By Hilary Sheinbaum
January is for resolutions, but February — and namely Valentine’s Day — marks the time of year when lingerie, sex, and thoughts of spicing things up reign supreme. Whether you’re single, dating, or married — February 14 is a not-so-subtle reminder and opportunity to gauge what’s going on in your love life and (naturally) in the bedroom. If 2021 has limited your sex drive (a common phenomenon, to be frank), or you’re looking to add some spark to an already active pastime: there’s always room to learn something new.
In the name of *education*, we spoke to Dr. Pepper Schwartz, a sexologist, and Dr. Kelly Rabenstein Donohoe, a licensed psychologist, who shared their go-to advice for rekindling romance, spicing things up in the bedroom, and beyond.
First and foremost: disconnect from electronics to connect with your partner. That doesn’t necessarily mean dramatically throwing your iPhone out the window, but it does mean limiting your hours in front of screens. “Valentine’s Day is not supposed to be about deprivation, but put it off-limits for together time,” says Dr. Schwartz, who advises when it’s inappropriate to scroll through emails and social media. “Not during an activity together, not during your meals, and definitely not in the bedroom that night.”
Maybe you didn’t have time to work out or do the laundry that day — but a dirty hamper shouldn’t prevent you from getting intimate. Dr. Schwartz says these alibis stem from being embarrassed and lazy, but they also come from feeling overwhelmed by expectations.
“People can stop making [excuses] if they negotiate realistic expectations that are truly honest and open and vulnerable sharing.”
For example, if you’ve put pressure on yourself to have a big night: reduce your over-the-top goals to make them more obtainable. The same goes for your partner. “Don’t let anyone promise something you both know can’t be fulfilled.”
Dr. Schwartz says planning can go a long way — especially if you have little ones running around the house. “Think ahead about the things that interfere: a full stomach, too little sleep, aggravations in the household or at work, young kids popping in. Address them, and plan around them, so that you both know you are trying to create the time, space and, mindset for making love,” she says.
“There are better times than worse,” says Dr. Schwartz, who notes research shows men’s testosterone is highest in the morning, but custom seems to dictate having sex late — when you are tired and full. “Listen to your desires and ability and pick the time that works for you,” she advises.
Feel empowered to step outside your comfort zone with new garments (or lack thereof). “It’s always fun to try new things. An easy way to surprise your partner is to do something different,” says Dr. Donohoe. “Get naked when you usually keep your shirt on during sex or invest in something that makes you feel sexy and confident.” This can be anything from lacy lingerie to a sexy red dress. “Preparing yourself for the encounter can heighten anticipation, which makes the experience better,” she says.
Dr. Schwartz advocates for speaking one’s mind… kindly.
“Say what you like and want — but not critically,” she says.
“Perhaps read one of the zillion books about sex — preferably one with pictures — and say what appeals or what you plan to do. Make it fun.” Although “research” might sound unnatural in this arena — there is a bevy of information at your fingertips both on paper and online. One hot tip: click around the Internet for sex toys. Dr. Schwartz recommends Goodvibrations.com.
Speaking of toys, Dr. Donohoe recommends vibrators for deeper orgasms. “There are so many different kinds of vibrators you can use by yourself or with a partner,” she says. “Vibrators can have many different features such as multiple points of vibration — or any combo you can dream of.”
One easy way to spice up an ordinary bedroom, according to Dr. Schwartz, is to set up candles. She recommends going overboard. More is more: 20 votives and 60 roses (rather than a dozen). In this case, she says size matters (but just for candles and roses). “It’s really the thought that you planned something and made it a bit lavish that makes a difference.”
Lube can spice and speed things up, says Dr. Donohoe. “While friction is fun, it can also feel great to have some help,” she says. “There are many different kinds of lube, depending on what your body can tolerate as far as scents and flavors.”
To add spice in the bedroom and your relationship, use these points of advice for Valentine’s Day and beyond xoxo.