As fun as dating can be, the realities of a sexless relationship can loom over a couple like a storm cloud on an otherwise sunny day. No matter how happy a couple may seem at first, the harsh reality that they can both enter into a dry spell together is something that shouldn’t be ignored. The reasoning behind this shift is often misrepresented by harmful stereotypes — that sex will inevitably dry up in a long-term relationship or marriage, or that women simply enjoy sex less than men — while in reality, a couple can fall out of their love-making groove for any numbers of reasons.
Whether it’s a change in mood from one person or a wealth of different problems enveloping the couple, a sexless streak is something that can be destructive to the relationship if not addressed and fixed. Luckily, this problem is far more common than people think, and can often be mended once it’s made apparent. To help clarify the reasoning behind a dry spell and give you some pointers on what you can do fix things, I enlisted the help of psychotherapist and author Mary Jo Rapini to show us how to spice things up without using outlandish sex tips from magazines like Cosmo to make things spicy again. (Like, there may be some benefits to putting a doughnut around your lover’s penis, but until they’ve been fully investigated, everyone should probably just hold off on the baked-goods foreplay.)
The Cause Of A Sexless Relationship
A relationship without sex is certainly not the end of the world, but unless you're both asexual, it will probably take an emotional or psychological toll on one or both partners, and could have a serious impact on the relationship, potentially even ending it. So what happened to all that sex you used to have? Truth be told, it will take some digging around to figure out what exactly the problem is. For most couples, it’s a lack of communication; a detail that can be fixed by — you guessed it — communicating.
“The majority of couples in a sexless marriage don’t talk about their sex life to anyone,” says Rapini. “It’s a taboo topic, especially if you’re happy in your relationship without it. Guys are competitive and if they aren't interested in sex or it isn't working, they don't talk about it. According to data experts, searches for 'sexless marriage' are almost four times more common than searches for 'loveless marriage.' There are many reasons couples stop having sex, and it is possible that couples can be happily married or in a committed relationship that is called ‘sexless.’ The term ‘sexless’ in relationship counseling refers to couples that haven’t had sex in more than a year’s time."
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This, while devastating to hear (a year?!) is far more common than we think. Rapini goes on to say that “12 to 20% of the population has a sexless marriage,” and that this “statistic would be much higher if couples that were sexless during specific times in their relationship were mentioned.” Meaning, even if they're not currently sexless, many long-term couples have gone a year without sex at some point.
Along with a lack of communication being an issue, there are other factors that can kill the sex drive in a person or within a couple: Depression, generalized anxiety disorder, sexual frustration, or just plain ambivalence can be to blame.
So, how do you fix this and start having hot sex again?
Here are some proven methods to reignite that spark and get things going again without reverting to the tired route of grocery store checkout line magazine sex tips about introducing those damn doughnuts into the bedroom.
1. Begin With A Checkup
If you find yourself treating with your loved one the same way you treat a friend (or, if you live together, a roommate), then that’s a pretty solid sign that things need to change. However, the problem may not always be in your head. Rapini goes into detail by saying that “diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and hormonal imbalances can cause sexual issues in a relationship, causing you to feel like roommates more than lovers.” It’s easy for couples to get stuck in a certain routine and not think of pursuing a solution out of nothing more than pain or embarrassment. It’s not easy to admit you’re too depressed or tired to have sex, but that is a valid excuse.
2. Commit Your Time To Your Relationship, As Well As Your Fidelity
“Make changes at work and with your lifestyle. If you’re like two ships passing in the night, you’ll begin feeling alone, disconnected and passionless toward your partner.” One thing that’s been proven to work is a sex schedule. It may not sound sexy, but choosing a “date night” every week is good for sex, so says Dr. Prudence Hall of The Hall Center in Santa Monica, Calif. "A date night, time away alone as a couple, time to talk, and lovemaking. Lovemaking needs to be viewed as a practice. We don't always want to meditate or do our yoga, but we know how wonderful it is for us. Lovemaking can be viewed in a similar way. Schedule it and it is more likely to happen!"
3. Commit To Romance On The Daily
“The more you touch your partner the more you’ll connect… spend time together skin to skin. Touch is the easiest way to reboot your sexual feelings,” insists Rapini. Never, ever doubt that those little things amount to romance. This can be as simple as making the effort to kiss each other goodbye in the mornings or holding hands during a movie, even buying each other presents. If you’re the kind of couple who spend every Christmas exchanging “practical” gifts like socks and belts, ditch the practicality for romance. Sexless relationships often occur when two people stop trying to fix the problem. Even trying a little bit in these instances can go a long way.
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4. Talk To Someone!
There’s no reason to fear the musings of a licensed counselor, obstetrician or urologist. These people get paid to help couples for a living and will help you realize that there is no sex problem that cannot be resolved if the couple is committed to having a vibrant sex life. Whether it's talking through the issues, helping establish groundwork for moving forward, suggesting tips and tricks, or even prescribing medical solutions, experts can give you and your partner a practical way to fix things that you simply couldn't come up with on your own. For instance, if it's partly a medical/health issue, the solution could be relatively straightforward. “Women who turn to using an over-the-counter remedy such as Replens Moisturizer or a prescription for local estrogen have found that there can be improvements to dryness, vaginal atrophy and menopausal symptoms associated," says Rapini. "Also trying a silicone lubricant like Wet Platinum or Replens Silky Smooth enhances intimacy and allows for couples to enjoy sex without problems that can cause painful or ‘sandpaper’ sex.”
So, while the prospect of potentially uncovering more problems can be scary for a couple who’s already having issues, the obvious answer is to do it. More often than not, the problems can be fixed easily with a little bit of firm communication, a change in habits, and even a little bit of lube. And if that's not enough, it might be time to turn to an expert. You have to keep in mind that a sexless relationship can only go on for so long before someone will break — which very well could end in breaking up or in infidelity. Counselors, sex therapists and sexologists have done it all, seen everything, and can look at your relationship with an objective eye to get to the bottom of your problems. More than anything else, you just need to stay positive and remember there hardly any problems are unfixable — if you both commit to this, you’ll be having hot, earth-shattering, sex again in no time.