Sex in a new relationship is always pretty fantastic: It happens constantly, it's exciting to discover each other's bodies, and the two of you usually can't get enough of each other.
If you're really lucky, the sex can last that way well into a long-term committed relationship, and you'll live happily sexually ever after.
That said, sometimes sex between exclusive partners can start to dwindle over time. That’s totally normal, and doesn’t always indicate an issue in your relationship. It might just mean that you’ve grown comfortable together and aren’t as hungry for constant, adventurous sexual exploration. But no sex in a relationship at all might be something you want to address if physical connection is important to you. Even though most couples know that the speed of their sex life might slow down as they get more comfortable, that doesn't mean they don’t start worrying if it actually happens. It's common to feel worried about sex in your relationship, and just as common to want to work on it.
If you and your partner are having sex less often than you used to, it could mean something or nothing at all. The truth is that couples have sex less often for a multitude of different reasons, and it's a pretty personal thing to each couple. Dr. Martha Tara Lee, a clinical sexologist (DHS, MA, BA) and founder of Eros Coaching, says that a dwindling sex life can happen for a variety of reasons, and sometimes, it's hard to assess what's actually going on. That said, Dr. Lee says there is a checklist of questions you can ask yourself to better assess the situation:
What is really going on? A lot of times, deep down, we do have some inkling of the roots of any problem. Is it my lifestyle? Are you eating healthily, exercising moderately, and getting sufficient rest? Is it my attitude? Check if your attitudes and beliefs about sex and sexuality are supporting or hurting your sex life. What would make you want to have sex more? Which areas — sex quality, duration of foreplay, or simply frequency — would you like to work on? Are you secretly angry with your partner? You may both need to learn new communication skills and techniques. Are you always comparing yourself with the Joneses? Your sexual desire is an exquisitely unique expression of individuality, and comparisons serve no one. You can tell your partner that!
You can also ask yourself about the speed at which your sex life dwindled: Did it happen really quickly, or was it over time? If it happened seemingly overnight, there might be a bigger problem. Asking yourself this checklist of questions might help you narrow down what's happening enough to talk to your partner about it and see how to work through it.
If you've asked yourself some of these questions and you still aren't sure what's up, you could be facing one of the more common reasons why couples start having less sex in relationships.
1. You're Both Stressed
Although we're all pretty busy, sometimes it feels like we're going from responsibility to responsibility with no rest in between. If the two of you are very stressed out or very busy, it could have a negative effect on your sex life.
If this is the problem, the best thing you can do is communicate and ask each other for help, both with the responsibilities in your life and with sex. Dr. Lee says, "Any relationship requires negotiation and compromise, and that includes sex. It is important to communicate your sexual needs and wants, and be open to talking about it."
Dr. Lee reiterates that people and couples go through phases, so this could just be a stressed period in your life that you'll work through. The best thing to do is give it time. However, if things stay the same for six months, she says, then you should reassess.
2. You Have Different Sexual Appetites
Most of the time in a couple, one person is going to have a higher sexual drive. And contrary to what many women have been led to believe, it's not always the man. If one of the partners wants sex more often, it can put stress on both people in the relationship and then the sex may wane. It can make the person who wants to have more sex feel like they're being demanding, and it can make the person who wants less sex feel like they're constantly being chased.
The answer here is, again, to communicate. "If you are not happy with the state of things, do not sweep it under the carpet and wait until there is so much resentment and anger that it is too late to salvage the relationship," says Dr. Lee. You also may want to get checked out physically if you think your libido is so low that something deeper may be wrong.
3. You've Failed To Prioritize Sex
After being in a relationship for a long time, it's easy to let other things take precedence over sex, even if they are good things for your relationship. Maybe you really like Netflixing together, but the "chill" part of it just isn't there at the moment. Or perhaps you both like to spend time with your families, which is great, but not for your sex life.
If you're having less sex because you're just not prioritizing it, then here's an easy fix: Prioritize! This includes, if you have to, scheduling sex. Dr. Lee says, "Pencil sex into your schedule and prepare yourself for it as you would a date. Make it extra special for you."
It sounds weird, but scheduling sex can actually help get you in the mood — it gives you something to look forward to.
4. You've Figured Out What Works For You
Maybe your sex life slowing down isn't because there's something wrong. It could just be that you've fallen into the best possible pattern of what works for you.
At the beginning of a relationship, it's common to have sex like jack rabbits. But not everyone's sexual appetite is that sustainable.
If you went from having sex three times a day to once a day or a few times a week, it may perfectly normal and healthy. If you and your partner are both OK with the fact that your sex life has slowed down, then it could just be that you've managed to find a healthy sexual relationship that works for you as a couple.
5. There Really Is An Underlying Problem
If nothing else sounds right and you still aren't sure why the two of you aren't having sex, there may be something underlying in your relationship that just isn't coming to the surface enough for you to discuss it. If so, it may be time to get help. The best thing you can do is "recruit a task force" that will help get your relationship back on track. "You might like to consider seeing a marriage counselor, psychologist, or even a sexologist for help," Dr. Lee says.
If there is an underlying problem that's causing your lack of intimacy, you won't be able to fix your sex life without first working on that problem. Luckily, there are several sex therapists that could be covered by insurance who specialize in issues like these, specifically. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
No two couples are the same, so the reasons why you and your partner are having sex less often might not be the same as for other people. That said, the best thing you can do is communicate with each other, find out why it's happening, and start moving forward to get your sex life where you want it to be.