Are You Having Efficiency Sex?

Here’s how to tell…and what you can do about it

 Is your sex life all about doing it at the same time, in the same place, in the same way? Then you’re having efficiency sex.

“It’s the Sheppard’s Pie of sex – the comfort food of sex,” says Dr. Guy Grenier, a London, Ontario-based psychologist and relationship expert.

“Everybody recognizes it, they just didn’t know it had a name. Most couples have efficiency sex. And it’s common among both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Most people don’t call it that, they just report having a hum-drum sex life or a very perfunctory sex life.”

Dr. Grenier says there’s definitely a time and place for efficiency sex, but it’s a problem when it becomes the primary or the only form of sex people have. “It’s a flavour of sex that says ‘I know what you need to get you there and you know what I need to get there’ and that’s pretty much all you do.”

It often gets a foothold very early on in a relationship, “borne of the production versus connection problem,” Dr. Grenier says. “We were once young and romantic and hot for each other and then we had to start building our careers, buying houses and having babies and coaching soccer and doing laundry.” In comes efficiency sex and out goes the kind of intimate connections you used to have. It’s a rut and it can carry on for a long time – right into the Zoomer years.

Part of the reason efficiency sex can linger so long is that usually neither partner wants to be the one to bring it up for fear of hurting the other person’s feelings, or for fear of their partner thinking they’re suddenly into something really kinky – or because they don’t want to see the whole thing escalate into an even bigger issue.

So what can you do about it?

“Rather than trying to remake people sexually and turn them into sexperts, we suggest they make small changes in their sexual patterns,” says Dr. Grenier, who suggests starting by picking a different time of day than you normally do, then introduce a new place to have sex.

“If you normally have sex in the bedroom, try the kitchen or the bathtub,” he recommends. “Introduce changes one at a time so you don’t need to be terribly expressive, but you might just see things from a different perspective and it may spur you on to further desires to start talking and even be a little more adventurous.”

And remember, efficiency sex isn’t all bad all the time. In fact, it can be a good thing.

“When you’ve learned what your partner likes it’s nice to have efficiency sex in your back pocket,” points out Dr. Grenier. “Like when you’ve just finished a week of entertaining or something and you’d like an intimate moment. Having efficiency sex in that instance is a comfortable place to go.”

And one of Dr. Grenier’s favourite – and simplest – interventions he recommends to clients seeking help for a ‘hum-drum’ sex life? Here’s what he says:

“This week you’re going to give each other a massage before having efficiency sex, but you’re not allowed to use your hands. That, I have found over the years, is just risqué enough to get people thinking about exploring their entire bodies.”

Finally, if you’re having efficiency sex and would like to talk to your partner about it but are afraid, try this, suggests Dr. Grenier.

“Don’t make it your idea, say something like ‘I read this thing in Zoomer magazine’ or ‘I heard this piece on the radio and it got me thinking’. That way it’s not blaming, it’s just a topic of conversation.”