Your 8 Biggest Sex Questions—Answered!
Once people find out what sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman does for a living, they love to get her opinion on everything from low libido and bedroom fantasies to how to spice things up. And she's always more than happy to oblige — even if you catch her while she's shopping for shoes.
"Not only does it keep life interesting, but it also fits my mission: reminding people that honest, authentic, and straightforward communication about sex is vital for healthy relationships," she says.
Here's how she answers some of the common sex questions people ask.
1. Is my sex life normal?
Most people (especially women) believe what they want in the bedroom is somehow weird — probably because so many of us learned as kids that sex is dirty and that our physical needs shouldn't be discussed. But as adults, we crave assurance that we're okay.
The answer is "yes, of course, you're normal!" As long as you're safe and not harming anyone, there's no reason to be concerned, embarrassed, or ashamed about your desires, or your genitals. Better yet, loosening your inhibitions a little is the first step to getting the sex life of your dreams.
2. How often do most people get it on?
Everyone thinks there's someone else having way more sex than you are. Relax. Research has shown that most long-married American couples have sex once or twice a week, provided illness, pregnancy, travel, financial stress, or any other major issue doesn't get in the way. For new couples, it happens much more often, but the frequency will gradually decrease over time.
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3. How do I tell my partner what I need in bed?
He isn't a mind reader, so you have to speak up and be clear about what you want. Framing your request as a compliment really works. Want him to pleasure you more? Tell him how turned on you were during your last lovemaking because he really took his time. Before you know, he'll be offering more foreplay than you can handle!
Gentle instructions can make a difference too. Don't be afraid to say things like: "Can we slow down a minute," "can you do that thing with your tongue again," or "this feels good; you know what would make it feel even better (then change positions)."
Sometimes you don't have to speak at all — just guide him by gently lifting your hips or moving your body in a way that works for you. Moaning or cooing also lets him know he's doing something you enjoy. Remember that your partner's goal is to make you happy, so any direction (our bodies are often a mystery to them) or guideposts along the way are always appreciated.
4. I'm not getting turned on! Why?
Lack of libido is a common problem as women get older and experience the hormonal changes of menopause, but it can happen at any age. Fluctuating hormone levels can contribute (perimenopause can begin as early as age 35), but so can stress at home or at work. Medications (some antidepressants and birth control pills have been linked to lowered sex drive), poor physical fitness, and lack of sleep can also be factors.
If you've lost interest in sex, first check to make sure it's not physical. Are you getting enough sleep, exercising, or eating healthy? Once you rule those out, visit your doctor. They'll be able to detect changing hormone levels or determine if it's a side effect of a new medication.
You can also try managing your stress triggers. If your daily to-do list is overwhelming, don't be a hero; get help. Buy, don't bake, cookies for the school sale. Tell your boss that you need more assistance on a project. If money woes have you on edge, schedule a family budget talk or a session with a financial adviser. Also, don't hesitate to confide in a therapist or your clergyperson if it becomes too much to handle alone. And finally, take time out for a hot bath, spa day, hanging with friends, or date night with your husband.
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5. One of us cheated. How do we get past it?
It is possible to repair your relationship after an affair. First, the partner who cheated must cut off all communication with the ex-lover, and make it clear that he or she is recommitting to the marriage. And the unfaithful spouse should be completely honest about his or her indiscretion, but refrain from sharing too many gory details. Next up: Therapy — a couples' counselor can help you find out what led to the infidelity and figure out how to rebuild the relationship.
But more importantly, let the injured party vent, rant, or cry for 10 minutes a day, while the unfaithful spouse listens and accepts the hurt he or she has caused. Limiting these venting sessions to a shorter time limit can cut down on constant fighting and allow a couple to focus on rebuilding. Seriously, I've seen this technique work over a six-month period or less. The more the wounded spouse expresses their hurt, the more they feel validated and heard, and the lighter the emotional burden becomes making moving on seem possible.
6. What's the best way to share my fantasies?
This can be intimidating, especially if you've never done it before. Simplify the process by creating a "fantasy file" and keeping it in your bedroom. You and your partner can each write down your deepest desires on separate slips of paper, and stick them in a folder, notebook, or box. And whenever things get dull in the bedroom, pull them out and act them out.
Many couples I've worked with have used this strategy successfully, including a woman who dressed up as Prince Leia (hair buns and all!) for her husband. One man was even brave enough to don a Zorro cape to fulfill his wife's masked-bandit fantasy! Some of these may sound silly, but the key is to mutually agree to have fun and commit to exploring new things. You'll be surprised at how much your sex life can benefit.
7. How do we make time?
Busy couples often miss out on sex because they're overbooked, overburdened, overtired, or all of the above. But it's essential that you devote time to your marriage (and by extension, your sex life), no matter how overtaxed you are. Your marriage is the cornerstone of your family, and deserves your attention.
Don't wait for free time to miraculously appear; create it. If necessary, steal it from some other activity, with no apologies. Write your weekly date night in stone, and break it only for emergencies. And start saying "no" to requests for your time, from volunteer work to family gatherings. You can also leave housecleaning or laundry for a rainy day — better to have a pile of dirty socks than a rocky marriage. If you don't make time together your priority, it just won't happen.
RELATED: 10 Foolproof Ways to Get in the Mood
8. We're stuck in a rut. How do we spice things up?
Long-term couples often find that things can get a bit boring after awhile. To keep things exciting and fresh, make small alterations in your routine including initiating sex at a time that's unusual for you, say, when he walks in the door from work (maybe Grandma or a friend can take the kids). You can also try introducing a new move in the bedroom or just give your spouse a long, passionate kiss when he least expects it. Another surprising turn-on: telling your partner how much you appreciate him and your life together five times a day.
Bring flirting back into the equation by sending provocative e-mails or texts throughout the day to get each other going. Pretend you're lovers having a secret rendezvous and book a night at a local hotel. If that's beyond your budget, turn your bedroom into a sweet suite, complete with pillow mints and a mood-setting movie. Try having sex somewhere new and risqué, like a restaurant bathroom or the kitchen counter. It's okay if you feel a little self-conscious at first. You'll find that the more you add playfulness to the situation, the more natural it will feel — and the better your sex life will be.
Despite my recommendation, one woman I counseled was very hesitant to "surrender date night" by allowing her husband to pick the restaurant, her meal, and even her outfit. The woman was very controlling and she hadn't been able to relax enough to experience an orgasm. I thought forcing her to give up the reins would help loosen her up. And it worked. She resisted at first, but she reported that she was actually surprised at what a great job her husband did when she gave him the chance to step up. She felt sexy and in the moment, and had sex with her husband for the first time in many months.
Dr. Laura Berman hostsUncovered with Dr.
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