If You are Having Less Sex With Your Partner, Here’s How To Change That
Are you in a sexless partnership?
You might be thinking, “What’s considered a sexless marriage? Am I or someone I know in one?” And there is a standard definition. But whether it applies to your scenario can vary.
If we look at the strictest of definitions, a sexless marriage (according to “The Social Organization of Sexuality”) is when couples aren’t engaging in sexual activity or are having minimal sexual encounters.
But what’s considered “minimal” sex?
Dr. Rachel Becker-Warner, a relationship and sex therapist from the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota, defines it as “any partnership where sexual intimacy occurs 10 times or less within a year period.”
However, she also points out that “the difficulty with that definition is the subjectivity of ‘sexual intimacy’ and the concrete stipulation on frequency.”
You get to decide if you fit in society’s definition of a sexless relationship or not. Sexlessness doesn’t have to be a loss of intimacy.
“I think a sexless partnership is better defined as a conscious or unconscious avoidance of pleasure-based physical contact between partners,” Dr. Becker-Warner says.
So, if you’re just having less sex than you think you “should be” and are fine with it, there’s nothing to be worried about.
But if the frequency of sex is a concern in your relationship or partnership, don’t panic. There are solutions.
First, determine whether a sexless marriage bothers you
What’s essential for you and your partner, besides figuring out whether you meet a specific frequency, is to define what sex means to each other. Stop relying on internet stories or other couples’ experiences to dictate what’s “normal.”
No one, except for the individuals in the relationship, should decide if being in a sexless partnership is concerning. Everyone is different. If you and your partner are content with having sex every quarter or once a year, then that’s fine.
But if one of you is feeling hurt from not having your sexual needs met, then this is a sign the relationship agreement isn’t working and needs to be modified.
Sometimes an escalation in fantasies or actions can be a result of feeling less intimate with your partner. For example, if you’re starting to feel resentful and fantasizing about having sex with your co-worker, it might be because you haven’t connected physically with your partner for a while.
Dr. Becker-Warner outlines other factors to consider:
- You can’t remember the last time you and your partner enjoyed sexual intimacy.
- Sexual intimacy is the last thing you want to think about, or your heart hurts when considering the state of sexual intimacy with your partner.
- There’s hesitancy and/or avoidance of initiating physical touch, either because of the potential rejection or the possibility that it’ll lead to unwanted sex.
- Other forms of intimacy (touching, love languages, etc.) are also lacking in your relationship.
- You feel disconnected from your partner.
- You feel that sex is only when the genitals (particularly the penis and penetration) are involved.
If these outline your situation, then you may want to look back at when and why it started. It’s important for partners to define what sex means to them before addressing their perspective or the problem. This is critical to ensure both you and your partner are on the same page when discussing sensitive and personal issues.
Why might you or your partner have gone off sex?
There are lots of reasons why you or your partner might be feeling less interested in sex:
Feeling less connected than usual. Perhaps recently you haven’t spent as much time together. Or maybe something has happened in your relationship that’s caused a rift, such a big argument or an affair.
Too busy to make time for sex. You may be so busy with work, looking after children or dealing with other pressures that you don’t have time to spend on your relationship.
You don’t feel connected with your sexual self. Maybe there are things about your body or how you look that you don’t like and this makes it difficult for you to see yourself in a positive, sexual way.
You’ve had negative experiences with sex. Perhaps you’ve been criticised by a partner in the past, or grew up believing that sex is negative in some way.
You struggle with performance anxiety. Meaning the thought of having sex makes you worried and stressed.
Mental or physical health issues may be making things difficult. You may have insecurities about a physical injury or condition, be unable to have sex, or your interest in sex may have been disrupted by a mental illness.
How to talk to your partner about not having sex
If you feel like there’s an issue with your sex life, the first thing to do is figure out why. The best way to do that is to talk to your partner.
We know this can feel embarrassing and tricky, especially if you haven’t spoken about sex together in a long time – or ever before. If you aren’t sure where to start, you might find the following tips useful:
Try to phrase what you want to change in a positive way. Using ‘I’ phrases (‘I used to like it when we…’) rather than ‘you’ phrases (‘you never want to…’) can help avoid your partner feeling like they’re being attacked or criticised. It can also be useful to talk about the situation rather than what you feel like they’ve done to make things worse: ‘We haven’t had sex in a while’, rather than ‘you haven’t wanted to have sex in a while’.
Listen to what they say. A conversation needs to go two ways, so once you’ve explained how you’re feeling, listen to what your partner thinks too. It may be difficult to hear some of what they have to say – but this is always a risk if you want to have an open, honest talk.
Try to understand their perspective. It’s one thing to listen, another to really take on board what your partner is saying. Try to see things from their point of view. They may be experiencing specific anxieties that are making it difficult for them to think about sex, or may feel embarrassed, guilty or inadequate about the situation. This will also help you to understand more about what sex means to them – and whether you’ve got different ideas about what a ‘good’ sex life should be.
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