If you’ve been in a relationship for longer than a hot minute, you know that not all romps are created equal. There’s the lazy morning sex when neither of you can be bothered to do anything athletic, the I’m-so-mad-at-you-but-I-love-you action after bickering and the energized sex that can happen when you’re in a new place together. While sex isn’t the solution for all relationship problems, intimacy can build your connection, release frustration and get you both to calm down, stat.
“Sex can be a tremendous resource for managing emotions, coping with stress, reducing heart rate, regulating breathing, grounding yourself in the present and connecting with others,” says therapist Angie Gunn, clinical social worker/therapist and sexuality expert at Talkspace. “Sex can also be a resource for more complex challenges like relationship conflict, boredom or feeling distress in your life.”
Here are some ideas and inspiration from sex therapists, who say these moves can fix (almost) any problem — y’know, at least for an hour or two.
You’re feeling bored in your relationship
When you’re just a few dates in, you get a little zing from every touch, kiss and eye-lock. But when you’ve been together for years, those tried and true positions with your partner might get the job done, but not thrill or satisfy you.
That’s why Coleen Singer, resident sex expert at Sssh.com, an erotic entertainment website for women, says that introducing a fun kinky game into your routine can be an effective way to get curious about your partner again. She suggests recreating the time when you actually were near strangers and pick up one another at a bar, complete with introductions and buying a round of drinks. You’ll reignite those waves of electricity you felt in the beginning. Want to take it a step further? Singer suggests getting a hotel room for the night to really create that ‘sex with a stranger’ sensation instead of going back to your place, where the laundry and dishes await. (Not sexy.)
You’ve been bickering a lot
Disagreements are a natural, normal and even healthy part of being in a committed relationship. No matter how much you love one another or how many passions and interests you have in common, disagreements are inevitable. It’s how you navigate those heated moments that can make or break your union, and if you want to release some steam in a healthy way, Singer suggests trying rough, intense sex.
“This can include mutual spanking, hard and enthusiastic penetration and even a bit of BDSM if that’s something you both agree to try,” she says. Key word: agree. Consent here, as always, is required, so be sure you discuss what your boundaries are before getting rough — we’re not trying to get into Big Little Lies territory, here. “The sheer physicality of rough sex can shed some built-up emotional tension between you. Just be careful not to go overboard with this technique and establish a safe word so you can put on the breaks if anything becomes uncomfortable or painful.”
You have PMS
That time of the month may not exactly be when you’re feeling your sexiest, but it might be when you’re most in the mood for a little bedroom playtime. Your body could be hungering for connection because orgasms are a natural way to alleviate annoying cramps. “Period cramps put your body under a lot of stress, leading to more pain and mood swings,” says Singer. “When we orgasm, the body releases oxytocin and dopamine along with other endorphins that can ease any PMS and period-related pains. Those hormones are far stronger than any over-the-counter painkillers.”
The best sex move for this situation: whichever one gets you to the finish line the fastest! Don’t bother with complex or new positions — just do what feels great, even if it’s quick. Not only will the sexual success help you release physical pain and tension, but it’ll make your partner feel accomplished and proud that he or she made you feel better (and satisfied).
You can’t sleep to save your life
No matter how many melatonin tablets or meditation techniques you try, for whatever reason, insomnia has your hands tied. Periods of restlessness and difficulty getting shut-eye are usually caused by an uptick in stress at work or emotional challenges in your relationships. One super-effective way to stop your mind from racing is — you guessed it — to have an orgasm.
“Sex and orgasms boost the production of oxytocin, which helps you and your partner emotionally bond and curbs cortisol, which induces stress,” Singer says. “These hormonal changes leave your body in a relaxed state, making it easier to fall asleep. As a bonus, estrogen levels after sex and orgasms also increase, which can enhance your REM cycle for a deeper uninterrupted sleep.”
The best positions to try at this time are intimate missionary or spooning sex, where your bodies are completely intertwined while still allowing for the stimulation you both need to reach orgasm. If your partner happens to be out of town when your sleeplessness hits, consider getting a vibrator or giving porn a chance. “Masturbation is one of my go-to tools for sleep struggles,” says Gunn. “Creating a calm, dark, quiet space while prepping your favorite literotica or porn can be great. If you lie in a position you’d normally sleep in, orgasm can be a nice transition to dozing off.” It’s a win-win.
You’re struggling with body image
Just like sleep cycles ebb and flow, so can self-confidence. Whether you’re stressing about a bloated post-dinner belly or hormonal breakouts, most of us have days when we’re not feeling our finest. Next time you have one of these moments, Gunn suggests taking a second to get out of your head, where negative thoughts are plaguing you, and instead celebrating your unique appeal. “Stand in front of the mirror and take sexy pictures, stroking yourself and appreciating all the beauty that lies within you,” she says. “If you’re up for it, send these pictures to your partner if you can count on him or her to appreciate and praise you.” You can even challenge yourself to keep the lights on or have sex in view of a mirror where you’ll be able to see your own pleasure as it happens, which might help take the focus off looks and onto feelings.
Singer adds that it’s healthy to open up the conversation to your partner and explain that you’re not loving being naked right now for whatever reason. She or he can help navigate modifications to your romps, like changing the lighting or focusing on the moves that make you feel best. “Sex researchers note that women who considered themselves ‘good in bed’ had a much better body image than women who didn’t, even though they were the same weight,” says Gunn. “Ultimately, sexual competence creates body confidence and vice versa.”
You’re stressed AF at work
Even if you love your job most days, high-stake deadlines can leave you feeling completely drained when you step outside of the office. You might be so exhausted that even making out feels like a lot of energy, so Singer says to take your sexual exploration to the a.m. instead.
Whenever you know you have a busy workweek coming up, plan ahead and squeeze in a quickie once or twice before heading to the office. That can help alleviate anxiety from the time you wake up, allowing you to be fully recharged and refreshed to tackle those back-to-back meetings and presentations with confidence. It will also put you in an overall mood, meaning you don’t snap in the afternoon before you’ve had your 4 p.m. Starbucks fix.
Life just sucks RN
We’ve all experienced the ups and downs of life — and probably witnessed how it can affect libido too. One month you might score a promotion and go on a killer vacation, while the next you could be fighting with friends, dealing with work drama and feeling pretty down. When you don’t feel like anything is going right and everything just feels hard, turn your attention to the bedroom, where Singer says consistent sex can help keep your mood level and your spirits high.
This is the time when you want to break out your sex bucket list and start checking off the hot things you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t. Even if you can’t control the pitfalls you’re facing, you can at least look forward to having outdoor sex on a rooftop or acting out the schoolgirl fantasy you’ve harbored.
If nothing else, planning these sexy adventures will give you something to look forward to and a way of distracting yourself from day-to-day dreariness — even if it’s just once or twice a month that you and your partner go the extra mile to make sex extra-memorable.