A man is about to leave the house in the morning to go to work. Kissing his wife goodbye, he buries his face in her hair to inhale her scent. His arms circle her waist to pull her closer. Her body molds to his, and they breathe together for a moment, both feeling excited. Then he looks at his watch and hurries off, waving goodbye to her.
What is this couple doing?
In sex therapy we call it simmering. Simmering for couples means taking a quick moment to feel excited with your partner, even under conditions where sex is not going to be practical. That generally means no orgasms, no rhythmic stroking, no heavy breathing. Nothing that’s going to leave you too frustrated after you have to stop.
Couples who are overworked and distracted (that is, most of us) often neglect to get aroused in each other’s company unless they intend to have sex. That’s a mistake.
Most couples need to get aroused together much more frequently than that. In sex therapy we often counsel people to enjoy brief moments of arousal together for no reason at all, except that it feels good.
Teenagers simmer all the time. Here’s a classic example:
Two young people are high school sweethearts. During a five-minute break between classes, they meet at a pre-arranged spot. They smile, kiss, stroke each other’s hair, and enjoy each other’s scent. They embrace, and their bodies mold together. Then the bell rings. They hold each other’s gaze for a long moment, steal one more kiss, then run off in different directions.
You remember the feeling, right? You get to your next class feeling somewhat buzzed. The intoxication, of course, is sexual arousal in action—making you just a little more distracted than usual.
There’s no reason that older couples can’t get just as distracted in the privacy of their own bedrooms and kitchens. All that’s necessary is to recognize that there’s more to sexual arousal than just sex.
Simmering for couples is good for your sex life together. Cuddling not so much.
Too many couples spend their evenings curled together in front of the TV, quietly depleting whatever erotic charge might remain between them.
Too much cuddling can neuter your relationship. I’d rather couples not touch each other so much, unless there’s some erotic energy to be passed around.
Some people cuddle rather than simmer, because they’re afraid of frustrating their partners. They forget that physical intimacy should be a little frustrating. That’s what keeps you in the game. It’s OK. You don’t have to return your partner to a state of quiescence every time they get excited.
Some wives try not to do anything that would give their husbands an erection. They assume that if they were responsible for him getting hard, then they’re obligated to give him an orgasm.
That’s ridiculous. We men like being hard. It’s not a painful condition. Erections come and go. Not every erection has to end in orgasm. If your man doesn’t know this, he needs to learn it.
Instead of kissing your partner goodbye in the morning, why not simmer them goodbye? Hold them close for a bit longer than usual. Inhale the scent of their hair. There’s a moment here that won’t come again.
I know you’re anxious about the day ahead, but this is important too.
One or two minutes to simmer, on the way out the door in the morning. A pretty good recipe for keeping an erotic connection, for even the most harried modern couple.
In May 2011 I spoke with Virginia Sadock MD, Director of the Human Sexuality Training Program in the Department of Psychiatry at New York University Medical Center, on the best ways for busy Manhattan couples to keep an erotic relationship alive. We spent most of the time taking about simmering for Couples. Here’s an excerpt:
I feel so strongly about the importance of simmering for couples, that I talk about it everywhere I can.
Like on NBC Today online, in a piece I call The 1-Minute Sex Fix Every Couple Should Do Every Day
And on the following YouTube video:
You’ll also find detailed tips on simmering for couples at the end of Chapter 5 of my book, Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship(Saint Martin’s Press 2018). Chapter 5 is entitled, “The Art of the Easy.” And simmering is about as easy as it gets!
The payoff in good lovemaking later can be dramatic. Just heat and serve!