The truth about sex is that, while there are certainly those legendary couples who have sex five times a week every week, most couples in long-term relationships experience sexless marriages. Sex in marriage fluctuates, and a dry spell isn’t necessarily indicative of irreversible damage. An important thing to note is that while the frequency of sex might dip, the quality of sex can and should increase. It’s when couples forfeit sex and intimacy all together in the longterm and find themselves in a sexless marriage that bigger issues could be at play.
Sexless marriages are, more often than not, a sign of deeper relationship issues like a lack of emotional intimacy, resentment, the “roommate phase,” or boredom. Whatever the case, a sexless relationship shouldn’t be ignored. Because the longer you wait to fix it the longer it will take to get solved. So what do you do if you find yourself in a sexless marriage? What steps can you take to fix a one? We asked a variety of sex therapists and counsellors who are well-versed in helping couples work through issues of sexual dry spells to walk us through how often people fall into sexless marriages, and how to help get a relationship back on track.
1. Break Down the Problem
“There are numerous causes for a sexless marriage to develop. Many times it doesn’t have anything to do with sex,” says Sarah E. Clark, a licensed therapist and relationship expert. “When couples start to drift apart, lose their connection, take each other for granted, or build up resentment toward each other, their sex life is drastically impacted. You can think of sex as the barometer of the relationship.”
According to Clark, open communication is key to working your way out of a sexless relationship. “To fix a sexless marriage you need to treat whatever the root cause is for that couple.” For example, she says if the reason a couple stopped having sex is strictly because they don’t enjoy sex with each other, then the fix is about breaking down what isn’t working in the bedroom and finding some new strategies that they will both enjoy. Each couple’s problems will be different, but looking for the root cause is the solution.
2. Talk About the Good Old Days
“There are so, so, so many things that have an impact on our level of desire, and it’s not always as easy to pinpoint as some may think,” says mental health counselor Erin C. Parisi. “Many relationships have people who do not have the same level of sexual desire.” Parisi recommends individuals ask themselves: What side of the spectrum do I fall on? It’s also a question, she says, you should eventually pose to your partner. Try talking about what sex was like before, when things changed, and what was going on around that time. “Ask your partner if they’re happy with how things are. If they could change something, what would it be? Make time to connect with each other, have fun, bond, flirt, try new things, tease, compliment, and set new goals,” she says.
3. But Don’t Try to Relive the Glory Days
“When I start working with parents who find themselves in a sexless marriage, I don’t tell them to go off and “just do it.” The first step is to simply help them have a better conversation about sex. Sexual problems are so common among new parents, but discussing them in a loving, creative, and productive way is not,” explains Dana B. Myers, sex coach and author of The Mommy Mojo Makeover. “There is often an expectation that couples should just return to the same frequency and the quality of sex. But with kids in the picture, things truly have changed. But things can get better once again, and with open communication, sex life after kids can become even more expansive and pleasurable than it was pre-kids.” According to Myers, people waste too much time talking about how little sex they’re having within marriage. She suggests getting proactive. Get to talking. If that’s too much of a challenge, think about seeking some professional help.
4. Nurture the Emotional Intimacy
When fixing a sexless marriage, “A first step would be working through any areas of resentment in the relationship and fostering emotional closeness through increased time together, intimate conversation, and affection,” says Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a licensed psychologist and marriage counselor. Fisher says feeling relaxed during sexual encounters is key to sexual responsiveness. Anxiety, he explains, tends to kill the mood, leading to less sex. From there, he suggests setting up a sex schedule to help get things back on track. “Most couples have a discrepancy in sex drives, which can often lead to a lack of regular sex. Creating a ‘sex schedule’ of one to three times per week can be a perfect solution.”
5. Stop Comparing Your Sex Life to the Movies
Couples should avoid comparisons whether or not they are trying to fix a sexless marriage. “People often compare their sex lives to what they see on TV, movies, porn, or to what their friends claim to have,” says Eliza Boquin, a relationship and sexuality expert. “Way too often, people are misled into believing that everyone except them is having great sex.” If you are worried about the state of your sex life, or fear having a sexless marriage, Boquin suggests entertaining some open and honest conversation. “If you’re unable to communicate about sensitive topics like sex, then it’s time to learn some new communication skills. Avoiding a topic because it’s uncomfortable is the best way to feed the problem.”
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