If your sex life is suffering, you're far from alone! Find out what you can do about it!
This guest article from Psych Central was written by Nathan Feiles, LMSW
Sex in relationships is not always easy to maintain. Many things get in the way, from creating time for intimacy, to our own emotional issues that block intimacy, to issues in the relationship. It would take an entire book to discuss all the possible obstacles that could come between a couple and a healthy sex life, so rather than do this, let’s go right to some possible solutions.
There are many things couples can do to improve the state of their sexual relationship. The suggestions I’m presenting here are intended to cover a range of possible obstacles couples run into.
Here are seven suggestions to help get your sex life back on track:
1) Take care of your body. It is common for some people to put less effort into their appearance and health when they’ve been in a steady relationship for a while. If you don’t look like you care about yourself, it’ll be hard for your partner or anyone else to want to be sexually intimate with you. Going to the gym, yoga, aerobic exercise, keeping clean, groomed, and generally showing pride in your physical health and appearance brings with it a sense of confidence in who you are. This in itself is an attractor.
2) Let yourself be vulnerable. Fear of vulnerability can be a significant obstacle to a healthy sex life. If you were raised to feel shame with sexual desire, or to feel that your independence is being compromised by needing someone else to satisfy you in a very personal manner, it can be emotionally threatening to be sexually intimate. Whether it’s through therapy or through pushing yourself to take emotional risks to get beyond these obstacles, allowing yourself to be vulnerable — including accepting sexual desire as a natural and human urge, and also realizing that all relationships come with natural dependencies — will enhance your sex life.
3) Ask for, and offer directions. As we learn to accept our sexual desires, we become more in touch with what we want sexually — including setting the environment (e.g. romance), foreplay, positions, and otherwise. The more directions we can give to our partners about what we want, and the more we can ask when we’re uncertain what our partner wants, the better the overall experience will be for both.
4) Discuss sex with your partner. If your sex life is not functioning the way you’d like to see — whether it’s frequency, lack of adventure, avoidance, awkwardness, and so on — talk with your partner about sex. If the topic is tough to bring up, couples therapy is a good place to go for help. Partners who are unable to talk about sex when things aren’t going well usually experience more difficulty getting things back on track. Opening the conversation, and doing so in a safe and accepting manner (don’t ridicule your partner’s desires even if they don’t align with yours!) is important in this process.
5) Plan sex dates. This is one that, on the surface, people always don’t love the idea of because it lacks spontaneity. When the problem is not having enough time, being too tired at night, not being able to be spontaneous often enough, unable to get away from the kids, and so on, sex dates can be very helpful. Clear time in your schedule to just be together. Allot a comfortable amount of time, and have it just be for intimacy. You can arrange this however you both want — maybe alternate turns planning it (e.g. a bubble bath, massages, strip poker, baking while wearing only undergarments, etc.). Even if it’s not spontaneous, once both partners start getting into the activity, both usually will find themselves fully engaged. Once you build success with planning consistent sex dates, it then can become easier to be spontaneous in the future — especially as you expand the options for the sexual environment (activities leading to sex), which can open more avenues to spontaneous engagement.
6) Make your partner’s life easier. While some might find stress relief through sexual activity, for others increased stress decreases sex drive. The more you can do to ease your partner’s stress, the better the chance of creating emotional space for intimacy. Also, by merely doing caring gestures for your partner, this increases positive sentiment in the relationship, which already improves the environment for intimacy.
7) Talk about problems and be open to influence. Lack of sex in a relationship can also be the result of a power struggle or other issues in the relationship. When there are struggles in the general relationship, intimacy is usually the first area to shut down. If you are harboring resentment or frustrations with your partner, open the communication with your partner. Most importantly, be open to influence. Continuing to compete with your partner doesn’t increase the likelihood your partner will want to share their emotional vulnerabilities and body with you. If you can be flexible in resolving relationship issues and letting your partner influence you in areas where you can let go, this will increase positive sentiment in your relationship. Accepting influence also increases the sense of unity, which helps create an overall sense of togetherness (and effectively can create sexual desire).
There are also other ways to improve your sex life with your partner that aren’t described here. If communication is blocked or if there are issues that you are struggling to resolve, a couples therapist can help with this. Focusing on ways of building togetherness in your relationship as a whole is a generally positive way to increase intimacy.