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For most couples, the word “sexless” is terrifying.
For most, it feels like a final declaration of unrealized relationship fulfillment, a shame-filled resignation to unmet expectations. It’s a state of the union that, for some, is a precursor to separation or divorce.
The term “dry spell” may feel less threatening and more temporary, like an unfavorable weather system that has a beginning and an end.
Whatever name you want to give to your current circumstance of sexlessness, I’m sure you didn’t enter into your romance with the expectation that sex will one day stop happening, so let’s talk about it.
From what studies tell us these days, 15 to 20 percent of American couples are living in sexless relationships. Some experts define “sexless” as falling anywhere between having no sex at all, to fewer than 10 sexual encounters per year. That’s a large group of couples asking themselves, “What happened to our sex life, and how do we get it back?”
Why are we so afraid of this common conundrum?
Becoming sexual again feels risky and even scary. Starting your journey back to sex requires you to come out from behind your own self-protection. Couples build up emotional walls to avoid their feelings of rejection or shame.
We are inundated in our society with messages about sex and what’s sexy, yet sex and shame are inextricably linked in our largely puritanical society. You’re shamed if you want more sex, less sex, different sex. You’re shamed if you want to talk about sex out loud and shamed if you never want to talk about it.
If an underlying shame is linked to any conversation you have about sex, then it’s your job to untangle that quagmire by finding a sex coach who can help you do that.
Shame undermines our conversations. It’s the driver behind blame, judgment, defensiveness, and silence.
It’s not a given that sex is going to be fulfilling, long-lasting, or even exist at all in a relationship. The couples who are satisfied with their sex life have learned to have open and honest conversations about sex. They do the work outside of the bedroom so that their time inside the bedroom is fulfilling. They get comfortable talking about what they want, why they want it, and how to get it.
Start with Coaching
Make use of some coaching sessions to help you along the path. Every relationship is a puzzle to piece together. While some couples may be ready to welcome sex back into their relationships, there are others who need to unravel some issues before they’re ready to become sexual again.
It’s important to not bypass the reasons that got you where you are. Is your abstinence the result of physical challenges? Is the sex you were having not fulfilling to you? Are there lingering resentments or betrayals keeping sex at bay? These are all common reasons couples can let sex slide, and coaching can be a valuable tool.
If you’re both honestly ready and wanting to bring sex back into your life as a couple, here are some important steps to take in order to traverse that seemingly vast and vulnerable chasm:
Taking the leap.
Step #1: Welcoming Change
Set aside time to talk about your sex life—outside of the bedroom. Talking about sex is hard enough for many couples, so talking about not having sex can be even more challenging. Don’t wait, hoping that it will just solve itself. Waiting only leads to resentment, and eventually, contempt.
Be brave, knowing that your ability to have this conversation will lead to you getting your sex life back again and strengthening your bond as a couple. (If you need help, seek out a professional to help facilitate this conversation.)
Acknowledge that your relationship is not broken and that many couples contend with periods of less sex, or no sex. Agree that no one person is to blame.
Almost certainly, both of you have contributed to your current sexless status, either actively or passively. Often, both the higher desire partner, and the lower desire partner play their parts in the sexual breakdown. So, here’s the perspective to prepare for your journey back to sex:
You’re a team. You’ve got this. You’re committed to the relationship and each other. Leaving the blame game behind you is your first step.
Step #2: Using your Words
Don’t make assumptions about your partner’s interest in improving your sex life. Ask opened-ended questions like “tell me more” and “how do you feel about that?” Let go of your own story about your partner and start to get curious.
Talk about how you both feel about your sexual frequency.
Often, what couples miss most is not so much about orgasms, but rather it’s about intimacy and having dedicated time together to feel close and loving.
Getting vulnerable is a good place to start when you’re sharing your feelings about your sex life. “I miss being close to you in that way” is much easier to hear than “you never want sex anymore!”
Was there a trigger that shifted your sexual frequency?
Talk objectively about the original trigger that contributed to derailing your sex life, if there was one.
Your sex life is probably a tender subject for both of you, so don’t rewound each other by finger pointing or judging. Approach this talk as teammates, not adversaries.
When did it start? Was it after a recent birth, extended travel apart, a health crisis, family issues, mental health challenges?
When a couple can identify when their sex life started to change, they sometimes come to realize that the original trigger is no longer current or relevant anymore.
Once you’ve identified what happened to derail your sex life, look to the future to rebuild and repair it.
Step #3: Setting the Stage with Intimacy
Don’t make the mistake of bypassing real conversations by jumping back into sex too quickly. Build feelings of emotional safety and trust first. If you’ve been avoiding conversations about sex, you’ve probably built up some emotional walls between you that have impacted your sense of intimacy.
Lay the foundation to welcoming sex back into your lives by getting vulnerable with each other.
Non-sexual touch is a great place to start. Holding hands, extended hugging, cuddling, massaging, kissing, are ways to reconnect with each other’s bodies again.
If you have fallen into the pattern of expecting or hoping that physical touch will lead to sex, now is a good time to separate those two activities and learn to enjoy physical touch in and of itself. Make the agreement to set aside sexual expectations for now so you can both relax knowing you’re on the same page.
Create the safety and trust to get vulnerable with each other. Let yourselves open up to receiving physical closeness from your partner before sexual expectations come into play.
Step#4: Calling a Spade a Spade, with Patience
Admit to each other that having sex again for the first time may feel awkward. You may feel a little shy. Talk about it. It may be hard for you to drop into your sexy self right away. Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself or your partner to have hot, passionate sex if that’s not how you feel.
By naming the potential awkwardness of reengaging sexually, you can relax your expectations and welcome whatever the experience brings—from some vulnerable tears to some shared laughter.
Stay real and connected throughout. Be sensitive to where your partner is at. If they don’t seem present, ask them what they might need to help them to relax and enjoy themselves. You’ll find your sexual self as you start to trust your bodies again and relax into the pleasure sex offers.
Step #5: Out with the Old, in with the New
If old patterns contributed to your loss of sex in the first place, now is the time to examine new patterns, such as planning for sex so it doesn’t end up last on your to-do list, or learning the skill of asking for what you want sexually.
Bringing sex back into your life requires patience and vulnerability. It also requires some curiosity.
One new pattern you can introduce to your sex life might be exploring new erotic activities together to bring added dimensions to your sex life.
I encourage couples to bring some curiosity to their sex life and be open to trying new activities together. I suggest they make use of Your Erotic Menu to help them have these conversations. (Visit here to get access to this powerful erotic conversation tool for couples.)
What sexual style do you prefer, and what activities support the feelings you want during sex?
You might want to explore more sensual activities to help move you back into being sexual again. Perhaps you’re both needing some novelty that engages your kinkier sides. Your Erotic Menu will teach you how to make those conversations fun.
Another thing you learn from Your Erotic Menu is the importance of the “morning after coffee convo.” Checking in with your partner after you’ve had a sexual encounter supports ongoing conversations about what you enjoy and what you want more of. Take time for your check-in and make use of what you learn in your next encounter.
Step #6: Keep Talking
If you find yourselves entering into a dry spell again, talk about it before resentment starts to build. Don’t fall back into old patterns of avoidance by letting shame and silence infiltrate your sex life again.
Keep your sex life thriving by maintaining open and honest conversations.
Make the agreement to sit down and talk about sex once or twice a month. Check in with each other. What are you enjoying? What could work better?
Keep your conversation affirming and appreciative so you both have the experience of building on what you’re learning.
Solid relationships and great sex come to couples who invest themselves in making it happen. Don’t wait for a crisis to seek out professional coaching. Learn the skills you need to realize the relationship you long for.
Relationship coaching for couples will give you the insights and tools that will lead you back to the reason you searched me out in the first place and the desire to live a satisfying and fulfilling life of love, sex, and desire.