In a sexual rut with your partner? Take heart — it’s natural for partners’ sex drives to ebb and flow through the years and things can definitely improve in the bedroom.
Below, sex therapists share seven pieces of advice that have worked for real couples they’ve counseled through the years.
1. Don’t assume your spouse is uninterested in having sex.
Don’t jump to conclusions about your partner’s sex drive without consulting him or her. Take the time to reach out, said New York City-based sex therapist Gracie Landes, pointing to the example of a client who assumed her husband was disinterested in sex based off another therapist’s observation.
“When they came to see me, the husband told us how alienated he felt by this low sex drive diagnosis from afar,” Landes recalled. “He said the advice didn’t fit him and sex no longer felt safe because he knew it would later be scrutinized.”
In the couple’s sex therapy sessions, Landes explained that most people are over the honeymoon phase after roughly two years and have to work at an active sex life.
“Long-term couples need to plan intimacy dates, bringing back that positive anticipation about being together,” she explained. “Today, the couple I worked with is having regular sex that works for both of them, that fits their lifestyle and their schedules.”
Learn more about intimacy here.
2. Acknowledge any resentment you may feel related to intimacy — then, take turns initiating sex.
If you hear “no, not tonight, honey” enough times, resentment and shame about your desire is bound to build up — and that resentment usually bleeds into other areas of your relationship and lives. When this happens, Los Angeles-based sex therapist Moushumi Ghose advises the rejecting partner to recognize that the ball is now in their court to initiate intimacy.
Once the couple is back in the practice of acknowledging each other’s needs, Ghose tells them to take turns initiating sex.
“When couples do this, it this takes the pressure off the person who is always doing the asking,” she said.
3. Schedule sex.
You schedule your kids’ playdates, your doctor’s appointments and acupuncture visits. For couples stuck in passionless marriages, New York City-based sex therapist Michael Aaron advises them to schedule in sex as well.
“This includes not only blocking time, but planning out all of the details,” he explained. “Creating quality experiences requires foresight and planning, right down to negotiating specific sex acts. I often have couples create sex menus that they can choose from, based on interests. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that people want to do more of what feels good.”
4. Talk about your fantasies.
Too often, people in long-term relationships keep their latest sexual fantasies and interests to themselves, said Ghose.
“It’s typically beyond what they want in bed,” she said. “This goes a little deeper and requires self disclosure, for example, expressing a desire for being dominated or maybe they prefer a submissive role. I tell couples to have a heart-to-heart with each other. Sharing their secret fantasies and fetishes helps in the bedroom but it also builds a stronger sense of connection, which fosters deeper intimacy.”
5. Learn to work around any sexual dysfunction.
Sexual dysfunction (including erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or a lack of vaginal lubrication) often makes partners apprehensive about initiating sex, said Laurel Steinberg, a psychotherapist based in Great Neck, New York.
“They fear having lackluster sexual experiences or letting their partners down,” she explained. “Couples simply need to change their mindset and be OK with the fact that the body doesn’t always perform as the mind wishes it did.”
Steinberg said it’s also helpful for couples to widen their definition of quality sex.
“Couples need to realize that there are an infinite variety of ways to delight a partner that don’t depend on an erect penis or vaginal penetration,” she said. “When all types of sexual touch are viewed to be as equally valuable, couples can switch gears and find another trick up their sleeves.”
6. Get out of your head and into your body.
When you’ve been in your head all day because of work, it can be a struggle to connect with your body and tap into your sexual energy with your spouse. To address this problem, Kristin Zeising, a sex therapist in San Diego, California, tells couples to practice tuning into their bodies and being hyper conscious of subtle sexual cues from their partners.
“Use candles, romantic music or massage oil to help heighten your senses and quiet your mind,” she said. “If you notice your thoughts drifting to what the kids are doing or a work deadline, remind yourself that you deserve to be just where you are. You will get the most benefits out of the interaction with your partner if you are present in your body to experience it, not stuck up in your head.”
7. Stop worrying about orgasms.
For couples stressed over the state of their sex lives, Ghose likes to remind them that having an orgasm is not the be-all and end-all of sex.
“If orgasm happens, great — that’s the icing on the cake,” she said. “But sex can also be as simple as a heavy make-out session in the nude, some time together in the bath or even a massage. Encouraging other types of intimacy, that are less intimidating and have less pressure can ease the couple back into great sex.