When you’re not happy with the sex you’re having, knowing where to start improving it can feel overwhelming.
That’s especially true in long-term relationships, where you’re stuck in set routines and hard-to-break habits.
But better sex can start with something as small as a longer goodbye kiss or shifting your focus to quality over quantity.
“Things like the six-second kiss or touching more often, increasing that physical intimacy or emotional connection — all those things make a big difference,” says Kassandra Mourikis, a sex therapist in Melbourne.
“You are strengthening that bond with your partner, showing you care.”
She says the more consistent you can be with those new habits, the better.
“Often there are long-term benefits to doing these things — but just like if you go to the gym once and then don’t go again for two months — you’re not going to see them.”
Reading up on intimate themes like communication and consent can also help broaden your sexual horizons, explains Ms Mourikis.
Here, we list seven things you can do to improve your sex life today.
1. Have a chat
We have to get this predictable advice out the way first up — because despite communication being one of the best things you can do to enjoy sex, many of us aren’t doing it enough.
If you find it difficult to talk about sex, that’s understandable, says sex therapist Tanya Koens.
“What if I am judged? What if I seem weird? What if my partner tells someone else about this? What if my partner breaks up with me?” are some of the thoughts that run through our head, she says.
But pushing through the awkward feels can lead to conversations that teach you about each other, help you feel more confident and subsequently experience more pleasure.
Not sure where to start? Try the three-minute game.
And for tricker topics like disclosing past sexual trauma or talking about STIs, for example, there are ways to make it easier on yourself, such as looking for “green flags”.
2. Stop comparing your sex life
If you’re busy worrying about whether your sex life is “normal” or “abnormal” compared to your mates or the neighbours down the street, you aren’t leaving much room to focus on pleasure.
“I see cute couples on Instagram or in real life, and I wonder if they are truly in love after many years of being together and if they still have sex all the time,” 27-year old Poppy* told ABC Everyday.
She felt pressure to have sex a certain number of times a week — focusing on meeting an imaginary “standard” — rather than having quality sexual intimacy.
Sexologist Vanessa Muradian says if we can first focus on making sex enjoyable, the quantity part will take care of itself.
“The better sexual connection you have, the more often you will want to experience it.”
3. Increase physical touch outside of the bedroom
Giving your partner a six-second kiss when saying hello or goodbye — having that physical connection outside of sex — can increase feelings of intimacy.
Ms Koens also recommends having a bath together, remembering to give hugs (not just when you greet one another) and giving massages without the expectation of it leading to sex (but cool if it does!).
“There are many ways to connect sexually and intimately,” she says.
“Also, take the focus off performance and what is not possible. Rather, look at what is pleasurable and what is possible — it’s bound to get you to places that are fun.”
It’s also really important to recognise if you are having sex out of duty, or for pleasure (which can be physical or emotional).
4. Build sexual confidence
Many people mistake sexual confidence for being “good in bed” or “feeling hot”.
In reality, sexual confidence is fluid, and anyone can build theirs with the right knowledge and mindset.
“I find it hard to maintain eye contact during sex and I get inside my head about what I look like to my partner. It affects the pleasure I am able to give and feel,” 32-year-old Nanthini* told us.
Tips for feeling more sexually confident include knowing all bodies and good bodies deserving of pleasure, understanding the impact culture has on our body image, and learning to communicate your desires to your sexual partner.
“A ‘good’ body doesn’t look a certain way. It helps you move around through the world, therefore it’s a good body,” Ms Mourikis says.
5. Learn about your (and your partner’s) body
It’s important to learn about your own body, and that of your partner. Even when you share the same anatomy, what feels good for them might be different than it is for you.
Masturbation is a great way to find out what you do and don’t like.
“Everyone’s ultimate source of wisdom about their own sexuality is their own body,” explains sex educator and author Dr Emily Nagoski.
To get to know more about your partner’s body and desires, learning about active consent is one place to start.
The clear and honest communications about sex that come with active consent mean we don’t have to second-guess every move. We can “get out of our heads”, says Ms Koens.
“Then our heads and bodies are free to dive into enjoying the experience.”
And for those unfamiliar with the widely misunderstood clitoris, be prepared to have your mind blown. It has four parts and is 9 centimetres long.
6. Acknowledge pain and discomfort
Australian data shows 20.3 per cent of women and 2.4 per cent of men have experienced physical pain during sex.
And women aren’t just more likely to experience consensual sex that’s bad, painful and unsatisfying, they are also socialised to prioritise men’s pleasure over their own, explains sex and relationship therapist Lisa Torney.
But there are several things women can do to learn how to prioritise their own pleasure, including masturbation, talking to their partner and seeking outside support.
“Talk about what you find pleasurable and what you don’t — have an open conversation about the real nitty gritty.”
If your partner finds sex painful or uncomfortable, you can be supportive by renegotiating intimacy, having a plan B and researching the condition.
“Partners [of people who experience sexual pain] can have a bigger influence on painful sex outcomes than they probably realise,” Ms Mourikis says.
7. Consider seeing a therapist
Sometimes a third party can help us work through issues we find difficult to navigate.
Sex therapy can assist with sexual education, sexual trauma, intimacy issues, physical difficulties, relationships problems, lacking or high desire, sexual pain and more.
Therapists commonly charge anywhere from $90 to $250 or more, depending on how long the session is, their level of expertise, where they are located (rent costs) and other factors.
This article contains general information only. You should consider obtaining independent professional advice in relation to your particular circumstances.