickly and effectively change our moods is to connect with what we are grateful for. I want you to create a habit, like one might with a gratitude journal, of appreciation for your partner that you share with them.
First, let yourself simply notice: what might you be taking for granted in your relationship? What are you expecting? What are feeling you entitled to (quick reminder: you are not entitled to anything)? This could be during this crisis or from before.
This could span anything from cooking, cleaning, interesting conversations, turning lights on or off, choosing good movies/entertainment (setting up the Netflix it’s ready when you arrive), laughing, feeling human energy, hugs and physical contact.
I am sure there are things that you are receiving from them that you are grateful for. Imagine they are not SIP with you – share those things which you are appreciating with them.
When you share what you’re thankful for, it is also important to name the attribute you’re loving.
For instance, maybe you’re feeling grateful for the meal your partner cooked.
Say: “Wow, you do such a great job taking care of us. I feel nourished by our food. When I eat this food, I can feel how much love you put into it. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to keep us well fed. You’re doing a really great job taking care of us during this difficult time. Thank you for being so caring.”
When we share not only what we are appreciating, but why and how it makes us feel, our partners can fully enjoy our delight. Vs just saying ‘Thanks for the meal,’ or Wow, this looks good.’ Over time, this bump up in your communication of your internal world will expand and deepen the level of connection between your couple.
As I mentioned earlier, to connect with erotic energy, we must first feel a sense of safety. With all these uncertainties about the future, many folks are feeling unsettled and need that reassurance. Sharing your gratitude with your partner will help them feel more grounded in your relationship.
Also, this practice of diving into our gratitude forces us into the present moment. Our brains stop looking at the uncertain future and bring us into what is happening right in front of us. Speaking your appreciations will not only build closeness, but it will also allow your mind to focus.
Connecting to your appreciations and sharing your feelings with your lover will allow for two important opportunities for growth: one between you and yourself and the other between you and your lover.
- Create new pre-sex ritual
Couples that are successful in the bedroom have pre-sex rituals. This means that there are routine-like-behaviours — looks, gestures, and touches that happen between them indicating that say “let’s do this, baby.”
When our lives get disrupted, those rituals are forced to change.
Take for example, a typical date night pre SIP. There are so many preparations and routines that go into those nights. The date starts when both people agree on a time. The day of you groom and get dressed. Maybe you savor the drive to the date. For most people, the time and conversations on the date have a special meaning. Do you not find yourself relishing in the shared looks, touches, and gestures?
If you were to really examine the rituals that often preclude your erotic evenings, you would quickly see that being shut in your house removes so many.
It’s easy to become lazy or lose sight of how important it is to be contributing to our erotic worlds.
In times like these, you need to create new rituals. They have to be exciting and creative. You need to invest energy and time into them.
Imagination is your best friend!
Start with your previous experiences as a starting point. Think back to what pre-sex rituals worked in the past. Did you like those? Can you still use or expand upon them?
Are there any new ideas you’ve been wanting to introduce? What do you want to explore?
How about taking turns reading an erotic novel to one another? Do you want to do a strip tease? How about a silent dining experience where you serve your lover?
My partner and I have been expanding on our ‘Lockdown Date Night.’ We have set it up where one person plans the whole evening and the other goes along for the ride. We have been to the island of Santorini (thanks Youtube), seen a comedy show via Zoom, and had a scavenger hunt around the house to name a few.
Playfulness is a must here. For many people, being playful might seem unsexy or even silly. But, if you have ever spent any time in my office you know that for our deeper creative erotic energy to flow, we must be deeply connected to the carefree aspect of ourselves.
Find the endless ways to make your home into the art studio of an inventive erotic mastermind.
Remember, whatever you create, the initiative alone will delight your partner. Sex is about having fun, not being perfect. It doesn’t need to be a flawlessly acted out Broadway play.
In times like these, with all the craziness from the Covid-19, we must be willing to learn new skills, try new things, and mix up our routines. We must make the effort to cultivate our erotic intimacy. Our sexual worlds depend on our ability to be flexible, inventive and open.
With all of the above, it is important to remember we are in a time of grief. If you read through this article and your body says ‘no thank you,’ it is important that we trust where you are now. It is okay (and pretty normal) not feel erotic desire during stressful situations. If this is the case, make sure you are communicating what is happening inside you with your partner. You can always come back to these ideas when you are feeling more open to pleasure.