Sex is great but sometimes, something is missing. It could be that your sex drive doesn’t quite match your partner’s. Or perhaps one of you are not confident in bed.
We spoke to sex and relationship experts to get tips for a more fulfilling sex life.
Communication isn’t just verbal; it is also physical. Holding hands, hugging and kissing are great ways to communicate how you feel about your partner. According to Singapore-based intimacy coach Dr Angela Tan, couples who are deeply connected tend to have higher levels of sexual satisfaction, too. “Regular, open and honest communication lays the foundation for a strong relationship and helps couples weather any challenges together,” she points out.
If you feel your partner could do more to satisfy you in bed, tell him, but watch how you say it, says Dr Tan. “Instead of saying something like, ‘I don’t like the way you touch me – you’re too rough’, which can sound accusatory or like you’re complaining, say, ‘I like how you touch me now, but I’d love it if you could touch me this way instead’. In expressing yourself this way, you are positively reaffirming your partner’s actions as well as giving him a positive suggestion. If he follows your suggestion, respond positively by saying something like, ‘Yes, keep going’ or by making more excited noises.”
Scheduling time for sex doesn’t sound romantic, but if you have a lot on your plate or are always tired by the end of the day, you should set aside time for intimacy. “Couple time” doesn’t always have to lead to, or even involve, sexual intercourse, but you should definitely do things that help you connect as a couple.
“It’s easy for couples to get caught up with their daily tasks and commitments, but in doing so they may end up neglecting their relationship and each other,” says Dr Tan. “To avoid this, make time for dinner dates, spend a romantic afternoon in bed, book a weekend getaway or just share an intimate conversation.”
It’s not uncommon for one partner to have a higher sex drive than the other. This doesn’t mean you’re sexually incompatible, says Martha Tara Lee, a relationship counsellor and clinical sexologist from Eros Coaching. “It’s important to develop more ease around sex, whether individually or together. Giving each other permission and space to masturbate is one way. Having honest conversations about sex may also help – for example, agree not to fight about sex, agree that saying no to your partner just means ‘no’ for today and not forever, and agree that if the person with the lower sex drive says yes to sex, it means agreeing to try but also having permission to stop at any time if needed.”
Taking turns to lead a sexual session is also a good way to navigate mismatched sex drives. This involves engaging in sexual activity in the manner that your partner likes (and not just what you like).
“First, share your observation – without being defensive – that you’ve noticed that you’re initiating sex more than him,” says Martha. “Then, explore the possible reasons for this and address them together. It could be that your partner has a fear of rejection, isn’t aware that you’re sexually available, doesn’t feel like taking the lead, or just doesn’t want or need sex as much. As you can see there’s a lot to unpack and discuss here, but it’s important to do it together as a team.”
“When we try new sexual positions or new sex toys, we get out of autopilot mode,” says Dr Tan. “This makes us want to put more effort into the sex. Experimenting also allows us to indulge our sexual fantasies. Our brain, which is considered a sexual organ, is also more engaged when exposed to something new.”
In addition, experimenting in bed is a wonderful opportunity for couples to better understand what their partner likes or dislikes. Plus, it helps them be more aware of each other’s sexual boundaries and increases the intimacy between them.
Many of us worry about how our body looks or smells, and nowhere is this insecurity more evident than when we’re naked in bed with our partner. To boost your confidence, Dr Tan recommends making love by candlelight or in low light, or wearing lingerie that highlights areas that you are most proud of. Taking a bath or applying your favourite fragrance can help you feel better about how you smell.
“You may also want to have an honest conversation with your partner about how you feel about your body and discuss ways that he can help you feel more confident,” she adds. “For instance, you could tell him that you don’t feel your breasts are sexy because they’re too small. To reassure you, he can tell you that the size of your breasts doesn’t bother him. During sex, he can also pay more attention to your breasts.”
Building your sexual confidence takes time. You can work on improving your body image by focusing on those physical features that you love the most and by telling yourself what you like about them. If you have features that you dislike or are ashamed of, like scars or saggy breasts, for example, find something empowering about them (“This scar is proof that I survived a difficult surgery” or “These breasts helped nourish my baby”). You may need to do these body-affirming exercises multiple times before you start to feel more confident.
“When we have problems connecting with ourselves it also means we have problems connecting with our partners,” says Dr Tan. “That’s why it’s so important to work on our body image issues.”
Many couples are aware of the importance of passion and maintaining closeness and intimacy in their relationship, but most don’t know that they have the responsibility to cultivate this passion, closeness and intimacy. It’s therefore hardly surprising that these same couples lament that their relationship isn’t as passionate as before.
“Passion is about keeping things exciting and you have to make it a priority in your relationship,” says Martha. “How do you maintain passion or reignite the spark? Talk about what gets both of you excited and explore these options together. What works for your friends may not work for you and your partner, and cliché tips don’t suit everybody, so have an open discussion about what you can do to improve your relationship or get your sex life humming again.”