Better Sex and More Intimacy: 8 Habits of Connected Couples
Here’s what the happiest couples do to improve intimacy, stay connected, and maintain a healthier sex life.
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Foreplay—as any couple with a steamy sex life can attest to—begins first thing in the morning. In other words: All the little things you do outside the bedroom can add up to getting you and your partner in the mood for sex.
However, that’s sometimes easier said than done. So we asked relationship experts for their thoughts on what makes happy couples tick—in and out of the bedroom. Here are eight simple habits that can act like libido boosters to help you have better sex.
They have separate interests
“The happiest couples I’ve interviewed say they have a dynamic life together and an active life apart,” says Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and author of Cheat on Your Husband (With Your Husband): How to Date Your Spouse. “It adds a lot to the relationship when you can come back and share what you’ve done, what you’ve learned. It adds more excitement so you miss each other.”
Most Americans are waiting a little later to get married and since many had active single lives before they got married, they still want those outlets outside of our marriage, says Syrtash. Men and women are still prioritizing their relationships and time with friends, which can help them feel self-expressed when they return home to their partners, she says. (Here are 5 myths about happy relationships—debunked.)
But they also love doing activities together
“Couples who prioritize each other are going to be more connected sexually,” says Syrtash. “It’s tough for us to connect in the bedroom if we’re totally out of touch. You don’t need to spend every waking moment together, but know that your partner is a priority.”
If you’ve heard that “couples who sweat together, stay together,” consider the subtle but powerful health benefits of physical activity—outside of the bedroom—as a great way to bond with your significant other while also improving your health. Not only does exercise release feel-good endorphins—neurochemicals that make you feel happy—but some research suggests that couples feel more connected after participating in an activity or challenge together.
They have “no-tech” time
Plenty of couples in the digital age can relate to a time or two (or, uh, more) when their partner wasn’t paying attention to them while they scrolled Instagram or got sucked into a group text message chain.
“Social media and technology can rob couples of important together time,” says relationship expert Rori Sassoon, co-founder of the matchmaking agency Platinum Poire and co-author of The Art of the Date. “Getting caught up in social media takes away from the romance. You need to be able to show your significant other that they’re a priority.”
That involves not just spending time together, but spending quality time together, detached from your devices. Make a plan to put your phones away during date nights and even a few nights a week. “The evenings are a good time to set a no-tech boundary,” says Sassoon. “When you’re eating dinner, put the phones away and talk to each other. Be present. If there’s a pressing matter, or something work-related, that’s understandable, but Instagram and other social media platforms can wait.” (Here are 25 other sex mistakes you didn’t realize you were making.)
They “pencil in” sex
“I’m a fan of scheduling sex, but my phrasing is, ‘Plan to be spontaneous,’ whatever that means to you,” says Syrtash. Sure, putting “Have Sex” on your calendar might feel like you’re throwing a wet blanket on your love life, but when your schedule is jam-packed, it’s a way to make sure it happens. And research suggests there’s a domino effect in doing so. A study published in 2018, in The Journal of Sex Research, suggests that couples who sacrifice a little spontaneity reaped the rewards in their relationship in other ways (and is one of a few incentives to go commando to bed).
“When you’re overextended, you’re not going to find the time unless you make it,” says Syrtash. Look at your calendars to see when the timing works out and plan for then—maybe when the kids are away on Saturday afternoon—rather than waiting to be inspired. Remember that everything doesn’t have to be structured during sex just because you put aside general time to get intimate. And if the mood strikes before your scheduled session, go for it! (This is the best time to have sex, according to science.)
They like making their partner’s life easier
Letting go of some of your own comforts for something that will make your significant other happier (like, say, skipping your monthly book club to tend to a sick husband) may improve your relationship satisfaction. A study published in 2017 in Archives of Sexual Behavior found that relationships characterized by high communal strength were happier. “Communal strength shows what you’re willing to do for your partner, which in turn shows your commitment and love for that person,” says Sassoon. “If you’re willing to make a change or sacrifice something small, you’re showing them that they’re a priority.”
The study’s findings also underscore the importance of not keeping a relationship scorecard, especially when it comes to sex. “I always say I’d rather be happy than be right,” says Sassoon. “As long as both parties are respected and see the value in the relationship, there’s no need for a scorecard. You don’t want to turn your relationship into a competition.” (Here’s why experts say sex is important in a relationship.)
They feel like a team when it comes to chores and daily life tussles
The misconception is that intimacy starts in the bedroom, and it really doesn’t, says Syrtash. “Regular communication, especially for women, is the glue for relationships.” Staying in touch throughout the day, connecting emotionally, respecting each other—even sharing the housework—all can help you both build intimacy and be more likely to be in the mood for sex.
“Working as a team outside the bedroom translates to what happens in the bedroom with a lot of couples,” says Syrtash. And if you both want what’s best for the other, that can be a motivator to make time for sex. (This is the number of times you need to have sex to slow down aging.)
They don’t let themselves get in a rut
It sounds obvious, but passionate couples mix it up a little, whether that’s time of day, location, position…you get the idea. When you change things up, it’s more exciting. In fact, a study published in 2017, in Journal of Sex Research, found that sexual satisfaction was higher among people who, among other things, incorporated a variety of sexual acts, set the mood for sex, and communicated what they wanted.
“It doesn’t mean to be mind-blowing, chandelier-swinging sex,” says Syrtash. “It can be as simple as the woman making the first move one night, if her partner usually makes the first move.” (Meanwhile, check out these myths about sex that everyone thinks are true.)
They put sex on their partner’s mind throughout the day
There are three secrets to maintaining a steamy sex life: Foreplay, foreplay, foreplay. “It’s the little things that make the big things that much better,” says Sassoon. “Whether it’s a kiss on the lips, a touch on the shoulder, a playful and flirty text message, foreplay builds up the anticipation of what’s to come. It makes the relationship more of a fun challenge.”
If your great sex life has cooled down over time, invest the time to “excite your partner” by setting the ambiance. “Either through lingerie, a beautiful meal, a scented candle, a sexy conversation,” says Sassoon. “Whatever it is, create an atmosphere that’s conducive to a romantic night.”
- Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and author of Cheat on Your Husband (With Your Husband): How to Date Your Spouse
- U.S. Census Bureau, "People are Waiting to Get Married"
- Rori Sassoon, co-founder of the matchmaking agency Platinum Poire and co-author of The Art of the Date
- The Journal of Sex Research, "Exploring the Impact of Personal and Partner Traits on Sexuality: Sexual Excitation, Sexual Inhibition, and Big Five Predict Sexual Function in Couples"
- Archives of Sexual Behavior, "Understanding When a Partner Is Not in the Mood: Sexual Communal Strength in Couples Transitioning to Parenthood"
- Journal of Sex Research,"What Keeps Passion Alive? Sexual Satisfaction Is Associated With Sexual Communication, Mood Setting, Sexual Variety, Oral Sex, Orgasm, and Sex Frequency in a National U.S. Study"