Keeping it SEXY During COVID-19

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If COVID-19 is affecting your sex life, you’re not alone.  The stress and uncertainty associated with the pandemic is putting a strain on many aspects of life, and romantic relationships are no exception.  While some people are finding relief and connection through sex and intimacy, others have noticed a decrease in their desire for sex, while others are experiencing increased stress and tension in the relationship.  For tips on how to address the latter, check out How to Keep Your Relationship in Check During COVID-19.  For tips on how to keep your sex life in check, read on.

Be ok with keeping it SEXY enough

Before we get started, it’s important to consider that while being isolated together can be an opportunity to spice up your sex life, most of us aren’t operating at full capacity in many areas of life at the moment, so it’s completely normal if your flames of desire aren’t burning at their brightest.  Stress, fatigue, being cooped up at home, new roles and responsibilities, loss of access to our date night go-to’s, limited alone time from the kiddos, and other COVID-related changes all affect the time and energy we have to focus on our sex lives.  That being said, it is important to put some effort into stoking the fire so that the flame doesn’t burn out entirely.  In a nutshell, keeping it SEXY enough means giving yourselves permission to lower the expectations while not letting yourselves totally off the hook.

Keeping it SEXY doesn’t have to mean sex

Even in a non-COVD world, sex starts outside of the bedroom and consists of anything that creates a sexual spark – think flirting, watching a romantic or sexy movie, talking about sex, and being physically affectionate.  Physical affection is especially meaningful when you aren’t having sex because it enhances feelings of closeness and intimacy, and can include kissing, cuddling, massages, holding hands, a slow dance, making out, heavy petting, prolonged foreplay, and non-penetrative sex. 

Not sure where to start?  There is an app created by renowned couples therapist and researcher, Dr. John Gottman, called Card Decks that contains a large set of intimacy building activities and conversations including sex and date questions.  Check out the App Store or Google play to download for free!  The “Salsa” card decks, sorted into mild, medium, and hot categories, also take the guess work out of keeping it SEXY, with suggestions that range from turning off your phones and spending quality time together, to taking a shower together, to acting out a sexual fantasy.

Feel SEXY to keep it SEXY

Although sweatpants and PJ’s have become a COVID wardrobe staple, they don’t exactly scream come-hither.  For those working from home, regular personal grooming may also have taken a bit of a back seat.  But not having anywhere to go doesn’t mean we can’t put in the effort to show up and look good for each other.  Getting dressed like you are leaving the house has long been recommended for people working from home, and for good reason.  It makes you feel good, changes your mindset, decreases sluggishness, and is an act of self-care.  The same holds true when it comes to keeping it SEXY.   Putting effort into your appearance is a sign of appreciation for yourself, your partner, and your relationship. 

Feeling SEXY isn’t just about physical appearance; it includes anything that creates emotional and mental space for sex.  Another good place to start is the actual bedroom space, which may be looking more like an office or family command centre these days than a calming and sensual haven. Create an environment that cues coming together by making it look, feel, and even smell SEXY:  keep it tidy; make the bed every day; bring in some sensual or soothing art; add some candles; incorporate essential oils to stimulate erotic energy. 

Feeling SEXY doesn’t mean making drastic changes, and doesn’t mean wearing your Saturday night best every day (so rest assured, you can keep the sweatpants).  Feeling SEXY means making an effort when and where you can.  Plan a romantic dinner where you both get dressed up for each other and set the mood with candles and music; get playful and have a SEXY fashion show; schedule a mini at-home spa day; dab on your favourite perfume or cologne (unless you have sensitivities).  Sensuality is created through all the senses…sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste can all be incorporated to keep things feeling SEXY.

For more tips on reclaiming your body and the boudoir, check out The 411: Sex + Cancer Part 3.

Make room for SEXY

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again…and again…and again…schedule sex in!! Despite what the movies might have us believe, the majority of couples aren’t having spontaneous sex – at least not exclusively. When it comes to keeping it SEXY, it helps to keep ourselves accountable and making intentional and deliberate efforts to keep the flame burning. Sex doesn’t need to be spontaneous to be great!!! Schedules are a helpful and often necessary part of managing our busy lives, perhaps even more so in these unstructured times. Now more than ever, it’s important to pencil in quality time together, including SEXY time. Think of scheduling sex as prioritizing your relationship; the short- and long-term benefits of scheduling time together are worth this extra effort.  

Keeping it SEXY from a distance

Couples who live apart and/or are isolating from each other are facing unique challenges when it comes to sex because, well, it’s simply not possible at this time. While physical contact is temporarily off the table, the good news is that thanks to technology, there are other ways to keep it SEXY…it just requires a little creativity. Remember, that foreplay starts outside of the bedroom. Tell your partner what you find SEXY about them, write out a sexual fantasy, exchange SEXY poetry, send a SEXY photo, share a song from your SEXY playlist (come on, you know you’ve got one). Consider taking it to the next level through phone or video chat. This can include anything from a virtual dinner date where you order from the same restaurant or cook the same meal, to Gottman’s Card Deck inspired conversations, to more boudoir related interactions.  Looking for ways to create an even more “realistic” experience while you’re apart? Adult fun stores are now selling toys that allow you to play together remotely and sync your pleasure to your partner’s. As with in person SEXY, play within your boundaries, but consider using this as an opportunity to get to know your partner and to explore something a little outside of your comfort zone.


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Dr. Kim Cullen, PhD, C.Psych (supervised practice) is a psychologist and researcher with a passion for helping couples experiencing difficulties with emotional and physical intimacy, particularly in the context of illness, chronic pain, and altered mobility/ability.  Dr. Cullen is frequently invited as an expert guest speaker on the topic, has delivered several workshops for breast cancer survivors struggling with body image and sexual difficulties, and served as a reviewer for the Canadian Cancer Society’s section on sex, intimacy, and cancer.  Through her work and public appearances, she hopes to empower couples to enhance and reignite the spark in their relationships.

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