How Do You Deal With Decreased Sex In A Relationship? We Asked The Pros
In our series, Relationship Firsts, we ask experts various questions that inevitably come up at some point in relationships. From how to deal when the romance fades to how to introduce a sex toy in the bedroom, we’re covering the gamut of whatever you’re too embarrassed to ask (or admit to) your mates.
It’s a rare flower of a relationship in which the frequency of sex stays the same throughout its later years. There’s even science behind it: the dopamine spike from sex with the same partner decreases over time but spikes with a new one. And unless you’re a fan of polyamory or swinging, that’s rarely an option.
It may be that there’s no problem – maybe you’re both focused on other things and the sex has naturally decreased. But if one of you wants more than the other, that’s where relationships can run into trouble. We asked the pros what to do if you’re in a drought.
Juliet Grayson, relationship counsellor and author
I would see if one partner is angry. But our sex drives do change. After about 18 months to two years when the honeymoon period is over, we settle down into our normal level of sexual drive which will be different from how much there was in the honeymoon phase. So it’s normal that one person’s will diminish and that’s often a struggle for couples that you have to deal with.
With one couple I worked with they decided to then have an open marriage so she could have the sex that she was wanting and he didn’t have to deliver it. But for many couples that’s not an option. It’s about negotiation. Can they compromise and move together a bit? Let’s say one of them wants an S&M relationship and the other doesn’t; is there some way they can move towards that so she’s not actually tied up but she has a scarf around her wrists that makes it seem she’s tied up? Are there ways you can play act it in a way or compromise?
Grayson is the author of Landscapes of the Heart: The Working World of a Sex and Relationship Therapist
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Jo Usmar, wellbeing writer
It’s totally normal for the amount of sex you have with a partner to decline the longer you’re together. When you first meet someone it’s sex central. You look at each other salivating. However, slowing down doesn’t mean you fancy each other less, you’ve just lost that animal-instinct rabid lust that comes with the immediacy and excitement of meeting someone new. Your feelings for each other have stabilised and deepened. And life changes, dude. Stuff happens. Boring things like mortgages, redundancies and compulsory curry nights with the in-laws. Who wants to get naked after dealing with all that?
Yet having no sex at all is definitely problematic. Sexual intimacy is one of the most important things in a relationship. It makes us feel loved, attractive, connected and confident. If one partner is constantly rebuffed, they’ll stop initiating sex through a fear of rejection, possibly shy away from all displays of affection or look for sex elsewhere. It’s a delicate issue though. Here are some dos and don’ts for how to broach the subject:
– Don’t ignore it. This will foster resentment, anger and insecurity.
– Don’t jump to conclusions. It’s probably not because they suddenly don’t fancy you or were only faking a high sex drive to lure you into commitment. A loss of libido can be caused by many things: stress, depression, low self-esteem, feeling overworked or health issues. Always investigate these possibilities before assuming it’s solely to do with sex.
– Do be more tactile in day-to-day life. Touching shouldn’t be just confined to sex. Holding hands, rubbing shoulders, an arm-around-the-shoulder or cuddling on the sofa gives us a feeling of intimacy and makes people feel more secure.
– Don’t approach the subject aggressively or defensively. Saying, “Why don’t you ever want to have sex?” isn’t going to get you more sex. It sounds like an attack and when people are attacked they attack back. Instead say something like, “I don’t want to make you feel worried or anything, but I’ve noticed you’re not really up for sex at the moment. Is something wrong?” Make them feel safe in the conversation, not defensive.
– Don’t approach the subject in bed. If you bring it up while lying next to each other you’ll both feel trapped and anxious. Or worse, your partner may feel obliged to have sex and no one should ever feel that.
– Organise a proper date night (as clichéd as that sounds). Life can often be so full on that your relationship gets pushed aside. Organising an evening a week for just the two of you will show you don’t just want sex, which will reignite the romance… which will hopefully lead to sex. If it doesn’t, it’ll give you a chance to work out what other issues may be contributing to the sex drought.
Some people’s libidos do change. If your partner simply wants less sex, but your libido is still the same, you need to discuss how this will affect you both. It’s not fair on either of you to push your desires on the other. If you find it hard to talk, broach the idea of therapy. Problems with sexual desire is the number one of the main reasons couples seek counselling so you’re not alone in this by any stretch.
Usmar is the co-author of This Book Will Make You Calm, out now (Quercus).
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Plan It In
Desiree Spierings, sex therapist
Try to change things up. Amazing sex starts long before you enter the bedroom. To arouse your partner, start as soon as you both wake up. It can be as simple as a kiss and telling them how beautiful they are, or it can be some physical foreplay before getting out of bed in the morning, or even literally scheduling sex into your calendars. While that sounds like the opposite of ‘new and fun’ there is nothing wrong with this approach – in fact, when people expect sex to happen spontaneously, it rarely does. If you both know what’s coming, you’re more likely to get excited looking forward to it throughout the day.
Spierings is director of counselling practice Sexual Health Australia
Dr. Dain Heer, relationship consultant and international speaker
Decide if you still want to be in the relationship and with her and if you do start telling her how grateful you are for her [research shows that having gratitude for the ”little things” in relationships can boost feelings of happiness and romance]. This will enable you to give her everything she needs so she will be able to open up to you [sexually] again.
Heer is the co-creator of Access Consciousness