words by Bree (she/her)
I can’t quite remember the moment I realized my partner’s body had become as familiar to me as my own. Was it when I could pinpoint which unibrow hair always grew the longest? Or when I could tell what he ate based on the nature of his funk? Likewise, he knows which pieces of my wardrobe actually fit me and doesn’t hesitate before doing the sniff test with my laundry on the floor. Though this degree of intimacy is what we’re taught to strive for in our romantic relationships, the familiarity can start making sex feel less like sex with someone else and more like sex with yourself.
Pioneering therapist Esther Perel has made her name by researching what aspiring monogamists have always felt in their bones—that domesticity isn’t sexy, and that it is novelty that fuels desire. Whether you and your boo are riding the wave of new relationship energy, or you’re in something more long term, even the obligatory spaces we occupy (work, gym, etc.) become necessary for maintaining our separateness and providing some minute sense of mystery. With quarantine removing many of these outlets of independence, we’re all needing to work harder than ever to see our partner with new eyes.
With the loss of these spaces, some of our libidos may be gone with them. And chances are, the way our libido reacts to the trials and traumas of 2020 won’t be in sync with our partner’s. This incongruence brings an essential question to the front: how can we reassert ownership over our individual sexualities and, in that process, bring some vital newness to our relationship? Now, with cleared calendars, it might be time to buy that vibrating butt plug or bravely thumb “gangbang” into your porn search. Let’s make moves to strip the self-consciousness from our more colorful desires—and maybe even share them with our partners.
Make moves to strip the self-consciousness from our more colorful desires—and maybe even share them with our partners.
Our heteronormative and genital-centered definition of “sex” is another limitation we can challenge. The way you once got it on might not be appealing, but what about some good old-fashioned foot worship? Alongside your partner, you can fulfill your craving for intimacy through imagination and playfulness.
A friend once walked in on me wearing only a cat leash. My husband, holding the end, had me on all fours, licking chocolate off the kitchen floor. Though we appreciated his assumption that we must be those rare, married nymphos, reality is, we’re lucky if we can squeeze a hard-and-fast five minutes out of every week. While the “sex” has become less constant, dusting off our timeworn erotic connection has come to be our most gratifying chore. We keep desire alive with a dose of creativity, a dash of autonomy and a pinch of openness to destination-less exploration.
And for couples who’ve ever wondered about non monogamy—invite yourselves to remember what it feels like to entertain a new crush. Even digitally, testing the waters of a more open arrangement will stretch you. Confronting what comes up as you and your partner get back in touch with your bachelor selves will be illuminating. Is it excitement you felt knowing your partner was flirting with someone else? Or did you feel guilt? Anger? Jealousy? Or were you surprised to find yourself turned on?
We keep desire alive with a dose of creativity, a dash of autonomy and a pinch of openness to destination-less exploration.
Regardless of what comes of your experiments, I guarantee you’ll at least learn more about yourself and your relationship. And with COVID-19 giving us the luxury of time, I’d ask us to consider how treating ourselves to an erotic makeover is every bit as important as eating healthier, resting, exercising, or making a career shift. Maybe we won’t all emerge from quarantine wearing a collar, but if we take this opportunity to challenge our own boundaries, we’ll all feel a smidge sexier for it.