If you’re a man who enjoys making love, there are few words that strike more dread in your heart than, “Not now, dear, I’m just not in the mood.” Upsetting as those words are, if you’re like most men, you probably hide your disappointment, jump into a cold shower, and hope for better luck the next time around. But instead of just accepting the bad news, why not do something to change her mood?
Here are some ideas to get you started
Recognize that she gets aroused in a different way: While many men get sexually turned on relatively quickly and without much stimulation, most women take longer, especially as they get older.
Shirley Zussman, EdD, a New York sex therapist in private practice and a co-editor of Sex Over Forty, said one of her favorite stories involves a man who has just finished watching a football game and is either happy because his team has won or sad because it hasn’t. In either event, he’s ready for sex.
But during the game, he had been totally unaware of his wife. “He’s been so absorbed in the game that now he thinks all he has to do is say, ‘Let’s go,’” said Zussman. “But a woman can’t respond in that way to something that isn’t connected with her at all. She needs some attention to her rather than a response to his sexual interest of the moment. Most women need some romance to get into the mood.”
Have fun together: One of the best things about sex is that it’s fun. Try smiling and laughing. A sense of humor and the willingness to try something different can really help set the mood.
“Feeling closer during sex,” writes Leslie Schover, PhD, in her book, Prime Time, “does not necessarily depend on sentimental greeting cards or gypsy violin music. Another mood that often makes sex richer is playfulness.” Schover suggests showering together, having a pillow fight, or a wrestling or tickling match. Playing and having a good laugh together is a kind of foreplay that frequently leads to some very serious lovemaking.
Avoid crude sexual overtures
Marian E. Dunn, PhD, director of the Center for Human Sexuality at the State University of New York-Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, points out that men can sabotage themselves with rough approaches. “Some men will say, ‘Look what I have’ or ‘You’re not going to let this go to waste, are you?’ — that kind of thing,” she said. For a woman, this type of totally impersonal come-on is usually a turn-off. Dunn suggests a more effective overture might be, “‘I find you so attractive in the morning, the warmth of your body is so nice’ or anything that makes a woman feel that it’s her he desires, not just her body.”
Remember those romantic touches.
Toni, a 64-year-old widow who has been dating 62-year-old Ron for three years, praises the little things he does to show her how much she means to him. “Ron is so sweet,” Toni says. “He’s always surprising me with gifts. Nothing too expensive, just small items that let me know he’s thinking about me and observing who I am.” Ron has given Toni a vintage salt and pepper set for her collection, a book of cat postcards because he knows that she adores felines, and an African violet after she mentioned she grew them as a child. “Ron’s gifts always make me feel loved, and they always lead to the bedroom,” Toni said with a smile.
Pay attention to your timing
One reason women frequently reject sexual advances is that a man asks them “at the wrong time.” Clara, 49, says that Bruce, her husband of 27 years, “often approaches me when I’m doing something I can’t leave like baking or talking on the phone to a colleague or preparing paperwork for the next day. “Then,” adds Clara, “when it’s the weekend and I’m all relaxed and ready, he’s watching sports on TV or making repairs around the house or something else. It would be funny if it wasn’t so frustrating.”
Since the best sex happens when both partners are turned on, it’s important for a man to pay attention to whether his partner is receptive before he suggests making love. Take a moment to observe if she is busily absorbed in some task or is relaxed and ready to be approached.
Focus on full-body love, not just genitals
“If you ask women how they would like to be approached sexually, they don’t want the first touch to be to the breast or the genitals,” said Dunn. “They want to be stroked all over.” Dunn said that women have a fuller body sensuality than men, which she surmises could be because parents cuddle and touch girls more than boys when they are children. As a result, “Women are not so genitally-focused,” said Dunn.
By caressing her back, gently kissing her shoulders or running your fingers over her hips, you may arouse her more than if you immediately reach for her sex organs and concentrate on them alone.
Set the stage for love
Getting in the mood for sex often means feeling relaxed, comfortable and private. An attractive, romantic environment definitely enhances the effect.
It can be as simple as that old standby, the candlelight dinner at home. No one else around, the answering machine on, the TV off, a tasty meal, some wine, soft music in the background, and most of all, a couple really focused on each other.
Today’s couples often are so busy that they’re always on the run. Quiet time together becomes a special treat, an occasion for a man to show a woman how much she means to him.
The setting also can be a place she loves, such as a charming country inn or favorite restaurant. With senses aroused by beautiful surroundings, delicious food and pleasant music, lovemaking becomes the likely next step.
Ask her what puts her in the mood
If you don’t know, find out. Too often, couples fall into unproductive patterns and never look for a way out. If you find that she’s often not in the mood to make love, your best bet may be to ask her exactly what does put her in the mood and what you can do to make it happen.
“It’s an individual thing,” said Zussman. Depending on the woman, setting the mood may mean taking a long walk, bathing or showering together or enjoying a gentle massage. Or perhaps she likes to dress up and go out dancing or to the theater. Whatever it is, find out and try it.
Show your commitment to the relationship
Men may assume that marriage is a sign of commitment, but many women still feel a lack of full devotion from their husbands, even after many years.
Susanna, in her mid-60’s, has been married for 40 years, loves her husband and has always delighted in sex. But she also feels upset when her husband, Donald, grabs her and tries to enter her without any foreplay or words of affection. “When he goes at me that way, he just wants to get inside me, do his thing and fall asleep. I need more than that, and he knows it.” At these times, Susanna says that Donald leaves her feeling more like an object than a person. She says he might as well be having sex with any woman for all the difference it would make to him.
“I want him to tell me that I mean something special to him,” explains Susanna, “that he appreciates everything I’ve done for him over the years and that I’ve been a good wife. I know he cares about me as an individual, but it’s important for me to hear him say it.”
Plan some special time alone
Many couples have found that setting aside one evening a week or even one a month, has revitalized their sex life. Penny, a 55-year-old insurance executive, did just that with her husband and business partner Paul, 56.
“Sunday nights are just for us,” Penny explains. “We don’t make dates with our friends or our children and everyone knows. We go out to dinner or a movie or we just stay home and play.”
Penny says it took a while to convince Paul to do this, since he has many interests taking up his spare time. But the sexual rewards have been great. In fact, two couples they know are now trying the same thing.
Tell her you love her
When we talked to women about what got them in the mood for sex, many of them mentioned how important it was to hear those three magic words, “I love you.” It’s surprising how many men never say them.
“My husband always shakes his head and says, ‘I know,” when I tell him I love him,” says Amy, a 45-year-old chef. “But he never says it back, and when I try to get him to, he just laughs.”
But Marilyn, a 53-year-old physician, hears, “I love you” from her husband every day. They say it before they leave for work, after every phone conversation, and before they go to sleep. “We also say it while we’re making love,” she adds, “and the way he says it, with his deep, sexy voice, always turns me on.”
Refine your sexual techniques
Dunn said that a man can often get a woman in the mood “by being physically affectionate in terms of kissing, stroking her hair, stroking her back and running his hands along her legs.”
“The face is a lovely area because it’s a sign of tenderness and isn’t associated with strong physical demands,” said Dunn.
If you rush to intercourse so you can have your orgasm, you will almost certainly turn her off. Instead, take time to let her enjoy the sensuous feeling of your touch, gradually arousing her desire.
And don’t be afraid to try something new in bed. Many women are bored having sex the same way every time. Get a copy of The Joy of Sex or another sex manual and inject some surprise and variety into your lovemaking.
If feeling loved and wanted sexually arouses a woman, then one key is to tell her how much you care and why. Make it individual and very personal.
Dunn suggests telling her how attractive you find her, how beautiful her eyes are or how lovely her skin is. “With every partner, there’s something you find lovely,” she said, “whether it’s her hands, her skin, her soft hair — something can always be found.”
Dunn said that many men feel foolish or uncomfortable complimenting a woman. “Some men would rather buy a new set of tires for a woman as a sign of love than say how much she means to them,” she said. But if you can overcome such inhibitions, you will both benefit.
Remember what worked when you first met
When love is new, many things you do together are sexually stimulating. Think about what once turned you on and try it again.
Did you bring her flowers? Park in a scenic spot and make out? Dance to “your song”? Wear sexy underwear to bed? Whatever it was, give it a try and you may find that instantly, you’re both in the mood to make love.
Tell her what puts you in the mood
If your sexual approaches seem ineffective, it could be due to a failure in communication.
“Sometimes women don’t appreciate that a man may be more in the mood in the morning, when testosterone is higher or he has the reassurance of a morning erection,” said Dunn. “He should let her know that this is the time of day that he feels most relaxed and aroused.”
So if you want to get her in the mood, you not only have to understand her, you also have to give her the opportunity to understand you.
Zussman said that many men find it hard to express their feelings in words and may not want to spend time talking or doing things they find uncomfortable in order to get their partners in the mood for love. But almost every man discovers that the effort brings rewards not only for her, but for him as well.
“He has to care about himself enough that being sexual is more than just a physical response,” Zussman said. “A really satisfying sexual experience with a partner adds up to more than that, and when you’re tuned in to your partner as a person instead of a sexual object, your relationship becomes much richer and more satisfying.”