Have Better Married Sex—From Year One to Year 20 (And Beyond)

When you're a newlywed, sex is…how can we put it…really hot. But chances are that "we-can't-take-our-hands-off-each-other" feeling isn't going to be there at all times throughout your marriage. Just as there are natural ebbs and flows in life, your sex life will likely also experience ups and downs.

Now, don't panic! Just because the two of you might not always feel the same intensity as you did when you were first married doesn't necessarily mean you're no longer in love, or that sex will never be as satisfying again. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite, say relationship experts. These transitions are normal, even healthy, because they force couples to take stock of their union, and to make adjustments and changes that ultimately strengthen their sexual bond-and the marriage as a whole.

We've put together this "road map" for your sex life to help you ensure a fabulously satisfying sex life through your golden anniversary - and beyond.

Milestone: One Year

Likely sex life scenario: You already might have lost a bit of that super-hot lovin' feeling.
Challenge: You want to recapture your newlywed "euphoria."

After about a year or so of marriage, you might not feel the same burning passion you had for each other right after the wedding, say experts. "That's because romantic ideals get tested around the 18-month mark," explains Sandra Scantling, Psy.D., a psychologist in Farmington, Connecticut, and an intimacy expert for Sexualwellbeing.com, a website that promotes sexual health and intimacy. "Behaviors you used to find endearing may have become irritating. For example, the juicy kisses you once loved may begin to feel slobbery, or his cute way of chewing on soda straws has become annoying. Plus, intimacy takes a hit when couples start locking horns over the mundane details of daily life that don't automatically resolve themselves, like who emptied the dishwasher last."

So, how do you get yourselves back on track? Start by simply accepting the fact that your feelings are perfectly normal, says Scantling, and that you can get the passion back. Then, instead of just wondering "What went wrong?", directly address the issues or problems that are getting in the way of your good time. In the case of the aforementioned moist kisses, tell your husband that you love smooching with him, but you'd like to try kissing this way for a while (then show him!). As for the household-chores issue, it's time to speak up. Tell him, calmly, that you need him to pitch in around the house more, and then work out a schedule of chores you can both live with. "It's important to come to the marriage bed without anger and resentment," says Scantling, "and communication is the best way to accomplish this."

Milestone: Five Years

Likely sex life scenario: Good sex doesn't just happen the way it used to - and it may have become a bit routine.
Challenge: You have to work a little harder to keep sex great.

Like many couples who've been married five years, you might find the sexual excitement and spontaneity are no longer there. Your lovemaking sessions may rarely vary - they last the same amount of time, and you use the same moves over and over again. There are several reasons for this: Some couples hit a sexual rut where they simply get comfortable and don't have to put in a lot of effort, says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page Books). For other couples, different priorities - work, family - have begun to trump their ability to have fresh, exciting, creative sex.

Whatever the reasons for a less-than-thrilling sex life, it's important to do something about it now if you're not satisfied, because the years following your five-year anniversary are the most crucial time in your marriage to solidify your sexual bond. (Note: Some couples are happy with routine, and that's okay, too, says Tessina.) Recent statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics found that couples who divorce most commonly do so after 7.2 years of marriage (ever hear of "the seven-year itch"?)-often citing a declining sex life as a major factor.

So, do whatever it takes right now to get excited about sex again. Too busy? Trade babysitting services with friends to make time for leisurely Saturday afternoon lovemaking sessions. "And, don't let 48 hours go by without some sort of physical contact," says Scantling. "Even if you can't have intercourse, kiss deeply, hold hands, rub each other's shoulders, just be affectionate. Touching improves intimacy." Also, it's never too late to start mixing things up in the bedroom in order to infuse some excitement into your marriage, adds Scantling. For example, instead of going straight from stacking the dishwasher to bed, cuddle up together with a glass of wine - this'll force you to build a slow, exciting burn. Take turns sharing your sexual fantasies, and then make them come true for each other. Buy erotic videos, pick up some sexy-smelling massage oil and give each other sensual rub-downs, try out a few new positions-whatever turns you on.

PLUS: The 3 Golden Rules of Great Sex

Milestone: 10 Years

Likely sex life scenario: You might be thinking, "When's the last time we had sex?"
Challenge: You want to make sex a top priority again.

After a decade of marriage, you might notice that you're having sex infrequently. "When you're married for a long time, sex is a wonderful museum just down the street from your house," says Carolyn Rodgers*, 35, from Richmond, Virginia, married for 12 years. "You know it's great, but it's always there, so you just don't take advantage of it as much as you should." The most common reason for this, according to relationship experts? Couples usually say they're "too busy."

It's no wonder couples feel they have little time for sex: In your mid-thirties to forties, you've likely reached a senior-level position at work and have a growing family to take care of and nurture. Not only that, you're now coping with more complicated parenting issues, like juggling the children's lesson and play schedules and helping the older kids make the sometimes difficult transition into pre-adolescence. In short, neither of you has the emotional or physical energy to spare for sex right now, says Tessina.

So, how do you overcome these sexual roadblocks? First, "Forget the excuse that you have no time for sex," says Scantling. "Yes, it's a challenge to fit it in because your responsibilities are greater than they were 10 years ago, but you must realize that your relationship will shrivel up if you don't nurture it. You have to feed it in the same way you feed your body." So, just as you would make time for an important meeting at work or a school appointment for the kids, you should make time for sex with your spouse. "If you have to, sit down with your husband, get out your calendars and schedule time together-then stick to it," says Scantling. Don't think of it as "scheduling sex" - instead, see it as setting aside some much-needed time alone together that might lead to lovemaking.

Another option for the time-impaired: Consider reinventing your definition of good sex. "Intercourse doesn't have to be on the agenda at all times, as long as you stay connected physically," says Scantling. For Rodgers and her husband, that means cuddling on the couch while they read or watch TV and holding hands during walks. "All these things keep us prepped to turn on the heat when we're able!" she says.

Milestone: 20 Years

Likely sex life scenario: You're probably cuddling more often than actually getting horizontal.
Challenge: Your sex life might need a serious tune-up.

Congratulations! Not only have you built a wonderful life together, you've beaten the odds. That's not to say things are perfect when it comes to your sex life, however. Some common desire sappers around this marital milestone include "blue" feelings associated with children leaving the nest and body image issues. You and your husband may have put on some extra weight in recent years, thanks to your slowing metabolisms, and - yikes! - gravity isn't doing either of you any favors. In short, these changes might be making you feel less attractive than when you were younger.

Plus, "When couples have traveled down the road of life together for many years, sex might feel downright stale," says Scantling. "They've accepted certain 'truths' about their interests, fantasies and preferences, and never reassessed them. In other words, what you think he enjoys (like your blowing in his ear) may not be a turn-on for him any longer - and vice versa. You need to take inventory and, if necessary, shake things up."

The good news: Becoming more sexually adventurous and creative shouldn't be too hard at this stage in your lives. You've been married for a long time and should feel really comfortable discussing your needs and desires openly and explicitly. So, talk to each other about certain moves you like and don't like, and ones you both want to try. And, don't be afraid to bring sexual aids into the mix. For example, create a "toy chest" filled with massage oil, mood music, a feather and other sexual enhancers.

Lisa McLeod, 40, from Atlanta, Georgia, has been married for almost 20 years and admits she and her husband are having exactly this experience. "All sex is not going to be honeymoon sex, but you do need to keep having it so you won't forget how," she says. "One day the kids will leave the nest, your phone will stop ringing and all your work will be done. When that time comes, you'll want to look back and be glad you did whatever it took to have great sex."

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