After a few months of having sex with the same person, you might notice something eerie: all your hookups are starting to look very similar. A little making out, maybe a little fondling or five seconds of oral, and then bam! Straight to sex.
“It’s so common for long-term relationships to get lazy—that’s just what happens if you don’t keep the consciousness and intention,” says Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., an AASECT-certified sex therapist and founder of The Intimacy Institute in Colorado.
The kind of intention that goes into foreplay can be especially important for women, Skyler says—this is one of the stereotypes about sex that’s actually often true. “For men, it’s like the pilot light is always on, but for women, our desire is responsive—not spontaneous,” she explains. “That means it needs to be inspired.”
Maybe the foreplay hasn’t totally vanished from your sex life, it’s just gotten stale. “One way to think about foreplay is about feeding the fire—and everyone's fire is different,” Skyler says.
She also notes that “Foreplay starts the second you stop having sex until the next time you have sex,” says Skyler. So consider all those in-between moments a form of foreplay, too—whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional.
So how can you revive the opening act? These foreplay tips will help:
1. Send a sex invitation.
Start things off on the right note, Skyler says. “When your partner is just like, ‘hey you wanna have sex?’ it’s not as inspiring as a sensual or carnal invitation,” she explains.
Start a new game with your partner where you have to invite each other into the bedroom a different way each time. “Sometimes it could be pushing you up against a wall and biting your neck, sometimes it could be a slow caress on your cheek, sometimes it could be a sexy text.”
2. Kiss...a lot.Kissing is a key part of foreplay, but it tends to get rushed. Slow things down with a super-sensual kiss. “Stand facing each other and tell your partner to hold your head in his hands, as if it were a bowl with his outstretched fingers cradling the back of your head, and his thumbs lightly holding your jaw,” says Stephen Snyder, M.D., a sex therapist in New York and author of Love Worth Making. Your job? Relax completely as your partner kisses your face and neck
3. Change up the boob grab.
Chances are, going for your boobs is already a go-to move in your partner’s repertoire. Snyder suggests shaking things up by finding a new, more intentional way to touch this super-sensitive spot. “Facing each other, tell your partner to hold your rib cage firmly just under your breasts,” Snyder explains. This almost-touch can be hugely erotic, especially as the underside of your breasts brush against the back of his hands.
4. Let your partner take control.
“Many women tell me the ultimate pleasure during foreplay is to surrender control to a partner,” Snyder says. If that describes you, put your partner in the driver’s seat by asking them to touch you wherever they please while you lie back and enjoy the ride. You may even want to consider incorporating some restraints, like handcuffs or a scarf, into the mix.
5. Turn their hand into a paintbrush.
“When people touch, they often have only one sort of idea of how to touch,” Skyler says. One foreplay tip: She suggests thinking of your hand, or your partner’s hand, as a paintbrush. “Think about all the areas of their hand that can touch you—their nails, the tips of their fingers, their entire palm,” she says.
Give your partner license to get creative with the types and intensity of touch. “This can slow your partner down and allow them to explore more of your body before jumping right to the genitals,” Skyler says.
6. Try the 'ice cream lick' move.
Once things are really heating up, one of Snyder's foreplay tips is to move below the belt. The key is to keep oral sex intentional as opposed to falling into a stale pattern of go-to moves. Snyder recommends the "ice cream lick"—"a cunnilingus technique popularised by sex writer Ian Kerner in his classic book, She Comes First.”
Here’s how it works: As you lie on your back with your legs open like a butterfly, “your partner lies on their belly between your legs, parts your inner lips, and places the flat of their tongue very low on your vulva, just below your vagina," Snyder explains, "then licks very slowly upward with the flat of their tongue, as if your vulva were a big ice cream cone on a hot summer's day." The long, slow lick is meant to be a tease. “Have your partner very slowly and methodically repeat the process,” he says.
7. Or some penis teasing.
If you’re not into oral (it’s okay—not everyone is), you can use a similar move. This time, if you have a male partner, instead of his hand or his tongue, have him use his penis. “Instead of penetrating right away, tell him to tease you by using his penis as a paintbrush on your open vulva,” Snyder says. A little lube here helps, he adds. “Tell him to get creative—horisontal strokes of the brush, then vertical, then round and round circling the entrance to your vagina until neither of you can stand it any longer.”
8. Go for more kisses.
“The lips are really sensual for the giver and receiver—there’s a lot of nerve endings there,” she explains. Use this as the perfect excuse to get creative with kissing. “Kiss all the places that you rarely kiss—the shoulder, the collar bone, even behind the knee,” Skyler says. “It’s a novelty that wakes people up.”9. Pregame with an orgasm.
Who says climaxing before the main event isn’t a perfectly acceptable part of foreplay? “Foreplay itself can be an entire pleasure goal,” Skyler says. Particularly if your partner is prone to rushing to penetration too quickly because his fire is already roaring.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.