Costa recommends what she calls “first-base dates.”
When you’re spending dedicated couple’s time together, take genital stuff off the table. Or perhaps you two might come up with specific parameters, such as, “We can do anything but X act.” The idea behind this approach is making intimacy more accessible by getting rid of expectations for a specific set of sexual acts.
“A lot of couples really put a tremendous amount of expectation on sex, and that does not allow desire to blossom,” Costa explains. “What happens when we get into these routines around sex or these scripts or these certain definitions—it’s like we think have to go from this to this to this to this. It would be like if I go to some restaurant, and I’m like, well, what I have to order is this because it’s what I always order. Versus going into the restaurant and going like, oh, what do I feel like today? Or what is my stomach growling about? Or what does my heart feel nostalgic about? Then I’m actually listening to what I need in the moment.”
That’s the key: listening to what your body wants. When you’re not expected to behave a certain way or do a certain thing, all of a sudden you open up your senses to really pay attention to what your body is telling you you’re feeling like doing. This is particularly important for people who don’t tend to get turned on easily or immediately by sexual stimuli.
“The higher-desire partner is the higher-desire partner because they have access to turn-on. And the lower-desire partner, it’s not as easy for them to access,” Costa explains. “The higher-desire partner is going 60 miles an hour, they’re ready to go, and the lower-desire partner is like, I can’t find my car keys.”
A first-base date allows you to spend time in a space that’s sensual and intimate without feeling like there’s any agenda or pressure. You don’t have to worry about why you’re not getting turned on as fast as your partner is, because that’s not the point. Cost says you may want to engage in simple acts of touch like hand rubs, foot rubs, or cuddling on the couch. “But actively. Not mindlessly, like we’re watching TV,” she adds. “Let’s lay together and notice what happens. I think most people, when they start to get touched, if there truly is no pressure, and if their partner is paying attention to them, they start to feel good.”