Sex in a new relationship is exciting, fun, and nerve-wracking all at the same time. It's impossible not to get into that "can't keep your hands to off each other" phase in a new sexual relationship.
Sex in a long-term relationship is just as wonderful, but it's a little different. Instead of constant sexual pull, it can start to feel a little comfortable. Sometimes this is good if the comfort helps you open up to your partner more. Sometimes, though, it can start to feel a little blah over time.
Couples in long-term relationships sometimes freak out if the sex isn't good all the time, but there's no need for this. Just because the sex hasn't been good doesn't mean your relationship is about to end.
Here are some reasons why the sex in your relationship could be not great for a while and some things you can do about it:
1. You Could Be Comparing Too Much
Kristin Marie Bennion, a licensed mental health therapist and certified sex therapist, says that if the sex isn't good in your relationship for a bit, it could just be a matter of your perception: "A lot of couples I've worked with who are in longer-term relationships have unconsciously bought into the idea that their sex life should be just like it was in the beginning of the relationship."
Although it would be great for your relationship sex life to constantly be new and exciting, the reality is it just doesn't stay that way over time. And the worst thing you can do, according to Bennion, is to compare the current situation with the past, even within your own relationship.
"They notice this difference and begin to attach, with it, a rather negative meaning. For most people, the 'honeymoon phase,' otherwise known as the limerence, lasts somewhere between 6 to 18 months. Once a couple has moved onto a post-limerance chapter of their relationship, the approach and understanding of their sex life together may need to shift."
In other words, it could be that the sex isn't actually that bad, it's just that you're expecting it to be the exact same as it was before.
2. You Could Be Stressed
April Masini, a New York-based relationship and etiquette expert and author, says stress may easily cause a temporary shift or decline in your sex life. When one person or both in the couple are stressed, she says, it will show up in your sex.
To get past this, you need to focus on correcting the actual cause of the sexual shift, instead of just obsessing about it.
"Recognize the cause of the less-than-stellar romantic encounters, and work to relieve that stress — outside of the bedroom. Set boundaries, say no to whatever is going to be too much, and downsize wherever possible to reduce those possible stressors," says Masini.
Doing a few simple things to reduce your own stress should work wonders for your sex life — and sex can help you reduce the stress even further.
3. You Could Not Be Prioritizing It Enough
If you feel like the sex isn't all that good lately, it may because you aren't putting as much effort into it.
Bennion says that many long-term couples believe that sex should be spontaneous and that if it's not, something's wrong. That couldn't be further from the truth, as sometimes planning for it is really important, especially for some of the most common reasons, like stress, which I just touched on.
No matter what the issue is, says Bennion, planning can help a lot.
"Of course, spontaneity can bring more excitement and a lot of people often prefer spontaneous sexual experiences with their partner," says Bennion. "However, it's important to factor in how influential stress and other factors are on a person's ability to be as sexually engaged; therefore, embracing planning in addition to the hope for more spontaneity can help quite a bit!"
4. You Could Be Tired
It's a simple reason, but fatigue may impact a lot of why some couples feel like their sex life isn't great all the time.
Actual fatigue or exhaustion doesn't make anyone feel in the mood, but we live such busy lives that it's pretty common. If you keep having mediocre sex because your body is so tired, it could start to freak you out, but there's no need for that.
"Fatigue isn't great for sex, " says Masini. "People don't perform well in general when they're tired, and the solution is pretty simple: The more sleep you get, the less fatigue will be an impediment to good sex. Recognize the problem, focus on solving it, and get to it!"
5. You Could Be Bored
If the sex isn't feeling great in your relationship, you could just be bored. Although we don't like to admit it, it's possible to feel happy, in love, and secure in your relationship while also getting a little bored once in a while. It's totally normal for long-term couples.
The best thing to do in this situation is to pick something intentional to get out of your rut.
"If your sex life is suffering from 'vanilla syndrome,' spice it up," says Masini. "There are many different ways to do this, and it requires some strategizing and some effort. You can try the simple fixes like hotel sex, sex toys, porn, go to sexy options from 50 Shades of Grey or 9 1/2 Weeks — or you can make a sexual bucket list together and start checking off those goals!"
The important thing is not to overanalyze and worry, she says. "Boredom in a long-term relationship is normal, as is sexual boredom. It doesn't mean you have a fatal problem, but it does mean you have to attend to your sex life."
6. You Could Be Lacking Emotional Connection
Sometimes, your sex life within your relationship may slow down a little if you are going through a period where you are lacking some emotional connection. In a committed partnership, it's important to feel the emotional connection to keep up with the physical connection, and vice versa.
"If one or both of feels disconnected emotionally, there's a good chance your sex life will suffer," says Masini. "This feeling of neglect and distance can lurk beneath the surface or it can show up as anger. Both aren't great for good sex in the long run, so reconnect."
To do this, remember how you treated your partner at the beginning of your relationship. Masini says some great ideas to reconnect are:
Show appreciation. Compliment, gift, and flatter your partner. It's easy to grow apart in a relationship over time, especially when you're working, running a home, taking care of pets, kids, family members — and you need to reacquaint yourselves with what's awesome about each other. Date night is an easy way to fix this, but it takes a little more attention to details including love letters, flowers, gifts, sincere compliments and bragging about your partner in front of their friends and family.
Spending a lot of intentional time reconnecting will help your sex life get back to where you want it to be.
7. It Could Mean Nothing At All
If the sex hasn't been that great in your relationship lately, although it may seem surprising, it truly could mean nothing.
Bennion says long-term couples just happen to experience ups and downs, and it is totally natural and normal. You could be not comparing, non-stressed, non-fatigued, prioritizing it, not bored, and emotionally well-connected and you could still experience some variations in your sex life where it feels kind of blah sometimes.
"Couples who have been together for a while experience ebbs and flows of their sexual experiences together. Even couples who would identify their sex life as overall 'amazing' have dud experiences," she says.
Sometimes it's kind of off and sometimes it's perfect for months on end. It's just life.
If you are in one of these phases, and you've made sure everything else is good with your relationship, rest assured that you'll bounce back and will soon be jumping passionately into bed with your partner again.
If the sex in your relationship hasn't been great lately, it doesn't necessarily mean that things are going downhill or about to end. Often, sexual "off" periods are common in long-term couples and all it takes is a little work and patience to get back to where you want to be.