Twelve is the Loneliest Number
A young man is standing in a pharmacy staring at the wall of condoms looking perplexed. After several minutes, an older gentleman approaches him and hesitantly asks the young man if he needs help.
The young man says, “There are so many choices! What kind should I get? How many do I need?”
The older man smiles serenely and picks up a box and starts to explain. “This is a three-pack. It’s for when you’re dating: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.”
The younger man nods, gulps, and asks, “Okay, what’s the six-pack for?”
The older man says, “That’s for when you move in together: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.”
Encouraged, the young man starts to grin and asks ambitiously, “What’s the twelve-pack for?”
The older man starts to grin, too, and as he puts a twelve-pack in his basket he explains, “That’s for after you get married.”
“Really?” says the young man hopefully. “How’s that?”
“Well,” says the older man, “You’ve got January, February, March…”
Long-term relationships come with certain comforts: the liberty to pass wind whenever the need strikes, the confidence to face your lover without the aid of cosmetics, and even the freedom to kiss your mate good morning before you’ve brushed your teeth. But long-term relationships can also suffer from over-familiarity. Sex can become routine, and one or both partners may lose interest as the novelty fades. And the longer a couple stays in a rut, the harder it can be to break out of it. But a diminishing sex life isn’t an inevitable consequence of commitment. In fact, sex with a long-term partner can (and should) improve with time.
Just like writing, acting, singing, playing videogames, playing sports, driving -- anything you would practice and get better at -- sex is something that you keep on learning. It’s very exciting to go from beginner to intermediate, but many people assume that intermediate is good enough. It’s not. Expert is where it’s at, and constant improvement is the only way to live. Trust us. We know.
Communication is key, but for many couples, talking about sex can be the hardest part. It’s tempting to go out and buy a sexy new toy or costume and spring it on your partner, but that kind of behavior is usually only rewarded in adult cinema. So in the next section, we’ll present three activities to help you and your partner talk about sex more openly, as well as some ideas to get you started. Choose whichever ones fit your style.
What Dreams May Come
If you already have some activities you’d like to try with your partner, try the pencil-and-paper approach. Many people find it easier to communicate in writing -- hence the “do you like me, check yes or no” notes we all wrote and received in our grade-school days. For this exercise, each partner should a list his or her dearest erotic fantasies and all the things s/he would like to try. Take this list, seal it up, and put it in a safe place where your lover is not allowed to look. This is your “secret” list.
Now each partner should list activities or practices he or she is unwilling to engage in. This is your “anti-fantasy list.” Exchange anti-fantasy lists and make a note of those things your partner is unwilling to try. Write a new list, your five best sexual wishes, eliminating anything on your partner’s anti-fantasy list. This is your “top five.”
Now the scary part: exchange top fives. On your partner’s list, circle anything you find particularly intriguing and might like to try. Especially note items that appear on both lists -- those are obvious matches and a good bet for your first few tries. Keep the lists in a safe place and spend a few weeks, months, or years exploring your shared fantasies.
When your top five list has been exhausted and you and your partner want to try something new, take another look at your secret lists. Are there any new fantasies you’d like to add? Make a new “top five” and present it to your partner periodically. You can do this whenever the mood strikes, or you can make an event of it and create new lists for each other annually, for a special anniversary or perhaps Valentine’s Day.
Still stuck? Here’s our top-five list to get you started.
1. Toys, of course. Lots and lots of toys.
2. Have a naughty nurse fantasy? Costumes and role-play go hand in hand. Try dressing up like a cop, French maid, or our personal favorite: naughty grad student.
3. Change positions and locations. We love doggy-style as much as the next pup, but sometimes you’ve got to teach your old dog some new tricks. Make love in every room in your house. Yes, that includes the bathrooms. Never christened the backseat of your car? Find a secluded spot and go at it like Rizzo and Tony. Moving sex out of the bedroom will probably inspire you to find new positions, too -- use your environment to your advantage and bend your lover over that bar stool in the breakfast nook. You’ll never look at your kitchen the same way again.
4. Threesomes, foursomes, and moresomes. We’ve always been intrigued by the idea of bringing in extras, but at our age, we’d have to lose fifteen pounds before we’d even consider letting anyone else see us naked. Still, the idea of a threesome is something we play with. Since actually having one is off the table, we talk dirty about what it would be like if we did. We fantasize together and enjoy adult films with, er, large casts. Dirty talk and adult film can be excellent tools for those fantasies that are compelling but, for one reason or another, impractical.
5. Many people have bondage fantasies to some degree, with or without Domination and pain. Invest in some fuzzy cuffs or some economical bondage tape (it doesn’t stick to skin), or go whole hog with a restraint kit. Be sure to read our article on safe bondage practices and use common sense: establish a safe word, respect your partner’s boundaries, and never leave an immobilized person alone.
As You Wish
For couples who want to work on improving each other’s techniques, we recommend playing an exciting little game with your partner. The “as you wish” game is a fabulous tool for helping couples focus on each partner’s pleasure individually and encouraging communication for those who may be more timid about their desires.
The rules are simple: one partner is the “wisher” and the other is the “wish granter.” The wisher has to ask for what he or she wants, and the wish granter may only do as the wisher requests. Here, the burden of pleasure rests heavily on the partner being pleasured -- if s/he fails to ask for what she wants, s/he won’t get it.
Couples who play this game regularly will learn where and how their partner likes to be touched, and the results may surprise you. For instance, we were a little taken aback when we realized that we never requested kissing. Kissing may be the most important aspect of foreplay for many people, but we are not among them, and this knowledge has allowed us to focus on what really works for us instead. (In our case, for the curious, “what really works” turns out to be boobies.)
This game works particularly well as part of a Domination/submission role-play or in conjunction with light bondage. But if neither of those scenes rocks your cradle of love, try setting the mood with the soft glow of a few candles, have some massage oil handy, and make it a romantic evening of wish-fulfillment without all the guilt.
Another game that can help you break out of your routine is the “one rule” game. Have you ever gone to a restaurant where you always order the same meal only to discover that they no longer serve that dish? Sometimes the only way we ever try something new is when the old standby becomes unavailable. But when we have no choice but to try something different, we’re usually pleasantly surprised.
The goal of the one rule game is to take some sexual comfort food off the menu and force you to expand your repertoire. So take one part of your routine -- even if it’s something you really, really enjoy -- and declare it off-limits for one night only. Whether it’s no kissing, no oral sex, or no intercourse, sampling a new dish can help you break out of your rut and think about pleasure and intimacy in new and exciting ways.
If you find yourself gravitating towards the same parts of your partner’s body -- especially the overtly sexual ones -- try going on a treasure hunt. Start at one end and conduct an exhaustive search for unusual pleasure points. We all have one or two odd little quirks, be it a sensitive navel, a back muscle that loves to be rubbed, or particularly sensitive feet. Alternatively, you can place a “treasure” somewhere on your body -- a dot of cologne or a dab of a pleasant-tasting clear liquid. Ask your partner to locate it by scent or taste. You’re bound to discover a few new erotic zones in the process, and if you know of one your lover hasn’t discovered yet, you can even guide him or her right to it.
Inspiration from Film and Literature
Sometimes couples agree that they want to experiment but have a hard time coming up with creative ideas to try. If you’re in this predicament, check out some adult videos or erotic books. In film, you can choose from instructional videos or pornography, depending on your interests and goals.
In books, you might try explicitly erotic fiction or somewhat milder (and more character-driven) romance novels, or you could check out some instructional manuals or a nicely illustrated Kama Sutra. Erotica and porn are a matter of taste, but when it comes to the Kama Sutra, I like Anne Hooper’s edition for straight couples, Kat Harding’s text for lesbians, and Terry Sanderson’s book for gay men.
The best part about this is that you can work alone or together. Peruse the catalogs separately, find something you enjoy, and leave it on your partner’s pillow with a note: “Let’s try this later.” Or, choose a film (or story) that appeals to both of you and watch (or read it aloud) together. Afterwards, talk about what aspects of the experience you liked best and whether you’d like to try anything you saw. You may discover a new position or bondage method while you’re at it, and chances are, just watching porn or reading erotica together will inspire you to try what you’ve learned immediately.
You and your partner deserve expert sex, so get inspired, voice your opinion, and start making your lists. And most important, get practicing!