Sex therapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson works with couples who have been stuck in sexless marriages for months, years or even decades.
Her recommendation for those who have found themselves in the middle of a serious dry spell? Get help from a professional sooner rather than later.
“Once a couple stops having sex, or more importantly, stops valuing sex as an important part of relationship maintenance, it is a fast and slippery slope into sexual oblivion,” Resnick Anderson, who is also an associate professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, told HuffPost.
Broaching the subject with your partner can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t been feeling particularly connected, sexually or otherwise. A sex therapist can help you find ways to discuss these things openly so you can repair your relationship ― and in the process, your sex life.
“It’s so helpful to have someone there to guide you through these sensitive discussions and give you concrete strategies for getting your sex life back on track,” sex therapist Vanessa Marin, the creator of Finishing School, an online orgasm course for women, told HuffPost. “Once you’ve gotten to a dark place in your relationship, it’s hard to work your way out of it on your own. Being able to ask for help is a huge sign of strength.”
We asked sex therapists to share their advice for couples who may have found themselves in a sexual rut. Some words of wisdom from our sexperts below:
1. If you’ve picked up on the lack of sex, your partner has, too.
“If you are aware of a decline in frequency or satisfaction but you aren’t sure if it is on your partner’s radar — trust me, it is! If you are keeping track, chances are your partner is keeping track, too. Although you may feel alone in it, your partner is likely experiencing a parallel process (even if they are on the other side of the equation). In fact, the lower-interest partner is often more aware of how long it has been than the higher-interest partner, because they are the one with the ‘identified problem.’”
2. The longer it’s been since you had sex, the harder it is to get back in the groove.
“The longer you go without sex, the more you feel you aren’t interested in sex. It works the other way around as well. Sex is the best aphrodisiac. The more sex you have, the more sex you want. Having sex can jump-start your engine, allowing your body to begin reproducing more sexual hormones that can remind you that you like sex, enjoy making love, and want to do it more often.”
― Tammy Nelson, sex therapist and author of Getting the Sex You Want
3. The sooner you bring it up with your partner, the better.
“I work with couples every day who said they were not sure how to bring it up, or if they did bring it up, it led to conflict so they eventually stopped bringing it up. Couples collude in silence. They decide it is easier to have no sex at all than to deal with the hurt feelings and unpredictable emotions, such as guilt or anger. Intervening before the problem takes on a life of its own is key. One way to bring it up is to say that you value both your and your partner’s sexual health and overall well-being. Remember that having sex on a regular basis has many emotional and physical benefits!”
“Couples collude in silence. They decide it is easier to have no sex at all than to deal with the hurt feelings and unpredictable emotions, such as guilt or anger.”
4. Stop making excuses and start making an effort.
“We make excuses with everything from eating better to working out, and I hear it daily with sexual goals. When you experience low desire, your excuse may be you don’t feel sexy, you’re tired, or you are ‘just not in the mood.’ These are excuses that hold you back from experiencing anything at all. Start small and go big. Desire doesn’t start at an accelerated pace. It may have in the past, but what we do know about desire is that it is more responsive than spontaneous. Take a small step toward being more sexual each and every day. Set a daily intention dedicated to your sexual health like, ‘Today I am going to feel positive in my body and find one way in which to give my body pleasure.’”
― Shannon Chavez, psychologist and sex therapist
5. When you do start having sex again, it might be weird at first.
“Understand that the first few times you have sex again, it might feel awkward. That’s normal. It gets better.”
― Stephen Snyder, sex therapist and author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Term Relationship
6. You can always ease back in with a good, old-fashioned makeout session.
“When couples are sexless, it is almost always the case that they are touch-less and kiss-less as well. What I like about kissing is that it activates the same pleasure centers in the brain as sexual activity. In fact, it is one of the most important sensual activities for intimacy and closeness. Kissing can be highly arousing and our mouths are underrated sex organs.”
― Shannon Chavez
7. Plan an erotic date night where sex is optional.
“One way to end or reverse a sexless marriage is to make a plan and create an erotic date. It can be a daunting task and you may feel anxious that things will feel awkward, uncomfortable and the night may not live up to your expectations. That’s OK. In fact, you may not want to have intercourse at all. The first date you might just touch, or lay naked in bed together. Reconnecting sexually doesn’t have to feel threatening. Take it one step at a time and enjoy the process.”
― Tammy Nelson
8. It’s true what they say: Variety really is the spice of life.
“Most couples struggle with not wanting a certain type of sex, but are willing to engage erotically with a partner in other ways. Sex is like food. If we had the same meal repeatedly, we would start to lose our motivation and craving for that food. We need to create variety in our sex lives so that sex can become exciting and rewarding. One of the main reasons couples are sexless is because sex has become routine, boring and predictable. We need excitement, playfulness and mystery to activate our desire.
“I suggest that partners create three to five different erotic menus and share them with one another. Talking about sex can often kick-start desire and make you feel more connected to your partner. Agree to take turns initiating an item once a week. Give yourself permission to start slow and build up to feeling more comfortable being sexual again. Check in with each other at the end of the week and share what you enjoyed most about the erotic adventure.”
― Shannon Chavez
9. Try practicing mindfulness before you hit the sheets.
“Before you go to have sex, take a moment or two in bed naked together to just do nothing together. Pay attention to your physical and emotional state, your breathing, the points of contact between your body and the bed. See if you can just exist in the moment without having to do anything in particular. That state of being in the moment without judgment is what’s commonly called ‘mindfulness.’ A little mindfulness before getting sexual together can make it seem a lot more natural and less stressful.”
― Stephen Snyder