Has this pandemic got you down? Has all the forced togetherness wrecked your sex life? For some couples, being quarantined with your partner for weeks on end might result in a lot more sex since you’re spending more time together. But for many couples, the added stresses of being cooped up together have dampened or wiped out their libidos. Diminished sexual activity can be a big loss, and it can be particularly painful during Pride month, when you would normally want to be out and about celebrating with others.
If your relationship is suffering from a sexual drought, I’m here to offer some support. As a board-certified sex therapist for more than thirty years, I have helped thousands of couples rekindle their passion and intimacy. In my view, this pandemic offers a rare opportunity to slow down and focus on what’s important. It’s a chance to intentionally reconnect with your partner and establish some sensual and sexual habits that will sustain you during this crisis … and beyond.
My first tip: Use Touch to Relieve Stress. Touch is a primal language of love that we all need. But too much touch—especially during close-quarters living together 24/7—can become irritating. If either you or your partner is chafing at unwanted touch, I encourage you to have a talk and set some guidelines and boundaries. Be clear about when touching is a sexual invitation, and when it is not. Ask your partner to give feedback about what touching feels good. Don’t forget to express verbal affection while you are caressing or massaging your partner.
It’s also critical that you schedule time to enjoy some longer touch sessions where you and your partner focus on the sheer sensuality of body caressing. In my new book, Love in the Time of Corona: Advice from a Sex Therapist for Couples in Quarantine, I suggest you approach this in stages. First have a session where you take turns gently and lovingly caressing just the face, head, hands, and feet. Take it slow and easy and feel into the pure pleasure of intimate touch. In the next session take turns lightly touching your partner’s entire naked body, but no orgasm or penetration yet, and then later practice doing this at the same time to each other. These gradually intensifying sessions are designed to help you slow down and can eventually lead to oral and penetrative sex as desired.
My second tip: Be Mindful About Sex. You might be familiar with the mental habit of mindfulness. Millions use it for stress relief, and it has a lot of other benefits. Mindfulness is simply the practice of paying attention to what is happening in the moment, without any thoughts about the past or the future. How can you apply mindfulness to sex? With all the current chaos around the pandemic and protests against racism, it can be easy for your mind to wander while you’re having sex, and this can disrupt your enjoyment.
If this happens, you can bring your focus back to the present moment by simply describing—out loud to your partner—what is happening. For example, you might say to yourself, “The first time I touch my partner’s genitals, I will pause and be mindful about the moment. I will pay close attention to how it feels and how my partner is responding.” Notice if your thoughts wander, then merely let them go and return to your center.
My final tip: Plan Your Date Night at Home. This is the most reliable strategy for making sure sex happens and does not get shoved to the bottom of list due to the myriad demands of daily life. Some clients have complained that scheduling sex seems too rigid. It should be spontaneous, right? One of you might feel that scheduling a date night means that the other person’s desire is somehow forced or artificial: “If my partner really wants me, then we should fall into each other’s arms in a flurry of passion when the moment strikes.”
That’s a recipe for frustration built on a Hollywood myth. If you wait around for that sudden moment of passion to erupt, you can wait a long time. Plus, the stresses of being in quarantine further diminish the likelihood of such moments. Put it on the calendar and follow through, and you’ll be happy you did!
This moment in history is a trying time for all of us, but it doesn’t have to be hard on your relationship. Indeed, you can choose to take advantage of your time together to nurture a deeper and more pleasurable connection with your partner. How will you find love in the time of corona?
- Dr. Diana is a licensed marriage & family therapist and a board-certified sex therapist in Seattle WA and writes the online sex advice column at DearDrDiana.com. She is the author of Love in the Time of Corona: Advice from a Sex Therapist for Couples in Quarantine, available on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions. In the book, Dr. Diana details ten of her most effective strategies for a couple to maintain and enhance their intimate relationship, including client stories and do-at-home exercises that are gender-neutral.