9 Secrets Every Sex Therapist Knows (And You Should, Too)

You’ve lost that loving feeling. Or you want to try something new in the bedroom but just don’t know how to bring it up. Or you wish you and your partner had more sex, less sex, or better sex. Most people face one or more of these issues at some point, but figuring out how to cope isn’t always easy.

Most of these common problems boil down to one thing: poor communication. “There’s a lot of research showing that couples who have better communication have better sex lives,” says Rachel Sussman, a psychotherapist who specializes in sex and relationships. “They’re not afraid to talk about sex, and they’re not afraid to ask for what they want.”

Of course, not everyone is equally comfortable chatting about intimate matters, whether or not a therapist is in the mix. So we asked Sussman and two other sexperts to spill their best advice. Read on for insider tricks and tips and start amping up your sex life tonight.

Give it the old college try.

Not in the mood, but your partner is? Don’t be so quick to shut down any advances. Most women don’t experience spontaneous desire; they need a little help getting there, says Michael Aaron, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist, sexologist, and sex therapist. He explains that many women need to be touched, kissed, and caressed before sexual desire kicks in. So consider saying yes to sex—or at least foreplay—even if you’re not currently raring to go.

That said, you should never feel obligated to finish what you started. “You don’t know in the moment how it’s going to feel,” says sex and relationship therapist Megan Fleming, PhD, a clinical instructor of psychology in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. It’s never too late to say, “Sorry, not tonight.”

Do your homework.

Sex doesn’t just “happen,” especially if you and your partner are in the midst of an especially long dry spell. About 15% of all relationships are considered sexless, meaning the partners haven’t had sex in 6 months, according to Aaron. His advice? Make intimacy a priority and sex will follow.

If you’re not currently having sex but are still being romantic—going on dates, holding hands, kissing—then it might be as simple as carving out some special time to be alone together. But if you and your partner have essentially become roommates, you’re going to have to work a little harder to bring back sensuality, says Aaron. Plan date nights, start holding hands again, and give each other a kiss good-bye every morning and the romantic (and sexy) feelings might return.

Put sex on the menu.

We don’t just mean scheduling a regular romp, although multiple sex therapists say that’s a good way to keep your sex life alive. But if your goal isn’t just to have sex but to make it more interesting, Aaron suggests making up a list (menu) of everything you want to try and everything that’s completely off-limits, then asking your partner to do the same. You might learn that you’ve both been fantasizing about adding sex toys to the mix or trying anal sex.

Get a sexy brain.

Your libido is like an engine, says Fleming. You need to find ways to turn yourself on, warm up, and get ready to go. But Fleming says she often sees clients who have no idea what gets them going or what turns them off. How to sort it out? She suggests reading erotic fiction, listening to erotic podcasts, or simply allowing yourself time to fantasize. “Think about the last really enjoyable, hot, fun, connected, juicy experience you had with your partner,” she says. “Use all five senses, take it in, and let it be something you can come back to time and time again.”

Bring in a friend.

No, not into the bedroom (unless that’s what everyone really wants, in which case, go for it!). But talking about sex with your friends—or just one trusted friend—can help demystify it. Discussing how much sex you’re having, how much you wish you were having, or how satisfied you are with your sex life could be a little like therapy. A good friend might even be able to help you work out whatever issue is getting in the way of the sex life you crave, Sussman says. Not sure how to get the conversation going? Fleming suggests mentioning an article you’ve read in a magazine or on a website (maybe the story you’re reading right now?). Try: “I read in Prevention…” and see where it takes you.

Take care of yourself first.

We’re not talking about masturbation—although getting a little frisky with yourself certainly isn’t a bad thing. It’s just as important (maybe more so) to get ample sleep, regular exercise, and generally keep stress in check (spa day?). “So many women feel depleted, and then sex starts to feel like work,” says Fleming. Try pampering yourself and you might find you’re feeling more sexy, fun, and playful.

Ask for compliments.

If you and your partner have been together for eons, chances are things have slowed down. Forget staying up all night to get down and dirty; you’re more apt to watch a little bit of Netflix and drift off by 10 p.m. But it’s not just sex that has gotten lost over the years. Chances are the unexpected gifts and compliments have dropped off, too. Getting back to a place where you feel loved and sexy is absolutely essential, Sussman says. “If you can say to your husband or partner, ‘Flirt with me, make me feel attractive,’ well, that’s probably just as good as taking any medication.”

Love yourself.

What’s the No. 1 turn-on for men? If you said “boobs” or “butts,” you’d be wrong. The thing that gets most guys going isn’t a body part, says Sussman. It’s confidence. “If you feel good about how you look, if you like to make love with the lights on, that’s an aphrodisiac for everyone,” she says. Meanwhile, being uncomfortable with your body—whether you think you need to lose a few pounds or that your boobs are too droopy—can easily douse the fires in the bedroom.

Be a detective.

What’s really at the root of your sex issues? Figure that out and you just might solve your problem, says Sussman. Some patients have trouble initiating sex, talking about fantasies, or admitting they’d like to have sex more often because they grew up believing women aren’t supposed to be interested in sex or because a past partner put them down. Other times sex problems aren’t really about sex at all, says Sussman. If you don’t trust each other or aren’t getting along outside the bedroom, you’ll need to work through that before you can expect the sensual side of your relationship to blossom.

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