I hate these kinds of articles- my eyes glaze over when I see them- and so this is the first time I've written one. But I think my advice might be slightly different from what you've have heard before.
For nearly thirty years, my two main professional specialties have been sex therapy and working with sexual minorities. So I have an unusual breadth of experience knowing about people's sex lives - all kinds of people, all kinds of sex lives.
For a long time, I've believed that the two types of couples who sustain the hottest sex lives over the long haul are couples with open relationships,and kinky couples. Both types of couples fight the buzz- kill of familiarity with novelty, but in different ways. (If you read Sex at Dawn, which I reviewed in another blog piece, you'll see why this is THE eternal problem and paradox of monogamy). But BDSM couples - many of whom are monogamous- seem to effectively combat SCS- Sexless Cuddling Syndrome- which seems to afflict a large proportion of vanilla couples. BDSM couples cuddle AND have hot sex.
Let's face it, the modern egalitarian couple shares interests, responsibilities, and fine-tunes their interactions to achieve a comfortable, affectionate, predictable, safe relationship. The problem is, comfortable and hot often inhabit different universes. We need our relationships to be safe - that's kind of part of the point of having them. And most of us will think any of the various forms of nonmonogamy too damn scary to seriously consider.
So what's the alternative? How do you get unfamiliar with the one person you are having sex with for years and years? Unless you're part of the small percentage of people that can find doing the same sexual acts over and over again just as hot the 2,000th time as the first, you need to introduce novelty into the way you DO sex. Certainly, BDSM doesn't lack for novelty. But novelty is not enough. YOU HAVE TO THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT SEX. YOU HAVE TO GIVE UP SOME CHERISHED ROMANTIC IDEAS. And then you have to behave differently.
A good place to start is with "Savage Love" web columnist Dan Savage. His 'code' for how to be a good sexual partner in a relationship is: GGG- good, as in good with your sexual technique; giving, as in, you make sure your partner gets as much pleasure as you; and game, as in 'I'm game to try almost anything you desire.' If you think about it, two out of three elements of this simple and reasonable dictum are contrary to the romanticized notions of sex most of unconsciously hold: we believe that technique isn't supposed to matter, or it's supposed to come 'naturally;' and we believe that some(many) sexual desires are 'weird' or 'abnormal,' and we certainly don't feel obligated to try things that make us even slightly uncomfortable.
So, the first lessons learned from the BDSM world are about letting go of sentimental, wrong-headed ideas about what sex is 'supposed to' be, and seeing sex for what it is. In other words, they're about learning to be objective and rational about sex.
LESSON ONE: DECOUPLE SEX AND LOVE.
In the BDSM world,a person can have a hot public sexual encounter with a virtually anonymous partner and then go home and have hot-in-a-different-way sex with her life partner. That's because kinksters know that sex can be both the most impersonal and the most intimate of acts, sometimes during the same sexual encounter. BDSM people don't confuse the dancer with the dance. Intimacy is not inherent in particular behaviors or desires, it's all in the context. The same sexual behaviors can be hot but impersonal in a casual encounter, and incredibly meaningful and intimate with your soulmate. Think of sex and love as overlapping circles - PARTIALLY overlapping circles.
Conflating sex and love leads to many problems, but in monogamous couples it often makes us personalize our partner's sexual desires or behaviors. For example, the wife of a man with erectile dysfunction inevitably concludes that she's not attractive to him. Harmless personal habits or interests are assigned psychological meaning and are seen as indicators of love or even fidelity. She keeps her eyes closed when she has sex? So what? It doesn't mean she doesn't love you, it just helps heighten the experience for her. You're bent out of shape because he likes Internet porn? Get over it. It doesn't mean you're not 'enough' for him (whatever that means) - it means he likes to masturbate sometimes, too, and this gets him off. You think it's awful that she's attracted to other people? Get real. It's hard-wired into the human animal brain.
BDSM people have learned not to be threatened by their partners desires, fantasies, and many - but not all- of their behaviors. Many have overcome jealousy. You may never want to 'open' your relationship up to other partners, but at least allow the most open expression possible of you and your partner's fantasies and preferences. Be happy that your partner is a sexual animal with a wide-ranging imagination. If you get over being threatened you can work this to your benefit!
Kinky folk learned long ago to let go of all judgments about adult consensual sexual behaviors. When a fetishist expresses distaste, he or she might use the word 'squicked' - 'That squicks me' - instead of 'That disgusts me' or 'That's bad.' BDSMers hesitate to label sex as 'good/normal/healthy sex' or 'bad/deviant/unhealthy sex.' The belief is,there's nothing unnatural or bad about what I want ...or what anyone else wants.....it's all about compatability and fit with a partner. BDSM people have learned to not denigrate anyone's sexual desires or habits, but instead to see them as preferences, like food preferences. You may dislike Thai food but you (hopefully) don't see people who like it as weird. When trying to have a hot sex life, it is most helpful to let go of judgments. Your sexual possibilities expand and you open to your partner more when you look at sexual desires and behaviors more neutrally.
This article originally appeared on Margie's blog at IPG Counseling (the Institute for Personal Growth), where more of her writing can be found.