Spring clean your sex life

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Can you really detox your sex life? Yes. Here's how to identify your bad sex habits and make them a thing of the past.

Couple in shower
We all have bad sex habits. Whether it's being too giving or too selfish between the sheets, or carrying a lifetime's worth of baggage from one relationship to the next, most women will at some time experience a glitch in their love lives when toxic emotional build-up results in total passion break down. But don't stress. Now is the ideal time to detox your sex life, and we've brought together the UK's leading sex experts to help you do just that.

The problem: Laziness or selfishness

The symptoms: This is common in long-term relationships. You know how to make your partner come, so you do the bare minimum to get there. Why give a blow-job when a hand-job gets the same result with less effort? Or why indulge in foreplay at all when you can stick on a porn movie and get him raring to go with no effort? But being a lazy or selfish lover can encourage the rot to set into a relationship. And don't be surprised if your partner begins to act the same way before long. Sex expert, Flic Everett says: "It's amazing how many people fall into laziness once they become attached. Think about the reasons you've become selfish. Is it because your partner made a negative comment about your technique and you thought 'stuff you, then'? Do you secretly think that your partner will stay with you no matter what? Do you even fancy your partner? By tackling the underlying cause you're more likely to find a solution.

Of course, it could be that the reason you've become lazy is that it takes your partner hours to come and you get bored, tired or demotivated. If so, try throwing in some dirty talk, add lube to hand-jobs to intensify the sensation and talk to your partner about his fantasies to see if there's anything that will help tip him over the edge quicker. It takes two people making an effort for great sex - and sometimes it really is better to give than receive."

Need some inspiration? Have just-met sex tonight with Tracey Cox's sex tips for long-term lovers.

The problem: Baggage

The symptoms: There are many ways to carry baggage, from fixating on a previous partner and feeling no one else ever quite matches up, to feeling insecure about your body or sexual performance. If you find yourself mentally comparing your current lover to your ex and find them falling short, or feel that you must have sex in a particular position that hides your thighs/bum/boobs, it may be time to offload some baggage. Relate counsellor, Paula Hall says: "It's all too easy to get stuck in the past, but as long as you keep clinging to it, how can you possibly enjoy the present? You need to accept that the past happened and move on. If you're trying to get over an ex, spend time being single rather than looking for somebody else to cling to. It's only when you feel happy in yourself that you'll be in a good state to have a healthy relationship (see our 15 tips on how to be a happy couple).

Also, remember, previous relationships you've had ended for a reason, but it's easy to put those rose-tinted glasses on when you're looking back. No matter how amazing that thing was that your ex did with his tongue, he's still the one who wound you up by not doing the washing up, or spending all his time with his mates.

Finally, if you feel insecure write a list of all your good points and read it every day to help positive thoughts feed into your subconscious. And if your insecurities are down to negative comments people have made about you, remind yourself that insults often say more about the person giving them than they do about you."

The problem: Man-pleasing

The symptoms: If he feels like sex, you have sex. If he wants a blow-job, you spend hours down there (or just minutes because you've perfected your technique with deep throat as standard). Whatever he wants, he gets, but when it comes to your pleasure, neither of you are really sure what you like. As long as you're keeping your partner happy, you're satisfied. Relationship expert, Tracey Cox says: "You'd think that man-pleasing would have gone out with the '50s but it's still a common issue. And though some men do love it, they're not generally the kind of blokes who'll be able to offer you a healthy relationship.

Man-pleasing smacks of insecurity - you're scared that if you're not the 'best lover ever' your partner will leave you - and insecurity just isn't sexy. So work on your confidence and, if you're single, take a break from dating for a while to show yourself that you can have fun on your own. It's also worth bearing in mind that man-pleasing can backfire on you. Most men like it when their partner enjoys themselves so your orgasm is just as important to them."

The problem: Image consciousness

The symptoms: During intercourse you want to look like an A-list starlet in a choreographed Hollywood sex scene. You feel conscious of your facial expressions and you find yourself acting out moves you've seen on TV rather than following the natural rhythm of your body. If that isn't enough to think about, the idea that you could fart at any moment completely horrifies you. From an audience point of view, raw sexual energy is far more erotic to watch than Hollywood's Meg Ryan-style climaxes, and - as a general rule - if you spend more time wondering about whether you look sexy rather than whether you actually feel sexy, you're definitely doing something wrong.

To see what you're missing out on, try having sex with your man in complete darkness with appropriate background music to cloak both sounds and sights. Focus every ounce of your attention on the feelings in your erogenous zones. Concentrate on how great your clitoris feels with each thrust, linger on the delicious sensation in your nipples as he licks your breasts, contort your face, breathing deeply in and out with no regard for the world outside of your body and its responses. That is what good sex feels like, and if you practise it often enough you'll soon be able to recreate it with the lights on.

The problem: Guilt

The symptoms: Even though you nod along knowingly to the rude bits in Sex And The City, you can't help but feel that being sexual is dirty (and not in a good way). You might find flirting easy but you find it hard to reach orgasm no matter what your partner does. You may feel uncomfortable about receiving oral sex or you could even feel that masturbation is wrong. Dr Pam Spurr, sex agony aunt, says: "Many people, women in particular, feel guilty about sex. This tends to originate in childhood, often through parents or teachers who reinforce the message that 'sex is bad' and not something 'nice girls' do. If so, it can be useful to visit a counsellor to help you get to the root of the problem. They will tell you there's nothing wrong with having orgasms. Practise on your own if you find it hard reaching orgasm with a partner. Vibrators are even prescribed by the NHS in some parts of the country as they're known to be helpful in female sexual dysfunction.

Feeling guilty can also stem from a thoughtless partner using words like 'nympho' or 'demanding' in a negative context in the bedroom because you have a higher libido than he does. Differing sex drives are very common in relationships and, just because one partner wants sex more than the other does, it doesn't mean that either of them is wrong. They're just different. 'Accept your own sexuality but also realise that your orgasm is not your partner's responsibility. Again, masturbation can work by sating the physical desire but some people crave lots of sex because they want reassurance or an ego boost from their partner. If so, look at increasing the affection in your relationship. A good snogging session can be just as intimate - if not more so - than penetrative sex."
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