How to Spice Up Your Sex Life: Expert Tips for More Pleasure and a Tighter Bond With Your Partner
The early stages of a relationship, when you can't keep your hands off each other, are powered by a potent mixture of chemical forces in the brain—testosterone and estrogen create lust, while dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin form attraction. But the chemical bath doesn't last forever, and when the high wears off, some couples find that they need to take steps to spice up their once-passionate sex life.
Before you get started trying to spice things up, think about the intention behind it. "Usually we want to 'spice things up' for a reason, and often this reason is emotional; we want to invoke different feelings—to feel excited, feel wanted, feel naughty, and feel alive," sex and relationships therapist Cyndi Darnell tells Health. "Think about how you want to feel, and from there, think about the kinds of contexts that allow that to happen. Context is often more thrilling than the activity."
Feeling under pressure to be the best at sex or worrying that you're not adventurous enough are common concerns. "Most of us take our sex education from pop culture—romantic comedies, pop songs, social media, erotica, and porn. These are great for imagination but they don't help us with the execution," Darnell explains. That's where these expert tips for spicing up your sex life come in.
Spicing up foreplay
To make foreplay more passionate, think back to your adolescence. First, kissing is key. "Kissing helps you bond more with your partner, increases sex drive and arousal, and alleviates stress and anxiety," Shelby Sells, sex, love, and life coach and resident expert at WOO More Play, tells Health.
Sells' next tip also takes you back to those heady teenage years. "Grind like it's 2005!" she advises. "Dry humping mimics the sensations of intercourse and develops more intimacy between partners." Her final foreplay tip probably isn't one that was top of the list when you were in high school, but your sex life will benefit if you add it to your agenda. "An erotic massage encourages both people to tap into their senses, relax, and explore pleasure in their body," she says.
For SKYN Sex & Intimacy expert, certified sex coach, sexologist, and author Gigi Engle, foreplay isn't something to rush through; it deserves time and attention. "If you want to have mind-blowing sex, double or triple your devoted foreplay time," she tells Health. It's not about setting a timer—the point is to stop seeing foreplay as a means to an end. "Getting down and dirty ASAP may sound amazing, but without proper lubrication, you could wind up with dryness, minor tearing, and a decreased chance of orgasm," she says.
When it comes to stimulating your partner with your hands, Sells says lube is key. "It's a wonderful tool to help foreplay last longer, while also preventing painful friction," she explains. "Lube heightens sensitivity, adding more pleasure to manual sex." And instead of reaching over to touch your partner, try touching yourself first. "Watching your partner touch themselves—and vice versa—can produce very erotic sensations," she adds.
If you do want to stimulate your partner, sometimes a light, feathery touch is more exciting than a vigorous, faster one. Says Engle: "If you're touching a clitoris, try moving in consistent circles, right to left, or up and down. You might experiment with direct or indirect clitoral touch, depending on your partner's sensitivity." Consider clitoral stimulation through thin, soft fabric, or touch all around the vulva but not directly on the clitoris itself.
Foreplay isn't all about physical moves; it's also the perfect chance to talk to your partner about what they're in the mood for or want to try. "Opening up about what turns you on will not only guide your partner to the right areas, but the speaking about it can be a huge charge to the libido," Engle explains. "Ask and thou shalt receive, after all."
Spicing up oral sex
A simple location change, like having oral sex outside of the bedroom, can make it feel more adventurous, and that pays off big when it comes to sensation. Sells also recommends experimenting with a toy, such as a cock ring or vibrator. And rather than mixing up the rhythm and pattern, find one consistent type of touch and stick to it, so your partner can get into the groove, advises Engle—whether it's a steady up and down motion on the clitoris or penis, or a figure eight swirl across the vulva or testicles.
Paying attention to your partner's physical cues will help you take your oral game to the next level. "If your partner is pushing her vulva into your face and moaning, you can be pretty sure what you're doing is working," Engle explains, so keep doing it. "But if she's pulling away or is dead silent, try something else." While your partner's body will tell you a lot about how they're feeling, verbal cues are important, too. "Don't just space out and do whatever you think they might like," Engle says. "Be detail-oriented, and when in doubt, ask questions. All sex is a learning experience. A simple: 'Does that feel good?' or 'Do you like it when I do X?' can go a long way."
Spicing up penetrative sex
Rather than rushing into intercourse, Sells advocates building more excitement with dirty talk. "Name the sensations you're feeling, make a request of what you want your partner to do, and let them know all the naughty things you're thinking," she says.
She also suggests watching porn together, or even making your own porn. "This shared experience builds sexual tension, encourages curiosity, and creates a safe space for partners to share their erotic fantasies," she says. Making your own porn doesn't require a whole bunch of equipment—you could try having sex in front of a mirror, or using your smartphone to film yourselves.
Finally, try to take pressure off the big O, which isn't easy, since we're conditioned to believe that all penetrative sex sessions should end with a bang. "Orgasms are fun, and if you want that to be your end game, that's totally fine—it's up to you," Engle says. "The thing is, if we only see successful sexual play as one that ends with an orgasm, you'll wind up disappointed sometimes."
Instead of making orgasm the end-all-be-all of penetration, she suggests focus on pleasure. "Pleasure is wonderful for its own sake," she explains. "If something feels good, enjoy it. If you have an orgasm (or a few), great. If not, you still had a wonderful time." Also, the less you worry about having an orgasm, the easier it is to get lost in the pleasurable sensations your body is experiencing...which paradoxically can make it easier to climax.
Spicing up post-orgasm intimacy
Aftercare is an essential part of sex. "To increase feelings of intimacy, I recommend holding each other and telling each other what felt best during the experience," Sells says. "Taking a shower together or cooking up a post-sex treat are some more ways to connect with your partner afterwards."
Engle believes that couples who practice aftercare will naturally develop closer, more intimate bonds. "Whether it's cuddling, talking, or snuggling, taking care of your partner and vice versa is important," she says. "After sex, we're particularly vulnerable. We're naked, we (may have) just had an orgasm, and our bodies are awash in calming, soothing neurotransmitters like oxytocin and dopamine." The afterglow of a sex session is a unique moment, and enjoying it as a couple will definitely make the overall sexual experience spicier.