By Amanda Green
Your sex drive is all in your head — well, in your brain, that is. Foreplay isn't limited to what happens in the bedroom. Every interaction with your partner is a chance to get in the mood... or out of it. Everyday stresses and resentments can wreak havoc on your sex life. But you're not going to settle for that, are you? Didn't think so.
I looked at the research and talked to relationship experts to determine five fully clothed ways to engage in what's called the "other" foreplay: ordinary but powerful actions that can increase intimacy between you and your partner.
Oh, and they all take place well outside the bedroom, which means you can start implementing these right… about… now.
1. Try something new together.
Ever notice that you have more sex on vacation? There's a psychological reason for that, and it's called expansion theory. In a nutshell, expansion theory posits that people are highly motivated to expand their horizons. This is why we often prefer the new and exciting over the old and familiar. Sure, you love your partner, but you've "been there, done that". The personality traits that initially charmed you are old news, if not occasionally annoying.
You can't make your partner seem completely mysterious, nor would you want to, but one way to revive intimacy is to try something new together that you’re both excited about. A vacation is one idea, but there are many other affordable options, like a new cuisine or a class.
"When two people embark on a journey together, in which neither is the teacher and neither knows more than the other, the experience of learning becomes their joint venture," says YourTango Expert Moushumi Ghose, a relationship coach and sex therapist. On the surface, that new venture may be wine tasting or ballroom dancing, but it's really about creating new bonds, which will definitely impact your sex life.
"Having common interests is great, but developing common interests can be the glue that helps couples stick together," says Ghose. "When relationships fall on hard times, these activities can be a great reminder of the journey a couple has taken together, and how far they've come."
2. Pitch in with "choreplay."
A 2010 study by the University of Western Ontario found that women whose husbands help with housework are happier in their marriages. Another study from the University of Illinois that same year reported that men who help with chores tend to have more sex than men who don't. Coincidence? We think not.
When both partners pitch in at home, there are more opportunities to make housework sexy (did somebody say housekeeper fantasy? A little French maid number never hurt anyone). Try cleaning the house together to a sultry soundtrack, or dusting halfway in the buff. Use makeout breaks as incentives for completing tasks. See for yourself if you start looking forward to otherwise mundane activities. Hey, "loading the dishwasher" might become your new favorite sex position.
3. Schedule a sex date.
You're probably thinking, "What could be less romantic?" Sure, most couples only talk about scheduling sex when they're trying to get pregnant, but making an appointment to do the deed can actually make you both hot with anticipation the whole day. Think about it. No, really. There's something so naughty about fantasizing about how you’re going to get your paws on each other that night — while you're in the middle of a client meeting!
And don't forget the fun part: sending each other sexy texts all day as little reminders of what's to come. While you're at it, give it a funny name that'll be your inside joke. If it's Wednesday, make it a literal Hump Day, or call it Frisky Friday or Steak and Sex Night.
4. Exercise together.
Countless studies have linked regular exercise to more frequent and enjoyable sex. People who work out have more energy and flexibility, and they look better. The latter's a win-win. A sexy partner isn't just a good thing to have. It’s a good thing to be — women especially enjoy sex when they feel good about their bodies.
Getting a workout together outside the bedroom has its benefits: not only do you get to see each working up a sweat, but exercising counts as some high-impact quality time! And what better way to motivate and encourage each other to be healthy and feel great? A recent study shows that couples who work out together are 34 percent more likely to stick to it. Sounds like there really is something to the "buddy system" after all.
5. Show you care… even when you’re not around.
When you're first dating someone, the little gestures are everything. So why not bring them back? There's hardly a bigger turn-on than knowing that your partner is thinking about you when you're not together. Fire off flirty texts, take care of tasks or chores you know your partner dreads, or prepare his/her favorite meal. By the time you actually do make it to the bedroom, things might be too hot to handle!
As author, therapist and sex expert Esther Perel says: "It's impossible to be in the heat of the moment, sexually speaking, if you're thinking about your to-do list. The most important turn-on you could give your partner, then, just may be helping him or her check off that list in order to focus on sexier tasks at hand."
In partnership with YourTango