29 Days to a Healthier Relationship
Where is the love?
You’ve tamed the laundry, hit a home run at work, and dished up a family dinner. Forget anything? Oh, right—your partner!
It’s easy to simply co-exist with the person next to you in bed. But a rise in "gray" divorce (couples over 50 calling it quits) suggests that neglecting your relationship is a bad idea.
Isn't it time to add a little love to your to-do list? Try these 29 libido-boosting ideas.
Try something new together
Climbing out of a dating rut can be difficult. But couples who participate in exciting activities get a big boost in relationship satisfaction, according to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. So grab your significant other and get ready for a good—but different—time.
Laugh it up: Crack up at a comedy club with your sweetie.
Get comfy in the kitchen: Take a cooking class (bonus points for learning a foreign cuisine).
Hit the road: Rent a fun car—a Prius, a Volkswagen Beetle, a Smart Car, a Mustang—and go for a mini–road trip.
See more of our favorite new date-night ideas
It’s tempting—and often prudent—to keep couple conversations behind closed doors, but you may actually benefit from blabbing to a close friend.
“Many couples live very privately and discuss these issues with the shades down, but relationship issues like this can often benefit from hearing how people that you trust dealt with a similar situation," says Ken Robbins, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Whether it’s hearing how a friend dealt with her husband’s infidelity or other big hurdles,
Tweak your diet
Eat up! Almonds, avocados, and arugula can boost your sex drive and improve fertility.
Be open about your spending
Nearly 40% of married people admit to lying to their spouse about a purchase, according to a 2004 poll, and money is the number-one reason couples fight.
Don’t fret if you’re a spendthrift and your partner pinches pennies. “It’s probably not a good thing to have the exact same philosophy about money,” says Dr. Robbins. You don't have to be a financial martyr, but
don't hide your spending habits, either.
Slip on something red
Research shows that men find women who wear red sexier than those who wear “cool” colors such as blue and green. Any doubts as to what you should wear for date night?
Assess your sex drive
If you're not interested in sex—but you would like to be —there might be a medical explanation.
Reduced blood flow: Diabetes and high blood pressure are among the health problems that can restrict genital blood flow.
Hormonal issues: Menopause, breast-feeding, birth control pills, and thyroid problems can dampen sexual desire.
Medication side effects: Antidepressants and chemotherapy agents such as tamoxifen are frequently to blame.
Make an appointment with your primary care doctor if you've noticed an unwanted decrease in your libido.
Hit the gym
If you want to be "hot-blooded," then improve your circulation. Physical fitness can increase blood flow, which in theory can make sex more pleasurable, since sexual arousal for both men and women involves increased blood flow to the genital area. And that can increase desire itself—if it feels great, you tend to want to do it more.
Make your bedroom tech-free
We hear it over and over again: The bed should be used for sex and sleep only. But still our beds are cluttered with laptops, Blackberries, and Netflix rentals. How can you cuddle up to your partner when you're stuck in extension cords?
This month, try clearing all your gadgets from your bedroom and explore each other instead of the Internet.
Help your partner quit smoking
Erectile dysfunction, a yellow grin and loads of wrinkles, stained wallpaper, increased risk of balding—can you name one good reason why you shouldn't help your partner quit?
Of course quitting isn't easy, but smokers who
have support are more likely not to light up. Recognize and congratulate small milestones, and realize that your partner may be crankier than usual. Sometimes the best thing you can be is a sounding board, or even an emotional punching bag, for whenever a bad craving strikes.
Keep things hot when you're apart
Sure, it sounds a little intimidating at first, but phone sex is a great way for couples to bond when one of you is on the road.
First, dim the lights and slip into something sexy. Start by telling your husband what you’re wearing, where you are, etc. Talk about the last time you had sex or what you would be doing to him if you were home. If the goal is an orgasm, describe what you’re doing to yourself, and ask him to do the same. Just relax and have fun!
Turn up the heat
Dig into a dish made with chiles—they contain capsaicin, a substance that stimulates nerve endings, triggers the release of endorphins, and ramps up heart rate. Next date night, try these chile-infused Salmon and Scallop Skewers.
Give your bedroom routine a boost
Think of ways to pique his interest outside the bedroom. Next time you take a shower, wear just the towel around for a while. Titillation will spur him to be more spontaneous.
To explore new territory, write down your fantasies and put them in a “fantasy jar.” Then take turns picking out of the jar and act out the fantasies. This can build intimacy, trust, and great sex.
Embrace the quickie
Few of us can afford the luxury of leisurely sex, says Jennifer Berman, MD, the director of the Berman Women’s Wellness Center and author of For Women Only. And holding out for the perfect moment can lead to infrequent sex. The solution? Embrace the quickie.
For extra excitement, break out of the bedroom: Five-minute romps are perfect for unusual locations, even if that just means your shower or sofa.
Eat an elegant meal—for less!
Need a little extra something to put the sizzle back into your Valentine’s Day? Skip the overcrowded, overpriced restaurants and cook something special for your partner. Or, for extra relationship points, start chopping away together.
Molten Flourless Chocolate Cake
Remember that you're a team
Expanding your brood requires adjustment. “Sex lives of people who have children are worse—there’s data to prove it,” says Andrew Goldstein, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
When possible, get a friend or relative to occasionally help out at night so mom and dad have some time to cultivate their relationship one-on-one. Especially as kids get older, make sure they understand that mom and dad need time to themselves.
Watch your waistline
Wedded couples tend to have fatter waistlines, which can spell trouble in terms of sexual attraction and general health. A 2007 study found that your chances of becoming obese increase by 37% if your spouse becomes obese. So unless you want “till death do us part” to include chronic health issues like heart disease and diabetes, it’s important to establish healthy eating habits early on.
Spend couple time checking out local farmers’ markets on the weekends in an effort to consume fresher, low-calorie fare. Or...
Make an exercise date
A 1995 study found that couples who work out together are more likely to stick with an exercise program. And some experts suggest that couples who exercise more frequently tend to have better sex lives.
Try a life sport that you can enjoy together for decades to come, like golf, tennis, or hiking.
Work on your working relationship
Given the state of the economy, it's likely that you or your partner is facing some tough employment choices. Both partners need to respect the other’s role and recognize their situation as shared. Open communication can help you weather the storm and make your relationship even stronger.
Find family and friends dealing with this same issue. Talking about shared struggles can help couples gain perspective and give them a chance to feel good about using their experience to help others.
Get some shut-eye
Snoring away and having passionate sex may seem like exact opposites, but experts insist that getting enough sleep is the number-one aphrodisiac.
Too tired for intimacy at night? Change your schedule to include some cuddling or a
quickie before work.
Love your body
Is your libido lagging? Many women withdraw if they feel overweight.
News flash: “Women have a talent for disliking the very things about themselves that other people find very attractive,” says Los Angeles–based sex therapist Linda De Villers, PhD. Feel free to ask your partner what he likes about your body; his compliments can help you feel more positive.
Eat more seafood
Oysters are one of the best sources of libido-boosting zinc. But other types of seafood can also act as aphrodisiacs, too. Oily fish—like wild salmon and herring—contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for a healthy heart.
Swap in seafood instead of your usual meat or poultry a few times a week. You'll be doing your heart and your sex life a favor.
Search for the big O
Elusive? Yes. Attainable? Certainly. Although every woman is unique, the woman-on-top position is a good place to start, says Berman. For most of us, clitoral stimulation is key to an orgasm, and this position lets you rub your clitoris against your partner's pelvic bone for dual stimulation.
Sex from behind, or doggie-style, is another great option because it stimulates the G-spot in the vagina while also allowing you or your partner to rub your clitoris by hand. It also makes it easy to massage other erogenous zones like the nipples, which increase your chance of reaching the big O.
Stop comparing yourself to other couples
It doesn’t matter whether you’re having sex five times a week or five times a year, as long as both of you are happy. In fact, a 2008 study found that couples who reported any kind of marital intimacy—everything from holding hands to sex—exhibited lower levels of a hormone produced by stress.
Have a pre-date
You've rushed home from work, hopped in the shower, and turned on the hair dryer while feeding the kids—you'd probably rather take a nap than hit the town. So have the babysitter come early on date night so you can relax with music and unwind with your partner before you head out.
"People are overworked and stressed, and they translate their overworked, stressed lives to a lousy sex life." suggests Irwin Goldstein, MD, the director of San Diego Sexual Medicine and editor in chief of the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
When your to-do list gets to be too much, take a couple's trip—or send the kids to their grandparents' house and have a
staycation. It may be just what you need to recharge your relationship.
Don't be afraid to get help
When a marriage is rocky, it can make both partners feel depressed. But only middle-aged women—not men—seem to have health problems associated with marital strife, such as high blood pressure, excess belly fat, and other factors that boost risk for heart attack and diabetes, says a recent study. The bottom line? If your relationship feels rocky, get help.
Be understanding if your partner seems skittish
It’s got to be nerve-racking to propose marriage to your sweetie. But as freaky as Jaws?
survey of British men found that guys are just about equally frightened by shark attacks and popping the question! So cut the guy some slack—or better yet, take the heat of him and do the proposing yourself!
Realize that all couples fight...
...but once you've settled your grievances, you've set the stage for amazing makeup sex. It's natural to feel turned on after an argument— adrenaline and dopamine (your hormone of desire) levels rise, giving you that excited feeling.
One caveat: If it always takes a blowout to get you two connecting, then you should seriously consider talking to a couple's counselor.
Work on yourself first
When you are feeling depressed, your partner feels the strain too. If you tend to isolate yourself when you’re feeling blue, it can take a serious toll on your relationship.
Antidepressants can help pull you out of a funk, but are less effective for mild depression than moderate or severe depression. They can also cause side effects like a decreased libido. If you notice a dip in your sex drive, discuss alternative medications with your doctor or
seek non-drug treatments like talk therapy or exercise.