According to Hollywood, all it takes to fall in love is one epic, mattress-wrecking sex session. But can the way you have sex actually make a man fall uncontrollably in love with you? And will the way he touches your body leave your emotions totally out of control?
"Yes," says Susan Kuchinskas, author of The Chemistry Of Connection. "Nature designed sex to forge those bonds of love. During sex, men and women release the bonding chemical dopamine-it's a highly potent combination that not only makes you crave more sex, but actually ties that craving to your partner." This explains those initial 'I can't get enough of you' feelings. Cosmo discovers how you keep that heart-throbbing passion alive...
Sex when you've just met
How do you create intimacy when you barely know each other and the only thing you currently bond over is a shared love of eating pizza?
"You're both producing oxytocin when you get it on, but testosterone (abundant in him) suppresses its effects, whereas oestrogen (abundant in you) enhances it," explains Susan. The result? That horrible feeling that you're more into this relationship than he is.
You Need... To play hard to get Playing coy may seem old-fashioned, but the chemistry really does uphold the theory. "Women assume adventurous sex gets the guy," says therapist and sex expert Dr Carole Altman. "And it will...for a month or so. Men don't form attachment through crazy sex; that's just chemical lust, which fades."
"Dopamine is the key chemical," explains Susan. "It makes males repeatedly seek reward. The longer they go without reward, the more they repeat attempts to get it-and repetition forges a strong connection." For women, however, oxytocin is the primary love glue, stimulated by touch, trust, and being protected. The longer you hold back from actual intercourse, the more the trust can build-and the more oxytocin gets released via all the lovely touching.
"What's powerful is not just touching the person but uncovering their reaction to touch," says tantric expert Jaiya Hanauer. So explore the unusual (but not too freaky) places; try the earlobes, the area between the belly button and pubic bone and even the kidney area-a cheeky ancient Eastern trick that works the energy connection between the genitals and kidneys, apparently. When you do get to the deed, keep it simple; the less there is to worry about, the more relaxed you'll be-and the more likely to reach orgasm. And if you want him to stick around, Jaiya suggests stroking him lightly all over his body post-orgasm to release more of that in-love chemical, oxytocin.
Sex when you're in a long-term relationship
A common mistake is thinking only spontaneity and experimentation will save things when the spark has faded. If it's planned, it's not the same, right? Wrong. "Many married couples simply stop making time for sex and thus lose intimacy", says Dr. Carole. "But it's not lack of novelty that causes marriage bonds to collapse. It's a lack of shared pleasure."
You Need... Planned pleasure
Research has shown that married men have higher levels of prolactin-the chemical of satiety and satisfaction," explains Susan. "This chemical makes it easier to satisfy him but lowers his sexual urges. Married women 'nest'-again, meaning higher contentment and lower libido." Basically, neither of you fancies acrobatics in your current chemical state.
It sounds unsexy, but Dr Carole urges husbands and wives to plan one long sex session every week. Lots of foreplay before sex increases oxytocin levels and will reconnect you sensually, adds Jaiya. Start with a shared bath. Get him to wash your hair or massage you with body oil, then dress in something sexy. Take plenty of time for kissing and touching. Focus stimulation on the abdomen, too. Tantra experts call this the power centre, and say that stimulating it forges a connection between you and your 'masseur'. Get him to rub it in slow circles with one hand. Another important tip: always sleep naked when possible, suggests Dr Carole, to keep low-level eroticism burning.
Taking each other for granted also dissolves marriage ties-but this, too, can be fixed in the bedroom. Tell your partner why you love what they're doing rather than simply saying you love it-this connects him to your pleasure (e.g., "I love how you touch me there because you're so gentle"). After sex, Jaiya suggests trying tratak-gazing without blinking. "After sex, lie together and watch each other's pupil dilate with desire," she says.
When sex has become stale
You're close but maybe you don't know where to go from here. You're still having sex but it's just a bit...routine? "At this stage, the focus should be on rebuilding the thrill factor, which means upping your dopamine levels by experimenting," says Susan. "You might think the problem is your relationship, but you simply need to re-associate your partner with excitement." Susan, however, adds a disclaimer: "This will only deepen intimacy if your relationship is healthy. If it's just about sex, desperately trying progressively wilder sex never works."
You Need... to share new intimate experiences In a strong partnership, using mutual trust to push each other's sexual boundaries and see each other's bodies afresh draws you even closer together, says Susan. Newness is key: "Rearrange your sexual habits. If every Friday after work you meet for drinks, have dinner and then have sex, try having the sex first-then go out for cocktails."
Sharing new experiences makes you fall deeper in love-experts suggest simply exploring the sex you already have from a different angle. So have sex minus one of your senses. For example, discuss your fantasies blindfold-it'll help get rid of your inhibitions. Or wear earplugs-they make you focus on your own bodily sensations (plus hearing nothing but your own breathing is strangely arousing). Or try having sex in silence just listening to each other's breath. Alternatively, get him to rub, hold or kiss areas of your body you dislike until you feel comfortable with it.
Experts agree that this is deeply intimate when experienced with a trusted partner and can unleash new, powerful erogenous zones. Try a sex paddle, research has shown that, chemically, a bit of spank at this relationship stage actually bonds you. Finally, if you're nervous about suggesting something unusual, make it easier by including the word 'try'. "Maybe we could try tying me up?" allows your partner to feel part of the decision, not pressured by it. Jaiya adds, "Afterwards, talk about what worked. This helps builds intimacy in your communication - essential for making you feel closely bonded."
Sex when you are worried it could be over
"If you are feeling disconnected, sex might be the last thing you fancy, but it can often be the thing that heals your bond," reveals Susan. "If you're frustrated with your partner, the best thing you can say is, 'Oh, lets just have sex!' It'll certainly break recurrent argument patterns and afterwards-when you're both brimming with oxytocin, which relaxes and de-stresses you-you can address your feelings from a more chilled-out mood."
You need... sex in sync
Angry, frenzied sex may sound tempting, but if disagreements have distanced you, its better to use sex to get you back in sync. "The focus should be on getting the connection back and the oxytocin flowing again," urges Dr Carole.
According to Susan, watching a horror movie is the perfect foreplay. Honest. "It emulates the same dopamine/oxytocin bonding chemistry that was present when you first got together. The scary film stimulates dopamine and the snuggling up releases the oxytocin," she explains. "This way you're gently starting to reforge bonds but without too much effort."
Next, try standing-up hugging for three minutes. Sounds strange but we rarely hug for that long. "You'll almost sense the connection flowing between you again," says Susan. Before sex, lie down together and synchronize your breathing so you inhale and exhale simultaneously. Tantric practitioners regard this as a deeply connecting exercise. During sex, try to exhale as he inhales and vice versa, which again powerfully aligns you, mentally and physically. Have sex, fingers entwined or with hands placed on each other's chests (there are powerful erogenous zones on the palms).
And keep kissing. This is a chemical bonding tool and research shows it's one of the first things to go when a relationship falls apart, so don't let it drop from your sexual repertoire.
"For a struggling couple, post-sex is the key time," says Jaiya. "It is crucial not to jump out of bed. Let your breathing fall in sync with his, and after a few minutes, try discussing what was tearing you apart. In this relaxed space, sex can rebind a coupling that was starting to crumble." "However, if a relationship is struggling and you know it is better that you separate, sex is absolutely the worst thing you can do," warns Susan. "The oxytocin/dopamine mix is incredibly powerful and using sex to save a toxic relationship will only bind you more tightly. You'll never move on." In which case, try rebonding with your Rampant Rabbit...