Picture this: A tumbleweed somersaults along a rocky desert, kicking up a mini tornado of dust and sand. Uh, be honest…does your sex life come to mind? The barren desert image is kind of cliché, but it’s also too real. Enter: the dry spell.
Droughts happen. Sometimes you’re too busy or stressed (or, ya know, both) to get a full night’s sleep, much less fit in a little hanky panky. Or maybe you think your sex life will ramp up when you and your S.O. move in together, but then the opposite happens. Or, if you’re like me, a long-distance relationship (especially if it turns into a breakup) comes with its own, um, alone time baked in.
Before you start counting your recent sexcapades to see if this describes you, know that a dry spell doesn’t mean you haven’t done the dirty in X amount of weeks. Since everyone explores sexuality differently, the definition of what counts as dry varies, too.
“A dry spell is basically a social construct, a term we may use to describe having less sex than we ‘should’ be having.”
At its most basic, “many people consider a dry spell a bothersome lack of sex, whether you’re in a relationship or not,” sex educator and author of Girl Boner August McLaughlin says. The catch is, it’s “basically a social construct, a term we may use to describe having less sex than we ‘should’ be having,” she says.
Yeah, it feels weird to stray from routine, and if you think, What is wrong with me? when you realize you’re in the middle of a dry spell, you’re not alone. After all, you know that sex is touted for its health benefits, like decreasing stress, improving cardiovascular health, and even helping headaches. Emotionally, the release of oxytocin helps bond you and your partner, and good sex sure boosts your confidence.
But at the end of the day, it’s totally normal—and shameless—to take a break, intentionally or not. “Contrary to what you might have heard, nothing terrible will happen to you if you stop having sex for a time,” McLaughlin says. No, there’s no “use it or lose it” rule here…and you won’t, ahem, “dry up.”
Still, if your dry spell is bothering you (fair), McLaughlin suggests asking yourself why. It may be less about your sex life, which, like anyone’s, ebbs and flows—and more about what you need to work out within yourself or your relationship, like your body image or feelings of security.
Ultimately, “if you care enough to name or focus on a dry spell, it’s probably well worth addressing,” McLaughlin says. If you feel isolated, your emotional connection with your partner is waning, or you just miss getting it on in general, there are a few ways you can break out of a dry spell. Have no fear!
How to bust through a dry spell in your relationship:
1. Keep it real with your partner.
First things first: You have to talk about the dry spell. Who isn’t guilty of flipping over in bed when your partner casually tries to initiate sexy time, because you’re just not in the mood?
But “falling asleep” won’t help get your groove back. Instead, anxieties about performance or feelings of resentment can easily grow until they’re much harder to bounce back from, so talking is far from cheap here.
Be open with your S.O. about the drop in sex, what your hangups are, and how you feel about your sexuality in the moment. Not only will you get it out in the open, but the talk, even if it’s awkward at first, will help grow your emotional connection. And that can be just the thing to reignite the fire.
2. Go back to what you know.
In the midst of a dry spell, your first instinct might be to get freaky and start experimenting with BDSM or anal play. Shock the drought out of you, right? That could work for some (see below), but might add onto the pressure for others. There’s nothing wrong with revisiting a good old-fashioned romp the way that you know and love. Bust out the toys tomorrow.
3. Plan a fun date.
“Novel experiences boost levels of feel-good hormones in the brain, which are linked with sexual arousal and those punch-drunk, falling-in-love feelings,” McLaughlin says. Breaking out of your routine with a creative date night (axe throwing, bowling, hitting an escape room) can bring back the quality time needed to get those lusty feelings flowing again.
Need some fun date inspo? Here ya go!
4. Explore other ways to be intimate.
A dry spell doesn’t need to be broken by straightforward intercourse—other things count, too. “Consider taking the sex you’ve tended to have off the table,” McLaughlin says. Throw an intimate massage into the mix, dedicate a night to a spicy makeout, or try mutual masturbation. “It minimizes any pressure you might be putting on yourselves to ‘just have more sex,’” she says.
5. Pencil in sexy time.
Everyone and their grandma is busy. The daily grind can be soul-sucking and libido-crushing. While it might sound too type-A to write “sex” on your agenda, it’s also something to look forward to. “Knowing sex is coming can build anticipation, which can increase arousal and desire,” McLaughlin says. It doesn’t have to feel like an annoying to-do.
6. Find a new location.
Embrace your inner Dora and change up the environment. During a dry spell, the bed can almost feel intimidating, like there’s an expectation of what’s going to go down once you get under the covers. And that’s not always exciting. Try taking sex outside the bedroom—or even your house—and see what happens. You know how sometimes it takes a change in scenery to feel more productive at work? The same goes for your love life, too.
How to bust through a dry spell when you’re single:
1. Check in with yourself.
It’s hard to have a popping sex life when you have no one to get rowdy with (duh). But if that’s you—and you’re wanting to break through your dry spell (which, just guessing, you do, if you’re reading this)—consider if you’re really doing enough to put yourself out there.
Have you fallen off the dating bandwagon, and if so, was that on purpose or by accident? Have you been putting effort into meeting new people, or holing yourself up on frigid Saturday nights? Are you putting out good, open-hearted vibes or focusing on neggy ones, like feeling envious of all the engagements popping up on your Instagram feed? These are all questions to ask to help you pinpoint next (and obvious) moves.
On the other hand, if you don’t like having sex outside of an exclusive relationship (or situationship) and you just haven’t found the right person to enter into one with, then consider your dry spell evidence of your commitment to your standards. In that case, your “rut” is actually more like a “timeout,” so try to reframe it as a positive thing. Which brings me to my next point…
Yep, taking matters into your own hands (literally) counts as breaking out of your dry spell. Taking initiative is always applauded, right?
“Never underestimate the power of masturbation,” McLaughlin says. It’ll help you get reacquainted with your body and remind you that you don’t have to wait for someone else to get you there. “If you haven’t felt inclined to masturbate, prioritize it as you would any important venture,” she adds. “Spend some time thinking about what turns you on.”
Masturbating could also give you the mojo you might be missing to meet someone new, since orgasms help slash stress (thanks to the release of oxytocin), regardless of where (read: who) they come from.
3. Prioritize self-care.
Back to that stress thing—it’s a sex-life saboteur, whether you’re single or not. But if you don’t have an S.O., it’s even more important that you take time to pamper yourself (someone’s got to!). Dedicate more time to de-stressing activities, like long baths and working out and yoga, and log solid sleep, for goodness sake.
All of these factors help you function as a better, calmer, happier version of yourself, which will pay off when you’re trying to break through your dry spell with another human. “When we live more fully, our sexuality enlivens, too,” she says.
4. Reignite your inner sex goddess.
Sometimes (okay, more like all the time), a dry spell makes you antsy because it makes you feel undesirable. And poor body image has been linked to less sex (it’s a cycle), so fight that feeling!
“Seek out sexy new solo adventures,” McLaughlin suggests. Try a pole-dancing class with the girls, read some smut (ever heard of After?), shop for spicy new lingerie, or experiment with a new toy. The idea is to go after anything fresh and exciting that puts you back in touch with your body.
5. Figure out your head.
Beyond feeling extra stressed out and the like, your drought might be a bit more serious and internalized. Check in on your mental health, how you’ve been coping with trauma or grief, or any serious relationship problems that feel tough to move past. It could be time to seek support (a.k.a. a therapist) to work through those issues and learn to embrace your sexy self.
6. Know that this, too, shall pass.
I promise you: You will have sex again. And again and again and again.
It’s really important to stop beating yourself up for going through a dry spell, as that can feed into a negative self-image—ain’t no one got time for that! Everyone goes through lulls, some longer than others, and that’s A-okay. As long as you’re taking proactive steps to maintain a healthy sex life—as in, masturbating when you don’t have a current partner, and talking to a doctor if your libido has dropped significantly—it doesn’t matter if that sex life is on the under-active side.
“We live in a very performance-focused culture in terms of sex, so it’s not uncommon for someone to feel shame around a drop in desire or sexual activity,” McLaughlin says. “But there’s really nothing shameful about it, no matter the cause.”
So here’s to banging one out…or not.