6 Tips for Ending a "Sex Drought," According to Therapists
Hint: It starts with a romantic date night.
Throughout any relationship, sex ebbs and flows. Some months (or maybe even years), you get freaky on a near-daily basis, while others, you hit a rut. Many factors, including illness, distance, and childcare needs can cause those ruts. But occasionally, a sex rut turns into a sex drought—and you realize you and your partner haven't been intimate in a concerning amount of time. Fortunately, it is possible to break the cycle. Ahead, therapists tell us the key ways to end a sex drought. Hint: you might need to break out your calendar app.
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Assess the cause of your sex drought.
A sex drought can occur for a bevy of reasons, and many of them are totally benign. So, when should you worry?
"It is important to assess your needs and see how much sex you want and what you are willing to accept," says David Tzall, PsyD, a licensed psychologist based in Brooklyn, New York. "Not feeling close or [being] disconnected from your partner may indicate that the lack of sex is impacting your relationship."
If that's happening, you'll want to discover the root of the issue. "It's likely the couple is not having sex for more foundational issues in the relationship," Tzall explains. "If one or both partners are not emotionally vulnerable or attuned, sex can drop."
To get on the same page, you'll need to have an honest discussion. Let your partner know how you're feeling about your sex life, and that the lack of sex concerns you. Then, listen to your partner's point of view. Once you have a mutual understanding, you'll be better able to tackle the issue. Enlist help from a couples' therapist if needed.
After you decide you'd like to end your sex drought as a couple, take an intentional approach to romance.
"Before engaging in sexual activity, try reigniting the flame by planning a romantic date night, taking a shower together, or scheduling a couples massage," says Sarita Ford, LCSW-C, a licensed clinical social worker. "Couples can also increase intimacy by understanding their spouses' love language and operating within that."
Plan a date or pre-date activity that tends to that love language. By catering to each other on an emotional and romantic level, you'll set the stage for greater intimacy.
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Address the "kid issue."
One of the most common reasons couples find themselves in a sex drought is due to parenting commitments.
"After kids, sex tends to become less frequent," says Jess O'Reilly, PhD, resident sex expert at Astroglide. "There are exceptions, but it's common for couples to invest more in their roles as parents than in their roles as partners after the birth of a child and while raising children." Unfortunately, that can lead to a lack of connection, attraction, and sexual tension, O'Reilly notes.
Returning from this type of sex drought requires an intentional shift. "Stop calling each other mom or dad; stop prioritizing your kids over your relationship; stop making excuses and thinking that your relationship will still be intact once the kids move out," says O'Reilly. "You must invest in a relationship to ensure it's happy and fulfilling."
Incorporate intimacy into your everyday.
Sex isn't the only way to become more intimate; the ways you show affection on a daily basis matter, too. "There are other forms of physical connectedness that are just as necessary, such as cuddling, spooning, massaging, hugging, and holding hands," says Tzall. "The desire to have sex is started way outside of the bedroom."
Something as simple as a sensual gaze or a brief moment of PDA can get the ball rolling.
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Schedule time for intimacy.
Another way to be more intentional with your sex life is to plan it thoroughly. "Rather than leaving it up in the air, you might need to schedule when you go on dates or have intimate time," says Tzall. "Without that type of planning, it can fall by the wayside. It's easy to get lazy in a relationship and push activities off or lean on the other person to plan and do."
By taking the initiative, you'll both ensure you make time for your relationship and show your partner how much you care.
Another activity you'll want to pencil into your calendars is a six-month check-in, suggests O'Reilly. "Record how often you want to have sex on a piece of paper. Underneath your number, write down how often you believe your partner wants to have sex," O'Reilly says. Have your partner do the same and then compare your responses. "Have a laugh, have a discussion, and then address strategies to meet somewhere in the middle."
During your check-in, O'Reilly suggests chatting about other sex-related topics, too. For example, you can plan what the two of you will do if one person is in the mood and the other isn't, how you can each support the other's interest in sex, and how you can stay connected when sex is off the table.
By having these discussions, you'll pave the way for deeper emotional intimacy and clearer communication, so that sex droughts become less frequent.