How to Re-Invigorate Your Sexless Marriage
By Franki Hanke
We find it hard to talk about sex, so how do you talk about having more?
Sex is an emotionally charged topic. With a combination of societal stigma and emotional pressure, talking about your sex life can feel impossible. However, if you’re having less sex than you’d like to in your relationship or marriage, the key is communication. Most ways to improve sexless marriages rely on communication, so get ready to start talking about sex!
Start with Yourself
In long-term relationships, it’s easy to default to emotional language that assigns blame. Before you initiate a conversation with your partner, prepare your own thoughts and consider taking some notes or journaling so that the conversation is less emotional and volatile.
Remember: sexual desire and a fluctuating libido are normal.
Throughout our lives, for various reasons, our sex drive changes. You might have a low sex drive now compared to a year ago or following menopause. That is normal. Especially after surviving a year-long lockdown in the face of the COVID pandemic, our shared mental health has taken a hit. Sex drive is a part of that.
So, when two people are together, each with their own sexual desire fluctuating, it’s normal for that occasionally to not link up. A sexless marriage is not a surefire sign of a failing relationship.
To learn more about the science behind science and orgasms and a deeper connection to your sexual self, read our guide The Sexual Woman.
Consider why sex is happening less.
You might not know. That’s okay, avoid jumping to the harsh assumptions: “They don’t find me attractive” or “We don’t work anymore.” Instead, try to pinpoint some potential issues that exist for yourself or your situation together. Then, you can also ask your partner.
Has your libido changed?
Sometimes, whether because of stress or mental health status, medication, or other influences our own libido physically might not match our mental desire for sex and sexual connection. If your libido is affecting your partnered sex, explore that.
It’s often helpful to explore personal intimacy to see what helps you find the mood for sex (or not) in a space that has less pressure than partnered sex. Especially when mental health or physical health issues triggered a change in sex drive, re-learning your preferences can open the door to reframing partnered sex.
Try masturbating alone to see how your body responds. Let solo sexual experiences inform your communication about partnered sex.
Have you had the time and privacy for intimacy?
Sex requires more than the time for the sexual encounter itself, but time to feel intimate and connected enough to foster connection. If your schedule is lacking time together (that connects you, not merely time in the same room in front of the television) or you struggle to find privacy, that may contribute to a decline in intimacy.
Have you been facing particular stress or strain?
Both relationship strain and life stress can decrease our desire for sex. If a conflict exists within the relationship, it may be adding a hurdle to connect.
Then, take notes about what you want to discuss with your partner.
→ Do you want more sex or simply more intimacy? Sometimes a lack of sex is accompanied by a decline in overall intimacy. Knowing what you need and want will make it easier to specify what will help your relationship.
→ What would help you feel “in the mood?” For some relationships, sex comes easy in the early stages of a relationship when novelty is high. However, over time our needs for sex change. Ask yourself what you need to feel ready and to enjoy the encounter.
- Would scheduled sex in the calendar so you know a time to initiate sex help?
- Do you need a date or time together prior to initiating sex?
- How far in advance do you want to consider sex and/or initiate flirting/foreplay?
- Based on solo sex, what specifically would make sex more enjoyable?
- What environment fosters relaxation and desire?
- Is a lack of privacy at home limiting your libido?
Once you’ve thought about your own needs and desire, then talk to your partner.
With your notes and thoughts together, talk to your partner. If this isn’t your first conversation about sex together, then invite them to also think about their needs ahead of time so you both come to the table with your notes. Otherwise, use this conversation as the first step. This conversation might occur over a few different sessions.
Be open and honest. An uncomfortable conversation now can pave the way for more communication, more sex, and a better relationship over time. If it’s really uncomfortable for you, just say so. “I find this really uncomfortable, but I care about you, and this matters to me, so I’d like to talk.” The more you talk about sex openly, the more comfortable it will become.
Don’t assign blame.
It’s hard to talk to a partner without defaulting to ‘blame’ language. Focus on talking about your needs and feelings.
“I need time spent flirting before initiating sex to ease into it,” rather than, “You always rush into sex” can be a powerful shift to finding middle ground together.
Ask about their needs, too.
Just like you had so much to consider about your needs and wants, your partner has the same amount of think about. Ask them what you thought about and share your response. Together, outline what you’re both wanting to prepare for sex. You might find common ground about a lack of time or a shared stressor.
Consider other forms of intimacy.
You also might not find a shared solution to a lack of sex. In that case, start working first to improve the lack of intimacy with alternatives to sex.
Without sex, prioritizing focused time together and intimate touch and closeness can keep you close. Working towards an overall healthy relationship can foster a better sexual connection and make it easier to pinpoint the causes.
Make Time for Each Other Outside of Sex
Schedule a recurring date night once a week or twice a month. Prioritize a mixture of public (going out style) activities and private activities so there are chances for different kinds of intimacy. If your only type of date is going out for dinner, that sets up only one framework for how you interact and can add to the lack of novelty in long-term relationships.
Try to create that new relationship buzz by trying a new activity together, which feels similar to that initial period with a new relationship.
→ Go to comedy shows and/or local theater.
→ Tap into your local activities for festivals, fairs, and other seasonal experiences.
→ Try different hobby crafts (a pottery class, paint & sip, glass blowing, etc.)
→ Take a class or workshop together.
Create private dates in your own home with the same importance as going out dates. If you have kids at home, find a babysitter or let them have a sleepover elsewhere.
→ Cook something new together (if you don’t do well sharing a task, let one person make appetizer/dessert and one person make the entree).
→ Tackle household tasks as a team. Turn cleaning into a raffle or a race. Celebrate a clean house together with take-out so you don’t dirty the fresh kitchen.
→ Try an at-home date box or kit like Crated with Love.
→ Make an at-home spa experience. Light candles and take turns giving massages.
It can be helpful to remove the pressure of sex from these dates. Instead of planning dates as extended preparation or foreplay, just focus on the date and emotional intimacy of being together.
As you bring sex into the equation, try to vary the time of day you go out. With work schedules, it often becomes default that dates happen at night, but this can end with collapsing into bed too tired to even consider sex at the end every time. For dates where you might want sex, adjust the schedule so you’ll have energy at the end still or adjust so your “date” includes the next morning after a full night’s sleep.
Dedicate Time to Explore Sex Together.
While you let dates be a time without the pressure of sex, a “wait and see” approach likely won’t re-invigorate your sexless relationship. Create separate times for specifically prioritizing sex. Schedule a “sex date,” but don’t fast track to penetration.
Try incorporating more sex and sexual intimacy that isn’t your traditional, go-to form of sex (which for many heterosexual relationships is penetrative sex). The extra benefit of specific sex time is that you’re not out of energy before sex is even on the table.
→ Hop in the car somewhere and have a clothes-on, kissing-only date.
→ Browse online for a new sex toy and try it out together. Use it on each other or yourself while the other watches. Explore what feels good.
→ Try mutual masturbation or other sex acts than your usual.
→ Read or watch erotic content together. Share your favorite erotic content with each other.
→ Discuss fantasies or sex dreams together.
Remember that orgasm isn’t required for an enjoyable encounter together. If orgasm is difficult for either partner, the pressure of orgasming for “successful” sex can be a huge stressor. Instead, focus on enjoying the entire encounter together.
Communicate often what you like and don’t like. Use “sex dates” as a time to practice communicating about sex so it becomes easier and less emotional to say, “I need more time before sex,” “I don’t like that, try this instead,” or “I don’t want to have sex tonight, can we do some cuddling instead?”
When you create time to focus on each other and your bodies, instead of rejecting sex, you can reframe what you’re doing together to still foster touch and closeness during that time.
Seek Professional Help
If you’re struggling with larger relationship issues or struggle to pinpoint any issues or starting points together, there is no shame in consulting with a couples therapist or sex therapist who specializes in married couples and sex.
Professionals with a Ph.D. as psychotherapists spend their life trying to fix this exact issue, so don’t be embarrassed to talk about having it. If you don’t feel uncomfortable telling your dentist about a toothache, don’t feel embarrassed telling a sex therapist about your sexless marriage. It’s their job. They are there because they care and can help.
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