Sure, sex is great, but have you ever tried taking your time during foreplay? Have you tried really using that time to intimately connect with a partner on a deeper level, while taking into consideration the ways in which they are best able to receive affection?
“Foreplay does not only refer to what happens in the moments precipitating sex. Rather, it also refers to what happens in between sexual encounters,” says Jennifer Litner, sexologist and founder of Embrace Sexual Wellness, LLC., a wellness center offering relationship/sex therapy and sex education in Chicago. Say you fool around on a Tuesday and the next encounter takes place on a Saturday. “The interactions, emotions, and experiences between partners taking place from Tuesday to Saturday are part of foreplay, as well,” she says.
Most people engage in foreplay; a 2020 survey by SKYN found that 81% percent of respondents said they do so frequently. But it’s easy to fall into a mindset that simply views foreplay as a time to go through the motions in order to get to the main course. In doing so, you would be missing out on an opportunity to more deeply bond with your partner.
As MPH, sexuality educator and founder of okayso Elise Schuster explains, foreplay isn’t just the thing you do before sex, but more of an appetizer that can be “just as delicious as the entree. And sometimes, you just want to order a bunch of appetizers because they can be so good.”
In order to hit the spot, foreplay should be curated to fit the individual taste buds of the person doing the ordering. While no two people are exactly alike, using a model such as Gary Chapman’s five love languages might help you discover bedroom bliss.
“The love languages are a helpful tool because they’re all about getting in touch with your partner and what they need and want,” says Schuster. “Love languages are a simple and easy way to apply framework.”
Take a moment to ask your partner about their love language and preferences. Then, enjoy the expedition.
Words of Affirmation
Those who enjoy words of affirmation generally respond well to verbal cues. But you and your partner don’t need to be in the same physical space to bathe each other in affirmation — foreplay can happen at any time. “This could mean a text telling them how sexy they are, that they get earlier in the day,” says Schuster. “Everything from ‘I love it when you touch me there’ to ‘you are so hot.’ ”
Acts of Service
Those who respond to acts of service want to be seen and taken care of without having to ask. Your partner probably just wants to feel like you’ve anticipated their need. If they’ve had a stressful day, a bath or massage might be a great pre-sex ritual. Even taking the less sexy route and simply doing chores for them—and therefore taking their mind off drudgery—might help.
“Obviously you can’t pull out a new vibrator every single time you want to have sex, so it’s helpful to think about this love language as being about the other person wanting to know that you were thinking about them when you were away from them,” says Schuster. Sexts and notes can go a long way with this type of partner.
According to Litner, uninterrupted time together is going to be the key to helping the quality timer connect intimately. Think clearing both schedules, leaving the house pet with a sitter, and going on a quick getaway. Sustained attention and personal conversations will help increase intimacy between partners. “Set aside lengthy sessions on days off to just snuggle and touch and play and have fun with it,” Schuster adds.
The physical touch love language, while not explicitly sexual, naturally yields itself to foreplay. It all depends on skin-on-skin contact. “It can be as simple as a kiss on the neck or a finger traced under a shirt,” says Schuster. “Anything that makes that person feel like you want to be as physically close to them as possible.” For partners who regularly engage in physical touch outside of sex, advises Litner, observe what differs when touch incites sexual play.
Ultimately, communication among partners is the key to a sexy foreplay experience. Often, people pursue differently than they would like to be pursued, so it’s best to not make assumptions about a partner’s preference and go straight to the source.
“I’d suggest partners communicate about these preferences during a time when they aren’t planning to be sexual, so there’s no pressure or distractions,” Litner says.
In the end, all sexual interaction should involve some give and take.
Ada Ciuca is a writer and editor covering dating, body image, and lifestyle. You're probably saying her name wrong.