Let’s say you and your partner have had a change in your sexual dynamic — that is, you’re having less sex or no sex and aren’t sure why. Relationships can always go through dry spells, especially when you’ve been married for a while. It’s nothing to be alarmed about. Take a deep breath. Relax. This is normal. And believe it or not, in most cases, it has nothing to do with love or your relationship and everything to do with a zillion other things. So, don’t worry, you’re OK. You’re both OK.
This might feel really hard and maybe even scary, but getting back on track can actually be a lot of fun and prove to be necessary. And being back on track is likely to make your relationship stronger than ever and your sex life better than ever.
What exactly is a dry spell?
First things first: What is a dry spell? Well, that depends on you and your partner, really. For some people, that could mean only having sex twice a week. For other couples, that might mean only having sex twice a month. For others, only having sex a few times a year would be the definition of a dry spell. It all depends on you and your partner and what feels right to you both. That can ebb and flow depending on what’s going on in your life. The trick is to not compare yourselves to other couples, not upset yourselves with arbitrary numbers and not make more out of it than what it is. And to know that your journey as a couple to your “normal” or ideal amount of sex is your own journey to have.
So if things feel off to you, if things aren’t the way the usually are, if things aren’t the way you’d like them to be, you may indeed be having a dry spell. There are no two ways around it: The very first thing you have to do is talk to your partner. This is a bit like pulling a bandage off. There’s no easy way to do it. But even if it’s hard to say — and hard to hear — in the end, you’ll both be happy you had the conversation. Pick a time and place when you are both at ease and stress-free. Talk about it when you have all the time and space to talk about it. Maybe plan a quiet night at home — alone. Or if you have kids, get them to bed early.
Don’t play the blame game
There’s no need for blaming your partner or pointing fingers. And no need for getting angry. Just speak from your point of view, your feelings and your experience. Try starting with phrases like: “I feel like…” “I think…” “When we don’t… I …” “I miss when we used to…” “I wish we could make more time and space to…”
It may not be easy for your partner to hear, so be prepared to be met with anything from agreement to anger to excuses to sadness. Listen. Really listen. Let your partner know you hear him or her. This is a conversation, not an argument. Assure your partner you love them and you want your relationship and your sex life to be the very best it can be and that is the one and only reason you are bringing it up.
This might be one conversation. It might be a series of conversations. If the first one doesn’t go well, end it gently and agree to talk again once you’ve both had time to regroup. Once you’re both on the same page that things aren’t the way you would both like and that you’re both game for change, then it’s time to make a plan.
Take your time
In many ways, the best place to start is the very beginning. Think about where you started. Think about how your sex life progressed. Think about what used to draw you to one another so much that you could hardly keep your hands off each other.
You don’t have to rush. And you don’t want to make this feel like a chore. In fact, it would be great if it were more about the slow burn and less like checking off the boxes.
One of the best things you can do is set limits. Decide that this week, you’re going to kiss more and only kiss — any other physical touching is off limits. On the second week, think making out but not going all the way. Yes, it may sound silly. But trust me, when you’re not allowed to have sex, you are really going to want to have sex. Fool around. Tease one another. Act as if you haven’t had sex yet.
On the third week, set aside some actual time to be together. No being quiet because the kids are there. No rushing. Just plenty of time to find each other again and remember how it used to be. Have the kind of sex you used to have when people used to say, “I’ll have what she’s having,” whenever they saw you.
For most couples, when schedules, time and life are the only real reason for the dry spell, sex gets back to its norm — whatever that means to the two of you — in pretty short order. Then, when a slump seems to be rearing its ugly head again (and it may very likely do just that time and again), all you need to do is nudge one another and get back to step one.
Some couples like to mark their calendars. Other couples find that too stressful. You just have to find what works for you two. The important thing is that you keep talking and you keep checking in with one another.
Some lines to try: “Last night was amazing. Can’t wait to do it again…” “I’m ready to play again when you are…” “I sure liked what we did last Wednesday. Care for a rematch tonight?” “Seems like too long since I’ve shown you how much I want you. You busy later?”
Think of it as an actual part of your sex life. It can be very sexy to always keep the pulse of, well, your pulse.
Dry spells are totally normal. Just remember the two of you got together for a reason in the first place. It can be easy to get lost. Life is busy. Too busy. I get it. Believe me. So, take a breath, start a conversation, ease back in and enjoy each other. You both deserve it. And so does your marriage.
But do keep in mind: If you aren’t able to get back into the groove, if your partner doesn’t take well to you opening the conversation, if desire doesn’t come rushing back, you may want to talk to a counselor or therapist. Plenty of couples benefit from talking with a professional. There’s no shame in asking for help. The only thing that would be a shame would be losing a relationship that didn’t have to be lost.
Jenny Block is an expert in women’s sexuality and author of the books O Wow: Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm and Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage.
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A version of this story was published February 2016.
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