You're finally earning a 6-digit salary, your career's on fast-track. It's tough but you're managing to squeeze in a 45-minute workout three times a week. You also ran your first marathon this year- and can't wait for the next.
In this dream scenario, fit in a forever blinking Blackberry, everyday pressures and a working wife (that = work stress x 2) an increasing number of urban Indian couples are losing their sex lives to ambition and success. Here's how you can avoid the trap...
Remember when you first had a steady girlfriend you couldn't keep your hands off? Your single mates envied your persistent public displays of affection and you'd gloat over those sneaky-quickies that followed. You hated parental restrictions for getting in the way of a five-minute under-the-shirt action and fantasised about a married life, minus the rules and packed with lust. You thought this lust would last forever, didn't you?
Now picture this reality. You're home from a 12-hour workday and an hour-long commute to find her on a conference-call, making throatslitting gestures to her absent boss while you collapse in an exhausted heap on the couch. Forget your favourite wine, you're seriously thinking about drinking a glass of milk every night, you've been told it'll help you sleep. Sex? Shudder- you're almost praying for her to have a headache!
It isn't an exaggeration to say the sex lives of urban couples is in crisis mode these days. Workplaces from hell, killer commutes, bills and loans, snarky colleagues and 24/7 cricket on ESPN, none of it is geared to make you feel sexy. You're not alone.
According to a recent survey in the US by the National Sleep Foundation, one in four Americans who're married/living with someone say they're mostly too tired to have sex. "I would even say it's an epidemic," said Peter Fraenkel, a New York-based couples therapist, in an interview to CBS's 48 Hours. Another survey reports that nearly half of all married couples in the US have sex only between once and thrice a month.
Yet, sex is a basic need and it's critical to a relationship-not to mention, it's a ton of fun! What you need, then, are ways to factor sex into your life without feeling you're ticking off another task on your bottomless to-do list. Start here!
1. Planning is underrated
Do you show up at airports without booking a flight? No. Leave hotel reservations on vacation to chance? No. Hell, do you show up at a client's without an appointment? Naah. Fact is, planning pays big dividends. Yet, when it comes to sex, planning is considered unexciting. What's really unexciting, however, is the 'spontaneous' sex you're never having but want to nonetheless.
You don't have to detail every aspect of your sex lives ahead of time, but figuring out with your partner how often you both ideally want sex, then working towards making time for it, is hardly rocket science. There's no right and wrong frequency, just what works for the two of you. "My wife and I have been married five years and recently we found we simply weren't getting it on for weeks.
She was tired or I was, or we had social commitments that exhausted us post-work. I panicked-I mean, I was barely 30 and it looked like my sex life was over! We talked it over and have made a zero-tolerance rule ever since-Friday nights are ours alone. We don't go to parties, events or anywhere else. The only time the rule is broken is if one of us is travelling on work, or if either's parents have anniversaries/birthdays," says Rohan Nadkarni, 31, a Mumbai-based commodities trader.
"Friends made fun of us in the beginning and there was whining when we didn't show up at a pal's dinner or birthday, but over time everyone respects our choice. We go out to dinner or grab takeaways together-sometimes we'll stay in and cook, talk, open a bottle of wine. It's just the perfect, low-stress way to start a weekend. And most Fridays, we're having sex! Sure, we know it ahead of time. But that only makes it better when, Friday evening I'm driving home from work and I know what the evening-and the whole night- has in store," he laughs.
Have kids? Make one day a week non-negotiable for the two of you, and ignore anyone who says otherwise. Kids who grow up with parents that act like a couple, not just 'mom-dad', are way likelier to have a positive view of relationships in the future.
2. Stay edgy
We've all heard the homily about sex being between the ears and not between the legs; that's as true today as it was when you first heard it. Sex is the outcome of attraction, and attraction isn't a cactus plant-it won't grow on air and water alone.
It needs all the signs you first showed when you started dating-you stayed fit, dressed hot, laughed often, surprised her, flirted with her publicly, held her hand or put your arm around her waist. You played footsie under tables and had private jokes that no-one else got. You made out in the car and sometimes at parties in the dark. Your connection was intimate, naughty, urgent.
Sure, the urgency will recede, and the need to impress won't be allconsuming. And that's a good thing, it spells the end of initial insecurities about each other. What isn't good? Losing the intimacy that went with it. You can have one without the other, though. Touch each other, make certain gestures or conversations intimate instead of routine, and see how you can keep things simmering.
"I read something in a magazine once that sounded so simple, I didn't see how it could matter," reveals Sanjukta Shankar, 27, Gurgaon-based interior designer who's been dating boyfriend Amit Jindal, 30, for five years.
"It said touch each other even when there's no need to; like, if I wanted my boyfriend to give me the car keys, for instance, I should reach into his pocket for them instead of asking. So I did; we were at this bar with friends, and I deliberately slid my hands into the back pocket of his jeans to ostensibly get the keys. You will not believe how his eyes widened," she grins. "He was far more 'aware' of me the rest of that evening." That awareness is what keeps you tuned into each other physically.
3. Sex-up the setting
If Arnab Goswami is the soundtrack to your bedroom encounters, it may explain why you're not in the mood very often. Sexy is a state of mind, even more so for women, who're very sensitive to atmosphere. No, that doesn't mean you turn into a sop with a frilly pink bedroom, but you certainly need to work at setting the tone for a relaxed, seductive space. A few small touches-chillout music, intimate lighting, a couple of candles-go a long way, with little effort.
The bigger challenge? Keeping your bedroom a no-TV zone; ditto for laptops and other stress-inducing gadgets. As for the Blackberry? Keep it on silent and out of arm's reach post 10pm if you want to have any kind of sex life at all!
This isn't all psycho-babble. As early as 30 years ago, Alvin Toffler, legendary futurist, warned us of information overload in his bestselling book Future Shock. Arguing that the human brain has a fi nite ability to process information, he demonstrated that unless we consciously limit how much information we access every day, mental and physical stress are inevitable. And as research has repeatedly shown, the first thing to take a hit when stress strikes a couple's life? Sex!
To prevent your sex life from becoming a victim of information overload, consciously turn your bedroom into a purely leisure zone.
4. Get creative
Half the battle is won when you can get your mind primed to think about sex often, despite a stressed-out, packed schedule. A trick that works? Turn it into a creativity game with your partner. Have a 'sexy' shelf/drawer (lockable, please, unless you'd like to give a nosy maid the shock treatment) in your bedroom to aid creativity: Start with a variety of condoms; lube; a silk scarf; erotic DVDs or even literature; a sex toy or two, if that works for you. Agree that each of you needs to add 'elements' to the shelf on a monthly basis; it'll keep you both thinking of creative things you can use in the bedroom, and put sex front-and-centre on the agenda.
"My girlfriend and I had great sex, but it was fairly typical," says Neeraj Dutt, 38, partner in a New Delhibased consulting fi rm. "Then, on a trip to Germany, I was transiting at Frankfurt airport and saw a 'naughty' shop. I strolled in out of curiosity and it was, of course, a fetishist's dream. The store attendants and other customers were so blase that it gave me the nerve to pick up a fun pair of handcuffs," he laughs. "To be honest, it's been three months and we haven't used them yet, but just bringing them home to Ritika (his girlfriend) has sparked things up hugely. We tease each other about how we'll use them; and who gets to go first."
The benefits aren't limited to the bedroom alone, though. "Sharing something quirky or intimate like this totally makes you closer, it's like a dirty secret only the two of you know," says Neeraj. "Ritika and I have this innuendo thing going on, sometimes even in company, all based on the handcuffs, except no-one else gets the jokes but us. It's sexy and fun, and I'm constantly amazed how one impulse buy has shaken things up so much for us."
5. Quickies exist for a reason
Yes, we've always said sex is something to savour, to bring pleasure and intimacy to your lives. But when your choices are no sex or the instant version? The latter, every single time! You find time to have a shower, read the paper, watch the news or make a couple of quick calls to friends, don't you? Then you've got time for a quickie. And having a quickie doesn't mean one of you is always shortchanged-make a deal where you focus on your pleasure one time, hers the next.
Tip: If sex is always the last thing slotted into your day, it'll invariably get struck off the list, because your body and mind are both typically drained by then. Morning sex, in-the-shower sex, beforedinner sex, got-to-go-out-and-buy-groceries sex; a quickie is great precisely because you can fit it in without needing large doses of time and intimacy. Take the hint and prioritise the act.
6 Make life simpler
Sometimes, the solution to being too busy or too tired for sex is simply to lessen the load. Sex isn't an add-on, something you fi t in after everything else is done. Instead, if mundane logistics are getting in the way of getting it on, cut some of them out and make your sex life the priority. Wife/girlfriend constantly tired because she gets home from work and hits the kitchen?
Fix two nights a week to order takeaway and give her some downtime. Nephews and neices running riot all evening? Bribe a young cousin to come look after them while you whisk her off for a real 'date'. You head to the gym for a rigorous session every evening? Sacrilege, I know, but cut it down to four times a week and give yourself a breather. You'll be setting the sheets afire.