Make the magic come alive again.
Dr. Phil called it an epidemic. There are countless stories about it online and in print. If it’s not happening to you, it’s undoubtedly happening to someone you know – but let’s get real: if you clicked on this article, it probably is happening to you.
Psychologists estimate up to 20 percent of American marriages are what they call “sexless” – defined as when couples have sex 10 or fewer times per year.
“Individuals experience higher levels of well-being and marital satisfaction when they have an active and satisfying sex life. Without it, some couples slip into a relationship that is based on emotional closeness alone (he/she feels like my best friend, but not my lover) or draw apart because their sexual intimacy needs are not being met.”
Here, experts including to Essel, Dr. Alex Chinks – a sex therapist and clinical psychologist based in Boston, Massachusetts – and several others, offer their best relationship hacks for getting a sexless marriage back on track.
1. Open up the conversation.
Essel says he works with many couples who are bored with their sex lives, but who have stopped bothering to talk to each other about what they want. “When was the last time you asked your partner what they desire regarding your intimate experiences?” he asks. “When was the last time you sent them a text, or an email especially, which are much more effective than talking in person, and asked them what they would like to do differently in regards to sex?” So, send an email and see what happens. “Let’s see if they will risk being open and vulnerable and give you a key to what they desire to make your intimate life more exciting,” says Essel.
2. Focus on non-sexual intimacy first.
“Intimacy does not mean getting busy with your partner in the bedroom,” says Dr. Chinks. “Rather, intimacy is the level of closeness and trust that you and your partner have with one another. If a couple lacks intimacy, they may never be able to take the risks and communicate what it is that they really want, making it almost impossible to get that spark going again.” Dr. Chinks advises couples to hug more often, and to look into each other’s eyes for two minutes – it’s harder than you think!
3. Prioritize your sex life.
“After the initial buzz of a relationship, the romance often fades as couples focus on other pressing demands,” explains Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a licensed psychologist and marriage counselor based in Boulder, Colorado. If you think it’s normal for sex to fall by the wayside as you focus on your career, family, and other activities, then it probably will. You’ve got to make it a priority, or it’s not going to happen.
4. Work through resentment.
“Resentments get in the way of intimacy every time,” says Essel. “Most couples, when I ask them to share their most intimate thoughts, shut down immediately. It’s not shame. It’s not guilt. They don’t want to talk in front of their partner about intimacy, and what they desire, because they’re too pissed off over things they’ve never taken care of. If you’re holding a grudge (or a few), you’ve got to be willing to work through it if you want to reignite your sex life.
5. Tell your partner what you love about them.
“I want you to send an email or text to your partner telling them what you love about your intimate life. Is it the way they kiss? Is it how they hold your hand? Or how they hug you as you leave for work?” says Essel. It’s important to talk about what your partner is doing right, before jumping into what’s missing for you. Set the stage for healthy communication about your sex life by starting out with what’s working for you.
6. Don’t beat around the bush.
It can be awkward to talk about sex, even with the person you’re supposed to be closest to in the world. Still, it’s important to get over your discomfort and be specific, not vague. “Don’t leave them guessing,” says Essel. “Don’t say things like ‘I’d like to be more intimate with you.’ That means nothing.” Figure out what you really want, and then own it. “You might say to them, ‘I’d love to be more intimate with you, which means going back to when we first got together and made love three times per week.’ Now you’ve said something they can wrap their heads around.”
7. Get out of the bedroom.
When you’re ready to have “the talk” with your partner, don’t do it in bed. Essel recommends starting the conversation via text or email, because it feels safer. But eventually, you’ve got to be face to face. “This should always be done outside of the bedroom,” he says. “Not during sex, and not just after sex, because we are all way too vulnerable in that period of time.” Instead, take a walk, or just sit in the kitchen with a cup of coffee, says Essel.
8. Take a risk.
Essel stresses that you’ve got to make yourself vulnerable if you want to change things in your relationship. “You’re going to have to risk to get something big in life.” If you’re nervous, talk to your partner about that, too. “Ask them to be open-minded, please not to shut you down, that if they don’t agree with something you say, they can simply say that doesn’t feel right, instead of making fun of you or completely shutting down to any recommendations you might have.”
9. Keep things interesting.
Who says sex has to happen in the bedroom? And what does your preferred sex position say about your relationship? “Try to change up the location where you have sex and the position you use to keep it interesting,” says Dr. Fisher. Maybe some new tricks are in order. “Open up. Learn to talk more about what you like and don’t like before, during, and after sex.”
10. Don’t schedule it.
Many therapists advise couples to schedule their sex lives and just make it happen. But Dr. Chinks doesn’t recommend that route. “I completely understand that lives and schedules are jam-packed. [But] couples who have a “sex quota” often find themselves at the end of every month, with one partner feeling disappointed and frustrated, and the other completely anxious if they don’t “make their numbers.”
11. Share your fantasies.
Dr. Chinks encourages partners to act out their fantasies. “Fantasies are a perfectly normal part of an active sex life. Including your partner in one of yours can get things going quickly! Maybe you want to shake up your routine by being more submissive, more dominant, role-playing, or dressing up. As long as both partners feel comfortable with it, fantasy can be a great way to up add some heat to the relationship. Be open to your partner’s fantasies too. You may discover that there are things that turn you on that you never realized.
12. Watch some porn.
However you feel about porn, it can’t be denied that there are lots of benefits to watching it. “Putting inhibitions aside and joining with your partner in this steamy experience can be a wonderful way to kickstart a marriage that needs a sex tune up,” says Dr. Chinks. “Allowing yourself to become aroused alongside your partner can make a couple feel as though they share a special secret that is all their own.”
13. Get enough shut-eye.
Chris Brantner, Certified Sleep Science Coach at SleepZoo.com, says couples who get less than seven hours of sleep per night fight more than couples who get adequate sleep – and if you’re fighting, chances are your sex life is suffering.
14. Go to bed at the same time.
Brantner also advises couples to hit the hay at the same time. Three-quarters of couples go to bed at different times, which means they don’t get that end-of-the-day time to wind down together. This is a huge missed opportunity for intimacy and connection; couples who don’t go to bed at the same time spend less talking, sharing activities, and having sex.
15. Break out the toys.
“Don’t be afraid to bring in reinforcements,” advises Dr. Chinks. “There are a plethora of good sex toys and lubricants on the market that work wonders for a couple looking to heat things up. Whether it’s a vibrator that can be shared between the two of you, or a solo toy that allows you to keep pace with your partner, don’t shy away from bringing them into the bedroom.
16. Wake up your sex drive.
Sometimes our sex drives just go to sleep. If that’s happened to you, wake it up! “The more times we activate our sexual response, the more our bodies get used to [having sex], explains Dr. Chinks. “If your desire is waning, try adding in some solo sessions.” Other ideas include giving yourselves lots of time for foreplay or warming up with a sexy scene from a book or movie. “Discovering new and exciting ways to bring pleasure to your body is never a bad thing!”
17. Try a sex therapist.
Couples’ therapist and founder of the online relationship community Relationup, Rhonda Milrad, recommends seeking out a certified sex therapist if the problem is bigger than just the two of you. “A couple’s sex life can fall off the rails for many reasons, such as issues of infidelity, past sexual abuse, insecurities about sexual performance or functioning, or due to problematic dynamics in the relationship that result in disconnection.” Milrad says a good sex therapist can help identify some of the root causes behind your sexless marriage, in hopes of addressing them.
18. Ask for help.
“There are thousands of counselors and therapists like myself all around the world who are more than happy to help you reclaim the intimate excitement you had when you began your dating and or marriage experience,” says Essel. So reach out. You don’t have to feel ashamed or embarrassed about asking for help – and all you have to lose is your sex-starved marriage.
Featured image via unsplash.com.
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