While there is nothing wrong with that very special brand of rip-each-other’s-clothes-off, I-must-have-you-know sex or that hey-let’s-do-this-thang-now-because-the-kids-are-finally-asleep-sex, romantic sex is just as necessary. Long, slow intimate sex ups the production of those coveted bonding hormones that help couples stay physically and emotionally connected. Anything we can do to prioritize that connection is crucial. Because people who have satisfying sex are happy and happy people make better parents. Especially during busy times, intentionally carving out space for meaningful, intimate connection is important. Here, with some help from sex coaches and experts, are some suggestions for upping the romance.
1. Talk About Sex
It’s a simple truth: Good sex can’t happen without good communication. No matter the type of intimacy you’re seeking — more romantic, more passionate, more anything — the only way to get there is to make talking about sex a regular thing. What turns you on? What turns your partner on? What fantasies do they have? “When you aren’t talking about sex, you’re only scratching the surface of what experiences you could be having and the amount of pleasure you could be experiencing,” notes Stella Harris, author of Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink and Relationships. Talking about sex builds intimacy and connection, which are very much needed in a healthy relationship. Just remember: “If you want someone to be vulnerable and upfront with you about their interests,” says Harris, “you have to listen and answer compassionately.”
2. Be Present
“Presence,” says Steffo Shambo, founder of Tantric Academy of Sacred Sexuality, “is one of the sexiest things you can ever bring to the bedroom.” In other words: Be intentional about focusing on your partner, giving them your undivided attention, and be as in the moment as completely as possible. “Presence is when you are completely there with your whole body, mind, and soul. Not distracted in thoughts or restless in your body,” he says. “When presence is done right, it can seem like time stands still and hours of lovemaking have gone by in a blink of an eye.”
3. Set the Scene
Light candles. Play soft music. Do whatever is necessary to create a romantic space for you and your partner. It might sound cliché — and, sure, it is a little — but who cares? Just as a heavy metal playlist and purple light filters might hint at a different kind of sex, soft music and dim lights will set the scene for a more intimate evening, allowing you both to relax and lean into the moment. “Sex becomes what you make of it,” says Shambo. “This will make it more sensual and you’ll be able to relax more into your sexual nature.”
4. Eliminate Distractions
This means: silencing phones, turning off the TV, not putting on a Spotify if it will interrupt your sex playlist with an ad for Arby’s every three songs. “The only thing you should be tuned into is your partner,” says Cay Crow, a licensed sex therapist and clinical psychologist. “Mirror back what you’re seeing and hearing by being present. To be romantic, your time together should be about you as a couple and being present with each other.”
5. Don’t Make it About Orgasms
Staying too focused on the end result or psyching yourself up about any other performance issue can stunt romantic sex. “Throw these types of goals out the window,” says Crow. “If you both reach orgasm, that’s wonderful. But you can’t treat sex like a performance sport. Attaching the effectiveness of lovemaking to a specific result can be counterproductive.” Instead, focus on fostering connection and intimacy. Eye contact. Positions that encourage closeness. Tender touches and caresses. Crow suggests spooning as a way to cultivate comforting, soothing contact that can successfully bookend your session.
6. Take It Slow
That is, make foreplay longer. As foreplay is as much about pleasing the mind as it is the body, taking your time will pay off. “It elevates intimacy even before sexual penetration,” says Lasson. “And by being able to control yourself to focus first on exploring each other’s bodies, you can both master the art of giving and receiving.” Crow agrees. “Make out for a long time, at least 15 minutes,” she says. “Or give your partner a soothing massage as a way to gently awaken their skin before initiating sex.”
7. Prioritize Adoring Your Partner
When you see your partner naked, be sure to take time and admire them. “When was the last time you told them what you love about their body and genitals? This will make them feel extremely honored and appreciated,” says Shambo. Take time to touch their whole body, he adds, not just the erogenous zones. Don’t rush. Make them feel loved and appreciated by your words and actions. “And make sure your words of affirmation are deeply genuine and true and not just made up,” he says. “People can feel the difference.”
8. Vocalize More
Sex talk is important. Vocalize that something feels good, that something would feel good, and that your partner is making you feel good. But also be specific. Tell your partner how much you love the curve of their neck, the softness of their skin. Whisper their name. Tell them you love them. Tell them you want them. “When your partner knows they make you feel good, they feel good too,” says Katie Lasson a clinical sexologist, and sex, intimacy and relationship advisor. “The goal is to intensify the intimacy and solidify the communication and connection during sexual acts.”
9. Hold Hands
The simple act of hand holding during an intense sexual experience can heighten arousal and closeness, says Suzannah Weiss, a sex and love coach. Hold your partner's hands when you’re kissing their body all over. Hold your partner’s hands if you’re in the spoon position, or they’re on top. “If you’re on top, you can pin your partner’s hands down above their head,” offers Weiss. “Doing so gives them a feeling of closeness and comfort, while also being a little bit dominant and kinky.” While you’ve got them pinned down, look into your partner’s eyes to intensify the romance. “You can see how your partner is feeling by looking into their eyes, and witnessing their pleasure can increase your own,” she adds.
10. Emphasize Eye Contact
Simply look into, not away from, their eyes more often when you’re having sex. It’s incredibly intimate and it also helps you both know one another’s Or, better yet, “eye gazing.” This, per Shambo, is the more intentional act of softly staring into each other’s eyes. He suggests practicing eye gazing for five minutes. “Studies have now shown that when couples eye gaze for five minutes or longer, the feeling of being in love overcomes their bodies,” he says.
11. Try More Intimate Sex Positions
Spoon position. Missionary position. The lotus position. There are many positions that promote intimacy because of how bodies are intertwined or eye contact is prioritized. Lasson recommends a specific position called Oasis for heterosexual couples. It works like this: The male partner sits on the floor, slightly leaning forward. His legs are slightly bent at the knees and driven wide apart. The woman spreads her legs on both sides of his buttocks. With her arms, she hugs his neck and upper part of his back. Her body leans backward, but the man holds the female partner with his hands behind her back and makes the movements with her body while she rides his penis. The secret, she says, is the combination of deep penetration and the cradling embrace of partners, which will exponentially increase the romance.
12. Cuddle in the Glow
Those wonderful endorphins that flow after sex? Bask in them and cuddle the heck out of one another. After-care should always be prioritized but after more romantic sessions showing your partner how much you appreciate them is especially important. “It can be done by simply placing a soft but deep kiss on their lips and holding them close to you as you both recover,” says Lasson. “For most, this moment can even be more heavenly and romantic than the sex itself, because your partner can feel how much you value them and the effort they’ve put in to please you.”
Crow suggests stretching the post-coital interaction even longer. “The next morning, let your partner know how much you enjoyed sex. Give them a card, a silly grin — whatever communicates this sentiment best,” she says. “Even for a few days after sex, you can touch your partner here and there to let them know that you’re looking very forward to next time.”