Relationship expert Jean Fitzpatrick knows that sex droughts happen. Here’s how to find your way out.
Often, a couple comes to my office and one says, “We never have sex.”
Instantly the other one protests, “Neither do any of our friends! They’re all too busy with work and kids!”
It’s a defensive maneuver, of course, and one that doesn’t offer a scrap of comfort.
The no-sex pattern takes on a life of its own. “It’s very easy to build up an incest taboo in a marriage,” wrote the late psychiatrist Frank Pittman, who had more smart things to say about marriage than just about anybody I can think of. “If you go without sex, your instincts recognize this person as part of the family but cease to recognize the person as a sex partner. The response can kick in surprisingly quickly.”
When your marriage feels like a sexual Sahara, don’t despair.
Getting to better sex is not as quick or easy as hitting the reset button, but you and your spouse can do it together.
Stop thinking that something is wrong with you or your partner. Sometimes sex is going to be mediocre or just plain bad. Maybe you are exhausted. Or a feverish kid is throwing up in your bed. You and your partner are not sex machines. And maybe 20 percent of couples just tend to fall out of the habit of regular sex. A big plus of married and committed sex is you care about each other enough to cultivate your relationship and nurture it together. Forget the blaming. It’s toxic.
Give up comparing your current sex life with premarital (or extramarital) sex. You’re having sex with your life partner, not some mysterious new conquest. Ok, you’re missing all that newness but here’s the payoff: with real intimacy you can feel emotionally safe enough to share your fantasies and draw your partner into them. (Who knows? Maybe she’d like to imagine you as her mysterious new conquest.)
Name your turnoffs. What do you do that gets in the way of shared pleasure? Make a list of 3 things that drag things down for each of you. Accept that these are subjective. You love your woman sweaty from the gym. She might prefer you after a shower. (Other examples of turnoffs: overscheduling, sarcasm, neglecting household chores, stony silences, threatening to leave or stray.) Exchange lists with your partner without blaming. How would your sex life improve if you let go of each of them?
Stop the scorekeeping. Some research says that simultaneous desire, arousal, orgasm and satisfaction happen less than half the time for married couples. As you’ve no doubt discovered, you are not both going to be in the mood at the same time on the same day. One of you is frisky; the other is desperate for a back massage or an early night. Mutual responsiveness and respect mean more than equality. Instead of tracking who does what to whom, practice asking calmly for what you’d like, choose to be generous sometimes, and learn to say no gently.
Share the love 24/7. Steal a kiss on your partner’s neck. Go for a walk and hold hands. Send a suggestive text. Brush past each other in the kitchen. Cook a special dinner. You’re deepening the erotic dimension of your relationship, out of which more intense sexual encounters can naturally grow. Your partner is likely to resist if he/she thinks you’re out to “get something.” Let yourself enjoy how good these moments feel, taste, and smell.
You’re already making love.
I’m finding it very hard to believe that change is possible. After 34 years of marriage, I discover that my wife’s real desires are for other women. And she has so long struggled against her same sex attractions that she has at long last killed all desire. So the hard-wiring’s broken… A low sex marriage has become a no sex one. None of these points seem to have any relevance at all to our situation. Something is wrong with me: I am the wrong sex for my partner. She cannot desire me, a man.
I have a hard time believing people stop having sex because they are always tired. Our brains are hard wired to crave sex. If she won’t have sex with you, she is having it with herself or someone else.
Our brains may be hard wired to crave sex, but they are also hard wired to crave other things like sleep and food. Sex is not the motivating factor for every action people or animals take. Studies with rats have shown that given the choice between food and sex, female rats will choose the food almost every time.
You need rest to stay alive. You don’t need sex. So while it may not be life or death, your body still prioritizes.
manny .. I have been in a relationship for 40 years I no longer have the ability to have an erection due to meds bu tmy passion and love for my wife has not shifted..we have discovered renewed oral sex. touching I rub her butt for hrs in the night we love moning sex.. we kiss and I mean KISS OMG in a way our sex life now is more imprtant intimate and beautiful w/o the stress of erection.. WE JUST LOVE EACH OTHER we are at play at all times…we send each other sexy loving emails and texts and… Read more »
Thanks Steve. Often couples think some Mysterious Force has descended on their marriage and snuffed out the passion when actually they’ve done it themselves. Which is ultimately good news because change is possible….
Change is always possible, yes. That is the good news.
But how do you initiate that change with someone who sees no reason whatsoever for change in the first place, and avoids/eschews any initiative to have a conversation about it?
(And being in that situation, the “Name your turnoffs” list turned out to be just a “get out of jail free” card…)
Thank you, Jean. 5 fantastic points. I think #3 is a very important and delicate step. Not knowing (or caring) how your habits, hygiene, or emotional energy affects your partner will surely sabotage your ability to attract them.
I use Esther Perel’s examples of “Domestic” behaviors and “Erotic” behaviors to help men understand your point #5. After years in a LTR it is easy to forget or dismiss how erotic we USED to be.
And your point about losing the “getting” energy is huge.