“Just acknowledging that it’s been a rubbish time for everybody takes the pressure off. There is an end in sight now.”
Tracey Cox has been writing, researching and talking about sex and relationships for thirty years.
Touring the world as an international sex, body language and relationship expert, she’s made numerous programs both in the UK and the US.
Her academic background is in psychology and she’s counselled via the media for decades.
With 17 books under her belt, too, her expertise is clear! Her latest book – Great Sex starts at 50, is out now.
Relationships have been under so much pressure recently thanks to the pandemic.
I was eager to get her take on it all – and hopefully come away with some great advice.
I wasn’t disappointed. Straight talking, raunchy and fabulous, Tracey has some real pearls of wisdom for us all to digest….
Hi, Tracey. How do you feel the pandemic has affected sex and relationships in the UK. What kind of issues have you seen?
It’s been both a disaster and it’s had some good sides.
Everybody’s having loads of private sex sessions, which is great.
With couples, in the beginning of lockdown, everybody thought it was fantastic.
But, for sex, you need separateness.
You need both of you going forth into the world, having your own experiences.
Lust particularly doesn’t like that.
Even people who get on well are struggling. A lot of couples have just decided to finish.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, lots of people stay in relationships that they really shouldn’t be staying in.
Very true! And what advice would you give to couples wondering how to best look after their mental health and support each other?
You have to look after yourself first.
And you cannot be good mentally, if you’re not good physically.
Get out there, have a little bit of time, whether that’s escaping into a book, listening to music or a podcast.
I cannot go to bed without reading a book. My brain needs that sort of set ritual.
Another thing to try, picture yourself sitting on the bank of a river watching your thoughts and fears go past
Instead of reacting, just acknowledge them.
Remember that all the stuff that you’re dealing with, it doesn’t last, nothing is permanent.
Just acknowledging that it’s been a rubbish time for everybody takes the pressure off.
There is an end in sight now. Keep that focus.
As a mental health organisation, we’re all about the importance of communication. What advice would you give to couples who have lost the connection they once had?
If people are bad at communicating it’s often because they haven’t got a handle on their communication styles.
Do you like face-to-face communication? Would you prefer to be on the phone? Would you like a letter?
Focus on how you want to communicate with your partner. It can really help.
What’s your advice for overcoming trust issues in relationships?
I’ve always been especially interested in trust because my dad had an affair for 10 years.
All us three siblings were left with massive trust issues, as you can imagine.
That’s what attracted me to studying psychology, how that lack of trust can affect your relationship.
With my first marriage, I would imagine all sorts. It was hell for us both.
He’d gone down the road to get a pint of milk and came back to this awful barrage of questions.
So you have no choice really – accept that you have to have it, or you accept that you can’t trust at all.
And if that’s the case, then forget about relationships until you can get yourself off to a good therapist!
If you don’t trust your partner, say to them, ‘I struggle to trust you. I need your help with this.’
It’s a much better way to come at a problem.
If you’re with the right person, they will sit down and they will give you reassurance, but if you’re with somebody who doesn’t deserve your trust, they won’t react very well to that.
When you meet somebody that is really trustworthy and really transparent, suddenly trusting becomes the easiest thing in the world.
So it’s also about your choices.
Brilliant advice – and what about sex? Do us Brits need to talk about it more?
It is the single most effective thing that you can do! (apart from having it regularly.)
We fall into this trap of thinking if our partner loved us, they would know exactly what we want.
The only way you can ever have great sex is to say what you like.
You’re not going to get anywhere otherwise.
I’ve done so many TV shows, counselling couples, and it’s awkward to say “Can we talk about sex” when you’ve never said that before.
But I’ve never met a couple yet, who didn’t think that little moment of embarrassment wasn’t worth it.
You don’t even have to have long, heavy discussions.
If they start looking a bit uptight or you’re getting embarrassed stop.
The next time you start talking about sex, again, as a general topic, you can take it a little bit further.
It’s just practice. That’s all it is.
Amazing. And what about people who haven’t got anyone to have sex with? People who think they’ve missed the boat, people you think there’s no one out there for them?
I met the love of my life when I was 50. There’s always hope.
When people don’t meet somebody, it’s one of three things.
The first thing is is that they’re not going out enough.
The other thing that people do wrong is that they get all confused with their pulling power.
Most of us, match up with our equals. No good saying, I haven’t been able to find anyone, if you’re going for Brad Pitt and you’re not Angelina Jolie.
It doesn’t help to underestimate your pulling power either, because it’s still uneven.
In fact, it’s the person who is in the insecure position of ‘how did I get this amazing person’ that often leaves.
So just be clear where you sit on the attractiveness scale.
Not just physical attractiveness, it could be your sense of humour, your social standing, your intelligence.
Everything that makes you an attractive person.
And don’t be closed minded. There are plenty of great singles out there.
Mind you, lots of women who live on their own, thought the lockdown was going to be awful for them
Instead they came out realising they don’t need a relationship to be happy.
They buy a dog for example. The minute women buy a dog, it’s all over! They forget the man!
Dogs are great. Friends are great. Books are great. Movies are great. Food’s great.
If you realise that, then you go out there a lot more relaxed.
And of course, when you stop seeking and just enjoy life, you’re a lot more attractive!
Definitely. And your book, great sex starts at 50. What is it about ageing that makes sex better?
Lots of people get to that age and they think I’ve got a few difficulties. But there are a solutions to pretty much all problems.
If you actually move sex from being all about intercourse, to being about foreplay, oral sex, non penetrative sex, suddenly it opens up a whole new world.
Sex becomes less performance based. It’s less orgasm focused. And most people report much higher sexual satisfaction because they stop worrying.
Most women don’t orgasm from penetrative sex anyway, so for women, it’s often better.
And for men, if they can relax then it’s a lot better for them as well.
Wow! And what do you wish you’d known about sex and relationships when you were younger?
I wish I’d known that I didn’t have to be as people pleasing. I wish I’d spoken up.
That sex was on my terms, not his terms.
Is he thinking I’m sexy? Is he having a good time?
Particularly as a female, because it’s more difficult for women to orgasm.
It’s a lot easier for a man to reach orgasm than it is a woman.
There is no doubt about that. I don’t care what anyone says.
So turning it around, instead of making it all about the man. It should always have been about me.
Young women these days are very much aware. ‘This is my body, this is how I want to be treated.’
I think that’s a wonderful thing. Not all of course.
We have this half generation of very woke, young women and a half generation of same old, same old.
Waiting for men to choose you, all that stuff. That saddens me.
What kind of issues do you see the most? What are the most common issues for couples and sex?
I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I see the same things over and over.
It’s always penis problems. Not lasting long enough, not getting hard enough.
Jealousy is the number one relationship problem.
For women, it’s not feeling sexy.
This myth that women have a lower sex drive than men. It simply is not true.
But, if you put a woman in a situation like a long-term relationship and give her very boring sex, she will go off it much faster than men will.
Women need adventure and excitement and erotica much more than men do.
Men make out that they’re the ones that want adventure, but they can have an orgasm so quickly.
It’s simple. Give women interesting sex and they’re interested, give women boring sex, and they’re not interested.
Whereas men are interested in boring sex and interesting sex.
It sounds like your book, great sex starts at 50 could be helpful for any age!
Yes. It’s especially good for anyone in a long-term relationship.
I wrote my first ever book when I was 30, called Hot sex, how to do it.
There’s lots of funny stories in there about sex, and very practical tips too.
It’s is a great book particularly if you’re younger.
Great sex starts at 50 is a really good book for anyone over the age of 40, because it deals with the common problems that everybody has.
You’ve got such confidence. Where does that come from?
I had a big sister who used to work for family planning in Australia so I was reading how to put on a condom instead of fashion magazines! Sex was a very open thing.
I talked to my dad about his affair. I was fascinated by the forces of love and sex at a very early age because of that.
So it became my topic.
And yes, I’m confident now but I did a lot of faking it in the beginning.
I’m still sometimes insecure in my social life.
Fake it till you make it, I say.
For the couple stuck in a rut, wanting to get the magic back… What would you say to them?
Work out 10 new things to try. Same for the relationship in general, you have to have goals.
Traditionally you go out, you move in together, then you get engaged, you get married, have a baby, buy a house, you have grandchildren.
You’re always working towards something.
Because we’re not forced into following this traditional path, create other things.
Ask yourselves – what will help our relationship?
And sometimes you can have all the love in the world. but you’re just not compatible.
Try counselling, because it could be a very simple tweak.
But if it’s just pushing uphill the whole time, you should walk away.
So, no drama?
A little bit of drama is fine, but not drama constantly.
I think the minute you want to actually have a life, you don’t choose those roller coaster relationships.
They’re so unhealthy for you.
Do you have experience of therapy yourself?
Yes! A few years ago I’d pop along whenever I felt like I needed help.
I mean if you’ve got a cold or some disease, you go to the doctor.
Tracey’s latest book – Great Sex starts at 50, is out now.