It’s very common for a relationship to go through phases where one or both partners lose interest in sex.
Its quite natural for all human systems to go through seasons or cycles. Cycles of sexual interest tend to ebb and flow over time. It’s not unusual for partners to have different sex drives at different stages of their relationship. There can also be specific issues in the relationship or external pressures from outside the relationship that influence how couples feel about themselves, their bodies and their connection to each other. .
Why Might You or Your Partner NOT be Interested in Sex?
Below, some common points to consider when reflecting on or evaluating the sexual dynamics in your relationship.
Are you 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. Perhaps you have not taken the time to connect with yourself, first, which is a prerequisite for connecting with your partner.
Are you 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. If you are too busy with life's demands, then it's likely you haven't been attending to yourself; taking some time for self-care and regeneration. If that's the case, sex with your partner just becomes one more thing to do before you finally get to pull back and renew your connection with yourself.
Maybe 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. If this is the case then you likely need to spend some time focusing more intentionally on the vulnerabilities that need non-judgmental, caring attention. We often avoid nurturing the tender or wounded parts of ourselves because it is so painful to go into those experiences. But when we avoid these feelings, the attention of a partner to the very thing we are ashamed of can be quite threatening. If one person is feeling insecure about their physicality but unwilling to talk about this vulnerability, the initiation of sex by their partner will likely be met with dismissive rationales or shaming defenses that will drive the sexually eager partner away.
Perhaps 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. Maybe you haven't learned to communicate about your boundaries, what you like and don't like, want and don't want. If you aren't feeling like you can trust yourself to take care of yourself in sexual encounters, if you're worried about saying yes to doing things you'd rather not do, avoiding sex all together is a way of protecting yourself . . . but this strategy can be more of a barrier or wall, rather than a relational boundary.
Are you struggling with performance anxiety? Perhaps the thought of having sex creates worry and stress. Do you feel like you need to do or be something you're not? Is there some expectation looming on the sexual horizon that you may feel inadequate to meet? Do you lose your sense of self in sexual encounters, overly focused on being or doing what your partner wants? Do you have to make your partner happy? Is their sexual satisfaction your responsibility? If so, you are almost guaranteed to fail. Really good sex is rooted in the paradox of self-care . . . a kind of selfishness that guarantees your own happiness and, by extension, your partner's. If you don't prioritize yourself, you can't be there for anyone else.
Could it be that mental or physical health issues are 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. Communication is always the key under these circumstances. When two people are connected in their hearts and experiencing respect and appreciation for each other, sexual encounters can be a natural progression of that kind of holding and care. There may be no intercourse; orgasm may not be possible; but sensuality is not about the outcome or the activity. Intimacy is the experience of feeling relaxed, open, authentic, present and safe. Eye contact, gentle touch; head and shoulder rubs or intentional kisses . . . all rose petals on the path of sexuality.
Are you using technology in bed? (phones, not sex toys😊)
If you are looking at screens, watching Netflix or scheduling your next three weeks of clients just before lights out, you're not orienting your brain or your being first to a relationship with yourself and your body, and second to relationshiping with your partner's body and being. The body/mind complex needs time to transition from tech to touch. Leave the iPad or phone in the other room and come to bed with the intention of relaxing and relating.
How Do You Approach Sex . . . How Much, How Often?
Anxieties surrounding sex can arise when partners have different expectations about how much sex they should be having. It’s very common for one partner to have a lower or higher libido than the other. It's also common for one to have a more passive attitude towards initiating sex. Many people don’t experience spontaneous sexual desire and find that it only kicks in after their partner makes an advance. There may also be a need for the setting and mood to feel right. Any of these things can leave one partner feeling like the other isn’t attracted to them, while the other partner feels there’s nothing wrong.
This isn't something that necessarily or fundamentally changes in relationships, but if the facts are on the table, meaning that the couple are identifying clearly how they feel most safe in sexual encounters, then that is a starting point for experimentation and shaking things up a bit. The more passive partner might do an occasional role-play as an assertive sexual-seeker, for example. Communication about the realities of how each person approaches sex and how much sex each person wants is the beginning to shifting, changing, transforming.
Many couples worry that they're not having as much sex as they ‘should’ be – they are thinking that everyone else is at it all the time, at least much more than they are. The truth, of course, is that the ‘right’ amount is however much works for you and your partner – no more, no less. Talk about frequency, time of day, days of the week . . . etc. Try to avoid comparing yourself to your partner, or comparing your relationship to some media-inflamed fantasy.