Maybe the title should read friendly, joyful, intimate, pleasurable sex. Here outside the bedroom means the rest of your relationship. If that is poor, lacking respect or affection then your sex life is likely to reflect this.
For a couple to function well, there needs to be an assumption of good intent. What I mean by this is that you need to assume from the get go that your partner means well towards you. If they do something unkind or unpleasant you need to ask them “What’s going on…that’s not like you?” This will give them a chance to 1) realise their behaviour towards you is not ok and 2) explain their thinking. If you ask a “Why” question you are likely to get a defensive response or a shut down in communications. So assume your partner means well and check it out if this goes awry.
Secondly, courtesy and kindness towards each other is a must. Everyone likes to be appreciated and thanked – even when it’s a small gesture. I think the word “cherish” is underemployed. We need to cherish our partners and they need to cherish us. Make your partner a cup of tea/coffee/sandwich when they’re tired. Offer to do the washing up or put the laundry on. And if your partner makes you a cup of tea or does some chores, make sure you 1) notice and 2) thank them. It doesn’t matter if it’s their normal routine task, they will love the recognition and you will bank brownie points. A study in the Journal of Psychology 2015 called “Skip the dishes, not so fast! Sex and housework revisited” showed that partners who perceived their other halves helped and shared tasks around the house rated their sex lives as much better than those relationships where sharing chores did not take place – something to bear in mind!
Trust comes next. You need to trust your partner, particularly in the bedroom. So if they are letting you down by being unreliable, late or careless outside the bedroom, you are much less likely to trust them in the bedroom. The same is true if they crack jokes at your expense or belittle you; you’re certainly not going to trust them with your desires and needs in the bedroom. If you behave like that to others they will certainly not trust you and your sex life – actually, all of your relationship life – will suffer. You can’t make up for your bad behaviour outside the bedroom, inside the bedroom.
Affectionate touching, hand-holding, kissing on arrival and departure all go into the “Good will” bank and result in a more affectionate relationship with a higher level of sexual activity. Think about it: if you’re not touching or smiling at each other through the day, you’re starting cold when you get to the bedroom. Texting affectionate texts through the day or a phone call can keep you connected. However, ditch the technology in the bedroom – this leads to inattention towards each other and reduces the chances of sexual activity. It’s a discount of your partner to be in bed with your attention firmly diverted elsewhere and a big turn off.
Humour: things can go wrong and will. A good sense of humour and a sense of proportion will stand you in good stead. I always think of the partner who asks “Is the car all right?” before asking if you’re all right when you’ve been in an accident. This is a great example of someone who has got their priorities way out of whack. In addition, be proportionate in your responses. Blowing up over little things is exhausting in a relationship and begs the question “What are you going to be like if something really bad does happen?” And laugh, lots of things are ridiculous rather than tragic and if you can have a good laugh or share a joke together it lets off steam and bonds you as a couple.
Most people in a relationship say they want “good” sex. But what does that mean? What’s good for one person may not suit another. Therefore, communication is absolutely up there on my list for ensuring a satisfactory sex life. Your partner is not telepathic and is very unlikely to become so. Many people think that if their partner loves them they should magically be able to read their mind – this is the stuff of fantasy. Let your partner know what you like. Ask your partner what they like. Get chatty in a non-confrontational way – “I like it when you…” “XXXXX doesn’t really work for me but when you XXX it does – you’re so good at that.” Everyone likes to be praised, no one likes to be told their technique isn’t working. We need to leave our egos outside the bedroom and realise that everyone is different and therefore each partner will have different needs and requirements and indeed require a different tempo or approach. A desire to please your partner will start you on the right track.
And afterwards? Be appreciative and affectionate. Cuddle up and don’t leap out of bed. A Canadian study in 2013 reported that “post sexual affectionate exchanges” meant that couples rated their sexual satisfaction much higher than in relationships where this did not take place.
Frequent satisfactory intercourse is related to better health. The Caerphilly Study 2002 reports that it leads to higher homocysteine levels in men which is heart protective and higher levels of oxytocin in both sexes which promote bonding and reduce stress. It also impacts positively on your immune system. And when we feel well and happy we’re often more relaxed and nicer. This is what we call a positive cycle, where one positive outcome leads to another and then another.
So try and remember that all your actions throughout your relationship will accumulate either positively or negatively towards how you function as a couple and how happy you are. Outside the bedroom matters! Everyone has bad days but we need to make sure that the bad days are outnumbered by the good days at least 3 to 1 and consequently, the most abiding thoughts and feelings towards each other are kind, appreciative and affectionate. And that these emotions, in turn, will translate to how you are with each other in the bedroom, creating closeness and a win/win situation with much stronger desire to be sexually intimate with each other.