Sex is to a happy relationship what butter is to a summer lobster feast: totally and completely necessary. “It’s something you do with your partner that most people don’t do with anyone else, so it sets the relationship apart and makes it special,” says clinical psychologist Ursula Ofman, PsyD. Here, experts share the bedroom routines that separate the so-in-love couples from the rest.
They believe in their sexiness
“One of the most important sexual habits happy couples have is assuming their partner is turned on by them. If it seems like a basic step, that’s because it kind of is! It reinforces the feeling of mutual sexual interest,” says Ofman.
This is key because in Ofman’s clinical experience, women sometimes discount their partners’ sexual interest as thinking that’s just what men are like rather than realizing their guys are specifically turned on by them. That distinction can make a world of difference.
They don’t underestimate the little things
Is surprising your partner naked and covered in sushi a la Samantha Jones a good way to get things going? Sure, but happy couples know they don’t need to make a big production to keep things hot. “A simple phone call at lunch to say, ‘I miss you’ can make your lover’s whole day, a sexy text message can prime you both for an evening of intimacy, and a meaningful touch on the arm or even hand-holding while walking the dog can really restore your connection,” says Madeleine Castellanos, M.D., author of Wanting to Want: What Kills Your Sex Life and How to Keep it Alive.
They focus on the positive
His dirty talk makes you want to laugh so hard you cry? Keep it to yourself, and let him know that the swirly tongue trick he used was working in full effect. “Happy couples share what they enjoy in a positive way, rather than focusing on what they dislike or being critical,” says Jane Greer, PhD, author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. Even something as simple as “I enjoyed when you did such-and-such” can make a sexual experience better, says Greer. It’s all about positive reinforcement (unless something actually hurts/feels uncomfortable, in which case, definitely speak up). Even if a certain technique of his isn’t working for you, redirect him by focusing on what would get you going rather than why his move is a total bedroom fail.
They make time for sex time
If the new-relationship days when you were going at it like rabbits are just a distant memory, your S.O. should still rank high on your to-do list. “People feel sex should come naturally. It’s true, it should, but we have a very busy culture where there’s a lot of distraction and chronic exhaustion,” says Ofman. If you have to schedule sex to keep the connection alive, so be it! Keep checking in with each other to determine how much sex you both need to stay satisfied, then do your best to make it happen.
They set aside time to fantasize
Whether they’re sharing all the dirty details with each other or keeping their steamy fantasies for their minds only, happy couples don’t shy away from letting their minds wander. “Fantasizing is a great way to prime the pump for your heart and passion to soar,” says Castellanos. “Don’t be afraid to push the envelope a little. There’s no judgment in the world of imagination.”
They don’t put too much pressure on themselves
Yes, it would be awesome if every single time was the way it goes in a romance movie: You rip each other’s clothes off passionately, look stunning while doing it, then both get off multiple times. But real-life sex isn’t always like that, and that’s okay. “Happy couples don’t feel like sex has to be spectacular every time,” says Ofman. “It’s not a performance sport. It’s a mindful experience with each other.” The pressure for every time to be perfect can make things worse, especially if you don’t have a ton of sex. Think about it: If you rarely have sex, chances are it’ll be harder to have a crazy good experience. That, in turn, could make you feel even less like having sex. Can anyone say “vicious cycle”?
They’re responsive no matter what
That doesn’t mean having sex when you don’t want to! It just means not fully shutting him down when you’re not feeling it. “Happy couples are willing to be understanding and open about their partner’s sexual desires, and they’re responsive even if they’re not necessarily always in the mood,” says Greer. “Maybe they don’t want full-on sex, but perhaps a hand job. If not, they’ll make a plan to connect sexually at a later time or the next day. They don’t just say ‘No.'” Not wanting sex while your partner does is totally your prerogative, and vice-versa. Just make it clear that it isn’t a rejection of your partner; it’s just not the right time.
They’re psyched to have sex
If you’d rather zone out in front of the TV than have sex but you do it anyway, your guy can probably tell. That’s bad news bears for your satisfaction, both in the bedroom and out. “Nothing is deadlier than the perception that someone is only participating because they feel obligated,” says Ofman. Instead, people (especially women) in ecstatic relationships get themselves into a frame of mind that focuses on how much fun sex is for them. “Thinking about what’s pleasurable or erotic for you instead of just doing it for him makes you more likely to have a good sexual experience,” says Ofman.