Long-distance relationships can pose a number of challenges, but the lack of physical touch ― an issue that has gotten worse due to travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic — can be especially difficult.
That doesn’t mean it’s a hopeless situation, however. If you find yourself in a long-distance relationship (whether in “unprecedented” or “normal” times), there are ways to maintain a hot sex life. We asked dating coaches, sex educators and other relationship experts to share their advice for keeping things spicy in a long-distance relationship. Read on for 19 tips.
“Not everyone is accustomed to long-distance intimacy. Start slow and get to know what you and your partner find fun and sexy. You can start with a flirty text or photo and work your way up to more intimate virtual encounters.” ― Andrea McGinty, a dating coach and founder of 33 Thousand Dates
“One thing that keeps IRL couples going is the anticipation of seeing one another for dates and being able to look forward to events, trips and other milestone moments together. If you and your boo are separated right now, you might have to manufacture that feeling. Put special virtual dates on the calendar weeks in advance that you can look forward to.” ― Damona Hoffman, a dating coach and host of the “Dates & Mates” podcast
Invest in toys.
“You can pick up an app-controllable sex toy that can be operated from across the planet!” ― Zoe Ligon, a sex educator and founder of Spectrum Boutique
“You can enhance the mutual masturbation with haptically connected sex toys, like the Max2 and Nora by Lovesense, which is literally designed for long-distance lovers. His device is a penis sleeve, hers is a full-on vibrator — and when they’re in sync, the movement of one toy triggers the response of the other.” ― Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and author of “So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex”
Organize creative activities.
“Give your virtual connections some kind of (ahem) activity. It doesn’t have to be a sexy one. You could plan a distance game night, play truth or dare together, do a sip-and-paint night, watch the same steamy show together (virtually), write each other old-fashioned love letters ― get creative.” ― Hoffman
Plan sexy video calls.
“In terms of sexual connection, sexting, pictures and screen-sex with each other can go a long way. It goes without saying that you need to fully trust your partner in order to send anything salacious. But if you do, the self-pleasure via electronic connection can be super sexy. Having a box of various self-pleasure toys can also bolster the variety of sensations and fun.” ― Jenni Skyler, sex therapist at the The Intimacy Institute
“Set up a Zoom chat and watch some hot ethical porn together. Try Erika Lust if you’re new to the world of ethical porn. In Gallery View, you can have a mutual masturbation session once you can’t take it anymore. Try to synchronize your orgasms.” ― Kerner
Make a bucket list.
“Create a bucket list together using a bucket list book, where you share hopes and aspirations for the future and connect and add to it weekly. This can help keep your discussions lively and fresh, as many bucket list items have to do with travel and can even be about intimacy goals and things you want to try together.” ― McGinty
Step up your communication.
“Few things are as triggering as talking about sex and intimacy for most people, so if you are new to the relationship or new to talking about your needs and wants, be gentle with yourself and your partner. Be curious and present without any judgement. Especially if you are separated physically, you want to ensure you are not ‘walking away’ from each other energetically. It can feel uncomfortable at first, but talking about sex and intimacy can also be the most rewarding and satisfying thing you do.” ― Ian Lavalley a relationship and intimacy expert with 7 Star Love
“Be impeccable with your communication. This includes volume and quality. I like to encourage couples to text or call a few times in the day and get in at least one FaceTime session per day. This may seem like a lot, but if they miss a day or two, then the increased volume on the other days can compensate for missed days. The goal is to somewhat replicate what healthy couples do who live under the same roof. In terms of quality, sharing our experience ― be it a basic rundown of the day to deeper, more meaningful feelings ― is best done with extreme ownership. ... Refrain from pointing any fingers, making any assumptions, and placing any blame. Rather, we own our feelings, our fears, and even our assumptions. We use ‘I’ language and ask questions with curiosity and compassion. The reason we need to do this is because it’s easy to fight, close the computer screen, and ignore the problem from afar for days on end. Nothing gets resolved and tension can grow exponentially.” ― Skyler
Take turns ‘hosting’ dates.
“I encourage couples to take turns hosting virtual date nights. This can be at the very basic level, where one partner selects the movie that they both watch together virtually, to the more sexually charged, like planning a virtual night out with themed food and toys that you have sent to your partner’s home prior to the date. The important thing is to mix it up and take turns showing each other fun aspects of your personality and sexuality.” ― McGinty
Create a romantic photoshoot.
“Slip into your hottest lingerie ― or boy shorts and a tight tank, whatever makes you feel good ― and pose for the camera. Then write provocative captions for each photo, including what you’d do to him if he was there, and send. Show as much or as little as you like, include your face or not — it’s all up to you. Or, FaceTime him with seductive poses, and let him screen-shot the images he likes!” ― Sadie Allison, a sexologist and the author of “Ride ’Em Cowgirl! Sex Position Secrets for Better Bucking”
Be clear about your boundaries.
“Because it’s long-distance, being really clear on your relationship and sexual boundaries is important. Are you sexually exclusive? Do you have other sexual partners when in different places? Again, don’t make any assumptions. Get super clear so you are on the same page and can have lots of fun without the context of your relationship.” ― Skyler
Surprise each other.
“Keep it interesting, and switch it up. If you have fallen into a virtual sex rut, add a new element. Pick out a new sex toy you want to try, send a surprise gift, write a letter. If you are used to sexting, try video or vice versa. The important thing is to switch it up and take turns planning.” ― McGinty
“Surprise each other with remote ways to be intimate ― mystery and lack of predictability are great ingredients of a thriving sex life!” ― Tracy Ross, a licensed clinical social worker specializing in couples and family therapy
“Continue to practice your own self-care and sexuality experiences — keeping yourself in a positive mental state and feeling sexy will do more for you than nightly phone sex sessions (which are rare in long-distance couples anyway).” ― Hoffman
“Keep working out, keep getting your mani/pedis, treat yourself to a mask while you WFH. The sexier you feel, the sexier you will be.” ― McGinty
Make a sexual ‘menu.’
“One thing I work on with all couples who want to keep the spark alive in their relationship is a sexual menu. In order to create a menu, each partner makes a list of all things he or she would potentially want to do or try in the sensual, sexual and erotic arena. I encourage people to be expansive, think out of the box, have fun with it — and just because something is only on your list doesn’t mean you have to try it. It’s a sort of sexual brainstorming without shame or expectation. Once they have given this thought and written it out, they share. The ground rules are no obligation, no shaming. ... There may be things you haven’t thought of and once you see them, you would consider, and there also may be things you just aren’t game for — and that has to be OK. Everyone is unique and it’s OK to have different desires and fantasies. This can become like a game, choosing different menu items to try and alternating between the two menus and taking turns with things on both menus getting high priority ... erotic literature or fantasy graphic novels, or cooking naked together (by video) or using some erotic toys...” ― Ross
Keep it audio-only.
“Couples are going to benefit from the increased courage and detachment of a phone call and they can share personal things they have a hard time disclosing face-to-face. For this reason, let’s let go of any dependency on video chat and go for old-school phone calls. There’s a reason radio is considered the most intimate medium. When we can watch, we often stop listening. When we can be watched, we can become preoccupied with our appearance. So relax and talk.” ― Steven Ing, a marriage and family therapist
“Before cellphones and FaceTime, we’d spend hours talking on landlines, enjoying the mystique of hearing your lover’s voice and using your imagination for the rest. Explore sexy talk with only your words and fluctuations of your voice to serenade. Remember it’s not always ‘what’ you say, but ‘how’ you say it. Tips: Speak much slower than you normally would, bring your voice low — like down to a whisper like you’re just waking up — and breath heavier into the phone.” ― Allison
“We teach our clients who have long-distance relationships to nurture curiosity and longing. Everyone will say have phone sex or video sex, and that’s fine, but you can actually create amazing connection and desire through curiosity. Curiosity means asking your partner what he or she would like to experience sexually and how you can meet those. This is also a great sexual mastery skill — actually listening and delivering on that! … To make this safe and less awkward, start by telling your partner what you really love about them and what you miss the most ― and what you wish to see, touch, cherish again. Then ask them to share what they want and would like to experience.” ― Lavalley
Release your inhibitions.
“If you tend to hold back because of inhibitions, now is a good time to try to push past some of them. Keep it fun. If something doesn’t turn out great, it’s OK. Many factors go into a hot sex life and it could just be an off day.” ― Ross
Have sex with yourself.
“Focus on your sexual relationship with yourself, even if you have a partner! While this isn’t the goal of masturbation, sexual time with yourself can make partnered sex even more amazing because it can help us know what types of stimulation we like and help us figure out how to communicate that to a partner.” ― Ligon
“Conjure up a fantasy about your partner, one that you can get off to. Orgasm is a very powerful reward that lights up all parts of the brain and leads to feelings of well-being. Too often we’re pairing our solo orgasms with a porn performer or character in an erotic novel, but by masturbating to fantasies of your partner you’re linking that feel-good reward with the long-distance lover you’re missing and reinforcing the connection between the two of you. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, but we also need to stay erotically focused on each other and find ways to use that absence creatively.” ― Kerner
“Fantasize about being with your partner again and what you want to do. If you feel comfortable, you can even share your fantasies with your partner. That can be hot!” ― Rachel Needle, licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist
Give yourself grace.
“Often the first thing I offer my long-distance couples to consider (and many of my non-long-distance couples, for that matter), is to give themselves grace. NOTHING is normal right now, so expecting your sex life to not only be normal but to thrive is perhaps unrealistic. ... Much of our cultural messaging about relationships is that a problem around sex means a problem with the relationship, and part of the work I’m doing now with many couples is helping them realize that that is not entirely true. They don’t have to beat themselves up if nothing about their sex life is fulfilling right now. The beauty of this grace, self-compassion and acceptance is that a lot of times, taking that pressure off actually improves the sexual situation!” ― Jill McDevitt, a sexologist and sexual happiness coach
Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.