As a relationship and couples therapist, I see the same story all too often. The pressures of everyday life leave no time to nurture the relationship, and as a result, sex becomes less frequent, if not non-existent. Couples come in wanting their sex lives to resume some regularity, but it’s not always as simple as just firing it back up. There has to be an exploration as to why something that should be enjoyable and pleasurable for both parties becomes last on the priority list.
There are numerous reasons why couples don’t have sex and the fact that the topic is uncomfortable to talk about prevents people from addressing or understanding why the relationship has gone from hot to not. Typically, a sexual drought has very little to do with sex itself. The title of this blog is catchy, but not to be taken too literally at first. Scheduling time for your relationship can begin the process of exploring why you are disconnected from your partner, help expose unaddressed issues, and eventually get intimacy back on track.
Below are a few tips on how you can start to understand where the sex went, schedule time to focus on yourselves as a sexual couple, and have more sex.
Why do you have sex? As a relationship matures, typically so do the complexities that come along with commitment. We juggle work, family, social commitments and taking care of a household. We put in so much physical and emotional energy daily that sexual exertion on top of that seems overwhelming. Couples wonder why the frequency of their sex diminishes over time when they were able to juggle it all initially. It’s important to look at how we view sex in our relationship. Do you feel like you have to have sex to keep your partner satisfied? Do you find sex to be pleasurable? Has the purpose of sex changed now that you have relationship security? In the beginning, couples are excited by the newness. Over time, sex morphs from something we want into something more obligatory: You feel burdened by your partner’s expectations, time constraints for conception and what is normal by societal comparisons. Pressure is not sexy and can have adverse effects on trying to increase sex frequency. Additionally, aiming for a sudden increase in sex creates more pressure and more room for disappointment.
Prioritize couple time. Start to prioritize scheduling time to focus on your relationship the same way you would prioritize going to the gym or making dinner plans. Everyone can find at least one hour a week to focus on something essential to the quality of your relationship. Of course, the more time spent the better. Initially, utilize the time to communicate about why you think sex has dwindled. If you are having trouble figuring it out or are resistant to exploring why, seeking the help of a professional can ease you into communicating more effectively as couple. As you become more comfortable with the idea of prioritizing sex, start to plan something that helps you reconnect as couple. It could be a walk, a dinner date or getting into bed a little early to have some pillow talk.
Stop waiting for spontaneity. Spontaneous sex at the beginning of the relationship is exciting. It also happens because when a relationship is new, we are less comfortable rejecting our partner’s initiation if we aren’t in the mood. No two people’s sex drives are the same, which makes spontaneous sex far less common than we remember it being in the beginning of the relationship. The desire for sex to be more spontaneous seems great, but if you aren’t having sex, you may have stopped looking for the opportunities to be more spontaneous. Over time, prioritizing you sexual intimacy will keep sexual connection in the forefront of your mind, retraining your brain and increasing your likelihood to see opportunities for unplanned sex. Additionally, consistently prioritizing romantic time and regaining your sexual confidence allows for more spontaneity to generate over time in and out of the bedroom. Send that flirty text! Remember, if we really wanted all our sex to be spontaneous, we wouldn’t have sought out the security and predictability of a relationship.
If you don’t use it, you lose it. We wear many hats and the ones that we are in most of the day tend not to be sexual ones. When you are a parent and/or an employee all day, it can be hard to transition to the role of sexual partner. We hang that hat in the back of the closet and so we don’t reach for it as frequently. We are often exhausted by the end of the day and trying to transition roles to engage in sex can feel forced and awkward. One thing we all need at the end of the day is a way to decompress and shed stress to avoid burnout, not more pressure from another perceived responsibility. How are you at self-care? Continue engaging in the activities that help to replenish your energy stores, but leave room for diversification. Look at scheduling time with your partner as another way to relax at the end of a long day. Take the time to allow yourself to relax enough so that transitioning into a more sexual role becomes easier. The more you do it, the more natural it will get. The oxytocin and endorphins released by sex are the best natural ways to alleviate stress and they will help enhance your emotional bond with your partner, too!
You are worth it. Prioritizing sex allows you the chance to give yourself pleasure and prioritizing sex shows your partner that they are of value and importance to you. When you engage in pleasurable acts, pleasure should act as positive reinforcement. The human brain is wired to seek out pleasure and when doing something elicits a dopamine response, we want to repeat it. Chances are, you are engaging in some form of self-pleasure. In fact, most couples who aren’t having what they deem is enough sex are still masturbating. If you are denying yourself pleasure, it is imperative to explore the reasons why. When you start to choose pleasure and prioritize your time with your partner, sex should resume.
Plan for time conflicts. We all get busy. When something throws your week off track like an illness or a business trip, already having intimacy dates on the schedule can give you something to look forward to and help you to feel less upset if your time together is limited the rest of the week. If your busy week affects your scheduled couple time, having a regular date helps you to feel less dejected in the moment. Still try and take the time you have set aside to do something for yourself like a bath or massage or something together with your partner long distance, like a Skype dinner date.
Good sex is about quality, not quantity. Don’t get caught up in how often a magazine article says you should be having sex. Every couple is different. Try to release yourself from comparisons and think about what is pleasing for you and your partner during sex. Focus on the time spent together being enjoyable for both of you and communicate about how you can achieve that.
Addressing sex in your relationship is no small feat and if at any point it feels too daunting, there is no shame in seeking out a professional to help you navigate. Attempting to schedule sex may help to highlight and face resistances towards sex that are preventing you from having a more satisfying sex life. If you find that you keep trying to set aside the time and you aren’t getting anywhere, it may be an indication that something deeper is going on and consulting a therapist could be helpful.