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Subsisting on a diet drawn from one food group isn't healthy or gratifying. Even eating cupcakes 24/7 eventually would get old! And yet when it comes to feeding our sexual appetite, many of us rely on one mode to sate all of our romantic cravings. Turns out, women who order the same meal at the same restaurant every time, so to speak, are missing out. Engaging in different shagging styles not only prevents boredom in the bedroom, but "it also fulfills your many physical and emotional needs, allows you to express different aspects of your personality and enables you to grow sexually as a couple," explains Ian Kerner, Ph.D., a sex and relationship therapist in New York City. No one is saying you have to install a trapeze in your bedroom or invite the neighbors to join in. But just as following the food pyramid's guidelines will improve your overall diet, integrating different types of sex into your regular routine can recharge your romance.
Building your own sex pyramid is easy: It's all about finding the right balance for you. The foundation should be whichever style nourishes you on the deepest level, your second favorite kind will fill the spot immediately above, and so on. Use the following recommendations to guide you, and be sure to take your personal preferences and lifestyle into account. Quickie sex might be closer to the base of a busy mom's pyramid but nearer the top for a single gal. Whatever your individual mix, striving to enjoy each of these types will guarantee that you'll have a healthy, well-rounded and satisfying sex life.
What it is A leisurely exploration of each other's body that allows you to reestablish your bond; it may or may not include intercourse.
The benefits Having an orgasm may feel good (OK, amazing), but more measured lovemaking fulfills our innate need for emotional closeness. Because feeling in sync is so integral to relationship satisfaction, intimate sex is often at the base of women's sex pyramid. "Feeling connected and conveying your affection for one another requires you to slow down and really tune in to each other," says Trina Read, author of Till Sex Do Us Part: Make Your Married Sex Irresistible (Key Porter Books). "When you race to the finish line, it's easy to lose sight of your partner's physical and emotional needs," Read says. By spending some time between the sheets with no pressure to have an orgasm—or even intercourse—you'll appreciate the act and each other more, which is bound to generate some of those warm and fuzzy feelings.
The recipe No matter how long you've known your partner, he still can't read your mind, so communicate what makes you feel connected. (He probably doesn't know how much you miss those marathon make-out sessions—you have to tell him!) To ensure an affirmative response, "offer some positive reinforcement by saying, 'I loved it when you did such and such…let's try that again!'" says Emily Dubberley, author of The Going Down Guide (St. Martin's Press). In the moment, do whatever you need to do to feel closer: Kiss, laugh, share a secret you've never told anyone. You'll feel so enamored that it won't matter whether it ends with a bang.
What it is Anything that's out of the realm of your routine, whether it's a new position, sex in the shower or dressing up in a costume.
The benefits Mixing it up in bed enhances your sexual self-esteem, so adventurous sex will probably fall somewhere in the middle of your sex pyramid. "Doing something different, whether or not it's 'successful,' will increase your confidence and embolden you to step out of your comfort zone more often," Read explains. Shaking things up will likely accelerate your sex drive, too: "When you venture into uncharted territory, it sticks out in your memory," she says. And the more you think about sex, the more frequently you'll want to do it.
The recipe If broaching the topic of, say, trying a new sex toy seems intimidating, you're in good company. "Many women want to experiment with their partners but aren't sure how to bring it up," says Amy Levine, a certified sexuality educator in New York City. Some common concerns: "Women may worry their mate will think he's inadequate, or they're afraid he'll judge them or question where they came up with the idea in the first place," she explains. A relatively painless approach is the old "I just read about [fill in the blank] in a magazine or book. Does that sound fun to you?" Another way to suggest something racy—write down five things that you'd like to try; ask him to do the same and then compare notes. Anything that appears on both lists gets the green light, and you can approve or consider the other items. One cautionary note: Imagine hooking up with Johnny Depp all you want, but it's generally best to share only those fantasies in which your partner has a starring role.
What it is Fast, furious and strikingly short on foreplay: Let's do this right here and right now! (Otherwise known as a quickie.)
The benefits For a busy woman who juggles work, kids, chores and more, finding time for sex can present a challenge. That's why a quickie can be the perfect solution when you need to sneak some lovin' into a packed calendar. It's also a fun, effective way to show your partner that your relationship is still on the radar, so electric sex might occupy one of the middle tiers of your pyramid. It can inject a little excitement into your life, too: If both of you can step away from your desk in the middle of the day, sneaking out to meet up for an hour or so is exhilarating. "There's no better way to break up an otherwise monotonous day," Levine says. "Once you get back to work, you'll be totally fired up for the rest of the afternoon."
The recipe The beauty of speedy sex is that it doesn't require elaborate forethought. You simply need to carve out a sliver of time in your hectic day. If a lunchtime tryst isn't practical, squeeze in a session before dinner or set your alarm clock 15 minutes early and connect before the kids wake up. Stuck at a boring party? Sneak off to the powder room together to make it a night you'll both never forget. (Remember to lock the door.)
What it is You just had a major blowout. Now that it's over, all you want to do is take each other's clothes off so you can kiss and make up.
The benefits No one is encouraging you to pick a fight, but the occasional healthy, nonabusive argument—wherein both parties expresses their feelings and opinions—can actually be a bonding experience. What's more, the hormone that's produced during sex, oxytocin (also known as the cuddle hormone), can help facilitate reconciliation. "Making love after a fight helps put you in a much more forgiving mood," Kerner says. "It can create a willingness to resolve things with each other." Ideally, you're not duking it out on a regular basis, so makeup sex tends to be one of the top levels of a woman's sex pyramid.
The recipe When you're steamed at your mate, you don't have to wait to make amends verbally before getting it on. "Having sex is a form of apology in itself," Kerner says. "It's a physical way to express that you love one another and want to work things out." Still, no matter how great the makeup sex is, intercourse alone won't solve whatever issue you were fighting about in the first place, so Kerner recommends sleeping on it and officially resolving things the next morning. Chances are, you will have a clearer head and be able to address the issue from a more peaceful perspective. Besides, it's hard to stay ticked off when you've been spooning all night!
What it is You know exactly what you want, and you're not going to stop until you get it. (Whips or cuffs are not necessarily required.)
The benefits Jumping into the driver's seat in the sack can be incredibly empowering. "Taking charge is a great opportunity to express yourself and your desires," explains Kerner, who contends that reaching for the reins can translate into feeling more assertive outside the bedroom. What's more, you virtually ensure you will meet your needs: "You increase your pleasure potential when you accept responsibility for your sexual satisfaction and don't sacrifice your needs to those of your partner," Kerner says. Because being on the bossy side in bed isn't for everyone, take-charge sex often resides toward the top of most women's pyramid.
The recipe Before setting foot in the bedroom, imagine what it would be like to dominate your mate in detail. It's different for every woman—it may mean being on top or blindfolding him. Share those thoughts with your man to set the mood and get the ball rolling; if you're not inclined to have a conversation, act it out the next time you're in bed. "Having a particular visual image in your head will inspire you to turn your fantasy into a reality," Kerner explains. Go ahead; unleash your inner dominatrix!
What it is No partner, no pressure, only your vivid imagination and perhaps a battery-operated device.
The benefits Masturbation shouldn't be reserved for dry spells or those times when your honey is out of town. If you're in a relationship and have an active sex life, solo sex may not be a top priority, so it may be at the tip of your pyramid. For single ladies, it might be closer to the foundation. But one thing's for sure: Singular sessions have some serious benefits. They not only feel sensational but also can reduce stress, encourage sleep and help you point your partner in the right direction when you do team up. Plus, "the longer women go without an orgasm, the less they want and need it over time," Read says, explaining that orgasms produce testosterone, the same hormone that drives us to want sex in the first place. So the more orgasms you experience, the more you want. Handy equation, isn't it?
The recipe Take advantage of any quiet alone time and curl up with a steamy novel, sexy movie or simply your favorite fantasy. Instead of going straight for the usual hot spots, take the time to explore your stomach, thighs and other less obvious but still erogenous zones. "There may be parts of your body you would never suspect to be erotic that turn out to offer great pleasure," Levine insists. Still wary? Masturbation isn't dirty or wrong, you're not cheating on your partner and you won't become addicted to artificial stimulation like Charlotte on Sex and the City did. It's just one of the many ingredients that make up a delicious, well-balanced sex diet.