Be honest, listen to each other properly and be patient – plus expert tips for bringing back intimacy
by Joan McFadden
Pick your moment to talk. There are all sorts of reasons people stop having sex – stress, illness, worry about performing, low libido, age, menopause and lack of body confidence. It’s easy to let your sex life drift, but bringing up the subject is difficult so try to pick the right moment when you’re both relaxed and unlikely to be interrupted. But not in bed and especially not while trying to persuade your partner to have sex or feeling angry or frustrated because they’re not interested.
Pick your moment to listen. Do your best not to take it personally. Don’t assume they no longer fancy you or put words in their mouth. It can be hard enough to talk about without extra needless emotional layers being added so listen to what is being said and how the situation makes your partner feel. It really isn’t about you being a bit plump or growing older or not taking pride in your appearance.
Be honest with yourself and each other. Have you both stopped making an effort, do you take each other for granted and think nothing of rolling into bed in a grubby T-shirt without even brushing your teeth? No one’s suggesting you should aim for supermodel or totally buffed body status, but if you don’t love yourself enough to have a little pride in your appearance, it’s not going to be that easy for other people to love you too. You might feel rather shallow admitting that the extra two stone or constant farting in bed isn’t exactly what you signed up for, but you can do that tactfully, especially if admitting areas where you are also no longer quite the person they fell for.
Decide whether sex is a deal-breaker for either of you. Would you be willing to sacrifice sex for the “other stuff”? Some people are perfectly happy having no sex in their marriage and Relate’s research shows that the importance people place on sex decreases with age. Often intimacy is what’s most important, but if it’s not enough, say so.
Be patient. If sex is a deal-breaker, it’s important for the “keen” partner to be patient while the two of you unpack what is causing the block. This is also not the best time to suggest an open relationship as a possible solution.
Seek help together. Sex therapy can help you with working out what the underlying problem is and can also give you a sense that you’re sorting this out together. At the beginning of a relationship, sex can feel so easy, natural and exciting that it can feel a little sad that you might have to work at it, but the results can be well worth it.
Kindness is sexy. Go out together, have fun, make time for each other. When both parties feel truly heard and understood, often intimacy increases along with the desire to have sex.
Ban sex. Many therapists often suggest that couples in sexless relationships start by taking the pressure off sex entirely. This may sound counterintuitive but creating a temporary ban can stop feelings of anxiety about needing to perform, making relaxation more likely.
Small steps. Reintroduce intimacy slowly – start with something as small as holding hands or giving your partner a peck on the cheek before you head off to work. You can then build up to massages, cuddling, lingering kissing and intimate touching and oral sex, but keeping full sexual intercourse off the table until you both feel like you want to do it. The idea behind this is that it allows you to rediscover one another’s sensual sides and increase desire in a pressure-free environment. It’s important that you regularly discuss how you’re both feeling and don’t push your partner to go further than they are comfortable with.
Drink is not the answer. True, but a relaxing dinner and an easy chat over a couple of glasses has led to other things since time began.
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