How Not Having Sex Can Lead to Better Sex

It sounds counter intuitive doesn’t it? Not having sex in order to have better sex?

When we want to improve our sex lives it’s natural to focus on the sexual act directly. We think about what positions to try. What new “move” might work. A new spot to be intimate in. A different time to initiate. Something fun and sexy to wear.

But focusing on sex can sometimes be too narrow. And, sometimes, fixating on sex itself might actually be making things worse. That’s because in the midst of all this trying to make sex better, we can sometimes miss out on the things happening around sex that are critical to a fully satisfying sexual experience.

From my experience as a therapist and sex researcher I can say with complete certainty: if we don’t take the time to nurture the intimate pieces around the physical act of sex, we are never going to maintain a good, satisfying, passionate sex life.

So what are these “non-sex” things that ultimately lead to better sex?

1. Cuddling

Cuddling, for most people, feels really good. But far too often cuddling gets overlooked in our fast pace, busy world. After all, with the growing list of running errands, working long hours, driving around kids, exercising, cooking and cleaning (just to name a few!) who has time to just sit on the couch and do “nothing” but cuddle?

But the thing is cuddling is a hugely important piece to a fully satisfying sexual relationship. And I’m not talking about cuddling as a way to lead into sex right after. In other words it’s not about using cuddling as foreplay. Rather, just cuddling for the sake of cuddling alone is what is key here.

That’s because cuddling releases what we affectionately call the “love hormone” or, oxytocin. And if we give ourselves time to “just” cuddle and hold our partner with no other agenda we give ourselves the opportunity to bask in the glow of our increasing emotional bond, which is ultimately a huge component of satisfying sex.

2. Talking

Feeling disconnected is a huge reason for many couples to stop having sex – or at least stop having enjoyable sex. But having a face-to-face, no phone in your hand, conversation is one of the best ways to reconnect with a partner who feels distant. Throughout my academic research, I am struck by how frequently both men and women discuss the importance of having a deep meaningful conversation with their partner as a way to increase their interest in sex.

It’s important to not just talk about the weather or work or the kids. Try having an honest, heart-felt check-in about how you’re both feeling. Share what’s really been on your minds. And be curious about your partner’s inner world instead of assuming you know what they’re thinking about.

If you’re a bit lost on what to talk about to get closer, Dr. John Gottman has a great (and free!) resource on his website that includes several questions you can ask your partner from light easier topics like “what was my favourite vacation” to more in depth questions like “name one of my concerns or worries.” The key again is to just take time to put down your phones, and reconnect by opening up and asking questions about your partner’s inner world.

3. Not Having Sex (For A While)

We know that waiting too long between sex can hurt a couple. We can fall out of our routine and then it’s hard to get sex back on track. That being said, sometimes taking a brief hiatus from sex can be the best thing for your sex life.

Think about if your partner was ever away for a few days. Did you miss them? It works the same way with sex. If you take a little bit of a break it may get you out of your routine, reduce some pressure if you feel like sex has been too frequent, and give you a chance to increase your desire to be with your partner again.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for sex therapists to suggest to the couples they work with that they take a break from sex when they are having problems. And that’s because sometimes just stepping away for a bit, being told not to have sex for a period of time, gives some breathing room to be able to tap into our natural desires and makes sex more exciting afterward.

4. Making-Out

Most couples I work with report that their favourite sexual experience was earlier on in their relationship where they just made out for hours. It was hot, passionate and held this air of mystery. Are we going to take this to the next level? Aren’t we? When?

Kissing is such an intimate activity and far too often something that falls to the wayside the longer we are in a relationship. Once we move onto sex and other types of sexual activity kissing either decreases in length (we need to get to the “main event”!) or it disappears all together.

But if you’re looking to improve your sex life, try this: make-out again without it leading to sex. Just kiss for a few moments on the couch, in the kitchen, in bed – and end it there. It can feel erotic to kiss in a way that is reminiscent of your earlier dating days. Plus it will likely build up some sexual tension you can put to good use later.

Take Away.

Of course, not having sex for an extended period of time isn’t advisable for a healthy intimate relationship. Sex makes us feel close to our partner, it feels good and it can be a whole lot of fun. But if you’re looking to increase your sexual satisfaction you may find that stepping away from sex and nurturing the other intimate parts of your relationship could ultimately make you feel more connected and provide the foundation for better more connected sex down the road.

Sarah Hunter Murray