9 Ways to Sex Up Your Relationship

by Diana Kelly for SHAPE.com

Expert tips to beat boredom and end a sex drought...tonight!Expert tips to beat boredom and end a sex drought...tonight!For the first few months, you two couldn't keep your hands off each other and did it everywhere and anywhere. Now? You're starting to forget what he looks like naked.

According to a study by the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, about 10 percent of married women in their 30s and 17 percent of those in their 40s haven't had sex in the last 90 days, and the numbers for unmarried couples living together are even higher. While it's reassuring that you're not the only one, many couples misinterpret that shift from crazy, electric passion to steady, calm feelings as falling "out of love" when, in reality, they are moving into a deeper, habit-forming love, which is where true love begins to take shape, says Ava Cadell, Ph.D., founder of Loveology University and spokesperson for TheExperienceChannel.com. Chemically speaking, the brain releases oxytocin, the "cuddle" hormone, which packs a double punch by generating a sense of relaxation while also lowering stress and cortisol levels in the body. Problem is, the resulting safe, comforting emotions aren't terribly exciting.

"Women are discouraged and mystified as to why they don't have desire, but they can have good desire their entire lives," says Laurie J. Watson, certified sex therapist and author of Wanting Sex Again: How to Rediscover your Desire and Heal a Sexless Marriage. Sure, sex may not ever be beginning-stage crazy again (you'd never get anything done!), but reigniting those dwindling flames just takes a little effort and creativity.

1. Love dangerously: If you jump to drive fast cars, ride crazy tall roller coasters, and do anything that feels like "living on the edge," incorporate that adrenaline high into your sex life. In addition to providing you a temporary surge of energy to handle whatever tough situation you're facing, adrenaline boosts sexual desire. In fact, research from the University of Texas, found that riding a roller coaster can help increase arousal.

RELATED: 16 Things That Can Sink Your (or His) Sex Drive

While sex isn't exactly (or shouldn't be) a "tough" situation, you can plan an adventurous date that'll get your blood pumping while your clothes are still on, such as a trip to an amusement park or going mountain biking, or challenge yourself on your next vacation to give zip lining or scuba diving a go. The "high" you experience may carry over to the bedroom.

2. Yuk it up: Laughter has been described as "the shortest distance between two people" (Victor Borge), but it's also is the social glue that strengthens our connections with others. "Scientific evidence shows that laughter instantly interlocks limbic systems in the brains between two people," Cadell says. "Laughter leads to desire as couples express spontaneous, uninhibited emotions and feel sensations of pleasure in their minds and bodies while increasing bonding and trust."

Pick something you know will crack you both up-a favorite movie, a style of comedy-and make an effort to engage in either together as often as possible. Or get a little sassy during foreplay and start tickling him in that vulnerable spot on his side.

3. Exercise your sex muscles:
Not only are kegels good for our lady parts, if you put your pelvic floor muscles through a strength-training routine as regularly as you do your arms, you will likely have stronger (and more regular) orgasms. Kegel exercises work the pubococcygeus (PC) muscles-the ones responsible for the contractions you feel when you climax. "Strengthening these will 'tighten your grip' during intercourse and generate more intense contractions, boosting your overall experience," says Traci Statler, Ph.D., medical advisory board member for Lelo and Intimina. And it stands to reason that if orgasms are, ahem, coming easily, your interest in sex (and sex with your guy) is bound to increase. He'll enjoy it too: As you get stronger, that contracting can enhance the intensity for him, plus squeezing may help delay premature ejaculation.

For beginners, Statler recommends tightening your PC muscles as you breathe in (for more detailed instructions, see how to do kegels), holding the contraction for 5 to 10 seconds, then releasing for the same amount of time. Work up to 10 reps at a time, and aim for three sets a day.
Once you have built up endurance, you can step up your training routine with lightweight exercise balls. "Inserting and retaining the device will stimulate the PC muscle to contract, thereby generating increased strength and endurance," Statler says.

She recommends Lelo's Luna Beads (available in different sizes and weights) or, for a true beginner, Intimina's Laselle Kegel Exercisers. Insert the lightest weight and get acclimated to it for 5 to 10 minutes-simply retaining it will cause your PC muscles to contract. Work up to two to three times a day, and never keep the balls in for longer than 30 minutes at a time. You should start noticing results in about six to weight weeks if you're performing these exercises regularly. If you're not sure, ask your partner if he feels a difference!

RELATED: Your Top Sex Questions, Answered!

4. Hit the movie theatre: Technology makes it ridiculously easy to see the latest flicks from the comfort of your couch, but you're missing out on the sexiest components of a movie date: In the dark, sight is subdued, and the other four senses are heightened, says Sadie Allison, Ph.D., founder of TickleKitty.com and author of Ride 'Em Cowgirl. Add in the thrill of getting "caught the in act" in public, and it's the perfect place to get handsy!

To avoid the awkwardness of your teenage make-outs, find a theater with adjustable armrests (loveseat-style seats) so you can get extra close. Choose a matinee for a smaller crowd, and wear easy-access clothes like a dress with a deep V-neck or a skirt and button-down shirt, and a G-string (or go commando). If you think you'll need it, pack a small bottle of water-based lube, and it's not a bad idea to store some hand wipes in your bag for easy clean up. Intensify his other senses by wearing perfume, silky fabrics, and whispering what you want in his ear.

5. Just get naked:
Remember when all you wanted to do with your partner was peel each other's clothes off and never put them back on? Nowadays you barely see one another undressed. But even if you're not in the mood for sex, there are emotional benefits to spending time cuddling in the buff with your man.
"Simply being naked together can foster intimacy by revealing yourself fully to your guy without the distraction of clothing," Cadell says. She recommends intensifying your connection by sharing a heart-to-heart hug the next time you're stripped down. "This is known as a tantric hug because it brings sexual energy up through the body to the heart so that two hearts beat as one," she adds. "It causes oxytocin to release in both partners, leading to a greater sense of intimacy and increased desire."

As cheesy as it sounds, looking into each other's eyes will give you an even stronger surge of feel-good hormones dopamine and norepinephrine, believed to be powerful chemicals for human bonding that leads to sexual arousal. Put it all together, and "this love potion cocktail helps men maintain their erections and women to get into a juicy frame of mind and body," Cadell says. And you thought hugs were innocent.

6. Share your toys with him: Long gone are the days when sex toys were only procured in lurid shops in sketchy neighborhoods. In addition to a zillion online retailers, approachable, couples-friendly stores such as Babeland in New York City and Seattle make shopping for toys easy and fun-and it's a good way to add sex back into the conversation while creating a sense of anticipation.

Those new to experimenting with vibes for him might want to try a vibrating tongue ring such as LingO, says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., co-author of The Good In Bed Guide to 52 Weeks of Amazing Sex. It's a low-key option that will elevate your oral foreplay skills without being too kinky or freaking him out. The second best part (after his reaction, of course)? It costs less than the average movie ticket.

7. Stimulate his dirty mind:
The idea of watching porn together turns some women off-just what you don't want. Instead, get in the mood by reading free erotic stories like those on Literotica.com to each other. "Men are so visually oriented that erotica offers a novelty boost that he wouldn't necessarily get from, say, watching porn with you," Kerner says. "There is something very powerful and connecting about reading erotica together, touching each other while listening, imagining the scenes in your head as opposed to in front of a screen. It's a more meandering journey through sexual arousal and also gets you in the habit of vocalizing and sharing fantasies."

Kramer recommends works by sexperts such as Rachel Kramer Bussell, Violet Blue, and Susie Bright, who have something for everyone. Read some steamy excerpts from the authors' websites, Google "erotic literature" and browse through the results, or gift him one of Kenny Wright's books, which are specifically written as "erotica for men," to find something you'll both enjoy.

8. Feed your desires: Preplan a lazy weekend brunch-in-bed that just may have you staying in bed all day. Kerner recommends diced mango and watermelon (both may boost his libido), halved figs (supposedly look like the female anatomy-hey, it certainly can't hurt!), and vanilla-scented coffee or tea (the aroma reportedly arouses men and women). If you want to kick off the day with a mimosa, that's okay too: Champagne replicates the aroma of a woman's pheromones.

9. Have your libido checked: If you've lost the desire to have sex but have no idea why, your hormones could be out of whack. Seventy percent of low sex drive is hormonal, so ask your doc to check your levels, says Sara Gottfried, M.D., an ob-gyn and author of The New York Times bestseller The Hormone Cure. He or she can help you choose the best treatment options, which may include adjusting your dose if you're on the pill.

RELATED: 25 Superfoods for Better Sex


If it turns out it's not physical, use your gynecologist as a referral for a sex therapist, Watson suggests. "A good counselor will be sympathetic and empathetic to your pain, and be able to help you identify how you may be playing into the sexual problems in your relationship."
Either way, there are new libido-boosting options currently in research trials for women, including the drug Lybrido, recently written up in The New York Times, though these won't be available for at least three more years, and not all experts are fans.

"Women will want to take this pill," Watson says. "Women want to feel desire and some body sensation." They sometimes need to have sex before being in the mood for it, and then once they do, they're glad they did, she adds. So remember this snowball effect the next time he's horny and you're glued to Game of Thrones. After all, having sex is always better than watching it.

More on SHAPE:
The Proven Way to Melt Fat Fast
The 30 Greatest Flat-Belly Tips of All Time
10 Habits of Highly Happy People