How To Spice Up Your Sex Life: Why Variety is Key

How to spice up your sex life

When it comes to steamy, fulfilling sex, the last thing you may want to hear is “Research shows…” But let me assure you, you’re going to want to hear about this research.

Using novel experiences to spice up your sex life

Scientific studies verify that when people try new things, the pleasure centers of the brain become more active. This particular type of brain activity leads to a whole host of positive feelings and often include sharper focus and boosted motivation. All from engaging in something different! New, exciting experiences cause the brain to produce the same neurotransmitters that were released when you first fell in love with your partner. (Remember that heady feeling when you were distracted by new love, where the world seemed brighter and more exciting, where this new person was completely irresistible and you were sure s/he could never do any wrong? Some of that headiness was due to the flood of certain chemicals in the brain.)

Why am I telling you this now? (Not to make you nostalgic for the golden glow of fresh love.)

Your relationship can benefit from this knowledge, and that includes your sex life. Who doesn’t want more positive feelings in their lives? When you and your partner make the conscious decision to try new things, you open yourselves and your union to an infusion of healthy emotional energy. And since better sex in marriage and long-term relationships begins with a quality emotional attachment, your sex life will reap the benefits of your novel approach.

Wait a second…I like my routines!

Don’t worry: incorporating some novelty into your day-to-day life (and into married sex in particular) doesn’t mean giving up the familiar routines you both enjoy. “Sometimes I want Brad to ravish me in a whole new way,” says Cecelia, married for eight years. “Sometimes I want to be completely surprised in the bedroom. But then there are other times, maybe more often, even, where I crave the familiar. Where our lovemaking feels like coming home. It tells me we know each other better than anyone, like we’re this cohesive unit protected from the rest of the world.”

Cecelia is not alone. As we get to know our partner better and better with the progression of time, commitment deepens, and we build a life together that has the safe and the predictable at its core. It feels good to be able to count on our partner, to reasonably rely on things in our relationship in a way that we can’t in the world at large. It’s only when predictability becomes the norm, when couples sadly resign themselves to thinking that new experiences are lost to them, that some re-evaluation is needed. “I like being married,” Cecelia added, “but that doesn’t mean that the excitement of my pre-married life has to be gone. I’ve found it’s a lot of fun to be married and flirting with my man in public. It’s a new change we’ve made that we’re both liking a whole lot.”

How to spice up your relationship 

Start small…

Michaela spent $800 on private pole-dancing lessons, another $450 at Victoria’s Secret for lingerie in styles she’d never had before, and $275 on a radical new hairstyle and color. Her partner Syd (who hadn’t known in advance these changes were coming) was surprised for sure, but a bit overwhelmed, too, as if he had found himself at a party he hadn’t been invited to, and one where he was hopelessly under-dressed. He was indeed turned on, but he needed a bit of a transition period to fully absorb what he was seeing. Michaela had expected a very different reaction from him, and she interpreted Syd’s adjustment to all that she presented him with as indifference or even mockery. “I spent almost two thousand dollars on all this!” she yelled. “Not to mention all the time I wasted. This was supposed to be a perfect night!”

Needless to say, romance was off the shelf that night.

Trying something new doesn’t mean a huge outlay of cash or changing yourself to where you’re beyond recognition. Try small things first, especially if you experience a bit of apprehension in even thinking about incorporating novelty into your sex life. Perhaps try something new in foreplay, or have sex in a place you haven’t before, or even some different music in the background. (Or try Cecelia and Brad’s small tweak of flirting with each other in public.) Don’t feel like you have to change things that are already working or change everything all at once. To spice up your marriage does not mean abandoning the lovely landscape you’ve already shaped.

and start together

Michaela’s struggle shows us another important point, beyond the value of starting small. Perhaps if she had pulled Syd into some of her plans, or asked him what he was interested in trying, her mate would’ve had an immediate reaction that fed the romantic moment instead of fueling resentment in her.

Sharpen your pencils…

How to spice up your sex life action step: 

Make a list of 5 things you’ve been dying to try in the bedroom. Make this list with your partner in mind, of course, but write your list while sitting in another room, away from your partner. Ask him/her to do the same. It’s best to search your mind first on your own (and give your partner to have the same space), and then come together and switch lists. Remember not to judge or shame or critique your partner’s list—there’s nothing that shuts down a foray into sexual novelty more quickly and emphatically than shame.

Sometimes a knee-jerk reaction to thinking about something new is “No way, that’s too weird,” but just realize that that first impression usually passes, and to shut yourself down based on the status-quo echo in your head could cause you to miss out on experiences that might enrich your marriage/relationship.

This exercise is a quick, easy way to give your individual self dedicated space in the sexual relationship, as well as a way to share this self with your mate and experiment with blending and merging both of your deepest sexual desires.

Explore playfully (don’t take yourself too seriously)

People who maintain an attitude of play in their lives report greater happiness overall. This holds true for your sex life. Try not to take yourself too seriously as you explore new things. Remember to allow yourself to feel playful. We all have a playful side (whether we think we do or not). Often the demands of work and family bury that playfulness under pressures that require seriousness, but that inherent playfulness is still there, ready for us when we’re ready to access it.

When you make an effort to connect to that playful side, along with your partner, you will feel freer to try new things, and won’t be too attached to any one thing you try (you won’t have Michaela’s reaction in the bedroom). After all, the goal here is connecting with your partner in meaningful and novel ways, not a specific technique in and of itself.

So remember to laugh—or a least smile!

Make embracing novelty a new habit

Novelty + habit may sound like a paradox, but hear me out.

When we cling to the expected because we’re too afraid to try something new, that is a habit in and of itself. (It’s an inadvertent habit, perhaps, but no less impactful when it comes to driving or curtailing your experiences.) It’s a habit that can cause your sex life to feel stagnant and dull, and a habit that will prevent you from experiencing the rush of positive emotion we discussed at the outset of the article.

The first step is just looking at your fear of trying something new—look at it calmly and without judgment. Then think about what it might be like to open yourself to trying new things…not committing to each thing you try, but just trying them out. “What if…?” is a good way to start thinking about this. “What if _____ felt really good?” “What if I really liked ____?” No pressure, just see how it feels to gradually develop a mindset of pro-novelty.

Research tells us that it takes 21 days of doing something new before it becomes a habit (which is why people who begin an exercise routine are urged to stick with it through the first three weeks…after that point, it will become more automatic and you’ll feel less resistance; you’ll be more likely to follow through).

So make a practice of making room for new experiences with your spouse/partner. New experiences that you try with your partner can be exciting and richly rewarding, in and out of the bedroom.

Featured (top) image  courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/