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Ask yourself what kind of sex you really want
If you've fallen into a sexual slump, it's time to reflect on why. "Most people wish they were having more sex, but they often feel too stuck—too tired, busy, or bored with their sexual routine—to make a change," says Robin Milhausen, a sexuality researcher and associate professor at the University of Guelph.
Ask yourself what kind of sex would motivate you to keep doing it. Maybe you'd like added foreplay, more romance, more risk, or something new, like a sex toy. "If you can answer this question for yourself, you are halfway towards making the conditions for better sex possible," explains Milhausen. The next step is to share what you've discovered with your partner.
"When couples have had sex for many years, it can become hard to break out of a rut and stop doing the same old thing. But it's worth it," says Milhausen. "If you enjoy sex more, you'll feel more connected to your partner, likely have sex more often, and reap other health benefits like improved mood and sleep."
Take opportunities when they arise
If your sex life has dwindled, it's time to get creative, and that can mean changing your personal definition of sex. If your idea of sex is four minutes of foreplay and seven minutes of intercourse, you're being fairly traditional, says Milhausen. She advises couples not to underestimate the pleasure they can experience through manual stimulation and oral sex.
For parents, she suggests sneaking in romance whenever possible: "You can enhance the spark in your relationship by just kissing passionately for a few minutes while the kids are engrossed in their iPads," she says. Or how about hiring a babysitter to arrive after the kids are in bed and spending a night at a hotel in your hometown?
That may sound time-consuming, but consider this: Intercourse can boost your immune system. A U.S. study found that having sex once or twice a week produced higher levels of an important immunity antibody than doing it less than once a week or not at all.
Urge your partner to help out at home
A recent study from the University of Alberta found that a fair division of chores led to more frequent (and satisfying!) sex for both partners. "The degree to which a partner shares the burdens and responsibilities of running a home and raising a family can greatly impact the quantity and quality of the sex the couple has," agrees Milhausen.
Her own research on sexual arousal suggests that women have countless concerns running through their heads which can keep them from being 'in the mood'. Men, on the other hand, can put those thought aside and focus on the moment. "For people partnered with women, I recommend taking the mental load off wherever possible. Fold that laundry, give the kids a bath, find out what you can help with to free her mind to focus on intimacy," she advises.
Lifting the burden off a partner helps them relax—and so does sex: A Scottish study found that people who were regularly sexually active had lower blood pressure when facing stressful situations.
Get some shut-eye
It may sound counter-intuitive, but getting more sleep may lead to more sex. A study published last year in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women's desire improved when they got a good night's rest. Sleep also increased the chances of having sex the next day: each additional hour ups the chance of sex by 14 percent.
It's the best of both worlds, because both sleep and sex offer body-boosting effects. Plus, a romp in the sheets can help you sleep better: Orgasms release oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that, among other benefits, helps promote sleep.
Focus on having better sex, not just more of it
Don't stress about frequency: putting pressure on yourself to have more sex can itself be libido-killing. So stop worrying about whether or not you're having "enough" and focus on the quality of sexual interactions, and on developing a stronger connection with your partner.
Interestingly, a recent study from the University of Toronto Mississauga found that couples who have sex weekly are happiest. "We all tend to think everyone else is having more and better sex than we are—and odds are that's not true," says Milhausen. "So it's very helpful to know that the benefits of sex largely max out at once per week."
And don't beat yourself up if it's been a while. "All relationships go through ebbs and flows. Communicating through these difficult patches is key to not feeling resentful," stresses Milhausen.
Take responsibility for your own pleasure
Be an active participant in your own pleasure—if you want to mix things up, go for it!
How about you and your partner take turns doing the planning? So, for instance, if you commit to having sex twice a week, each of you should arrange one encounter. "You are assured regular sex (higher than the national average!) and higher quality sex because of the effort both partners will put forth to make the encounter sexy, exciting, pleasurable, or romantic," says Milhausen.