Even if you haven't touched in months, you CAN find your way back to each other.
Has your sex life become predictable, infrequent, non-existent or just straight up boring?
Is there tension in your home that's contributing to less and less closeness? Does a fight between you and your partner mean no sex for a day, a week, or even months? Have you given up on sex altogether?
Use these steps at a gentle pace to turn the momentum of your sex life around. Whether you and your partner stay together or not, the skills you learn in these exercises will help you show your best possible selves to one another:
1. Be curious (instead of defensive)
The single biggest killer in relationships is being "sure" you know why your partner is acting badly. This mindset allows you to feel faultless (and it dehumanizes your mate). As a result, you feel justified only giving partial effort to make the relationship better.
2. Get to know each other again
Give your relationship, your partner and yourself a healthy length of time (say, three months) to do everything you both can to get to know each other again physically and emotionally. The following steps will shift your preconceived notions, for which you have accumulated tons of evidence, and let your old story take a rest for awhile. Get ready. You're about to learn something new about your partner.
3. Write it out
Each of you make a clear written assessment of your current intimacy patterns. Keep these to yourself. Clarify your own areas of needed improvement. Are your expressions and behaviors how you would treat a respected friend?
4. Call a peace truce
Quit trying to solve things with arguments or passivity. There is nothing inherently wrong with attacking or withdrawing from your partner, however many people have fallen into increasingly entrenched habits of being upset passively or aggressively. Remember, if this defensive way of communicating actually worked, you wouldn't be in this emotional standoff with one another. It's time to try a new approach.
5. Up your (non-sexual) intimacy
Practice increasing intimate behaviors. If you've had little or no physical contact for a while as a couple, start sitting facing each other with your knees touching. Get grounded in your own chair. Look each other in the eyes, breath and wait two minutes.
Now take turns talking about only what you like about your partner for 10 minutes. Then switch roles. You're proving to one-another nothing horrible needs to happen between when you communicate. Next time you do this start with the other person first.
When you're the speaker, pause periodically to allow feedback from your partner to clarify what they heard you say about them. The listener then needs to allow the speaker to clarify what they meant. As the listener, you cannot become upset because the speaker did not validate your opinion of what they said.
This takes practice! As you may have powerful, entrenched agendas in your patterns of communication. Relax. Your agendas will rear-up their predictable heads. Wait for your turn to listen or talk.
Do the best job you can in each encounter, knowing you can improve next time. Hug calmly for the conclusion of your first session. Simply hold one another while standing. No patting, talking or caressing. Go to separate places afterward where you can each write your feelings privately about this new set of experiences. Repeat this step at least once a week.
6. Hug until you feel relaxed
When you trust each other enough to talk openly and conclude with a casual warm hug, it's time to let the hug last until you can feel the tension reduced in each of you. This ability to sense yourself and your partner in close proximity to one-another is the touchstone of healthy intimacy.
7. Try having sex together
Remember you have three months to practice this. Rushing this process too fast creates an unsafe environment. Start slowly and lean into taking advantage of the work you've done in all the previous steps. This sexual practice requires you both to relax together and alternate being the active member and receptive member in each sexual encounter.
Get naked and climb into bed together. Do not request actions you know your partner does not like to do. You can go as far as you both feel comfortable in your naked movement toward intercourse. In each episode, increase the foreplay you've both appreciated. The important thing is to take risks in a consequence-free, safe environment. You're relearning your partner's comfort zones and rebuilding sexual trust between you.
Here's how this works: The receptive member holds the active person for several minutes in several different positions. The active member asks for a specific type of foreplay (i.e kiss my neck, stoke my thigh, tell me things you like about me, etc.) You are 100 percent successful if you both end this process feeling relaxed. If sexual excitement has grown and been sated, wonderful! However the purpose here is establishing a harmonious rhythm that you add onto in the future. End each sexual encounter holding each other until relaxed.
This whole process is design to have changed your sex life by the 20th encounter.
Remember: The more curiosity you bring to this process, the more you'll learn about your partner, sparking an even deeper desire for understanding. This is the opposite direction than knowing what's "wrong" with your partner.
Be kind to yourself and each other. You're looking for progress, not perfection or completion. Without the back-and-forth of typical relationship fighting, you can better imagine new ways to let yourself be visible to your partner. Practice holding yourself accountable.
Bill Maier is a psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, OR. Chapters of his forthcoming book are appearing on his blog at his website He can be reached for further information by email or telephone at 503-470-6717.