Health

Why you should be open to having sexy time in a ‘willingness window,’ and other therapist-designed tips that can ramp up your sex life

Summary List PlacementWhen you get into a sex rut with your partner, it can be difficult to break the cycle. That's why renowned sex therapist Ian Kerner wrote his new book, "So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex." The book's title is a nod to the question Kerner asks every couple he sees for sex therapy, he told Insider. "When somebody would tell me about the last time they had sex, that sexual event told a story. It had a beginning, middle, and an end. It had a sequence of interactions that were psychological, physical, and emotional," Kerner told...

couple kissing in bed

Summary List Placement

When you get into a sex rut with your partner, it can be difficult to break the cycle.

That’s why renowned sex therapist Ian Kerner wrote his new book, “So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex.”

The book’s title is a nod to the question Kerner asks every couple he sees for sex therapy, he told Insider.

“When somebody would tell me about the last time they had sex, that sexual event told a story. It had a beginning, middle, and an end. It had a sequence of interactions that were psychological, physical, and emotional,” Kerner told Insider. “And very often, that sequence was reinforcing, perpetuating, or even creating the problem.”

After a couple reveals their “sex script,” or walks Kerner through their last partnered sexual experience, he’s able to offer ways they can break the cycle and create a better script.

Since Kerner can’t see every couple who wants help, he provided a series of activities partners can experiment with to bring new life to their intimacy.

The willingness window

The willingness window, a term Kerner coined, refers to a time period when you may not be the most excited to be intimate with your partner, but you’re still willing to show up and learn more about each others’ sexualities.

According to Kerner, that could mean you aren’t turned on, but you’re willing to have an intimate conversation about your sexual fantasies. It could also mean you’re willing to try a new position or turn your partner on in a way you never have before.

Most importantly, couples shouldn’t have expectations for what will happen during these windows.

“This lack of pressure is crucial to feeling safe and willing,” Kerner wrote, because it allows for experimentation to rebuild your sexual connection.

Kerner suggests couples agree on one or two willingness windows every week, and that they alternate between physical and psychological activities.

Physical activities you can do during your willingness window include:

  • Making out with no below-the-waist touching
  • Showering together
  • Giving each other massages

Psychological activities you can do during your willingness window include:

Once you and your partner pinpoint which of these activities you both enjoy, you can incorporate them into your sex life, said Kerner.

Study what turns you on, and what turns you off

Looking inwards is another important practice, according to Kerner.

It allows each partner to understand what gets them hot and bothered, and what doesn’t, so they can communicate that information to their partner.

After each willingness window and each time you have sex, take time to reflect on what helped you get aroused, and what made you feel less aroused.

“Inhibitors,” as Kerner calls them, can dampen a person’s mood for sex. Examples include lack of trust, boredom, trauma, body image, stress, attachment styles, and medication.

Pay attention to those resistance points and take note of what helps you feel desire and arousal, like a hot bath with your partner, sending sexy texts to boost anticipation, or knowing all of the chores are done.

Then, infuse those “exciters” into conversations about sex, using a “Yes, and…” model, according to Kerner.

For example, if your partner says, “Wow, you look so sexy right now. I want to get naked with you tonight,” and you’ve learned connecting emotionally helps you get in the mood, you could say, “Yes, and I want to connect and feel present before I take any clothes off.”

Your partner can continue by stating how they’ll meet your need, like, “Yes, and I’ll connect with you over dinner.”

This way, you create a positive dialogue that gets you on the same page about your emotional and physical needs, according to Kerner.

Try mutual masturbation

Though it may seem counterintuitive, Kerner likes to take sex off the table as couples rebuild their sex lives.

“It’s about blocking out everything else and becoming centrally and erotically present and focused. So we need to get absorbed, and that’s a process,” Kerner told Insider.

He’s found that taking sex out of the equation helps couples focus on the emotional and physical building blocks they need for good sex, instead of jumping back into their old ways.

But sometimes, you’re horny. When that happens, Kerner suggests couples partake in mutual masturbation, or pleasuring yourself while your partner pleasures themself. You can also take turns watching each other and masturbating, said Kerner.

“When you’re not touching each other, you’re finding other ways to connect, like through seeing, looking, and gazing, and there are things you can notice (about yourself and your partner) in the space between touch,” Kerner wrote.

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