Hollywood has us believing that no matter the external stressors or circumstance, we are all ready - at any moment - to shed our clothes and get it on. Sure, if your relationship is basically like living in Eyes Wide Shut then, well, good for you, but for the rest of us mortals - we don’t always have instantaneous access to our sexual side.
So, what’s the solution? Sex expert, author, and therapist Esther Perel says good sex (and lots of it) comes down to one thing: context.
“Responsive desire is contextual,” says Perel. “So change the context, change the mood, change the energy.” In other words, eliciting desire from your partner isn’t as simple as asking them, "So, you wanna do it?" Which - although incredibly poetic, don’t get us wrong - isn’t exactly what you’d call “mood-setting” language. What is? Esther says anything that seems intentional and conscious… AKA you’ve put more than one minute of thought into setting the stage for some sweet sweet lovin’.
Step 1: Get in the mindset.
Desire is responsive, meaning it’s an active dynamic between you and your partner that you both feed off and respond to. If you get home after sitting in traffic after a bad day at work and you turn on Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On and then sit on the bed wordlessly, you’re probably not going to get laid. And if you do, it won’t be one of your greatest hits. Just trust us. So the FIRST step is to make sure you’re in the mindset to set the erotic environment. If you’re feeling critical of your body, critical of your behavior, nit-picking your appearance or stressed to the max… there is no way you’re about to convey the sexual prowess of Nicole Kidman’s character in Eyes Wide Shut so honestly just try again tomorrow. But if you give yourself a moment to separate yourself from reality, you might find yourself very much in the mood.
Step 2: Make the (thoughtful) gesture.
Bringing home fancy cookies or chocolates certainly qualifies as effort, but if your partner doesn’t really like sweets - then you’re just out $16.99. So make the effort that will make them feel special, appreciated, and ready to go. Here are some ideas:
- Light some candles in the bedroom (or room of your preference)
- Leave a trail of your clothes to the bedroom for them to find
- Play some mood-setting music (you know what they like)
- Compliment their body and tell them that they're sexy
- Take something off their plate (picking up the living room, vacuuming, wash the dishes in the sink) so they can just focus on your A+ effort
- Give them a massage that goes… south…
- Leave your phones in another room. Another zip code if possible. Phones are anti-erotic devices
- Spray some cologne or perfume on you or use essential oils that entice them
Step 3: Cross the threshold.
This is the critical part. You’ve gotten yourself into an erotic mindset, you’ve cultivated an erotic space, now you have to have your partner meet you there and leave reality behind. That means no talking to-do lists between the sheets or asking them if they remembered to call the cable guy. That means no ambushing them while they're in the middle of something. It means inviting them to cross the threshold into Sexy Town and join you there.
Here’s an example Perel gives: A man and his partner are sitting on the couch, next to each other, both on their computers. At 4 in the afternoon, he gets up. He goes to the bedroom and bathroom and lights as many candles as he can find. He turns off the lamps and the overhead light and sets the mood just with the candlelight. Then he yells to his partner, “Hey, can you come in here for a sec?” And now when his partner enters the room, they’re transported to an erotic environment. He has gone out of his way to create the space as a symbol that says “I still think of you this way and of us this way. We are not just roommates, best friends, and management. We are lovers.”
So, to sum up:
- Get in the mindset.
- Make the (thoughtful) effort.
- Cross the threshold.
Although the variations are unlimited, the message is the same: I created an erotic environment to show you I still desire you. And whether you’re celebrating your 6 month anniversary or your 60 year anniversary, that’s a message we still ALL want to hear.