The giving and receiving game
An easy way for couples to nurture and deepen their sex, love and intimacy with each other.
By Roger Butler from Curious Creatures. www.curiouscreatures.biz
Most relationships begin with relatively good sexual activity. For a while – the ‘limerance’ phase – it’s so exciting to be in relationship with this new special person that sex tends to unfold pretty enthusiastically. But for almost all relationships, this phase passes as the relative mundanity of life kicks back in; we stop making special time for each other, the initial sense of never-ending attraction is replaced by the usual minor human frustrations, or life just gets busy.
Then, if you have kids, you experience one of the biggest challenges to a fertile sex-life – sleepless nights, compromised health, existential crisis (or at least refocussing of what’s important), and a workload that no amount of pre-reading does justice to.
If this is you, don’t worry: You’re behaving perfectly normally, and the challenges you’re experiencing can be solved. What follows is a few general strategies you can employ, and one specific intervention that’s easy to implement and works for most people, most of the time: The Giving and Receiving Game.
The structure of this game is really simple: You take it in turns asking for what you want, and the other person gives that activity for 2-5 minutes. Then you swap (and repeat, for as few or as many rounds as you want). The simplicity of the structure doesn’t give you any hint as to just how far-reaching it can be.
When it’s your turn to ask for something, I recommend simply shutting your eyes, and trusting your intuition. What you come up with will often be very surprising and unusual. But that’s what intimacy is like; sex is often portrayed as only being about kissing, manual stimulation, oral, and penetration – and while these things can be loads of fun – our bodies and minds are often way more creative than that. Free yourself from expectations around things like orgasms, arousal, or anything that looks like sex is portrayed on television, and instead just see where your curiosities take you.
Here are some of the favourite things I’ve asked for in over a decade of playing this game:
- Cradle my head in your lap and tell my why you love me / why I’m a good person.
- Tickle my back with a feather.
- Massage my feet, my shoulders, my….
- Feed me desert
- Remind me of a happy memory we share
- Make me a cup of tea with love
- Let me watch you undress / stretch / dance / self-pleasure / etc.
…And of course many more sensual, caring and sexy things that can’t be written here. Suffice to say, you can let your mind go wild if the mood takes you.
One of the most delicious things about this exercise is that if the two of you are wanting a sexual experience but can’t imagine how to get started, the structure will give you an opportunity to have all of your foreplay needs met. What seems at first like a clunky and overly structured approach to intimacy can quickly become your reliable go-to approach.
With the processing of change that comes with child-birth and life with your baby, you will sooner or later be able to find time for each other as a couple again. This may come during your baby naps, choosing to leave the dishes til later, not flicking on the TV, or setting a clear intention that Mon is date night, for example. What ever works for you! It’s almost impossible to guarantee you’re going to be energised or aroused when ‘date night’ comes around, but you can commit to simply being there – which is all the Game asks of you. It will come to be a little moment of sanctuary in a schedule that is otherwise dedicated to kids, work and whatever else.
You will learn new things about yourself, and each other. Even after decades of being together, the simple act of being able to check in with your body and see what kind of attention it would like will reveal many delicious new things.
The short and simple structure of the game addresses something that stops many of us from asking for what we want: Fear of being perceived as selfish lovers. If we’re only going to be in receiving-mode for 2-5 minutes (and anyway then swap over and give back), you’re not leaving much for your internal critics to latch onto? Also, the game solves another problem: What do you do when you’ve asked your partner for something, and they give it to you, but then you tire of the activity or change your mind? How do you politely say “thank you, but no thank you” without appearing demanding or ungrateful? The answer is embedded in the structure; the buzzer goes off, and the activity ends. More often than not, you’ll be left with a sense of longing for more, which is absolutely perfect! It’s better to end an activity before it reaches its use-by date; it’s better to leave yourself hungry.
Pro-tip: You can simply give an activity for a period without a timer and then call ‘time’, but very few people are good at this. It’s much better if you just use a timer on your phone; no-one needs to be responsible for keeping track of time, or for interrupting a fun activity. Your phone does the hard work!
Another pro-tip: Intimacy and Sex is often portrayed in a way where your partner just somehow magically knows how to touch you, without you asking. That’s true for a very small percentage of the population; the rest of us benefit a lot from using our language skills and asking for what we want – the person that’s using communication in their sex-life is guaranteed to be having better sex than the person that isn’t. Once you’ve asked for something, your partner can respectfully negotiate anything that isn’t right for them – that’s part of the communication process. This game will help you to get much better at asking for what you want, and therefore it’s much more likely that that’s what will happen.
There are other strategies you might want to put in place, depending on your circumstances. Some of them are quick and easy, some of them require some self-development and relationship work along the way – however, sex and intimacy is like anything else, in that it takes time and practice to get good at it. For some reason, we often think we should just be good at sex without putting any effort in, which is weird, because that’s true for no other skill.
Some specific things you might want to consider:
- As mentioned above, make special, quality time for each other. A regular time each week – even just a half an hour, if that’s all you’ve got – puts you well ahead. For bonus points, make a commitment to be well-slept and not hungover for it.
- Read books, sign up for webinars, go to workshops, listen to podcasts, read articles, and generally raise your education about your sexuality. We live in liberated times, and there is a stunning amount of quality information out there.
- Become each other’s allies around your sexual challenges. Work together on things like loss of libido, the limitations of your bodies, and whatever shame or emotional dents you bring from your respective histories – well all have them. It feels amazing when you’re in partnership with your partner in tackling sexual bumps in the road.
- If you have mismatched libidos, talk about it. See if you can find different ways of doing intimacy that meet both of your needs – between mismatched libidos often lies new forms of play waiting to be discovered. Be respectfully inquisitive about what’s blocking the lesser-libido person (but don’t assume they need to change). If things are really entrenched, perhaps more focus could be put on self-pleasuring. And while it can be very challenging territory to negotiate, a surprising number of couples solve the problem of mismatched libidos by introducing another partner or sex-worker, within certain boundaries. Either way, be creative; don’t limit yourself to standard ideas of what’s meant to work.
- Work on other relationship issues. Sometimes sex-lives are reflective of broader issues, and a challenge in one area will present as a sexuality problem. It’s hard to be attracted to someone you feel frustration, or hurt, or invisibility (etc.).
- Attend to your general health. Arousal (and performance) is directly affected by your fitness, sleep, immune system, etc.
- Make sure you treat each other’s sexual advances like gold. Don’t dismiss them out of hand, even if you’re not interested in the activity being offered at that time – otherwise you will one day lament that there are no more offers forthcoming. “Thank you for that offer. It’s interesting, but not quite right for me. Would you consider doing this, instead?”.
Most of all, assume that you’re perfect as you are. Be compassionate on yourself for all the experiences that have led you to this point, and also your partner. Be curious about your thoughts, concerns, and quirks in relation to sex, and see if you can find ways to bring them in rather than hope they go away.
There is model of sex that is right for all people; the best we can do is simply run a series of experiments and notice the results. Your unique expression is there, waiting for you to find it.
Roger Butler is the principal facilitator behind Curious Creatures, and runs a variety of workshops on sexuality and self-development. He doesn’t claim to be the first to have discovered the Two-Minute Game; it’s been around in various versions for a while.
If you like what’s being discussed above, you will probably like the workshop ‘Tantra for the rest of us: Fun Little Sex Games’. Versions are fun for couples, hetero singles, and gender-blender singles.