Often when couples discuss sexual desire, they imagine it as a concrete, independent force that they have no control over. Either a person “has” desire, or they don’t. This way of understanding sexual desire can cause problems if partners in a relationship have different levels of desire. How can they have a happy sexual relationship if one person wants less/more sex than the other, and desire is something completely out of their control? Fortunately, desire is something people can actively work on cultivating.
For our purposes today, we’re going to take a look at one component of desire, and practice enhancing it. Anticipation is an integral part of desire. Being forced to wait before experiencing pleasure can bring a pleasure of its own. This is because positive anticipation releases dopamine. Increasing the presence of dopamine during a sexual encounter can help increase enjoyment, and increase physical pleasure. By slowing down and increasing anticipation, you and your partner can increase your ability to focus on the sensations in your body. Use the following exercise to strengthen your anticipation “muscles” and explore how anticipation stokes your desire.
Step 1: Set up
To play the (Not) Kissing Game, set aside an hour when you and your partner can be uninterrupted. The exercise won’t take that long, but it’s important that you don’t feel rushed, or feel pressured to finish and move on to the next part of your day.
Step 2: face to face
Stand or kneel across from each other. See how close your lips can get without actually touching. Take your time, and see how long you can be almost kissing before one or both of you can’t resist and kisses the other.
Step 3: full body
Pick a “kisser” and a “kissee.” The kissee will sit or lie down, whichever is more comfortable for them. The kisser will move around their partners body, starting at the top of the kissee’s head. The kisser will aim to get their lips as close to their partner’s body without actually touching them. As they move down their partner’s body, the kissee’s job is to stay as still as possible, and to pay attention to the experience. Resist the urge to squirm, giggle or otherwise shift your focus. Instead, pay attention to the variety of sensations present. How does the temperature change as your partner’s mouth moves up and down your body? How does their breath feel against your skin? Your hair? If they accidentally touch you, can you sense the moment it happens? As they move up and down your body, what are the different feelings you get in different parts of your own body? Where do you feel anticipation building? Where, if anywhere, do you feel it decreasing?
Switch roles, and follow the same “kissing” sequence, starting at the top of the head. Remember that for the purpose of this exercise, you shouldn’t follow it with sex. This is meant to help build anticipation, and it will be easier to build if you take sex off the table.
Step 4: Reflect
After each person has had a turn as “kissee” and “kisser”, answer the following questions together.
- Which role was easier for you? Why?
- Which role built more anticipation for you? Why?
- Could you tell what had a bigger impact on desire and anticipation for your partner? What body parts did they enjoy being not-kissed?
- Were there any moments you felt aroused? When? How did you react to that arousal?
- What’s one way you could see incorporating this game into sexual play in the future?
If the kissee gets the giggles, or otherwise has difficulty engaging in the exercise, that’s ok! This is a symptom of your brain stepping out of your body and the present moment, and putting your focus elsewhere. To refocus, you can try the following:
- Take some deep breaths
- Close your eyes, to close out any distractions and bring focus to physical sensations.
- If your eyes were already closed, try opening them and making eye contact with your partner. Can connecting to them help bring you back to the present moment?
- Try verbally describing the sensations you are experiencing aka narrating in real time. This might help you stay present.
If you still have trouble focusing, consider journaling or talking to a therapist about the feelings and thoughts that come up during sexual moments that take you out of them. It’s not uncommon for our brains to respond to sexual stimuli with anxiety, guilt, embarrassment or irritation. What’s important is that you take the time to listen and understand why those feelings come up for you, and what you need to do to take care of them.
Once you have played the game through and taken time to answer the reflection questions, feel free to incorporate this game (and intentional anticipation) into your sex play!