Charlene x Ann Summers

Relationships aren't always easy, but luckily for this month's PPP, we're teaming up with sex & relationship therapist (and MAFS UK's resident love queen) Charlene Douglas, to help us navigate the ups and downs of long-term loving.

We'll be talking intimacy, trust and how to keep things exciting, even if you've been together forever, as well as whole load more advice to make sure your relationship works for YOU.

Why do you think toys can be beneficial to couples?

Toys can add a little bit of spice to your sex life. Toys can create different sensations in our bodies that can enhance our sexual experience and make our sex lives more exciting.

As a sex and relationships expert, what are your top tips for enhancing intimacy and connection in a long-term relationship?

  • Excellent, effective communication in a relationship is vital to enhancing intimacy and connection in a long-term relationship. It's important to discuss our wants and needs in a relationship with our partner, as these can change over time.
  • For a relationship to thrive and not just survive, it's important to regularly add something new, different or exciting. The same routine every day can become stale and boring.
  • Be more intentional about spending quality time with one another.

From your experience on MAFS, what do you think is the most important thing for a couple to have in common to be compatible?

It's important that couples have the same commitment to learning how to be a better lover and partner every day. A willingness to grow, compromise and do whatever it takes to have a successful and fulfilling relationship is vital.

What is your favourite Ann Summers toy and why?

My favourite Ann Summers toy has to be the power bullet set as it’s a great way for people with vulvas to explore different sensations with the help of the different textured heads.

Partner A can then caress other parts of Partner B's body, as the toy is being used.


What are some key factors that contribute to a successful and thriving relationship for couples?

  • The ability to resolve conflict in a healthy way. No long silences or aggression, but instead learning how to apologise if a reaction to a partner was irrational or unreasonable, and being able to arrange a time to resolve conflict in a calm setting.
  • Couples need to prioritise each other as often as they can and look for opportunities to demonstrate their love for one another.
  • Couples should look for ways to protect their relationship. For example if your partner is uncomfortable with you following /commenting on attractive men/women on social media, then respecting their views and exploring ways to help them to feel secure in the relationship. This might involve unfollowing people who make your partner feel insecure in their relationship with you.
Behaviours such as not answering phone calls in the presence of our partners or always going to another room to answer phone calls can create emotional unsafety and insecurities in a relationship.

How do you approach addressing sensitive and taboo topics within a relationship to maintain open communication?

Timing, setting, what you say and how you say it can all powerfully impact the outcome of sensitive and taboo topics within a relationship.

If a partner has just lost their job for example, and has started to search for new vacancies online, then this may not be the best time to discuss heavy topics.

Perhaps waiting until a partner is in a relaxed setting, and not super stressed would create an emotionally safer environment for them and give you a better response that would hopefully lead to a better outcome for you.

What advice would you give to couples who are experiencing a lack of passion or excitement in their relationship?

I would advise couples who are experiencing a lack of passion or excitement in their relationships, to simply address it, and work on the issue together. Oftentimes couples avoid discussing the challenges in their relationships, until it is at a desperate stage.

  • Set aside time to discuss the good and bad elements of your relationship.
  • Start by commiting to a weekly or fortnightly date night. Take it in turns to plan something fun and exciting like cooking a new dish together. Bring back the playfulness and fun to your relationship.
  • To really spice up your love life, perhaps arrange your next date by heading into Ann Summers and choosing some new exciting lingerie or sex toys. Start with items that make you feel excited and curious, and not items that make you feel pressured and overwhelmed.

Can you share some insights on how couples can prioritise self-care while maintaining a healthy relationship?

Couples can prioritise self care whilst in a healthy relationship, by not neglecting other areas in their lives that requires attention. As much as it's important to spend time with your partner, it can be equally important and great for your emotional wellbeing to have a support network where you can share how you're feeling and of course have fun.

What are some common misconceptions about relationships that you often encounter, and how can they be dispelled?

One of the most common misconceptions about relationships, is that if you love your partner then a relationship shouldn't require lots of effort. In order for us to thrive in our jobs we attend training courses, learn from colleagues, read books, receive supervision from our managers (who would usually have more experience than you) - How do we expect our relationships to grow and continue to provide us with fulfilment, if we don't put in the effort to make them better?

How do I see MAFS impacting real life relationships? What lessons can viewers take away from it?

I believe that many of us have dated or are married to, someone similar to at least one person on MAFS. It's for this reason that when I (and my co-experts) challenge, advise and correct the couples on the show, many real life couples reach out to me thanking me for helping them to work through issues in their relationships. Viewers are able to see that they are not alone with the challenges in their own relationships, as they watch our couples go through a rollercoaster of emotions.

Can you share some practical strategies for maintaining a healthy sex life within a long-term relationship?

My practical strategies for maintaining a healthy sex life within a long-term relationship are

  • Agree a suitable time where there are no distractions to have a discussion about your sex life.
  • Have a think about what turns you on and off and share with each other.
  • Commit to building emotional intimacy first of all, such as arranging fun date nights.
  • Build up to exploring each other's bodies through massage and try different ways to experience pleasure. For eg - sex toys or audio erotica