Every relationship experiences at least some form of a sexual slow-down at one time or another. Many factors can play a part, but times of extreme stress or boredom can certainly lead to slumps, funks, and dry spells. The pandemic and all the changes it ushered in certainly had a hand in making it more difficult for many to get in the mood and losing whatever sexual momentum they’d accrued.
If you’re experiencing a sex slump, it certainly doesn’t mean the end of a relationship. In fact, recognizing it and taking the proper steps to address it can bring you back to an even better place than before. Why? It forces you to put renewed effort into your relationship, learn more about your partner, and shake things up a bit. Particularly the latter might be what many couples need.
“As relationships get more stable, our body chemistry does, too,” says marriage and family therapist/AASECT-certified sex therapist, Rachel Zar. “This is a good indicator that our relationship is no longer precarious and uncertain – it’s safe – and our biochemistry quite literally changes to adapt to this new environment. As comfort increases, so does oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and things start to feel a little more, well, familial.”
Safety, per Dr. Zar, can feel even though it’s decidedly unsexy. But that doesn’t mean a relationship is dying or dead.
“Your relationship is not broken,” she adds, “and that feeling of safety and comfort is actually healthy – but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on relationship sparks forever. It just means you’re going to have to be a little more proactive about starting that flame, because your hormones aren’t taking the lead anymore.”
So, what are some approaches you can take? Here are a few to try.
Talk About It
When you sense something is amiss with your sex life, the best thing you do is also the most obvious: talk about it. Find an appropriate time and tell your partner how you feel and discuss what might be the underlying issue. Is it stress from work? A health issue? A lack of an emotional connection? Some sort of lingering resentment? The only way to know for sure is to have a conversation.
“There are a lot of variables out there that can affect people’s sex lives,” says Dr. Zar, “there are normal developmental milestones that can change your relationship to sex, specifically becoming pregnant, having children, taking care of children when they’re younger – especially if you have more than one.”
It’s also good to keep in mind that we’re still in the middle of this seemingly endless pandemic that’s touched virtually every aspect of our lives, too. So you shouldn’t find it surprising that such a life-changing event can hit us in the bedroom. Pop open a bottle of wine with your partner and get to the bottom of it.
“Remind your partner how much you love your sex life with them and how you would love to find a way for you to create space for it,” suggests Dr. Kate Balestrieri, sex therapist and founder of Modern Intimacy. Just remember: Be open and understanding of the issues brought up.
Put Sex on a Schedule
The idea of scheduled sex may bum you out because it seemingly puts sex in the same category as dental appointments and other not-so-fun things occupying the boxes of your Google calendar. But when you’re busy with kids and work and chores and everything else, penciling in regular date nights is a great way to ensure that you and your partner have time for connection and intimacy. Doing so can increase anticipation, so long as you and your partner text in the run up about your excitement.
But date nights don’t necessarily have to end in sex, stresses Dr. Zar. Rather, they can — and should — be fluid. They all should incorporate some version of intimacy, be it cuddling, making out, or whatever feels right. When sex does happen, it’s important to vary up the details, from who initiates to how long the foreplay lasts.
Work on yourself
Something Dr. Balestrieri can never stress enough is the importance of self-awareness and learning to understand your personal signals. Without truly knowing how you’re feeling and what you might need, it’s difficult to decipher what may be taking place. For instance, you might be misconstruing the dire state of your sex life because you’re so worn out by work. Or you might be feeling a bit low and need a bit more from your partner. Either way, it’s hard to figure out a problem if you’re not caring for your own needs.
“Remember you are individuals before you’re anything else,” says Dr. Balestrieri. “When you can learn new things about yourself or the world and bring that back to your partnership, it gives you something with which you can use with your partner.”
Get Some Distance
Even before COVID, a modern work-from-home culture began chipping away at the soulless office environment that sterilized our days. The problem is, now we’re spending too much time at home with our partners. One solution? Take a break.
“Some researchers are calling this a bit of a sexual recession,” adds Dr. Balestrieri. “COVID’s brought people closer together but it’s depleted their erotic fuel and the over-familiarity of seeing your partner in the same sweatpants for many folks – people are just too they need a little bit of texture and distance to rekindle that sexual energy.”
Her suggestion? Take yourself out for a lunch date, go see a movie alone, or, if time is tight, go on a walk and listen to a podcast. Just find some time to separate. Of course, you should also sit down and talk with your partner about what they need as well. When can you give them time to themselves and away? When can they do the same for you? How can you both make sure it happens? Figure out a plan to make it happen. When you both have time alone, good things happen. Distance does make the heart grow fonder.
Try Some Sex and Intimacy Apps
Sex and dating apps have come a long way since OkCupid, offering plenty of resources for couples who want to get closer on a few different levels. Lover, for instance, takes more of a scientific approach to sex with self-guided courses designed by real doctors. Others, like Desire, offer a regularly updated series of truth-or-dare-style questions that couples can use to infuse fun into their relationship. For couples whose waning sex life can be blamed on travel, OhMiBod connects people via Bluetooth to bring wireless intimacy into the relationship. (You can see our list of sex apps, here)
“Apps can be great,” says Dr. Balestrieri, “especially for people who have trouble making time for sex and need a little extra accountability— or have trouble coming up with ideas for ways to switch things up.”
Will all the apps provide what you need? No. But they each offer a way to add some more opportunities to try new things — some of which you may have never even thought of — which is exactly what your relationship may need.
Add Some Novelty
Variety is the spice of life. A good pinch, per both Dr. Balestrieri and Dr. Zar, of it can be just what your sex life needs, Sometimes the only problem facing a relationship isn’t really a problem at all, but rather just a funk from too much of the same thing. Going through the same routine can weigh on you, making you feel like your lives are boring. Try some new positions, change the places you have sex, incorporate some toys. Explore your kinks. Eat some pot gummies before sex (AskGrowers has an extensive list of the best strains to tackle anything from anxiety before sex to the best strains for solo play). Remember, when discussing new things you and your partner might want to try, keep an open kind — and judgement and shame out of the mix.
Remember that a slump will stay a slump the longer you ignore the problem. One point Dr. Kate and Dr. Zar both come back to is communication in a relationship. Talk and listen to your partner. Put forth the effort, incorporate some new changes, add a little texture, and your relationship will see.