This is the same for men and women, by the way.
If you are in a long-term relationship, and you have sex once a month on average (or less), your relationship is considered to be a sexless marriage.
It is such a sad term.
And it is estimated to affect a good 15%-20% of couples who share their lives together. For many different reasons.
The Difference Between a Sexless Relationship and Going Through a Phase of Less Sex.
Long-term relationships go through many phases. Up and down and plateau. Stages with less-than-optimal sex frequency are expected every now and then.
Say, for a few months after having a baby.
Some couples with very young children can have hardly any sex for a few years, and that’s not anything I would worry too much about. So long as there are still touch, cuddles, and the general notion of both partners that sex will be enjoyable as soon as the time is right.
It is totally normal to have less sex if there’s an illness that affects someone’s vitality; also if someone is going through a stressful life event, even if these last longer than anticipated.
What I am writing about is a more acute problem.
It’s when your partner seems to have lost any interest in partnered sex whatsoever.
It’s when the idea of sex simply stopped being something to look forward to. Instead, your partner might believe that they just don’t care about sex at all.
If you still want to have sex, this could be super frustrating.
First thing to look into.
We really want to make sure that it’s not just a frequency thing. Perhaps your partner loves having sex, but their ideal sex frequency is much lower than yours. If that’s the case, there are ways to deal with it.
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two. You might have been rejected so many times that you don’t even want to initiate sex anymore.
Try and recall the last few times you had sex. Does it seem that your partner was more connected to you during or immediately after having sex? Or do you have a feeling that the only reason they did it was to please you, and they themselves were utterly uninterested?
If it is the latter, I am afraid you are dealing with something more complex than a sex-frequency-mismatch.
Second thing to look into.
Most of us think that first comes desire, and then arousal.
This is a pattern that we see all around us in popular fiction (books, movies, etc). Perhaps that’s also what you experienced earlier in your relationship.
However, a different pattern of desire is recognized as healthy and normal. Responsive desire is one that comes after arousal. And this pattern is common, both for men and women, in long-term relationships.
Basically, what it means is, that some people need to first be aroused before they feel any kind of desire.
If both you and your partner are aware of this, you might be able to pinpoint your issue as simply a case of someone with a strong tendency for responsive desire.
If that’s the case, then perhaps it’s not that your partner lost interest in sex. Perhaps they simply are waiting for a spontaneous desire to make them feel sexy again… Where all they really need is to stop expecting desire to come all by itself.
Third thing to look at.
When you can clearly see that your partner did lose interest in partnered sex, it can be totally disheartening.
Especially when other aspects of your relationship are so perfect. You are great friends, you laugh together, enjoy each other’s company to the Nth degree. And they still don’t want to hear about sex.
This is where you need to look at your sex life itself.
Connecting vs. Disconnecting Sex.
I wish I could recall where I read this so I could write a proper quote.
Anyway, somewhere I came across this sentence that ultimately, we have sex alone.
I wish it was not true, but for many of us, it is true indeed.
Sure, we have our partner and we get excited with them, but once the excitement levels are high, most of us just keep doing the physical act of sex, although in our heads we are somewhere else.
It could be as minute as focusing on the fact that we want to have an orgasm (or that we must delay our orgasm, whatever the case might be). It could be fantasies we play in our head while we have sex. Or it could be as far as thinking about our to-do list for tomorrow.
Most of us notice that at the start of a relationship we are fully present while having sex. But very naturally, this shifts, and in long-term relationships, the sex tends to become more mundane, more predictable, less joyful.
One can definitely describe this as having partnered sex — alone.
This is disconnecting sex at its best.
It is mostly unsatisfying, to say the least.
Yes, even if both parties have an orgasm.
Having partnered sex this way by default may cause either one of two different side effects.
Side effect 1: You feel unsatisfied which means you want more of it, hoping the next time will be finally satisfying.
Side effect 2: You feel unsatisfied which makes the whole involvement in sex completely pointless.
When we practice sex like this for a while, many people develop — even if they are not fully aware of it — the feeling that they are merely a sex object for their partner. Even if they know that their partner loves them dearly.
Sex has become this thing that separates instead of a tool for connection.
Connecting sex, in a nutshell.
I won’t go over all the details of how to practice connecting sex, it’s just too much for the scope of this article.
I will mention, though, that the trick is to stay fully present to your partner.
It might look very different to what you think sex is supposed to look like. It might feel very different to what you believe sex is supposed to feel like.
It is sex that is done with mindfulness and awareness. And it has the main purpose of connecting to your partner at its forefront.
If you want to read more about this type of sex you can read here and here.
But in this article, I want to focus on what you can do now, that your partner is already uninterested in sex. And you can apply this type of sex practice once your partner is back on board.
Strategy for bringing sex back into your lives.
Let’s get real here.
Many couples do not feel comfortable talking about sex.
I bet you don’t feel comfortable talking about it, either.
So how can you simply approach your partner and tell them that you would love to have sex with them?
How can explain to them that sex is important for you without making them feel like you demand it?
How can you convey to them that you appreciate the fact they are in your life, and that sex is just another expression of that gratitude?
If it doesn’t come so easily, it is important to get help.
A couple’s therapist that is also a sexologist has the potential to transform things between you.
You can start by seeing them by yourself, and later on, you can see them as a couple.
If, for some reason, a therapist is not an option for you, you will have to find a way to explain to your partner that it’s not sex that you are after.
I don’t mean that you need to lie. Obviously, you would love to have sex.
But the emphasis is on affectionate touch.
If you can establish with your partner which type of touch they feel comfortable with, start there.
Decide together on situations when a certain touch is OK.
Now your job is to be fully present in these moments.
Apply your touch with mindfulness and never ever step beyond the clear boundaries of the touch that is allowed.
After doing this for a while, the time will come to discuss the boundaries again.
It can be a long process and the progress might not be linear.
But if you would have to choose between staying in a sexless marriage and looking forward to a future of loving, wholehearted, connecting sex life, which one would you choose?
I hope you choose hope.