It’s been a long time since you and your partner had sex. Pent up feelings are escalating – frustration, anger and fear.
Brian smiled sarcastically and told me it had been exactly 53 days since Marlo and he last had sex.
Kim rolled her eyes. She told me she was fed up with Matt’s excuses. “How are we supposed connect without it? I’m tired of trying to make it happen, and he’s just never in the mood.”
Tad was angry and depressed. He said he couldn’t tell me how long it had been. Shawna had a lot of discomfort after giving birth, and then it was just one exhausting and stressful day after another.
Before you try pressure tactics, potions and lotions, and before you schedule an exotic vacation or head for divorce court, please consider that there are simple ways to restart sex in your relationship. But You need to keep the following principles at the forefront of your mind.
First of all – Relax. It’s perfectly normal for relationships to go through dry spells where frequency is decreased or desire is diminished. Stress of any kind can be a root cause for changes in sexual patterns.
Brian’s approach was causing more stress. As a math teacher, he was used to solving problems numerically. His brain just worked like that. Figure out the numbers and find a solution. Boy did that ever backfire in his sex life! Being told how many days it had been left Marlo totally cold.
Kim’s disgust with Matt had the same effect. “Why would I want to have sex with someone who treats me like that?”
Tad had another tactic for coping. He played the “good guy.” He tried patience and understanding, supporting Shawna’s needs. He expected that he was earning some “good guy points,” and Shawna would pay up when it was time for sex. When reality played out very differently, he was angry at Shawna, making it even less likely that she would want sex with him.
Remember that you are going for the most intimate sort of connection that two people can make.
While you may be feeling frustrated about the lack of sex, or annoyed at your partner, or worried that they aren’t finding you attractive – those exact feelings create vibes that can set you up for further disappointment if these feelings are the first thing you share or are at the forefront of your mind. Your feelings – spoken or unspoken – will likely make him or her defensive, and nobody feels sexy when under attack.
Whatever the root cause of the disconnect is, the feedback loop of negative feelings between you two keeps you stuck. Your negative feelings about the need for sex will stimulate negative feelings in your partner instead of the sexual ones you both need and want. If your partner feels blamed they will move further away, rather than toward you.
It’s just hard to connect with anger and fear that is focused in our direction. Our biology is wired for the opposite. We all have the instinct to turn away from perceived attacks, especially when the message shames or blames us.
Your partner may be confused by their own lack of desire. So understand that this problem is now a dynamic between the two of you, and you can absolutely change it – by focusing on yourself.
When Julie worried that Tim wasn’t attracted to her, she’d try to initiate sex from those insecure feelings. She felt anxious and a little bit desperate when she reached out to touch him. Because she wasn’t soothed in her own body, Tim couldn’t receive her touch as soothing to him. He actually felt a surge of annoyance which confused him. He really wanted to feel attracted to Julie again.
You can unintentionally make yourself emotionally uncomfortable or even “unsafe” for your partner. This is because the limbic system – the primitive, more emotional part of the brain perceives a threat – even if there is no actual threat. Just from the standpoint of the nervous system, you have made yourself “an enemy.” Not that your partner wants this feeling. He or she may wish they felt differently, and may not even fully understand their lack of interest in sex with you. But if you have blamed, tried to coerce your partner or played the victim, like Brian, Kim and Tad, you are reinforcing the dynamic that keeps you two apart, and you’re likely making things worse. If you’ve been overly anxious like Julie – your partner also can’t relax and enjoy being with you.
This is not to say it’s all your fault. The root causes for lack of sex in a relationship can be as varied as any other issue with couples. If you feel you need help with root causes, by all means, seek personal support from a therapist.
But in the meantime – re-route your sexual energy from the negative to the positive zone with these 6 steps.
Knowing that you love and want your partner more than you love and want sex is the message that is the greatest turn-on.
Relax. Letting go of blame and negative thoughts helps you let go of your own tension. Do a mental body scan from head to toe, and give yourself permission to soften and relax any tense muscles that you notice. You’ll see how you can breathe more deeply and rhythmically. In this more relaxed physical state, you are softer and kinder. Now is the time to try to connect and reach out. Your touch will likely feel soothing now.
Release obligations and expectations around sex. Even though you are hoping for a sexual encounter, you are more likely to have one, if you let go of urgency. Take it off your agenda that is HAS to happen. This will keep your body and all of your verbal and nonverbal messages free from tension. Believe it or not, if you have a “no performance required” rule, you will likely be able to stay open and connected to your partner. Your close presence will feel reassuring instead of “threatening.” Research says that emotional connection does lead to the best sex, and satisfying sex continues to build lasting intimacy. This is all due to oxytocin – the cuddle and bonding hormone we release when feeling super safe and connected. Make friends with oxytocin first, and you will be making love again once the cuddle vibes are flowing.
Repair offenses. Often couples wound each other in small or large ways. We become offended when we feel we aren’t a priority for our partner. It’s important to acknowledge it and make a repair, if you know you’ve done something to offend your partner, even if you didn’t intend harm. If your partner feels you’ve wronged them somehow, they aren’t going to feel close enough to enjoy sex with you. Offenses can be fairly small things that happen continually. “She doesn’t care that I need 1% milk, and always buys 2%,” or an offense can be a major betrayal in the relationship, and you may need the support of a therapist to help the two of you make things right. When couples do a good job of “house-keeping” and repairing any offenses on a regular basis, this reinforces the bonding and security needed for good sex to naturally happen.
Reminisce.After you have some soothing and bonding on board, a great way to restart sex is to have a fun and flirty discussion about sexy times you shared in the past. Open up about your memories. “Let’s think back to what we each loved about that time.” As you paint the picture with your partner – what they did, how they looked and how you felt, you help them recall their own memories of pleasure. Listen attentively to your partner’s memories. See what you can learn and ask how the two of you might create some more great rendezvous.
Reflect. Be like a mirror, and let your partner know exactly what you see, feel and experience about them that is beautiful. Take time for both of you to let all of your senses focus on what pleases you about one another. Share these reflections only when you are very relaxed and feeling connected. If you start with this, they are likely to feel that you’re manipulating and you just want sex. Be genuine. Offer only words of admiration that you truly feel in your heart. Knowing that you love and want your partner more than you love and want sex is the message that is the greatest turn-on.
Schedule.– Yea. I know. This doesn’t begin with “R.” And it isn’t usually a popular idea, either. When working with couples, I find that once they begin to feel connected, soothed and safe, even when they are able to have sex again, it’s difficult to restart a regular sex life without some routine built in.
The reasons for this have to do with hectic lifestyles, kids, and fatigue, as well as just the habits of turning away from sex that they’ve been living with – Netflix and phone apps are easy escapes for sex avoiders. So, at least to get things started, it really is a good idea to schedule sex. Agree upon how frequently you’d like it; when and where you’d both like it, set the dates – and then you both have something to look forward to. If one of you isn’t able to have sex at the scheduled time, it’s important to promise when you think you’ll be ready and keep your promise for the next time.
What I see happen is once a couple starts regular sex on a schedule, they’re soon back to spontaneous sex, as well! The scheduled sex helps them “break the ice,” and provides the safety and soothing and reminders that all stimulate more desire and the ability to engage easily once again.
So keep in mind the principles that always apply anytime we want to make a connection. No blaming or shaming. No pressure. And remember the sexy 6:
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