In speaking with other sex therapists, the “we-are-not-having-sex-anymore” issue seems to be a common issue for couples. Friends of mine refer it to it as bed-death and explain where it as a situation where a couple have a great relationship (and are great friends) yet do not have sex. Couples sit with me and use words like, “our relationship is great in every way”, “we are great friends”, or “it feels like we are brother and sister”. Although all statements are statements about strong relationships, the second two suggest to me that one outcome of having no sex has been a loss of ability to anticipate enjoyable sex. After all, friends do not (necessarily) have sex and family also do not have sex. The three big reasons I hear for the loss of sex in a relationship are:
- Time: we are so busy;
- Not anticipating enjoying sex; or
- The partners are no longer getting along.
Sex is important in a relationship. It helps soothes the relationship and each other; brings joy, enjoyment and happiness; and creates a connection. You can read more about sex in an earlier blog: The importance of sex
As the Jim Croce song, Time in a Bottle, goes, But there never seems to be enough time to do things we want to do. Couples will often make time to do “things’ together: spend time with each other; with the kids; other family and/or friends. Yet, forget to make time for intimacy and sex. When a couple first attends my clinic, I ask them, “so what do you do?” By the time they have finished explaining their jobs, and extra-curricular activities I am often feeling exhausted. Many couples are just busy! And this must be exhausting. I always ask a follow up question, “When is sexy time?” Some people hold the belief sex needs to be spontaneous. This is a great myth. Spontaneous sex can only happen when two people are in tune with each other and feel sexy at the same time. A big ask for people in long-term relationships. Of course as a sex and relationship therapist my job is help couples. Yet I cannot make time. Scheduling sexy time might be an option in a busy couple life. By scheduling, I do not mean every Saturday night at 800pm! I am suggesting some along the lines of, “we have a free night tomorrow night, how about some sexy time?”
For some couples they no longer anticipate the enjoyment of sex. This does not mean they find, or will find, sex un-enjoyable. Just do not think sex will be enjoyable. Sometimes, I believe, people forget sex can be enjoyable. In the we-are-not-having-sex-anymore relationship, the sexual focus shifts from anticipation of having a good time, to the expectation of sex. Expectations of any kind is detrimental to wellbeing; expectations are one of the roots of anxiety, whether an individual’s or couple’s (joint) anxiety. When you expect a something to occur, like a sexual act, the focus is on you as an individual. Sex play in a relationship is firstly about the relationship, then about your partner. You come a third in the line. By focusing on having sex for the relationship and your partner you will remove the expectation. You can also anticipate the fun the two of you will have and the enjoyment of pleasing your partner. Remember sexy time begins before the bedroom. We discussed above flagging a time where you both are free. This act alone can contribute to anticipation. Spend some time in the lead up “flirting” with each other; touching incidentally (without expectation of return touch); have fun with each other. Discuss with each other what you find enjoyable. Share moments of enjoyment from your shared past. Talking about sex can be difficult, especially when sex play has not happened for a while. Maybe spend some time reading how to talk about sex with your partner.
Getting along means to talk to each other; to spend time together; and to not be in conflict. Conflict is not sexy. Conflict arises when partners are not listening to each other. Listening is the fundamental skill of good couple’s communication. Communication is the basic scaffold of a relationship (read more here about scaffolding your relationship). Spend some time scaffolding your relationship and building a strong foundation through talking and listening to each other. To listen means to pay attention to your body language – Are you sitting in an open or closed position? Get rid of the things which cause distractions: no phones or tablets, or TVs. The children can be set to play in another space. Listen to the complete conversation and not the conversation you might be having in your head. An important part of listening is letting your partner know you have understood what they have said by paraphrasing, or putting it in your own words. If you find yourself in a we-are-not-having-sex-anymore situation. Stop and talk (and listen) with your partner about making time and re-creating anticipation of enjoyment. Relationships do not just happen – relationships need to be nurtured. Nurturing is an active job. A healthy life includes healthy relationships and a healthy sex life. Enjoy! Dr Christopher Dr Christopher Fox is a Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist at Sex Life Therapy in Melbourne. He has clinics in East Melbourne and Frankston. Disclaimer: The information contained in this document should be read as general in nature and is only to provide an overview of the subject matter covered. Please see a an appropriate practitioner if you have any concerns.