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Feeling tired? Anxious about a work deadline? Overwhelmed by, well, everything going on in the world? These feelings can all represent some pretty major obstacles for getting in the headspace for sex. Sometimes, after a long day, lounging in front of the TV and turning off your brain feels like the only thing you're capable of, which is fine! But if your relationship is suffering because of a stalled sex life, you’re probably wanting to figure out how to get in the mood when you’re just not.
We understand. Life can get in the way, but most (not all!) romantic relationships require a sexual or erotic component to last for the long haul. Just like feeling seen and understood can bring you closer to your partner(s) emotionally, feeling sexy and desired can bring you closer sexually. So let's figure out what turns you on, what turns you off, and how to get in the mood for sex with your long-term partner.
Note: There is no pressure to have sex when you don’t feel like it. These tips are geared toward people who have a desire to have more desire, but we encourage you to communicate where you’re at with your partner(s) and focus on other areas of intimacy if you don’t want to have sex.
Sexual desire is both a body and mind experience. It's not just relegated to your genitals. If you've ever tried masturbating while exhausted and fallen asleep midway through, then you know exactly what we mean (and you’re not alone!). Or perhaps your partner is trying to get you going, but you simply can't turn your mind off, no matter what they're doing to try to help.
How you feel in your body throughout the day, your stress levels, your mental health in general, how much free time you have, anxiety around intimacy, your self-care routine—all of this can have an impact on your sex life and your ability to get in the mood.
You might also feel like the mystery and excitement are gone after 2+ years of a pandemic that dramatically curtailed your social life and put the two (or three, or four) of you next to each other in a small space for far too long. To reawaken sexual desire, look inward, make sexual connection a priority, and come up with a plan of action.
A great place to start in this process is looking inward and determining what you can do as an individual to turn up the heat. As we already mentioned, self-care and a healthy mindset are both important components to finding sexual desire. Before you make time for your partner, make sure you have a little bit of time for yourself.
This could look like any number of things: a hot shower, meditation, going for a walk, playing with your dog, calling a friend for a good laugh. This part is about you. Don't look to your partner to fulfill your self-care needs. Think about coming to the table with desire, not need, to get out of a rut.
Next, start paying attention to your habits during your free time. If you have a 9-to-5 job, what do you do at the end of the day? What can you do differently to prime yourself for a steamy evening with your partner?
If turning on the TV after work means you'll be too engrossed in your shows to have sex before bed, consider reconfiguring your evening. Focus on each other first—turn on your partner before turning on the television, and then you'll have plenty of time to cuddle on the couch afterward for a relaxing evening together.
If you notice that you're way too full after dinner to even think about being touched, consider some pre-dinner foreplay. Sparking something between you before dinner could put you in the mood for a different kind of dessert.
Maybe you've noticed that when you masturbate to completion during the day (or the night before), you remove the need to get off with your partner later on. Consider using your vibrator or hands/fingers just to wake up your genitals, rather than to get you all the way to climax, and save the big finish for partnered playtime.
If you're a physically oriented person, you might find that light exercise can get your juices flowing. It might not seem intuitive, but exercising actually gives you energy. Unless you're doing super long, hardcore workouts that sap everything you have left, exercising could be a form of self-care that helps improve your sex drive.
This part of the process is all about noticing what turns you on and what turns you off. Talk to your partner about what you learn, and ask them what they've learned about themselves, this isn’t just one sided. These realizations can be your jumping-off point for how to get in the mood together.
Now that you've perceived some patterns, it's time to put your learnings into action. Let's start by dispelling the myth that scheduling sex isn't sexy.
Chances are, you're busy and your partner is too. You probably both use some sort of calendar or planner to keep your obligations straight. You probably schedule meetings, routine doctor's appointments, or lunch dates with friends. And you do that because all of that stuff is important.
So is your sex life!
As adults, life comes at you all the time, from every direction. So instead of planning every other aspect of your life and leaving sex to chance, why not make your love life as important as your work life or social life?
Schedule date nights as often as makes sense for your life. They don't have to be on the same day every week or month, but if that works for you, do it. Give yourself some lead time, and come up with some fun ways to spend time together for each one. Or you can take turns planning dates, whatever works for you.
This scheduling suggestion might feel sterile to you at first, but it can improve your chances of getting in the mood. The lead-up to and anticipation of the date can actually enhance the whole experience. Research shows this to be true of vacations—the planning and looking forward to a vacation can be as fun or more fun than the vacation itself. Use your date on the calendar as something to look forward to together, something to talk about together and get excited about together.
Now that we've addressed some of the practical ways to make sex a priority, let's talk about some fun stuff. There's no one-size-fits-all solution for how to get in the mood for sex, but there are certainly a lot of fun ideas to choose from.
If you find that your partner is always ready to go when you are (and your main problem is getting yourself ready), then you could take the whole scheduling thing in a different direction. Pick a day each week that will be the day, and don't tell your partner. Simply prepare yourself mentally and physically for that day. This way, you can be empowered to make the first move or be primed to be receptive to their first move. This is a super sexy way to manage mismatched sex drives.
Another way to prime the pump is to start your date night long before you're out on the town. Start sexting your partner midday to get them and yourself even more excited for the night ahead. This works even if you don't plan to go anywhere, as it builds up the tension and creates excitement and anticipation for when it's time to get down. Dirty talk can be an incredible aphrodisiac.
If you and your partner usually strip down to the buff to have sex, change it up by wearing lingerie and keeping some of your private parts covered. Sometimes increasing mystery or providing suggestive images rather than explicit ones can be incredibly hot. Or, if you're into some rougher play, wear some undies you don't mind getting ripped or stretched and get your partner to work around them to get to the goods.
You might also consider trying new sex positions or oral sex positions. It's easy to fall into a sexual routine with a long-term partner—you know what they like, they know what you like, so you both just race to the finish line. Slow it down, try something new, bring in a new sex toy, try using lube, or experiment with a sex pillow.
Sex scenes in the movies are usually so over-the-top, with two people aggressively sucking face as they slam their way through a house to get to the bedroom. This YouTube parody pretty much nails it. But that's not real life—can you imagine wrecking your house to get to your bedroom and not being distracted? Neither can we, especially for long-term partners.
Instead, set yourself up for success by setting a romantic vibe with low light, soft sheets, a scented candle, and a playlist of sexy tunes. Consider laying a towel down and introducing massage oil or lotion. Start the night by giving each other sensual massages. Or give one person the role of pamperer while the other receives the pampering for the evening.
Audio erotica can be a key ingredient for getting in the mood. Rather than falling down the various porn rabbit holes—which might take attention away from your partner—listening to erotica can allow you to stay engaged visually with each other while still enjoying the stimulation of the story. A sexy story in which two or more people have sex can also feel like a fun way to explore group sex or other non-monogamous scenarios as a fantasy.
Now that you've learned how to get in the mood, it's time to ... well, get in the mood. You know that some dedicated self-care time can help you get there, whether that's exercise, a nap, a massage, or something else. You know that you need to take a look at your routines and patterns and figure out which obstacles you can remove. And you know that you need to have a plan (whether explicit or covert) to make sexual connection happen.
To help you get in the mood, try listening to On the Apps V or My Partner's Partner II.