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6 ways to spice up your relationship during Covid

By Maya Khamala

Let’s face it: vaccines and variants aside, we’re getting into year two of the global pandemic right about now, and that doesn’t quite spell relationship excitement for most of us. Maybe you were already cohabiting with your partner Before Covid (BC) and are struggling not to get swallowed whole by the ins and outs of routine; or you met After Covid (AC), and even though your vibe is still hot and fresh, there’s only so many entertaining things a couple can do that don’t involve staying in, am I right?

No matter how long you’ve been with your SO and whether you live together or not, keeping the thrill alive is an important element of any romance.

Sex, sex, sex. I just went right ahead and said it. Even though some of us have more home time with our partners these days, the extra stress, anxiety, and depression many are experiencing amid continual quarantines, lockdowns, and even curfews does not actually favor mind-shattering sex—surprised? One study from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University had 43% of participants reporting a decline in the quality of their sex lives since Covid began. Another study on female sexual behavior during the pandemic showed that while frequency and desire have gone up, quality has gone way down. But while binging Netflix may seem like a more desirable activity than even beginning to deal with this, there are things you can do that don’t involve putting pressure and strain on your relationship.

Consider the following 6 ways of spicing up your relationship during Covid:

1. Plan full-on date nights

The quantity of time spent together may not be lacking (if you live together, you may actually be driving each other crazy à la cabin fever), but the quality of time spent is everything. Even if you have dinner together every night, even if you’re tired of cooking, feeling uninspired, and haven’t worn anything but sweats since you can’t remember when, even if your date night is taking place in the same apartment you’ve been living and working in for over a year—get creative. In other words, get dressed up, put a tablecloth down, light some candles, eat something different—have a glass of bubbly. This is about isolating yourselves from the routines and rituals and leaning into what excites you about one another. And if you’re living the challenge of a distanced relationship right now, do all of the above via FaceTime—just do it. Open yourself to the magic, and who’s telling what will happen?

2. Love yourself

We all need time to ourselves to do those necessary things that make us feel like ourselves, and that make us feel we can bring new energy into a relationship. Whether it’s solo walks with your headphones on, plucking your brows and painting your nails, or sating your cravings with an extravagant meal every now and then, this shit’s important. Because the better we stay in touch with ourselves, the more we bring to the shared table that is a relationship. Maybe you want to masturbate more, but aren’t feeling like there’s much space for that lately. If your partner's around, you could invite them to watch, or, if the mood strikes, join in. They just might be down.

3. Touch with intention

Spooning on the couch with a good movie, or cuddling before falling to sleep can reduce stress and increase the release of happy hormones like oxytocin. Also, holding your partner’s hand can lower your response to threat—something most of us could really use these days. If you and your partner don’t tend to be very physical outside of sex, it may be harder to bridge the intimacy gaps when times get trying. But if you can find a way to get intentional about loving and sensual touch, chances are those sparks will fly more readily when you’re ready to fall into one another.

4. Practice mindful pleasure

Research shows that practicing mindfulness can “significantly improve sexual desire and other indices of sexual response” in women, and is a “potentially promising treatment avenue” for men with situational erectile dysfunction. Mindfulness can also lower stress—which may just be the number one libido killer among all genders—by increasing our sense of acceptance and presence in the now. One way to cultivate mindful pleasure in your day-to-day life is to take up meditation, while using pleasure as your focus: relax your body and focus on the most pleasant sensations in your body for 10-15 minutes each day. And more generally, you can try to pause and savor everyday pleasures like good coffee or the sun on your face.

5. Communicate

Giving your sex life a jolt of new energy requires cultivating the ability to communicate. This is easier for some of us than others, as we didn’t all grow up with the best role models. And even among those of us who possess strong communication skills, talking about sex with honesty doesn’t always come easy. But the reality is, when we are able to communicate openly (and kindly) about what turns us on and what doesn’t, the possibilities for pleasure begin to expand. Try setting a sex talk date, and start out discussing things that are working for you before graduating to things you want to explore. Get my drift?

6. Dream about the future together

Clearly there are certain highly tangible things about the time we’re living in right now that kinda suck. There’s no getting around the fact that sometimes it’s easier to get sucked into a nostalgic spiral of pre-pandemic good times than be present in your life right now—as it’s happening. But here’s the thing: looking to the future with your partner can be a really fruitful, uplifting (and even arousing) way of lifting yourself out of the muck and planning for a brighter tomorrow. Whether it’s saving up to buy a hobby farm, moving to a deserted island, or starting a business together, taking tangible steps toward envisioning and planning the life you want can offset some of the uncertainty and disillusionment you may currently be feeling. Life is short, sure—but it’s also long. All depends how you look at it.

Bottom line: always remember that this is a truly unprecedented time! Many of us are challenged in numerous ways on the daily. It’s pretty normal to feel exhausted and prefer scrolling Facebook to improving your sex life. Rather than exhausting yourself further by trying to overhaul your entire sex life overnight, prioritize small, attainable actions. It’ll add up. <3

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