There are many reasons you fell in love with your one and only: the way they make you feel, how you easily communicate, the way you connect, your mutual interests and goals, and of course, the under-the-sheets action you share. Good sex is an essential part of a healthy, fulfilling long-term relationship, providing intimacy and pleasure while building trust and romance. However, the longer you are with your partner, the more likely you will experience a (totally normal) sex slump in a relationship—and the pandemic probably hasn't helped the situation. This season of inactivity may initially make you worry there’s something wrong, but experts agree it’s just part of the package deal that is a long-term commitment.
Here, a guide to sex slumps in a relationship—and why sometimes, they’re not a bad thing:
What is a sex slump?
In terms of having less or no sex in a relationship, a sexual slump can generally be defined as a relationship devoid of sex over a period of time, usually within the last six months to a year, according to Megwyn White, a certified clinical sexologist and the director of education for Satisfyer in New York. She explains some experts broadly define it as a relationship with sex fewer than ten times a year. “A sex slump can also be called a ‘desire discrepancy’ where there is an imbalance of desire between couples that can cause a strain on the relationship,” she adds.
Why sex slumps happen
You love your partner, they love you. You think they’re wildly attractive, and they can’t get enough of you either. And yet, there are moments when you’d rather cuddle up in bed than strip to your birthday suit and make love. What gives? Is that okay? Is it normal? It happens, it’s fine, and it’s common, reassures Bianca Perez, the retail store director and lead connection concierge at Pepper, a luxury sexual wellness store.
“We are microcosms of the world around us—nature has different seasons, and so do we,” she explains. “Libidos, or our sex drives, are ruled by both physiological and psycho-emotional factors, meaning many different things affect our sexual desire”
These factors can include stressful and overwhelming situations, healing from an injury, pre- and postnatal experiences, and a plethora of other influences. “It is important to recognize, respect and support the ebbs and flows of your partner’s libido and expect the same in return,” she continues. “Just as we are not always on the same page about what movie to watch on a Saturday night, we will not always be on the same page when it comes to desire.”
How to work through a sex slump
First things first: don’t jump to the conclusion your relationship is falling apart because you haven’t gotten jiggy with it in a few weeks or months. Instead, take this as an opportunity to reconnect with your partner and yourself to understand better what’s happening with your libidos. Here, how to work through it effectively:
Talk to your partner about how you’re feeling.
Communication is the cornerstone to any successful relationship, and while sex may be a touchy topic, the more open you are, the stronger your connection will be as a result. When your libido is low, make sure your partner knows your lack of interest in sex reflects how you’re feeling and what you’re going through—and is not a reflection of your interest in them or overall desire for them, Perez says.
On the other hand, if your partner is experiencing the slump and they’ve not brought it up, she says to approach them with compassion. “Remember not to lay blame—present the conversation in a tone and setting that will make your partner feel safe to express themselves honestly and speak your truth with love,” she explains. “Communication is critical for intimacy to thrive.”
By having a judgment-free discussion, you will be able to uncover potential roadblocks to your intimacy. The goal is to remain open rather than taking every piece of feedback personally. “Often, when we share our wants and needs with our partners, it is because we are not being fulfilled and thus, we approach the conversation negatively, illuminating areas that are lacking. We feel slighted, and instead of being open to receiving our partner’s solution or love, we simply complain and shut down,” Perez continues. “Instead, be mindful of the areas of your relationship that are abundant and bring that to the conversation as well. Positive reinforcement goes a long way when sharing feedback.”
Be honest about your stress factors.
Here’s the hard truth: life gets in the way of sexy-time and can cause a dry spell. And as you build your life together, you will inevitably take on more responsibilities. While some are incredibly happy—physical, emotional, and life transitions can impact desire, White reminds. “Financial challenges, kids, moving, or any other big life change can make sex seem like less of a priority,” she continues. “Any added stressors make it hard to get in the mood if you’re feeling preoccupied, but it’s important to not put extra pressure on yourself when this happens.”
To combat this, White says self-care is essential, so finding different ways to prioritize improving your mental state, whether that’s seeking mental health support or couples therapy, or finding new activities that make you happy, like reading or exercise, are crucial to supporting your overall well-being.
Get more active.
One contributor to a lack of desire is a lack of exercise. When we aren’t moving our bodies regularly, our libido can be impacted. In fact, White goes as far as to say there’s irrefutable evidence that exercise helps to boost desires and supports sexual function in both men and women. “Exercise naturally boosts testosterone which supports the desire for sex, and additionally gets the blood pumping throughout the body, making you more receptive and excitable to touch and boosting sexual function,” she explains. “Besides exercise boosting our desire for sex, this study points to the fact that the core muscles and the genitals are inextricably linked. It can be a great way to boost your sexual stamina and your ability to experience orgasmic contractions as part of a healthy sex life.”
Try the ‘withhold’ method.
We all have internal thoughts and worries that we are hesitant to share with our partners. Maybe it’s an irrational thought that won’t pass. Or a pent-up frustration you haven’t expressed quite yet. These are called ‘withholds,’ and relationship experts recommend exploring these sentiments as a way to boost your sex life. “Withholding communication from your partner can be toxic and ultimately put a huge wedge between you,” White explains.
The structure for sharing withholds is very simple: You tell your partner that you have a withhold and ask if they are open to hearing. If they say yes, then you share two positive withholds and one that may be negative. After each withholds is shared, the one receiving the withholds simply says, ‘thank you.’
“A prerequisite to sharing withholds is not to share them in a harsh or aggressive tone,” White explains. “They are meant to be more shared as information that helps you both to keep the energy of connection between you clear and open. “