Sex advice with Suzi Godson: Living together is ruining our sex life

Since I moved in with my boyfriend (who I also work with), I feel that domesticity has taken over. We put tracksuit bottoms on when we get home and seem to talk about things mainly to do with work, our house and domestic arrangements. It’s lovely, but it’s somehow made our relationship less sexy.

Sex is important, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Feeling relaxed enough to let it all hang out is one of the privileges of being in a safe, secure relationship, and domestic bliss does not preclude hot sex.

What you have sounds lovely, but you can limit overexposure by spending time apart developing personal skills or interests. It doesn’t matter what you do. Whether you take a class, go to the gym, join a choir or do some volunteering, forcing yourselves to do things that challenge you and take you outside your comfort zone will allow you to see each other with fresh eyes.

It’s so hard to draw a line between work and home, so live-work relationships can be a mixed blessing. The great thing about spending so much time together is that you have a much bigger bank of shared experiences to draw from. However, you are denied any opportunity to be “separate” from one another. Achieving the perfect balance between intimacy and autonomy isn’t easy. Too much togetherness can be stifling, but too much distance can erode the emotional bond.

In her classic book Mating in Captivity the psychotherapist Esther Perel argues that the tension between those two states (intimacy and autonomy) is fundamental to good sex. Perel believes that our need for security, love and togetherness is antithetical to sex and erotic desire and that this is the reason couples in loving, trusting relationships simultaneously complain that their sex lives are dull and boring.

Perel’s argument is persuasive, but I don’t believe that trust and security are a barrier to sexual excitement. In fact, I think that the more trust there is in a relationship, the easier it is for a couple to be honest, open and exploratory.

Comfort can, of course, breed complacency, but sexual desire is still a cognitive decision, a mindset. As long as you are motivated, which you are, you can choose to want sex, in the same way that you can choose to watch television. Why not send subliminal messages (they could be images or words) to your boyfriend throughout the day. This is called “priming”, and the idea is that you are subconsciously sending him signals that will influence his — and your — behaviour.

It is a controversial area of psychological research, but since priming (or a version thereof) is the cornerstone of the advertising industry, I believe in it.

In 2010 research by Omri Gillath at the University of Kansas demonstrated that subliminal sexual priming could even motivate people to pursue romantic relationships and that this effect is the same for men and women.

Simply sending suggestive messages to your boyfriend will draw his attention to the possibility of sex during the working day and prime him to be excited to have it when you get home in the evening — and vice versa.

If you are not comfortable sending pictures you can use text messaging or email — words can be just as erotic, if not more so sometimes, as photographs.

n Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com


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