Whatever your attitude towards new year's resolutions is, January is undoubtedly a time for reflection. And having a good old sit down to really think about what you want is always essentially a good thing. Whether you're dating or with a longer-term partner, evaluating the sex and intimacy you have is important and - dare I say - fun.
Cosmopolitan UK spoke to a number of professionals from sex experts, therapists, psychotherapists and scientists to share the sex resolutions everyone should be making for a truly intimate, fulfilling, trusting and enjoyable sex life.
Tick an item off your sexual bucket list
"Bucket lists bring a zest and adventurous quality to life, and sexual bucket lists are no different," says Dr. Jill McDevitt a sexologist at CalExotics. Create your sexual bucket list if you don't already have one (this could include anything you're interested in trying at some point before you die: it could be a threesome, sex in a pool, doing every position in the Kama Sutra, whatever), and then work towards doing one [or all?!] of these in 2019."
Take a sex ed for adults class
Dr McDevitt says, "Being sexually literate in your own body, relationships, and understanding how you exist in the sexual world around you is an important piece of our overall health and wellbeing. And because most of us received unhelpful, inaccurate, incomplete, or sometimes actively harmful sex ed in school, and because there are lots of trained sex educators who offer sex ed classes for grown ups that are fun and can take be taken with your friends or partner, you should resolve to take advantage of it in 2019."
Get into sexual self-care
"Culturally we’ve all grown up believing that pleasure of all kinds - from orgasms to sleeping in to going on holiday - are frivolous," Dr McDevitt says. "The narrative runs deep that spending time on our own wants is selfish. So in that way, sexual self-care is an act of revolution.
"This can include anything from a breathing-into-the-genitals meditation, to masturbating, or from instilling privacy and boundaries in your home so you can get some sexual alone time, to 'unsexy' sexual self-care like making an appointment for a smear test. Resolve to incorporate sexual self care every day, week, or month, and make a calendar."
Don’t slut shame or body shame
We all know it's a terrible thing to do, but we should also know talking about other people in this way affects the way we see ourselves, too. "It's cruel, and often misogynist, and being kinder is always a valid resolution. Shaming also just makes you feel worse about your own body and more ashamed about your own sexuality. The best sexual gift you can give your body is not shaming other people's bodies," Dr McDevitt adds.
Get rid of distractions
We're well aware technology has a serious impact on our relationships, so it's time we dedicated time to phone-free hang outs, says Dr Clare Morrison, a GP at MedExpress. "Sex should be a chance to lose yourselves, away from everyday distractions, however more and more couples today are letting their phones get in the way of great sex. Mute those electronic devices before you even begin to get in the mood, or even better, leave all electronics outside the bedroom as you settle in, as this will give you more chance to chat and be together which will lead on to slow, intense foreplay and hopefully great sex.
"Any distractions that pull you away from the moment whether that be a text from a friend or worse, an email, will stump your arousal immediately."
Break out of your routine
"Every couple has their own methods for getting in the mood, but most of the time the same old thing can get a bit boring," Dr Morrison explains. "Even small changes can increase the passion in your sexual relationship, whether you’re a new couple or married. Have sex in a different room of the house, on the sofa, kiss in the car, take a bath together, spend more than five minutes on foreplay [whatever that may entail for you].
"If you’re in a long-term relationship and find things have gone a little stale in the bedroom department, do things that you did together in the early days. Such as going out to bars, going to the gym together or taking a romantic stroll, these will help you to connect emotionally and see each other as more than just two people in a long-term relationship."
Ask your partner(s) what they like
Yes, it seems simple but so many people in regular sexual partnerships get this wrong. Relationship expert Kate Mansfield says, "Ask your partner what they like, what turns them on and talk about it. That can be really sexy for both of you, and this also improves communication and creates a deeper bond, making the sex even more intense.
"Make sure you're open minded and not judging your partner for their fantasies, and what turns them on. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong or that they don’t love you if they want to explore. Let them have the fantasy and they are less likely to go elsewhere looking for it."
Just be together
Kate explains, "If you're rekindling sex after a break, make time to just be together first. Talk about any difficult feelings you have, and then make time to practice non-sexual contact such as touching, massage and being close."
Declutter your bedroom
Dr Becky Spelman, We-Vibe’s relationship expert recommends having a good old spruce up of your sex space. "Give your room a bit of a makeover. Ditch any clothes that might be drying on radiators or clothes horses, and bring some fresh flowers into the room," she recommends. "Open the curtains, open the window, and let some fresh air in. You might invest in some nice new bed linen, too. Transforming your room into a more attractive environment will make it more inviting for sex."
... and make it more sex-ready
"If the bedroom’s your preferred place for sex, check the temperature and the ambient lighting. Add flowers, massage candles and scented oil for enhanced sensuality," recommends relationship and sex coach Michelle Zelli. "A few small tweaks can make a big difference. Try adding a sumptuously soft, velvet throw, a great sound system pre-loaded with a pre-made playlist. Remember, detail matters."
Play 'the list' game
Michelle also says there's nothing better than spending time getting to know each other intimately. "What five sexy things do you want to try before you die? What are the five sexiest things about your partner? List the five hottest memories you’ve made together. A trip down memory lane can do wonders for a flagging libido, too."
Discuss your sexual boundaries and expectations
Dr Ryan Scoats, researcher at Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences says, "Whenever doing something new sexually, it’s important to talk about expectations and boundaries with your partner. My research on people who have had threesomes suggests that couples who had these conversations tended to have better outcomes, and were more easily able to resolve problems that arose. Although planning might feel like it is taking away some of the spontaneity (and the excitement of the unknown), it can stop you from overstepping boundaries you may not have even been aware of!"
Most of us are used to having a lie in after a particularly boozy Saturday night. But as Bracken Jelier, founder of Brazen Guide, The Ultimate Guide to Sexuality, says, lie-ins should be about so much more than nursing a hangover.
"This lie-in isn’t just about sex, but being close to each other, naked, skin-to-skin. There can be so many barriers to intimacy: busy daily lives, different bed times, the book you’re reading, your phone, pyjamas... Use some naked time together just chatting, maybe holding hands or stroking each other. [Talking about what happened that] week or making plans while drinking multiple cups of tea. Find some time to wallow in the absolute luxury of intimacy with your partner."
Train your unconscious mind
"Sex is always better when you feel good about yourself and the way you look, so if you’ve got something sexy planned with your partner, this simple but powerful Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) exercise should help you both feel amazing," says psychotherapist and hypnotherapist Nick Davies.
This will train your unconscious mind to help you to feel more confident about your body, which will only serve to enhance your sexual experiences.
Nick explains how to do it
1) Sit down somewhere quiet, relax and close your eyes. Imagine you’re sitting in your very own state of the art cinema and watching a movie of you feeling confident about the way you look.
2) Now watch this more confident you, doing all the things that you enjoy with your partner.
3) Make any adjustments or alterations to the movie that make you feel great.
4) When you're satisfied with the movie, rewind it back to the beginning and freeze frame it, then step into this new sexier, more confident you.
5) Now run the movie, see through your eyes, hear through your ears and really feel how wonderful you feel.
6) When you reach the end of the movie take a nice deep breath, allow your unconscious mind to make all the positive changes and open your eyes and come back to full awareness.
7) You could ask yourself the question, "How much better is tonight going to feel now?"