Many couples struggle with sex. Maybe you have different sex drives, you are preoccupied with your job or kids, or you have different sexual interests. Whatever the reason(s), when you find yourself in a sexual rut something that can be a highly pleasurable part of a relationship can become emotionally painful. People who previously felt close to their partner(s) through sex suddenly feel disconnected. Oftentimes sexual problems are seen as taboo and you do not talk about it. Not only does sex become an off-limits topic within the couple, but you might refrain from sharing with friends from whom you normally receive support. You might wind up feeling alone, neglected, frustrated, and ignored. The problem with avoiding the topic is that the problem will not go away. Without effort to change them, sexual problems can ruin your relationship.
Intimacy acts as glue in your relationship. By nurturing intimacy, you feel connected, happy, and cared for. There are different kinds of intimacy (emotional, physical, intellectual, recreational, and spiritual), but the one that tends to set intimate relationships apart from friendships is sexual intimacy. Without sex, couples tend to report feeling like roommates rather than partners.
Clients often ask what is a normal amount of sex. Rather than prescribing a golden rule, I tell them that it is more important that you are content with the amount of sexual intimacy in your relationship. Each couple defines their unique sexual threshold. We know that sex can fizzle when you have been in a relationship for a long time, but it certainly does not have to burn out and fade away.
Here are a few suggestions to reignite your sexual flame:
Schedule sex. Sounds unsexy right? It is sexier than no sex at all though! If you want sex to be a priority, you need to decide to make time for it just as you would for anything else (household chores, exercise, meals, etc.). Picture marking sex (or code word “date-night”) down on your calendar – could that be something to look forward to? It can feel both calming and exciting when you can rest assured that sex is on the horizon.
Communicate. Too often when couples come in for help in the bedroom, they tell me that they do not talk about the problem. The more you do not talk about it, the less likely you will get back to having the sex you are so sorely missing. Communicate with compassion and empathy. “It’s been so long since we’ve had sex. I miss you” works better than “Why haven’t we had sex?! What’s wrong with you?! You’re a bad partner!” Talk about what has changed over the last while that has contributed to lack of sex. Remind each other what you used to like about sex. Discuss fantasies, turn-ons, and new things you would like to try. Initiating the conversation is sometimes the hardest part. Once you are talking, it can actually be fun to talk about sex!
Experiment. Oftentimes sex becomes the same old thing – shake things up! What worked for years might have changed. Read erotica, watch pornography together, buy sex toys. Open a discussion about sexual desires and interests. Incorporate new activities in the bedroom; change your usual sexual routine and menu. That can range widely from doing something like wearing heels, putting on sexy music, trying new sexual positions, or having sex in a different part of the house, for example.
Incorporate mindfulness. Along with falling into a boring sexual routine, sometimes couples find themselves going into auto-pilot. By default auto-pilot means you are zoned out, not in the moment enjoying it. Wake up and tune in! Slow down and pay attention to all your senses (sight, smell, touch, taste). The simply act of touching different parts of your partner’s body can become exponentially exciting and arousing if you slow down and take your time. Rather than race to the finish, fully engage in the entire experience of having sex.
Take turns initiating. Usually the longer you have been in a relationship the more set your dynamic becomes, including who initiates sex. Having a usual sexual dance is not necessarily an issue, but it can be a problem if one of you is tired of your role. Maybe you question your desirability if you are always the initiator, or maybe you feel pressured if your partner always initiates. Even if you are content with your usual roles, it can be exciting to switch things up. Imagine your surprise if your partner acts out of character and initiates sex! If you are typically more passive, you may find it exciting and arousing to take on a more active/initiator role.
Educate yourself about sex and sexual issues. If you are experiencing a sexual disorder (erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, vaginismus, dyspareunia, inorgasmia, etc.), inform yourself about the condition. It can help to normalize what you are experiencing, thus decreasing stress and anxiety and you can begin to learn about ways to cope with the condition. You might choose to pursue counseling/sex therapy to benefit from a professional’s guidance in treating the issue.
Prioritize physical affection. All too often, when sex has become a sore spot within a couple, physical affection comes to a halt. It is important to remain connected physically. Exchanging touch reminds us that we are cared for and instills a sense of closeness. Physical touch releases “feel-good” hormones (oxytocin), decreases stress hormones (cortisol), and reduces blood pressure. That is to say, physical touch positively affects our brains, which becomes especially important if we are struggling emotionally related to lack of sex.
Some couples are content being in a sexless relationship. If you are not one of those couples and you want to reincorporate a healthy sexual connection, decide that sex is important and take the necessary steps. Remember that you have to actively engage in keeping sex alive, it will not keep up by itself. For couples who are emotionally intimate and are willing to put in the work, there is a good chance at getting back that satisfying sex life.
Sometimes couples wait a long time before seeking help. Rest assured, there is still hope even if it has been going on for years, however the longer you wait the more challenging it can be. If you recognize yourself in parts of this blog, one of our clinicians would be pleased to assist you in resuming a healthy sexual relationship. Call us at 514 223 5327 to schedule an appointment.