Have you tried having an affair (with your partner)?
Everything you need to know about spicing up your sex life
Indians use garam masala and haldi with a free hand in our food. Seasoned cooks don’t even need measures or spoons, just andaaz, to handpick the right spice and elevate a dish. But when it comes to spicing up our sex lives, it’s as if mouths seal up and hands are tied, and not in a fun (and consensual) way.
Over time, though we love our partners dearly, even when they act like the children we didn’t produce (Twinkle Khanna describes it accurately), over time, sex can become less… fun.
What we call the honeymoon phase of a relationship is almost like solving a puzzle. You have an image in mind of what you want to achieve. You try to fit all the right pieces together. It’s new, fresh and exciting. Working on it together, you bond as partners. But there are only so many times that you can complete the image before you start to get bored.
That’s when the desire to spice up your sex life arises. Intimacy and relationship coach Caitlin V says it’s normal for that to happen. “Over time your body and mind get used to having sex with this person. The excitement, uncertainty and novelty that was there fade away for the comfort and security that replaces it. It’s not good or bad, but just different,” she explains.
Spicing up your sex life happens with intention. It takes effort to bring in excitement when things become routine. As she says, we’re willing to work on every other aspect of our lives – our jobs, our physical bodies, our social media profiles, why should sex be any different?
In the words of psychotherapist and author Esther Perel, relationships, love, sexuality and desire are realms where we are all students for life. Spicing up your sex life is about more than trying different positions and investing in sex toys and other accessories. Though, that can make a difference. It’s also about mindset, says Perel, and how you experience yourself, your partner and what you see reflected in each other. “The concept of spicing up has desire at its core.”
Rebuilding that desire for each other after being in a long-term relationship can mean rebuilding your emotional connection (or creating a new one), and shaking up what is your routine as a couple.
We heeded the call of 649 Tweak readers who said they wished their sex lives were more exciting and put together the best advice from experts, celebrities and our Tweak family’s experiences.
What works for someone may not work for the other. Go into this with an open mind, prioritising the safety and consent of everyone involved. Perhaps it’s time to move on from the initial spark that drew you to each other and together, start a whole new fire.
Best tips for spicing up your sex life
A change of space could change your pace
We constantly rearranged our rooms as teenagers to try new things and rebel against our parents, but somehow as adults we’ve forgotten how invigorating it can be. A change in your physical environment can change your mood and mental well being. But it doesn’t always need to be in the form of taking a vacation.
You could try give your home a space lift, change the position of your bed, bring in some scented candles (we recommend the sensuous rose scent of The Faraway Tree x Tweak rose quartz candle) and refresh the art on your walls.
Changing up your space can serve as a fresh or new start for you and your partner.
Book some alone time
Celebrity chef Chinu Vaze recently took to Instagram to talk about going on a ‘staycation’ with her partner to get some alone time. This can be particularly helpful for people who don’t get alone time or private space at home. It could be because of having young kids, such as the case with Vaze, or the fact that you live in a joint family.
“You literally have no time or space for any kind of intimacy or even intimate conversation. I know not everyone has the resources (like Amma Nanu currently babysitting) but I would sincerely advise some kind of 2 night staycation (one night is not enough because you need that to recover from general parental exhaustion). I mean we are literally 30 min from our house!” she writes.
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It could be a monthly trip that you plan to take together. If a trip is not feasible, booking alone time could also mean planning to get one hour together once or twice a week in between work calls, family meals or while the kids are napping or playing on the lawn.
This one hour (or however long you can steal away from the rest of the day’s responsibilities) is dedicated to just you and your partner. No work talk, or conversations about Rahul’s homework and Smita aunty’s dinner party in three days. You can spend it cuddling, having a conversation that’s focused on each other; what you find attractive and desirable about your partner. If it makes things easier, both of you can close your eyes to talk more comfortably and freely about sex and intimacy.
Do an activity together (that isn’t sex)
Sunny Megatron, sex educator and co-host of the American Sex podcast, recommends doing an activity together that has nothing to do with sex. It can be a dance class you take together, try a new and complicated family recipe for dinner, or learn a new language. Learning something new and exciting gives us hits of dopamine, a hormone linked to attraction and love.
“Doing something new creates a sense of bonding and intimacy. Think outside of the box and do an activity that might scare you or excite you, like an amusement park ride or an escape room,” advises Megatron. “You will create dopamine and duplicate the same feelings you had in the honeymoon phase of your relationship.”
Do a sexy activity together (that isn’t sex)
You can take a cue from Parmeet Sethi and Archana Puran Singh who shared their tips with Mid-Day. Sethi says, “I play the role of a masseur in bed. It can do wonders for a couple.”
You can tease each other with caresses, enjoy some over-the-clothes intimacy or take action cues from adult board/card games, like this one by My Muse. Such games encourage you to explore physical intimacy and have open conversations about your desires.
It could also be watching a steamy movie (we have some suggestions), taking a shower together or dirty dancing in the privacy of your home. Whatever you find sexy, without actually having sex, to tease those hormones and build desire with your partner.
Separate your sexting personality
Given that spicing up your sex life goes beyond the physical act itself, a crowd-favourite among Tweak readers to build up passion and excitement is sexting. “Go back to the little things you did when you dated, like naughty chats,” says one of our readers.
Sexting is fun (make sure you’re doing it right) but it can be a bit risky going the Whatsapp route. You don’t want to accidentally send an eggplant emoji to your family group chat or your supervisor. Also, if you have kids who have access to your gadgets for school work or games, this is not how you want to kickstart the birds and the bees conversation.
Opt for an alternative messaging platform and think of it almost like roleplaying. Your sexual sides communicate on this app exclusively while your daily “what’s for dinner?” conversations continue on the other.
There are apps like Telegram that have a ‘self-destruct’ option, allowing you to put a timer on how long your message is visible. If you prefer sending photographs, then Dust and Confide are relatively safer to try if you have shared gadgets and clouds.
Have an affair, with your partner
“I know it triggers jealousy as well. But there’s something really hot about watching someone else flirt with your partner. You kind of see them in a new light, and you’re like, wow, she doesn’t get to go home with him, I do,” laughs Neha*. She and her husband took the advice of their couple’s counsellor to have an ‘affair’ with each other.
“It’s almost like that role-playing episode in Modern Family of Phil and Claire on Valentine’s day,” she adds. They started by creating new email accounts and would send each other messages as if they were speaking to each other for the first time. They created new characters for themselves. They could be whomever they wanted to be. They’d meet up for dates, ‘bump into’ each other as strangers at a pub and ask all the questions about each other’s lives as you would if you were on a first date.
She adds that some of the things they spoke about while pretending it was for their characters ended up being things they were too scared to say to each other earlier. “It allowed us to try different versions of ourselves and see how those meshed with each other as a couple. Some things we kept, some we dropped. Regardless, it made our mandatory date nights a lot more exciting.”
Take it public
Everything we have learnt about the Smiths’ several relationship ‘entanglements’ has been largely against our will. But one thing that we’d take away from the myriad interviews is the advice Jada Pinkett Smith shared about keeping things spicy with her husband, Will – finding safe and secure public spaces where you can fool around to change things up.
“Be sneaky… your girlfriend’s house at a party. The bathroom. A bedroom. Think of places outside that are comfortable to have sex,” Pinkett Smith says. “Does he have access to his office? Have a fantasy date. Be his secretary! Pull over on the side of the road… Just switch it up.”
Dedicate an individual desire night
In an interview with Neha Dhupia, Mira Rajput Kapoor got candid about her sex life with her husband, Shahid Kapoor, hinting that his ‘control freak’ nature extends to their bedroom activities as well. “I think he is a control freak. He is always telling me what to do,” she says.
You could have a preference for domination or submission when it comes to sex. And as Perel says, that’s totally normal as well. “What we seek emotionally may not be what turns us on sexually,” she says. Whatever your inclination may be, to change your routine, you can try flipping the script.
You could take turns, and have dedicated desire nights where one partner gets to take the lead and call the shots during any kind of intimate act.
If you’re not comfortable with verbal communication, you can incorporate this with the alternate sexting personality we previously highlighted to share what you’d like to do beforehand. Or you could even blindfold your partner before you start to get intimate until you feel more comfortable with communicating.
Take the assistance for different positions
If spicing up your sex life means contorting into the positions you were game for when you were younger, don’t be shy to incorporate tools and aids to ease your way. It could be a position that you’ve always wanted to try but were apprehensive about because you didn’t think you’d physically be able to do it. Or that you make look, or feel, too awkward.
That’s what Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy star Zoe Saldaña spoke about in an episode of The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet, saying, “I have to say, for a long time I was a bit lazy, so I didn’t like to be on top, but I’m really digging it,” she said. “But I’ve found things that work… because I have really long legs, you just make them sit or lay on a pillow, or two pillows, that way they’re like a little elevated, so I won’t be doing a split because my legs are really long.”
There are pillows, chairs and more that can help you ease yourself into different sex positions without pulling a back muscle. Some are pretty inconspicuous; they doesn’t scream ‘this is a sex thing’ if someone were to spot it.
LoveRollers is one such company making different kinds of furniture and wedge pillows that allow people of all ages, body types and orientations to enjoy sex.
Accessorise like our ancestors
In an interview with The Free Press Journal, author and Kama Sutra expert Seema Anand talks about how in ancient cultures, intimacy and sex were considered a spiritual practice, an art form. “You learnt how to execute each position in just the right way in order to heighten the pleasure and make it beautiful. And you learnt this by how a specific piece of jewellery moved on your body during a specific position.”
One such piece of jewellery that she talks about is a jingling girdle or kanchiguna. This piece was made of different materials, some gold, some silver, all featuring ghungroos than jingled as you moved. It was specifically meant to be worn on the waist by women.
Let’s call this the challenge of the jingling girdle. “In ancient times and cultures all around the world, a woman was not supposed to be on top during sex. This was seen as a position of power, meant for men, during sex. The Kama Sutra, however, encouraged women to be on top for certain occasions but the condition was that you have to execute this position by only moving your hips to bring yourself and your partner to orgasm.”
The really skilled women, she says, were those who were able to achieve this without any of the bells around her waist making a sound.
This is an accessory that’s pleasant on the eyes as well as titillating in the challenge that it poses to you and your partner. “It will give you and your partner something to giggle about, which is always a good thing. It will definitely spice up your sex life and also mean fewer visits to the gym,” says Anand.
Try living apart together (LAT)
In an interview with ATTN: married couple Sana and Adnan Akhand opened up about how they recently desired to live in two separate apartments and how it was the best thing for their marriage of 7 years. They say it gave them freedom to reconnect with their individual identities before bringing it back to their relationship as partners.
Intimacy coach and founder of Get intimacy, Pallavi Barnwal adds, “Living in two different houses does not mean we love each other any less.” This strategy is what marriage experts call living apart together, and it can take the pressure off couples to ‘complete each other’, as is often touted.
The knee-jerk reaction would be to question why two people would stay married if they want to live apart. But it’s more about giving each other space to grow, then come back to the table as whole people.
It need not be a separate home altogether. It could be temporarily having separate rooms, or creating a corner in the home. When you or your partner are sitting in that chair in the living room, it’s a declaration that you need to be left alone for some time.
Sometimes you may need to schedule it
Scheduling sex may sound like the least sexy thing you could do but hear us out. Sometimes you do need to just sit down, look at your calendars and plan it ahead of time.
You may not be in the mood after getting jostled around on the train ride back home to your partner who has also just returned from the gym, sweaty and stinky. But, even if you start by simply touching each other and cuddling (do wash up first), it could ignite something within you.
Sex educator Emily Nagoski calls it responsive desire. She references a metaphor a colleague taught her to understand responsive desire. Think of it as going to a party hosted by your best friend. You’re tired, you’ve had a busy week and you really don’t want to go. But you say yes to it because, well, it’s your best friend. You dread the day as it approaches. Moan through getting all dressed up, honking your way through the traffic. But once you get there, you end up having a good time.
“When it comes to a sexual connection, it’s the same thing. You put on your party clothes, you set up the child care, you put your body in the bed, you let your skin touch your partner’s skin and allow your body to wake up and remember, ‘Oh, right! I like this. I like this person!’ That’s responsive desire, and it is key to understanding the couples who sustain a strong sexual connection over the long term.”
The Good Place actress Kristen Bell shared in an interview with Self that she often schedules sex with her husband Dax Shepard and it keeps them very happy. Saying, “There are some times when it’s in the calendar. You’re like, ‘I know you’re tired, but it’s been two weeks, so we really got to get to it.”
Keep exploring with your partner
It’s natural to assume that after so many years together, you know every button to press when it comes to your partner’s pleasure. But Caitlin V says there’s always something that your partner is keeping from you when it comes to their fantasies.
This makes sense, firstly, because the strong sex taboo has us tongue-tied when it comes to asking for pleasure, especially female pleasure and self-pleasure. Secondly, as time passes, our bodies change, altering the sensitive points and erogenous zones.
Maybe they want to try something new that they didn’t think they ever would before. Perhaps they need added steps of foreplay, or less foreplay, greater speed or a slower pace. Instead of pushing the same three buttons you have all this time, ask, ‘Do you like my hand here?’ or ‘Should I touch you there?’.
Take rajma chawal off the menu
It may seem trivial but if you’re thinking about getting hot and heavy later in the day, you’re going to want to keep your meal light. We’re all for chowing down on chole and bottomless kulchas but the food sweats and gas that comes afterwards is not a good look for anyone.
It’s not just that garlic and onion breath can be unappealing to some, but also that sex can be quite a workout. You want to add spice to sex and not enough masala to your pre-sexercise meal to give you monumental acidity.
Don’t use guilt or coercion and expect sex
Caitlin V highlights the three Gs of being a good lover in a sexual relationship – good, giving and game. It starts with kindness and empathy in your emotional relationship. You’re giving your partner as much as you’re receiving and spicing up your sex life needs to involve both partners being up to trying new things.
Guilt has no place in this equation. It’s not about getting your partner to do all the things you’ve been begging them to try. For example, she says, you may want to try anal sex but your partner doesn’t. You can’t guilt them and hold above their heads all the things you’ve done for them and demand that they now give in to what you want.
Understand your partner’s apprehensions and ask what you can do for them. Maybe with time, your partner will open themselves up to the idea of trying what you want, maybe they won’t. Perhaps you’ll find something else that you both enjoy doing together.
It’s not a numbers game
If we had to leave you with a final takeaway, it would be this point by Perel — spicing up your sex life isn’t about tallying up the number of times you’re having sex or for how long. It’s about enhancing the experience and your bond with your partner. “It isn’t statistics and measuring how hard, how long, how many times and how frequently. It’s really talking about the poetics of sex.”
The beautiful thing about being in a long-term relationship is to have a partner with you in this exploration. It could be a quickie in the bathroom at a party, holding hands while watching a film at the theatre, sending each other flirty texts throughout the day or having a compliments jar where you leave each other notes. Even if you have sex once in six months, it’s the experience and quality of that one time you should think about. Intimacy is built over time and requires maintenance.
*Name changed upon contributor’s request for anonymity