Getting More Adventurous This Valentine’s Day—Tips from Dr. Jess

Valentine's day O*Diaries

With Valentine’s Day nearing, many people are trying to plan how they want to celebrate. The typical Valentine’s Day celebrations can be a little lackluster, so to offer some inspiration on how to shake up your Valentine’s plans Dr. Jess O’Reilly has offered some tips.

Would you say that couples who have more adventurous/creative dates have better sex lives? How can having more creative dates/spending time together improve sex?

Creativity, novelty and adventure outside the bedroom tends to precede more of the same inside the bedroom. When you make an effort to try new things, you become more aware and will likely find that you’re more curious. Adventure, of course, means different things to different people — for some it’s about physical challenges and for others it’s more emotional or practical. For example, high adrenaline sports can create excitement in the mind and body, but so too can intense conversations that involve sharing secrets, fears and dreams. Shared adventure in the streets (or at a party or event) can also spark passion in the bedroom. And when you face challenges or work through nerves together, it can leave you feeling closer and more connected. Spending quality time together also enhances feelings of connection, which can lay the groundwork for better sex — sex that involves openness, trust, vulnerability and a willingness to push your comfort zones.

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How can couples take baby steps to incorporate sexual fantasies into their relationships?

  • Start by simply talking about sex scenes and erotic interactions that you see on TV and film. What appeals to you? What turns you off? Be specific. Is it the language? A look? The environment? The tension? Which characters appeal to you and which put you off? Talking about third-party characters and scenarios can be a great way to explore fantasies without personalizing them from the onset.
  • Draw your fantasies and then try to decipher one another’s sketches! This is an activity I use with couples all the time and it tends to result in laughter, levity and meaningful conversations:
  • Recognize that fantasies are often rooted in emotions — not necessarily in specific people or scenarios. So dig into the feelings that underpin your hottest fantasies. Do you want to feel submissive? Loved? Admired? Desired? Overtaken? Powerful? Irresistible? Ask yourself how you want to feel and share that with a partner.
  • Stop judging yourself. Oftentimes, we don’t share our fantasies, as we’re afraid of being judged and that judgment begins with ourselves. Know that fantasies are normal and healthy — nothing is off limits and you don’t have to share every fantasy with a partner. More importantly, most of us don’t want every fantasy to become reality — many fantasies are hotter in our heads. You can, of course, play out parts of your fantasies with role play, dirty talk and more — but you don’t have to bring every fantasy to life.

Can you explain why the past two years (isolation, increased time with partners) could lead to people wanting to explore more sexually?

Boredom can inspire us to seek novelty. When you’re with one another (e.g. working from home) day in and day out, attraction can wane as predictability and familiarity are intensified. One way to break away from the boredom is through adventure and playfulness — laughing, telling jokes, watching funny shows, playing games, trying new things — from new recipes to sex toys, novelty has been an essential ingredient throughout the course of the pandemic.

Stress can inspire us to seek self-soothing strategies. Stress levels have skyrocketed throughout the pandemic as we’ve dealt with uncertainty, hyper-vigilance, fear, let-down and depression. Sex is one way to reduce stress; it’s not a universal stress-reliever (for some sex is a source of stress), but it can help to soothe the body and mind and lull you into a good night’s sleep.

There has also been a renewed effort into investing in our relationships on all fronts — from communication and intimacy to fantasies and pleasure. We’ve taken stock of what matters and most of us have realized that relationships top the list — and sex can be an important component of relationships, so we’ve decided to invest in our sex lives.

What are some of your tips for couples who have just started to broaden their sexual horizons? What are some of your tips for couples who already consider themselves kinky and would like to explore further?

Talk about sex and your sexual values:

  • What does sex mean to you?
  • How important is sex?
  • What counts as sex? How do you define it?
  • What are the emotional/relational/physical/practical/spiritual components of sex that matter most to you?
  • What early messages did you receive about sex growing up? How do you feel about these messages today?
  • What excites you most about sex?
  • What do you find challenging about sex?

Stack new habits & don’t feel pressure to do it all at once.

If you’re trying something new, stack the novelty: tack the new thing onto something that you already know you love and with which you’re comfortable and familiar. For example, if you’re trying a toy for the first time, do all the things you normally do until you’re really aroused and then add the toy into the mix. Or if you’re new to anal play, have an orgasm however you normally do it and then move onto the new exploration.

Debrief. Not every new adventure will be a perfect ten and that’s okay!

After trying something new, chat about it after (perhaps the next day). Talk about what you liked and didn’t like. Discuss how you might do things differently the next time around. Share what you might have learned about yourself in the process.

Dig into your EEFs (Elevated Erotic Feelings). These are the emotions that take sex to the next level.

Oftentimes, they’re subversive feelings that you wouldn’t generally enjoy in a non-aroused state. Perhaps you’re aroused by feelings of jealousy or inadequacy? Or perhaps you’re curious about being subjugated, controlled or humiliated? Or perhaps you want to explore the erotic connection between pleasure and pain? Get curious about the range of emotions that can be experienced with arousal and orgasm and share some of your curiosities with your partner. Of course, your EEFs can change over time and from experience to experience, so keep the conversations ongoing and open.

For the advanced: Try the opposite of what you usually love.

Do you like to take it slow? Try a quickie and see how your body responds.

Do you prefer rougher play? Try a slow, sensual session touching only with the backs of your hands.

Do you tend to like high risk situations? Consider setting up a tender scene rooted in safety and the mundane.

Pay attention to the way your body and mind respond in these opposite scenarios and dig a little deeper to ask yourself if you’re holding yourself back or denying a path to pleasure?

Of course, you don’t have to like everything, but it can be fun to explore options that are beyond your norm.

Regardless of what you end up doing for Valentine’s Day all of these tips can be used to spice up your sex life and add some adventure every day of the year.

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