by Andrea M. Darcy
Is your relationship still alive (or at least dragging along), but your sex life is a desert?
What can you do if your sex life has ground to a halt?
Re-Starting Your Sex Life
Note that the below tools for re-starting your sex life with a long-term partner assume the following.
1.) You have both taken the time to make sure the problem isn’t physical.
Things like heart disease, an underactive thyroid, pregnancy, menopause, and taking new medications including contraception can all cause your sex drive to plummet. If any of these are a possibility, do talk to your GP.
2) You did have a good sex life, but now it’s vanished.
If you feel you have never had a good sexual relationship with your partner, the below advice might help. But also read our articles on different libidos, having a low sex drive / having a high sex drive, and what a healthy sex life actually looks like.
1. Start with a trust inventory.
Why is it some couples stay together after a betrayal or challenging life change, and others don’t?
Beneath the various reasons (our children, our life together, etc) it’s inevitably down to trust.
If there is still even a spark of trust left after a divisive experience, there is a greater chance the partnership can survive.
How does this relate to your sex life? Most people’s libidos are affected by trust (yes, even men’s). The more they trust, the more free they feel to be physical. If they don’t trust, they shut down, and sex becomes mechanical or non-existent. Grow the trust, and the attraction returns.
Putting your attention on how much trust exists in your relationship is a habit of attention that can grow the trust you already have.
Make a list of all the ways you still share trust, no matter how small. Do you trust them to pick you up from work? Be on time for dinner? Be a good parent?
Try to focus on three moments you trust your partner each day. You might find you trust them in bigger ways, too. You trust them to keep your secrets and be on your side at family reunions, for example.
[And if you discover you don’t trust them at all? It might be time to move on. Read our article on ‘Why I Can’t Leave a Relationship When I know I Should‘].
2. Spend quality time alone.
Convinced your partner doesn’t notice or want you any more? It is worth honestly asking yourself – do I notice and want myself these days?
Spending time alone might sound counterintuitive to helping your sex life, but note we’re talking about quality time alone here. This is time spend getting back in touch with yourself, and what lights you up. If you are honest with yourself, what makes you feel totally alive inside?
Whether it’s hobbies you’ve lost sight of in your relationship, or trying the ones you’ve always wanted to but your partner doesn’t, or starting that project you’ve put off for years? Doing things for yourself leads to raised self-esteem, which is extremely attractive to all those around us.
Re-connecting to your creative thinking also puts an end to any cycles of drama in your relationship that were unconsciously being used to avoid boredom (and yes, a war over different sex drives or no sex life can sometimes be just that).
Still not convinced? Creativity (and that doesn’t have to be art, it can be anything that gets you into a ‘zone’ or thinking differently) has been linked by a research study to sexual success.
What if spending time alone means you discover you don’t like yourself, don’t even know who you are or don’t know what you want, or that your self-esteem is at rock bottom? Then some of that time might be best spent not totally alone, but with a therapist. No relationship can go well if you are using it to hide your issues with.
It’s especially important that you see a counsellor or therapist if you suspect you are suffering from too much stress, anxiety, or depression. All three conditions can negatively affect your libido. Seeking support might not only save your sex life and partnership, it will help with other areas of life like your career and your family life.
3. Go connection crazy.
Many articles on helping a dead sex life will give you a list of ways you can ‘spice up’ your sex life or ‘experiment’. Or they tell you to ‘start communicating more‘. They will encourage you to book ‘date nights’ together.
These common tips are actually all about the same thing. They are about forming a new sense of connection with your partner through shared experience and openness.
For example, even if the sex experiments are an utter disaster, the laughter and shared memory form a sense of connection that might have long been missing between you.
Connection, daring to be vulnerable and expose your authentic self, is a crucial ingredient of intimacy (and good sex). Long-term partnership can leave us in entrenched patterns that mean we’ve actually long stopped connecting and are instead making assumptions about how well we know the other.
Not sure if you are or aren’t connecting? Ask yourself questions such as:
- How much do you really share with each other these days?
- Do you tell him or her when you are upset about something, or are they the last to know?
- How often do you turn to your partner and let him or her help you?
- Do you talk about your hopes and dreams, or just about schedules and kids?
- Do they know your shadow side, or do you try to hide it from them?
- Do you let them see you be vulnerable and afraid, or hide it all behind conflict?
In an era of self-improvement, it’s not hard to find books and workshops on communication and authentic connection. If you feel you need help with connection, try the next tip.
Talk to a couples counsellor
Any ideas you have that a couples counsellor will tell you what to do, or favour one of you over the other, are therapy cliches from TV shows and not reality.
A couples therapist is there to help you find your own answers, and they do so by helping you clearly communicate and connect. A problematic sex life is one of the most common reasons couples seek therapy, so there is absolutely no need to feel embarrassed, either.
Harley Therapy connects you with couples counsellors in three London locations. Did you also know that you can have online counselling?
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and personal development teacher with training in person-centred counselling and coaching. She is also a popular psychology writer who often writes about relationships! Follow her on Instagram for useful life tips @am_darcy