Even science says so. During sex, the brain floods the body with hormones and neurochemicals, especially oxytocin, which is best known as the ‘love hormone’—and with good reason. Oxytocin decreases feelings of stress and dramatically increases feelings of trust, security, bonding, and love, says California-based couples therapist Mary Kay Cocharo, LMFT. Skin to skin touching triggers the release of these hormones, making stripping down with your partner one of the quickest and easiest ways to deepen your bond—even before the main event starts. And there are actually additional steps you can take during intercourse to strengthen your connection with your partner further. Here are seven simple things you can try tonight.
Even if you consider yourself to be reserved in bed, keeping quiet during sex means you’re missing out on an opportunity to build your bond with your hunny. Tell your partner what feels good and what doesn't—and if you’re a little more outgoing, vocalise the pleasure you're experiencing, Cocharo says. “Whether it's through words or moans and groans, you want to show that you're in the present moment with each other.”
Breathing deeply communicates pleasure and doing so in tandem with your partner can help heighten arousal, Cocharo explains. “In tantric sex, we teach people to breathe together to create more connection and more eroticism.”
Avoid distractions at all costs. Make sure the television is off, and the ringer on your phone is silent. And certainly don't take a break to check your texts or voicemails. During sex, you and your partner should be solely focused on each other, says Cocharo. If you're not, you're missing out on an opportunity to bond, or worse, you risk offending your partner.
Remove pets from the bedroom
A lot of people sleep with their pets in their bed, but it can be a major buzzkill to have your dog or cat staring at you while you have sex. “If you're trying to look into your partner's eyes and you glance over, and your dog's looking into your eyes, it kind of breaks the mood,” Cocharo points out. Snuggle with your pets later.
Make your bedroom a sanctuary
Your bedroom should be a place where you make love and sleep. Not a place where you do work, pay bills, or talk on the phone, says Cocharo. She suggests removing computers and charging your cellphone overnight somewhere else. They will only distract you and take away from your bonding time with your partner.
Open your eyes
Many of us close our eyes during sex, but it’s worth keeping them open for at least part of the time. “There is neuroscience that shows that when two people gaze into each other's eyes, at a close distance—say 18 or 20 inches—that the reactive part of the brain, the limbic brain, calms and allows people to experience a deeper connection,” Cocharo explains. So next time you get it on, gaze at each other lovingly but be conscious about breaking that stare if it starts to feel awkward. You don't want to kill the vibe by bordering on creepy.
Plan a romantic evening
Let's put it like this: Not every meal needs to be a five-course dinner. A quick burger can really hit the spot sometimes, but too much fast food is never a good thing either. “In lovemaking, not every 'meal' should be ‘fast food,’ sometimes you need a five-course dinner, and that takes time, planning and effort,” Cocharo says. Make sure to occasionally carve out time for candles, flirtation, teasing, and foreplay, and savour every morsel. This can make sex more pleasurable and special, which, over time, can help strengthen your bond with your partner.
This article originally appeared on Prevention