Sex, sex, sex. It seems to be on everyone's mind: reasons why you're not having it, how to get more of it -- and maybe more so for those estimated 40 million Americans living in a sexless marriage (defined as having sex less than 10 times a year, according to therapists).
But instead of sprinting back to the bedroom, maybe one should take things slow and start with the basic building block of intimacy: kissing.
Kissing can be "more intimate than having sex" but is one of the first things to go in a long-term or sexless marriage, says Jill Blakeway, clinic director of the YinOva Center in New York City and author of the forthcoming book Sex Again: Recharging Your Libido. When kissing falls by the wayside, it's the first step to losing passion in a relationship, she notes.
"[I've had patients tell me,] 'We used to spend hours kissing,'" Blakeway said. "Then I would ask, 'Well how long do you spend kissing now?' One patient said 'When I first get in, I kiss my dog. Then I kiss my husband.'"
But it's crucial to make time for making out, Blakeway said. "Kissing is one of the first ways we connect sexually," she said. "And then over time it goes down. But there are some physical things that make kissing important. It decreases the level of cortisol, which is a stress hormone and it increases oxytocin, which is a bonding hormone. And that's why, chemically speaking, kissing makes people more relaxed and builds connection. Chinese medicine says that the mouth and the tongue have a connection to the heart. So it's the same idea. Kissing attaches people to each other."
Want to bring passionate kisses back to your relationship? Blakeway has six tips to turn your pecks into liplocks.
"It creates a physical connection in addition to your lips," says Jill Blakeway, clinic director at the YinOva Center in New York City and author of the forthcoming book Sex Again: Recharging Your Libido. "Where you put your hands isn't really all that important -- roam a little."
"Look into his eyes as a prelude to a kiss or sometimes the whole time you're kissing," Blakeway says. "In Chinese medicine the eyes are related to an energetic pathway that surrounds the genitals."
"If you've been married for a long time, it gets a little routine. You have a [certain] way of kissing and that's what your husband is expecting," Blakeway says. "Surprise him! He'll faint with amazement. Vary the pressure, the speed and the technique." Kissing when/where your partner least expects it or taking turns kissing your partner the way you'd like to be kissed are some ways to knock the routine out of your smooches.
"Which way you tilt your head when you kiss makes a difference," Blakeway says. "If you both tilt on your left side, lean in and embrace a little, your hearts are touching. And that's more than nice symbolism -- it's also a way to experience a deep connection because you both have an awareness of your heartbeats, which may be a little elevated because of kissing."
"Gently slide your tongue into your partner's mouth and then move deeper," Blakeway says. "Besides lighting up all the nerve endings in the mouth, it also stimulates the salivary glands. Believe it or not, saliva contains testosterone, and testosterone provides a little jolt to your libido. So 'swapping spit' is actually a key to activating your sex drive!"
"Kiss him longer than it takes you to sneeze," Blakeway says. "Passionate kissing is something people forget to do."