There comes a point in most relationships when sex slows down and a couple wonders whether they’re getting enough action. Sound familiar?
We’ll save you the Google search: The average person has sex 54 times a year, which shakes out to about once a week, according to 2017 research published in the “Archives of Sexual Behavior.” A separate study published in the “Society for Personality and Social Pscyhology” found that couples who have sex at least once a week are happiest.
But, this research comes with a huge caveat, experts say. When it comes to sex, every couple is different and you shouldn’t worry about “keeping up with the Joneses” in the bedroom. It’s up to you and your partner to decide how much sex you should be having. Still, if you’re sensing a sex slowdown — which couples with school-age children are prone to, according to research published in the “Archives of Sexual Behavior” — there are plenty of ways to reconnect with your partner and have a more fulfilling sex life.
We asked psychotherapists who specialize in sex and relationships to share their best tips for overcoming a sex slump. Here’s how to just do it.
1. Initiate a conversation.
The first step is to talk with your partner about the decrease in sex, says Jacob Brown, a registered associate marriage and family therapist and psychotherapist in Marin County, California. “Open and loving communication is always the first step in improving your sex life,” Brown says. To help, start by asking your partner some questions. Oftentimes, one partner may feel things have slowed down, but the other may be comfortable with how frequently they’re having sex. “It’s important that both partners talk about how they feel about their current sex life,” Brown says. “That means what they like and what they’re not happy with.” Don’t solely focus on the negative, though.
Also, reflect on what’s changed in your lives, Brown suggests. Longer work hours; anxiety or depression; a loss such as the death of a friend, loved one, or pet; or other stresses such as job loss or changes in health can all have a significant impact on sexual activity and satisfaction, Brown explains.
2. Understand what kind of slump you’re in.
The problem may not be with the frequency of sex that you and your partner have, but rather the intensity or the type of sex. “You have to know what problem you’re trying to fix,” Brown says. Simply having sex more often may not fix the problem if one or both partners are dissatisfied with the sexual experience, feeling that it’s too routine, he explains.
3. Focus on the romantic side of your relationship.
Oftentimes when couples complain about their sex lives, it’s really about their level of intimacy and communication, Brown says. Try spending more time alone, whether that’s at home or by going on dates. “Focus on the romantic side of your life, not just the sexual side,” Brown suggests. Ask yourself, and your partner, if it’s about wanting more sex or if it’s about the need to feel more loved and connected. The answer could be two-fold.
4. Brush up on the art of flirting.
The pursuit of sex is just as significant as the sex itself, says Jennifer Litner, a licensed psychotherapist and sexuality educator who is the founder of Embrace Sexual Wellness, LLC in Chicago. Share with your partner how you like to feel pursued, and how you like sex to be initiated. Is it verbal? Physical? A combination of both?
Prioritizing the erotic aspect of your relationship can help you get over a slump, Litner says. “This may mean reserving time on their calendars for one another to be fully engaged with one another physically or it may mean intentionally flirting with one another,” she says.
5. Reflect on sex that turned you on.
“If it has been a long time, and partners feel sexually distant, they may also experience anxiety about being sexual again because it feels foreign,” Litner says. In this case, you could reflect on a previous satisfying sexual experience and think about the context that made it exciting and special. Or, think about a sexual fantasy and imagine your partner in that visualization to increase the excitement, she suggests.
6. Check in with your health.
A final note: An underlying physical health or mental health condition could be lowering your libido, says Christine Scott-Hudson, a licensed psychotherapist in Santa Barbara, California. Also, perimenopause and menopause can lower your drive. “Many people blame themselves for their libido changes, without realizing the body works as a whole system,” she says. Several medications also affect sex drive. Be open with your doctor and psychotherapist about any concerns you may have, she recommends, because a satisfying sex life is an important part of your overall well-being.
Brittany Anas is a freelance writer who specializes in health, fitness, and travel writing. She also contributes to Men’s Journal, Women’s Health, Trip Savvy, Simplemost, Orbitz, and Eat This, Not That! She spent a decade working at daily newspapers, including The Denver Post and the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado, and she is a former federal background investigator. In her free time, Brittany enjoys hiking with her gremlin-pot belly pig mix that the rescue described as a “Boston Terrier” and coaching youth basketball. She also works with domestic abuse survivors, helping them regain financial stability through career coaching. Follower her on Twitter and Instagram.