By: Cristina Trette
When couples first meet, generally they have as much sex as they can. From an evolutionary perspective, humans are wired to find a partner, mate, and raise offspring. High interest at the start of a relationship creates a positive feedback loop in which sex releases good feeling brain chemicals. This promotes bonding and a desire to have even more sex. All of this serves to keep our species alive.
Eventually, after being with a partner for 18 months to 2 years, brain chemicals return to baseline and sexual activity finds a level of normal that highly specific to each couple. Normal is a relative term, of course.
Some married couples have sex once per day, while others have it one to three times per week. Others, pretty much stop having sex altogether. A sexless marriage is defined as a marriage in which the couple has sex with each other less than 10 times per year.
Is a low sex marriage a problem? Well, that depends.
If you and your spouse are having little to no sex, and both of you are genuinely content with the status quo, there is no problem!
Yet, if either one of you is unsatisfied, and if you have been concerned about the lack of sex for 6 or more months, without any sign of positive change or progress, generally speaking, this can be a problem.
The great news is that all couples can absolutely rekindle their sexual spark again.
The unfortunate news is that if you become complacent, a sexless marriage is highly unlikely to resolve on its own. To create change in this area, you are going to have to do something about it.
If you are concerned about getting stuck in a sexless marriage, below are some important steps to take towards re-creating a fulfilling sex life.
1.Consider seeing your Primary Care Physician
Hormone imbalances, medications, and certain diseases can impact sexual desire. If you or your spouse has lost interest in sex, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help determine whether an underlying health concern may be the culprit and refer you to a specialist if needed.
2. Check your Porn Use
I am going to say this with extreme caution, porn can have a healthy place within a healthy marriage. In the same way that eating a cookie once a week can fit into a nutritious diet, so can porn. This being said, if you are turning to porn regularly, and not your spouse, this will probably create problems. Be honest with yourself about how much porn you use. If porn is excessive, I often recommend that couples be 100 percent porn free for 30 days and that anytime one wants to go to porn, that he go to his partner instead.
3. Explore Self-Pleasure
Many couples include some form of masturbation within a healthy sex life. Yet, if you regularly swap sex with your spouse, to have sex with yourself, this can create challenges. One way to create change in this area is to try masturbating with your spouse present if it feels safe and comfortable to do so. If you find it difficult to become aroused by your spouse, you may want to consider avoiding masturbation for 30 days. Every time you want to masturbate, try going to your spouse instead.
4. Sex Can Get Better with Age
The start of a new relationship tends to be filled with lots of sex. Eventually, the spark fades away. This is typical. It is also normal to experience a dip in sexual satisfaction during the years of parenting and child-rearing. Lack of sleep, endless family demands, and high financial pressures can all kill libido. If this sounds familiar, hang in there!
Many couples who have been married for 10, 30, or 50 years report having highly satisfying sex life. What is their secret? Over the years they have learned what the other likes and they know how to be in sync and attuned to one another. Couples with a great sex life have likely created a strong foundation of security, safety, trust, and respect. This solid base makes it more likely that they will experience deeply connected lovemaking as well as playful sex. For example, fantasy, role play, and toys, are different ways couples can experiment together and can contribute to a fulfilling sex life.
5. Expand the Ways in Which you Get Close
There are many other activities couples can do that do not involve sex, but promote bonding. Novel adventures, starting an exercise plan as a team, or attending personal development seminars as a couple, all provide ways to create closeness without sex. Alternatively, some couples enjoy having sexual experiences with each other while purposely avoid penetration or orgasm. Oral sex, massage, experimenting with touch, are all ways that couples can increase intimacy.
5. Focus on Connection
Make eye contact, smile, flirt, listen, ask questions, pay attention to your partner, and be fully present. All of these moves create connection. Many couples need a foundation of solid connection before they can open up with each other in the bedroom. If you and your spouse have stopped having sex altogether, see what happens if you take sex completely off the table for 30 days. During this time focus entirely on re-establishing a connection. Go on dates, take walks while holding hands and hear about the other’s day, ask questions with curosity. Basically, do some of the things you did in the early part of your relationship.
7. Get support
Sometimes sex has been a problem for so long that couples have a hard time creating change without outside support. This is particularly true if one or both partners has a history of sexual trauma or abuse or if sex is painful. f you are feeling hopeless in this area, schedule a session with a Marriage and Family Therapist who offers couples counseling and sex therapy. I recommend a therapist who has specialized training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy or in sex therapy.
8. Communicate openly
I cannot stress enough the importance of speaking up about sex with your partner. Sometimes just talking about sex can increase desire. On the other hand, sex talk can lead to conflict. Set yourself up for success by planning to talk at a time where you will not be interrupted. If it seems unlikely that you will be able to talk about sex without arguing, consider attending my Couples Workshop. I provide a structured format that enables couples to privately talk about all aspects of their sex life and am available to offer extra support if needed.
Hello! I am Cristina Trette. I am a Couples Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Certified in Perinatal Mental Health. I write on all things related to relationships, parenthood, and connection.