30 Sex "Rules" For People In Long-Term Relationships

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
No matter how many dozens of Netflix-and-chill nights you and your long-term partner have had together, there’s something that keeps you tuning in for more. But just as individuals age and change over time, the same goes for your sex life: What turned you on when you first made it Facebook official might not be the same for you now.

Experts say that the key to a happy, fulfilling sex life with a long-term S.O. is changing things up and making your own new sex “rules” as you go along. But of course, these “rules” aren’t hard and fast, and they don’t stay stagnant; they grow and change with your relationship. Just as a casual relationship might progress to commitment (and, for some, children), your sex life can shift in tandem with your ever-shifting partnership.

“In the beginning, everything is carefree and wonderful, and it's easy to have loving and sexual feelings towards your partner,” Sarah Schewitz, PsyD and licensed clinical psychologist, tells Refinery29. It’s what comes after that honeymoon phase — children, debt, and boredom, to name a few possibilities — that can put a damper on your sex life.

That’s not to say that every single long-term couple has issues in the bedroom (in fact, there’s plenty of research out there that suggests that people can stay “very intensely in love” for decades). But studies suggest that couples who exhibit certain sexual behaviors tend to be more satisfied with their sex lives. And even if you’re already satisfied, putting effort into your sex life and learning new things can only be a good thing.

So what are some tips, tricks, experiments, and “rules” sex experts wish you’d include in your sex life? We talked to the experts themselves and rounded up 30. Try ’em or break ’em — just have fun.

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1 of 30
Find porn you both like.

Whether you’re already a seasoned expert with a curated collection of X-rated videos or you’re a curious novice, talking about porn with your partner can be both illuminating and a turn-on. And if you don’t think you’d be into porn, don’t forget that there’s a lot of variety out there, so it may just be a matter of figuring out what works for you (and your partner, if the two of you can get in sync).

“Porn has come a long way in [terms of] diversity and quality over the past several years, and there is a vast variety available, ranging from hot and nasty all-action to full-blown cinematic films with pirate ships, space odysseys, and even Hollywood-style special effects,” Coleen Singer, sexologist for Sssh.com, says.

For those who are new to porn, Singer recommends the “XXX-parody” category, since it combines humor with steamy sex. (We also recommend Trenchcoat X, the subscription site started by Stoya and Kayden Kross.)

“Make it a sexy event, and for a special touch, bring in some strawberries, Champagne, and perhaps a few sex toys,” Singer says.
2 of 30
Dive into the Kama Sutra.

Even if you know what it is, Google the crap out of the Kama Sutra — seriously, it can give you a ton of ideas. While you don’t need us to tell you that the key to a fun sex life is switching things up, you might need a refresher on the storied text’s notorious sex positions. (Might we suggest starting with Lotus?)

Schewitz suggests having a conversation with your partner about how you want to incorporate more play and variety into your routine, and then challenge yourselves to try a new position once a month. And if the Kama Sutra isn’t your thing, you can try standing positions, positions from behind, or any other variation that appeals to you. (And remember: Write it down!)
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3 of 30
Cut out quickies (for a short while, at least).

Hear us out: So much about what makes sex super erotic and enjoyable in a long-term relationship is how well you know each other, how much you care about each other, and how willing you are to invest in the other’s pleasure. But once you get into the habit of only having quickies before work or bed, you can miss out on a lot of the fun.

“Sex is about feeling connected to your partner and being intimate,” Schewitz says. And while quickies and low-key sex can be fun at times, more drawn-out sex can have a big payoff in terms of intimacy and pleasure. “Make sure you set aside time to connect in both ways,” Schewitz added.
4 of 30
Work on fighting more fairly.

Many people can attest to how hot make-up sex can be. But sex and relationship therapist Courtney Geter, LMFT, cautions against letting sex become your only form of conflict resolution. Rather, it should be more of a celebration once you’ve worked through any issues. On the flip side, she also says that some couples go through extended time periods without sex due to fighting, and that isn’t good, either.

“The tip here is develop strong conflict-resolution skills in order to keep the relationship strong and healthy, and don't let conflict make sex a symptom,” she explains.

Sometimes the key to better sex has nothing to do with sex.
5 of 30
Create a sex menu.

When you’re in a long-term relationship, especially when you co-habitate, one of the most common texts you’ll shoot each other’s way is “What should we have for dinner?” That’s why sexologist, sex educator, and relationship expert Lisa Hochberger says to consider a different type of menu to keep things interesting.

“Each partner will write three sexual acts that they would like to do as an appetizer, three sexual acts that they would want as a main course, and three sexual acts that they would want as dessert,” she explains. “Then the couple will read each other’s menus and negotiate a sex menu that they will engage in that night.”

Still unclear? Here’s a sample sex menu:

Appetizers
Foot massage
Blindfold
Suck nipples

Main Course
Oral sex
Anal sex
Play with vibrator

Dessert
Spanking
Back massage
Cuddling
6 of 30
Make a body map of one another.

What makes sex both engaging and, at times, redundant in a long-term relationship is how well you know each other’s bodies. You know where and how to thrust, which spots are the most sensitive, and how to get each other off at lightning speed. While that can be fun and convenient, it can also take some of the imagination out of things. So Hochberger says to consider literally writing down what you know and then figuring out what you can learn by talking about it.

To start, each person takes turns drawing the other’s body as best as they can. (As Hochberger says, you’re the only person that needs to see it.)

“When you are finished, start by touching, licking, and caressing your partner’s feet,” she explains. “Start with the left foot and ask, ‘Does it feel good when I kiss you there? Does it feel good when I lick you there? Do you like it when I rub your feet softly, or do you like when I rub your feet with more pressure?’”

Then work your way up to your partner’s head. As you move along to each part of your partner’s body, take notes on the drawing.

“If you are in a long-term relationship, you will be surprised to learn that your partner may have changed over the years,” Hochberger says.
7 of 30
Don’t discount the importance of non-sexual touch.

Sometimes, focusing on non-erogenous zones can be more erotic than engaging in overtly sexual activities. Aside from amping up your day-to-day touching — which studies suggest can help boost “overall relationship and partner satisfaction” — consider a non-sexual activity that still requires touch, like a massage. Hochberger suggests buying massage oils and setting the mood by turning off the lights, lighting candles, and getting completely naked.

“Take your time rubbing and massaging your partner,” Hochberger says. “Get as close to your partner’s genitals as you would like, but do not touch.”

She adds: “After you each have spent an hour or two massaging each other, you can enjoy some slippery sex.”
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8 of 30
Switch up the timing.

You and your partner might be night owls who get turned on before bed or morning people who are revving to go as soon as you wake up. But in an effort to keep your sex life surprising and engaging, relationship expert and therapist Dr. Jane Greer suggests switching up the timing of your lovemaking.

“If you're used to having it on the same days because of schedule convenience, try having a quickie on other days when you might have less time; if you always have sex at night, try it in the morning,” she says. “The novelty of doing something different brings with it a certain level of excitement.”
9 of 30
Stop playing the "you have to initiate" game.

If you’re still under the impression that your partner has to make the first move or that the ball is always in your court, Greer suggests that you step outside of your respective comfort zones.

“Put your desires out there and show your partner that you find them attractive and hot,” she says. “People fall into routines and expectations of who should initiate, so knowing your partner is turned on and wants to be with you is a turn-on in and of itself.”
10 of 30
Trade off playing “giver” and “receiver.”

If one of you is much more of a giver than the other and that’s worked for your relationship, awesome. But that doesn’t mean that switching up those roles every once in a while is a bad idea, especially if you make it a unique, erotic experience.

“Decide which role each will ‘play’ for the night, and then have another evening where you reverse the roles,” Greer says. “Often, people get caught up in the roles they play in bed, as well as the expectations they think their partner has of them. That can create interference in terms of being able to give oneself over to complete relaxation and pleasure.”

And, hey, if you’re a straight couple, don’t be afraid to grab a strap-on and trade off playing the roles of “giver” and “receiver” more literally.
11 of 30
Swap the PJs for something sexier once a month.

Your partner may think you’re equally as sexy in your college sweats as you are when decked out for a black-tie affair, but that doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate a little unexpected effort in the form of a sexy nightie or even just a new pair of underwear.

“There's definitely pleasure to be gained from taking the time to dress for sex,” Greer says. “Feel sexy in what you're putting on, and allow your partner the opportunity to be visually turned on by what you're wearing.”
12 of 30
Try a new non-sexual hobby together.

Even if you’re generally happy in your relationship, you might run into a period of time when you don’t feel as turned on or connected — and that’s very common and totally okay. Sexologist Jess O’Reilly, PhD, suggests engaging in activities that reinvigorate the chemicals associated with new and passionate love: hormones like dopamine, adrenaline, and serotonin.

One way to reignite the spark is to do something nonsexual together that makes you feel more excited to jump back into bed when you’re done. Dr. O’Reilly also suggests spending more time apart so that you become “curious about one another’s lives outside of the relationship.”

“Novelty, mystery, and anxiety fueled your connection in the early days, so you need to recreate a similar environment to reignite the passion,” Dr. O’Reilly says.
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13 of 30
Take responsibility for your own sexual desire.

Even if your partner is the best at getting you aroused and ready to go, it’s not just up to them — and what they do with their hands, genitals, and mouths — to prepare you for intercourse. As Dr. O’Reilly explains, sexual desire doesn’t always come naturally, and it’s up to you to create it for yourself. Your partner can definitely play a role in this, but don’t always put the responsibility in their court.

“Many of us aren’t in the mood for sex until after we’re turned on,” Dr. O’Reilly says. “So don’t wait until you’re in the mood — put yourself in the mood. Fantasize, read an erotic story, watch porn, flirt. Do something to get turned on, and then see if you’re in the mood.”

That said, there’s no reason to pressure yourself to always be in the mood or want sex a certain number of times a week, a month, etc. Listen to your intuition and find the balance that works for you.
14 of 30
Have a candid discussion about opening up your relationship.

Talking about not being monogamous doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly going to be in an open relationship. In fact, simply discussing your desires outside of the relationship and your curiosity about others can actually bring you closer together, according to Dr. O’Reilly. And that can be a turn-on in and of itself. But these kinds of conversations can also challenge you both to see non-monogamy in a new light.

“The problem with monogamy is that we accept it as a default setting,” Dr. O’Reilly says. “We erroneously place it at the top of the relationship hierarchy when it’s one of many valid options.”
15 of 30
Don’t sweat it if your desire evolves over time.

Dr. O’Reilly says that our desire changes throughout our lives (and research suggests she’s right). So don’t worry if your libido ebbs and flows. Just listen to your gut, and communicate with your partner.
16 of 30
Put sex on the agenda — literally.

It might sound like the opposite of sexy at first, but putting sex on you and your S.O.’s Google calendars (or handwritten planners) can add intention and build anticipation. You can call the reminder whatever you want, but Schewitz says that making the effort to put it on your calendars reminds you to make it a priority.

“As your lives get busier, it becomes easy to put sex on the back burner,” she says. “The problem is, when you do that for too long, you may find yourself or your partner feeling disconnected and suddenly realize you have some major relationship issues to work out. Commit to having sex a certain number of times per week or per month, and follow through with it, no matter how busy or how tired you are.”



17 of 30
Try role-playing and pretend you’ve just met.

Remember the opening scene in Four Christmases in which the couple pretends they don’t know each other at a bar, and then have what appears to be hot stranger sex in the bathroom? Sure, it’s not always practical to take a page from an unrealistic romantic comedy, but this suggestion is actually a great idea for people in LTRs. Singer suggests trying the “stranger stranded on a deserted road” scenario, in which one partner waits next to their “broken-down” car until the other partner (the “helpful stranger”) arrives in a separate car and seduces them. Or, as evidenced in Four Christmases, the “bar pick-up” is another great option. Just make sure that you don’t get caught if you’re getting it on in a public place, like your car.

“If sex in the car isn’t your cup of tea, go to a local hotel together for a classic one-night stand,” Singer says. “Bonus for this option is room service for breakfast together after you’ve both broken character.”
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18 of 30
Up your sexting game.

Instead of merely using your texting conversations to update one another about when the cable guy is coming, make your texts a little kinkier now and then and tease for what’s to come later in the day.

“Describe what you are wearing in bed and how you are touching yourself thinking of them,” Singer suggests. “You can keep this game going throughout the day, and when your partner arrives home that evening, sparks will fly.”

Need sexting ideas? Don’t worry, we’ve got plenty.
19 of 30
Take it out of the bedroom.

When the mood strikes, you might not be in your bedroom, candles lit and feeling your absolute most attractive. You may be sweaty from the gym or walking in from a long day of work when you catch a glimpse of your partner sitting on the couch or stirring tomato sauce, and you suddenly want to jump their bones. Singer says to give in to those impulses, and don’t worry about having sex on the couch or the kitchen counter (as long as no one else is home, that is).

Moral of the story: Sex doesn’t have to be some perfect bedroom situation. Trust your desires and go with the flow.
20 of 30
Have angry sex.

If your parents always told you to never go to bed angry, Geter says you might want to make an exception with your partner. Because, as some people already know, angry sex can be really, really hot.

“The part of the brain that is triggered with anger is the same part triggered during sex,” Geter explains. “Therefore, it's natural to want sex when angry, even if you haven't made up.”

She adds, “Plus, during this moment, you might focus a little more on yourself, which is also acceptable.”
21 of 30
Take a sex workshop.

Before you get visions of that awkward tantric course on Sex and the City, remember that adult workshops aren’t always that intense. Geter says that, by investing in the education of your sexuality, you show a real dedication to one another’s happiness and the longevity of your couplehood.

“This will build more intimacy and closeness,” Geter says. “Try a tantra workshop to tap into your inner sexuality, or a kink workshop to learn all about bondage.”

Just make sure to investigate your local options to figure out which workshop is best for you and/or your partner.
22 of 30
Plan a sexcation.

Even if you’re married and you’re saving for a trip to Disney with the kids, make time together a priority, especially time away from everyday stresses and responsibilities. Geter says a sexcation — yep, a vacation in which your only plan is to get it on all the time — will recharge your sex life.

“Book a nice cabin in the woods or a ritzy hotel room for the weekend,” she says. “Pack your favorite toys and sexy outfits — or no outfits at all! — leave your phones and other devices off, and enjoy the time with your partner.”
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23 of 30
Have a monthly relationship check-in.

You may see your doctor twice a year, or meet with your boss once a week. So why not make time for a regular moment of reflection with your partner to discuss both your relationship and your sexual satisfaction? Sex therapist and expert Dr. Dawn Michael suggests sitting down and having a check-in once a month.

“Go over any issues or problems in the relationship and find solutions so that things get resolved immediately — not two years from now when resentment has already been built up,” Dr. Michael explains.
24 of 30
Talk about each other’s sexual fantasies.

Instead of getting into bed and reading your Kindle or scrolling through Instagram every night, allow your pre-bedtime routine to include discussing fantasies from time to time.

“In long-term relationships, especially, you might lose touch with how your partner’s cravings evolve over time, and asking about them can bring you closer,” Dr. Michael explains.

You can even write down your fantasies instead, she says, if that’s easier.

“You can place the idea in a card, fold it, and put it in a fantasy box, and pick from it from time to time to try something new,” Dr. Michael says. “This pushes both people to come up with new things to try or just talk about.”
25 of 30
Don’t pick small battles that affect your sex life.

No matter how compatible you are with someone, you’re bound to find minor annoyances that irk you in the relationship. But as Dr. Michael advises, picking your battles wisely will ensure you keep the romance in your sex life alive.

“If someone left the garage door open again and this upsets you, just close it and let it go,” she says. “I am sure that there are little things that upset them as well. Pointing those little things out all the time, instead of just dealing with them, can cause more fights than just not sweating it and doing it yourself.”
26 of 30
Allow your partner to dictate your movement.

Part of being in a long-term relationship is developing a sincere level of trust. In the same way you know your partner will be true to his or her word, you should be able to trust how they guide you in the bedroom. Sex therapist Dee Wagner challenges couples in a committed, long-term relationship to play what she calls “the mirror game.”

In this “game,” you or your partner can start off as the leader and you demonstrate the different things that turn you on, and it’s your partner’s job to copy (or “mirror”) your movements. The only catch is that they can’t touch you — they can only copy what you're doing to yourself.

“You may find that you learn things about each other that, even after many years together, are new,” Wagner says.

Once you’ve both had turns as the leader, Wagner suggests trying to move in sync, with no designated leader. Then, you can let that movement turn into finally touching each other.
27 of 30
Practice yoga breathing together.

Experts believe that a huge factor in being able to orgasm is simply breathing. It may sound simple, but for many people, it’s difficult to do this during sex. Wagner says that practicing syncing your breath and making each one deep and mindful, like yoga breathing, can build the intensity of your orgasm.

Here’s how it’s done, according to Wagner: “Sit across from one another and look at each other. Notice your partner's breathing pattern. How does it look? Is there a rise in your partner’s shoulders? An expansion of their chest? Begin to bring your breath into the same rhythm. When your breath rhythm is simultaneous, begin to touch each other and maintain synchronous breath through your entire sexual encounter.”
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28 of 30
Have sex…with your fingertips.

When it comes to sexual arousal, the fingertips may just be the most underrated body part — their abundance of sensory neurons makes them particularly sensitive. And because so many couples rush through the motions of sex, they can forget that a soft touch can be the most impactful. That’s why Wagner suggests trying “fingertip” sex.

“The only kind of touch your hands are allowed to do is what is possible with the tips of your fingers,” she explains. “Mouths can touch mouths, tongues can touch tongues, tongues can touch any body part they want to touch, but hands can only touch your lover as hands would touch a piano or a keyboard — only the tips of the fingers.”
29 of 30
Talk about masturbating.

Even if you’ve never discussed it with your long-term partner — let alone actually masturbated together — there’s a good chance you’re both masturbating on your own time, since most people report doing it. So why not talk about it?

“Talking about each other's masturbation habits and preferences can be a huge turn-on,” says sex therapist Holly Richmond, PhD.

Plus, Dr. Richmond adds that supporting your partner’s masturbation habits and taking the erotic pressure off your partner for your own pleasure some of the time can make sex together feel more relaxed.

“Give them their space for sexual self expression, a huge part of which is masturbating,” she says.
30 of 30
Make up your own “rules” — and don’t be afraid to change them.

Sometimes, throwing out the rule book is the best way to recharge your sex life. After all, there’s no one-size-fits-all sex fix for every couple, so doing what works for you and your partner(s) is what’s most important.

“You simply need to learn to be honest with yourself and your partner,” O’Reilly says.

Experiment by crafting your own “rules” with your partner and trying them out for a while. And of course, don’t forget to check in and see how you both feel.
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