If your sex life has dropped to near zero or zero, it can be restored.
The first step is to discuss it gently and directly with each other. Anger and sadness have to be temporarily put on the shelf for these discussions. The reason is that most of the time both parties are too fragile to handle venting and purging sessions. So Rule One is an open and soft discussion with an emphasis on listening to your partners ideas on how to improve things.
Merely focusing on what’s wrong is an approach that many take, but I warn you that it often ends up with more hurt and repeated blaming. I am an advocate of starting slowly to fix sexual problems with constructive and small steps. More time together, cuddling, holding hands, kissing are the first priorities. Later, sexual activities can follow in this graduated manner. For me, this is the starting point.
When the emotions are less raw and hope is again alive, or, conversely, when the damage done is so severe, we must talk about what went wrong and how to repair it. We can begin to focus on the reasons things went off track.
I think most couples know what went wrong or at least have theories. I am confident that repair work must be done on the emotional pain. Repairing the sexual relationship is a way to heal many of the hurts that result from an absence of sex. Yet, we must at some point deal with the emotions of either party that are getting in the way of progress.
There are many reasons that a sex life loses, well, its life. Here are some common struggles:
I am not interested in sex with my partner because of the…(FILL IN THE BLANK: drugging, drinking, yelling, anger, smell, lack of respect, rudeness, selfishness, porn, weight gain/loss, gambling, spending, etc. ) of my partner.
It never really was a very healthy or satisfying sexual relationship and it just sort of faded away after… (FILL IN THE BLANK: the kids came, the dog died, a parent came to live with us, I started the night shift, we moved, the job was lost, I went back to work, or I turned 30, 40, 50, 60, 70….)
Why should I? I don’t want to reward the way he/she does… (FILL IN THE BLANK: something I don’t like or despise, doesn’t do what I want, expect, deserve, like, desire or behaves like I am/am not used to having in my life.
Our sex life died because I have… (FILL IN THE BLANK: low something or elevated something else. OR because of the medications, hormones, stress, fitness, obesity, pain, arthritis, depression, insomnia, allergies, herpes, etc.)
When I was a beginning therapist I came across my first of these couples. They had gone 15 years without sex. They said they loved each other and were committed to the relationship. He drove a cab at night and she worked during the day. They took those shifts to make sure one of them was always available to watch their child. Guess how old the child was!… Wait for it…Wait… Yep, she was 15 when they came in.
This couple got stuck in the transition of their marriage from couple to family. It’s common that sex falls away after the birth of a child. Most of us will go through such a transition and figure a way to restore our sex lives. This couple never had that discussion, though both wanted it to go back to the active and fulfilling sex life they had once enjoyed.
In the safe environment of my office they were able to begin the conversations needed to move forward together sexually. They began to show hope as they progressed from discussions to the steps needed to rekindle their sex life. One of the most interesting changes they made was a simple one. They installed a lock on their bedroom door and told their kid to knock and wait for a response before entering.
It turned out that they had not closed their bedroom door since bringing the baby home from the hospital. They kept the door open to make sure they could hear their kid cry. Somehow, they never discussed closing it and keeping her out of the bedroom long after being concerned about an infant’s cries.
Every situation is different. That is why the quiet conversations are so critical. If you can have these talks in positive tones and begin to solve your own sex life, start now. If you have tried this a few times and aren’t making progress, seek professional help. By professional help I mean therapists that are trained in marriage and family therapy and have training in treating sexual problems.
The vast majority of therapists are unqualified and not trained in this work. Beware of individual therapists trying to do couple work. Marriage and Family therapists and members of ASECT, Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors & Therapists are the best trained in couples work of this nature. Talk to them and explore their abilities as well as your fit with them.
Whatever you decide, act on it as soon as you can.