Very few couples can make it through a long-term relationship without falling into a sexual rut or two. Sometimes your sex lifeis best summed up by a string of fire emojis while other times, it’s the falling-asleep emoji, or the rolling-its-eyes emoji, or any other option that depicts some version of boredom, frustration, or annoyance that the bed-breaking days are long gone. But how do you know whether you’ve got a regular sexual rut or relationship-ending situation on your hands? Here, two experts break down how to know whether your sex life can rebound from this downswing, or if it might be beyond repair.
Most couples go through a natural change in their sex lives—they just might not realize that it’s natural.
Some couples worry about, and even seek help for, a very typical sexual change that happens in most relationships. “Sometimes passion turns into compassion—there’s less emphasis on sexuality and more emphasis on the emotional love and attachment that grow between people,” Gary Brown, Ph.D, an individual and couple’s therapist in Los Angeles, tells SELF. “Sometimes sex becomes less important, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s completely normal and predictable.”
Others might think a decrease in sex is the problem when it’s actually a symptom.
“As a therapist, I do see couples who would like to increase their sexual frequency or who are dissatisfied with their sex lives,” Lexx Brown-James, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells SELF. But those issues are usually just symptoms of a problem, not the actual problem itself, she explains. Sometimes one person feels rejected by the other, or maybe cheating or a lack of trust have infiltrated the relationship, says Brown-James. “[A couple] may come in and say they’re not having great sex, then we find out through assessment that there’s an unhealed wound somewhere in the relationship, and that leaks over into their sex life,” she says. A medical issue may even be the culprit, which is why Brown-James has couples get thorough physicals before they begin therapy.
No matter what the cause is, there’s hope for a flagging sex life as long as both people agree on one crucial thing.
“It helps if both people get in the ring. If both people are willing to work on it, a couple can definitely come back from [a rut],” says Brown-James. Brown agrees. “Sometimes sexual needs change. If there’s open communication and each person is willing to experiment, you should be able to work through that if the desire to do so is there,” he says. Brown emphasizes that no matter how good your communication is, if you don’t both want to invest in improving your connection, your sex life won’t get better. He stresses that it’s about fixing the cause of the rut, not just increasing the frequency of sex. If you’re both on the same page and ready to do whatever it takes back on the sex-horse, it’s only up from here.