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How to change up your sex routine if you’re stuck in a rut

WORDS BY GENEVIEVE PHELAN

“The next orgasm begins when the last one ended.”

I’ve been thinking lately about the routines we fall into with our partners. The ritual of coming home after a big, long day (whether you cohabitate or do sleepover rosters) and cooking pasta with a pinot poured.

One of you will grab some groceries perhaps, the other might have a shower post-gym, and you’ll fall into a rhythmic process of cooking, talking, unwinding and decompressing in the kitchen together before tag-teaming the clean-up and nesting on the couch.


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I love this routine. It has to be one of the simplest, most seemingly-mundane things to do with a lover on a weeknight, but it’s the best. And just as we fall into habitual dances with a partner in the kitchen, we often unknowingly do the same in the bedroom. 

Once you’ve become familiar, comfortable and at home with a long-term partner, you’ll begin to notice that sex takes on a signature script of your own co-writing. Maybe your foreplay starts in a similar way each time, or you’ve figured out what precise position gives the other person the most pleasure.

Of course, every time will be unique and different to the last, but you might find yourself falling into an established sex routine of sorts. In a bid to keep things evolving and exciting and mutually rewarding in a romantic relationship (however new or old), I decided to catch up with Caroline Moreau-Hammond, host of The Philosophy of Sex podcast and the founder of ethical sex toy marketplace, Becuming.

I’m curious about staying curious with a partner when it comes to intimacy, when the rituals of everyday life can flow through to repetition in bed. Caroline imparts her wisdom below. 

If you’ve fallen into a semi-consistent sex routine with your partner, how can you shake things up? For example, how can foreplay be mixed up if you find yourself repeating the same steps each time? 

Unfortunately, I don’t come with Cosmo-esque quick tips! Sex is so much more than just a sequence of behaviours. Treating it as such is a surefire way to find yourself in a new rut in a few months’ time. I think it’s important to acknowledge no one is having wild and creative sex 100 per cent of the time, particularly in long-term relationships. However, if you feel dissatisfied or unfulfilled, then that’s a problem that needs to be addressed. 

 

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Often it’s the spaces in between sexual encounters that determine how good the next time you have sex will be. This means having an erotic thread between sexual events like regular non-sexual touching, sharing of fantasies, or doing activities that make you feel close to your partner. If there is no deeper connection or intimacy between sexual encounters, it’s going to be really hard to build eroticism and to feel turned on when it comes to having sex. 

Esther Perel says, “the next orgasm begins when the last one ended”. For me, understanding this is how you keep eroticism alive in a relationship. I think of every interaction with my partner as foreplay; how I kiss him when I wake, how we touch when we’re out in public and how I move around him when we’re at home. Reframing your relationship to when the energetic part of sex begins and ends might naturally generate more unrehearsed sex. 

Why do we fall into the same routines or rituals with a partner in sex? 

Because we live busy lives, sometimes we want different things than our partners, and asking for what we want can feel confronting and vulnerable! Personally, I find Ian Kerner’s idea of the sex script useful as a way of understanding sexual routines. A sex script is the sequence of interactions (physical, emotional, psychological) that underlie the last time you had sex.

Most sexual partners, particularly long-term couples, have a kind of default sex script. Sometimes sex is a bridge; other times, it reveals a chasm. When the sex script works, we lose ourselves in arousal. Sex becomes like a familiar dance, and we don’t think twice about the choreography. But when the sex script fails, it’s hard not to obsess over the details.

 

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Thinking about sex as a scripted event, with elements that unfold in a sequence, may sound like the opposite of spontaneity – which is what sex is ‘supposed’ to be, right: spontaneous. However, Kerner likens a great sex script to jazz. Being able to improvise and cut loose is important, but in order to do that, you and your partner need to know what song you’re playing, the genre, the key and chord progressions, the tempo, and so on…

You could start by asking yourself what sex scripts have you been adhering to, either in past sexual relationships or your current sexual relationship? How have these scripts impacted your enjoyment of sex? What does your ideal sex script look and feel like? The sooner you start to think about what you need in a sex script, the sooner you have both a structure and a language to communicate your needs. 

What other environmental factors (i.e. location, clothing etc) can be altered to keep things fresh? 

My unsexy answer is stress reduction. How most of us live is not conducive to having consistently hot sex. If you work nine to five you’re likely tired and not feeling super turned on in the evenings. Maybe there are chores you have to do, and chances are your partner is tired and a bit over it also. 

Making time to relax and switch off is crucial. Shut your laptop, put the laundry aside, and don’t worry about the dishes. Dance, cook, take a bath, meditate; do something that will help you get out of your head and into your body. This will put you in a much better position to be sexually creative and receptive to new experiences. 

My second piece of advice is to have a conversation with your partner about what novel ideas turn them on and then share yours. Taking inspiration from your partner is going to be much more effective than guessing and hoping for the best. Great long-term sex involves a lot of commitment and hard conversations. It is the unsexy reality of sex. 

How can you introduce a new position or idea into the bedroom when you feel sex becomes repetitive? (Especially if you feel nervous to do so.)

I’ll keep beating the same drum here; talk about it! Communication is the best way to transform your knowledge of what brings you pleasure into real, shared experiences. If you don’t know what brings you pleasure, don’t stress! You don’t have to have a laundry list of what is okay and what is not. You also aren’t solely responsible for what happens in the bedroom. 

You could run some sexy experiments with your partner to learn more about your turn-ons. This might even mean seeking support from a sexologist, psychologist, or tantric practitioner, depending on what resonates with you. If you need ideas, resources, or recommendations for practitioners in Melbourne and Sydney, head to Becuming’s Sex Journal

In terms of managing the anxiety conversations like this can give rise to, go slow and be kind to yourself. If you have concerns or frustrations, it’s really important to air these with your partner. Anyone worth your time will hear you out and work on it with you. I really can’t stress this enough; if there is part of you that feels a sense of yearning or wanting more, don’t deny your desires. 

What role could toys play in resetting the sex you have with a partner? 

 

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Seeing your partner experience a new type of pleasure can be very sexy. Sex toys are great for this type of novelty. Also, if you’re a vulva owner who struggles to orgasm through penetrative sex, using a clitoral toy while you’re being penetrated is a great way to increase the likelihood of orgasm. 

Hands-free toys, like suction dildos, or vibrators that hold in place, like We-Vibe’s Chorus or Rosewell’s Bend, mean you can pleasure yourself while keeping your hands free to pleasure your partner. 

Sex toys for male partners and penis owners often aren’t talked about. Cock rings are a really fun addition. Longer, stronger and more sensitive erections? What’s not to love! I’m a fan of Je Joue’s rings. They’re super soft silicone and vary from extremely stretchy for beginners to more firm for more intensity. 

For advice on how to deepen your sexual connection with your partner, head here.

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