Believe it or not, a sexless marriage isn't doomed.
Are you in a sexless marriage? If so, you're not alone. Recent studies conclude that about 20 percent of American couples are in a sexless relationship, defined as having sex less than ten times a year.
Many couples are thrilled if they can squeeze in sex once a month. I've heard from hundreds of couples who haven't had sex in years, or even decades. Sexless marriage, it seems, is far more common than any of us want to admit. The good news? Couples in sexless marriages can choose to reconnect and rediscover a fulfilling sex life.
Here are ten steps toward healing a sexless marriage.
1. Make the commitment to fix your relationship.
The first step towards transforming a sexless marriage is making the commitment together to do so. This is the most essential step, and a huge reality check. Do you both actually want an erotic relationship again? No matter how long it's been since you last were sexually intimate, you can recover your erotic connection, but only if you both want to.
Sit down and have a very honest conversation about the future of your relationship. Do you want a sex life together? Is it time to end the relationship? If you both can honestly say that you want to have a sex life again, you can move on to the next step.
2. Detox your relationship.
Sometimes, life events — like having kids or taking care of elderly parents — can derail your sex life, creating a dry spell. In many cases, though, the slow build up of resentment is what causes a sexless marriage.
Do an inventory and get honest about why you have drifted from one another. Either alone or with the support of a good therapist, get your emotional issues out in the open and work toward detoxing your sex life. This step isn't the most fun, but it's necessary for moving forward together. Only once you're honest about what has been holding you back can you can move forward and reconnect.
3. Create a loving and kind environment.
Now comes the fun part of healing your sexless marriage. The first step to getting intimacy back on track is to commit to what we call a "Culture of Pleasure" in your relationship. Every relationship has a culture, created by how you treat one another day in and day out.
Make it a priority to be kind, caring and loving toward one another. Go out of your way to love and serve your partner, and be grateful when they do the same. The goal is to create an environment where you both feel loved, valued and appreciated. No deed is too small — from doing extra dishes to complimenting your partner, every moment of kindness counts.
4. Reconnect with massage.
Once you're treating one another kindly around the house, it's time to reconnect your bodies and start reaping the benefits of loving touch. Touch is the most powerful tool for reconnecting after living in a sexless marriage. Massage is the perfect place to start.
Set aside ten minutes and massage your partner. Make sure to take turns so you each get a chance to give and receive loving, nourishing touch. Soon, you'll be giving one another quality massages, exchanging pleasurable touch and learning how to communicate about touch and pleasure.
5. Cuddle more and get close.
As you begin to feel the benefits of exchanging couples massage, begin experimenting with more full body contact. Get naked and cuddle. The full body skin-to-skin contact of cuddling is a powerful healing force.
Skin contact releases oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone that makes you feel happy and peaceful. Try to cuddle at least a few times a week, if not every night. Just a minute or two can be enough to create more intimacy and trust.
6. Tap into your fantasies.
You're an independent erotic being. That means that your sexuality exists on its own terms as part of you. You're a unique human being and your sexuality is unique to you. You must cultivate and care for your sexuality independent of your relationship. This means knowing yourself as an erotic creature, masturbating regularly to stay in touch with your body, and having an active fantasy life.
Your fantasies are where you get to know who you are sexually. If it's been a long time since you allowed yourself to fantasize, take some time and tap into your fantasies. Pay attention to the common themes of your fantasies and allow yourself to feel excited by your own imagination. Give yourself permission to go wild and discover exactly what turns you on.
7. Let your partner know your desires.
After exploring your sexual fantasies, come up with a short list of your desires. They can be tame: foot massage, cuddling on the couch, longer kisses. Or your desires can be more wild: erotic spanking, sexual surrender, having outdoor sex.
What's essential is that your desires are specific. When you can name exactly what you want, it's much more likely you will get it. Share your specific desires with your lover and ask them to come up with their own list.
8. Negotiate an erotic goal.
Most people say sex shouldn't be goal-oriented, but we disagree. Goals work in every other area of our life and they work to improve your sex life. Agreeing on a goal together will help you stay accountable to one another and help you make your sex life a priority.
Again, be specific in your erotic goals. One goal might be to have one hour a week of sexual intimacy, where you touch, kiss and pleasure one another; another goal might be to explore a new part of sexuality together, or to start having sex with the lights on.
Whatever your goal is, agree on it together and give yourself a month to focus on it. Then renegotiate a new goal. Erotic goal-setting can be a powerful way to align your priorities and keep your sex life evolving.
9. Play "the three-minute game."
When you feel ready to be more playful together, try "the three-minute game." Grab a timer, set it for three minutes, and then take turns asking for what you want. One person gives, the other receives.
This game forces you to figure out and ask for what your body is craving. In one moment, you might ask for three minutes of back massage. In another moment, you might be ready for three minutes of cunnilingus. Or you might want to ask for three minutes of conversation. YOU get to choose, as it's YOUR three minutes.
Remember: you can always politely decline your lover's request if you're simply not up to it. But then it's up to you to offer an alternative. This kind of game seems silly at first, but it's a powerful tool to work on your communication and negotiation skills.
10. Celebrate incremental changes.
As you begin to reclaim your intimacy after being in a sexless marriage, you may experience huge leaps of progress and have a renaissance in the bedroom. Or your reconnecting may come slowly. Either way, celebrate the victories.
Make sure your partner knows you appreciate the investment in your sex life. Express your gratitude verbally and by continuing to build the "Culture Of Pleasure" in your relationship. It can help to remind one another how far you have come.
After a particularly affectionate day, say, "Remember when we would go for days without touching? I'm so glad we're more affectionate now." By tracking your progress and celebrating every victory, you're more likely to stay on track and make your sexless marriage a thing of the past.