- Learn about how you get turned on–and off. All too often we think about arousal as if it’s an off-on switch–you’re either turned on or you’re not. In reality, research shows that it’s more like an accelerator and a brake. Doing things that turn you on is like pushing the accelerator. No matter how hard you push, you’re still not going to get anywhere if you have your foot on the brake. However sexy you find the other person, if you’re in a situation that grosses you out, or if you’re worrying about that fight you had over breakfast, or whatever else hits YOUR brake, you’re probably not going to get turned on.
- Don’t be spontaneous. Spontaneity is great if you’re feeling safe, in charge, and able to easily say yes, no, or not now. But if you’re nervous about something, being put on the spot will only make it worse. Do yourself and your partner a favor and talk things through a bit first. If either of you is nervous, definitely check in frequently as the action unfolds.
- Take your foot off the brake. Ask yourself what keeps you from experiencing desire. What hits the “off” button for you? What interrupts your groove? This is very individual, and there is no right or wrong answer. For some it helps to remove distractions, or find a good babysitter, or maybe take a bath or nap to get in a relaxed place, or go to the gym to get some energy flowing. Whatever it is for you, take some pressure off the brake so you and your partner can make the “on” button work better. If you can work together to take pressure off of both your brakes, both of you win!
- Help your partner get their foot off the brake, too. Talk to them about what helps them relax and help get them into a situation that feels comfortable. Be prepared to compromise and start with a less-intense version of the activity if necessary.
- Engage the accelerator. Now that you’re a little more relaxed, and your foot is easing off the brake, you and your partner can begin to explore what feels sexy and pleasurable to each of you. Let desire begin to bloom.
NOW is a good time to introduce the new thing. Once you’re feeling connected, and sexy vibes are flowing, you are much more likely to move toward a new activity with curiosity rather than fear.
- Assess. If you and your partner enjoy the activity, great–you’ve discovered something you can add to your repertoire, and next time you almost certainly won’t be as nervous. If you’re on the fence, remember that familiarity and freedom to stop, start, and slow down can build over time into a resounding “yes!” You don’t have to cross it off the list entirely, but be careful not to pressure your partner to do something they feel uncertain about. That safe, permissive environment is what creates an ability to explore new things. If one or both of you realizes the new activity isn’t for you at this time, that’s okay. Relish the success: you have learned more about yourself and your partner, and strengthened your connection at the same time.