If You're In A Relationship But Not Having Sex, Here’s How Experts Suggest You Talk To Your Partner About It

Sex might not be everything in a relationship — but for some, it can be an important part. So what happens when you’re in a relationship but not having sex because your partner stops wanting it? While that can be really hard, it actually happens more than you might think. That's why Candice Smith, co-founder of Two to Tango and couples’ intimacy coach specializing in sexlessness, stresses first and foremost that if this is happening to you, you are not alone. "Over the past couple of years, several studies estimate that as many as 15% of couples are suffering from a sexless relationship," Smith tells Elite Daily. But she adds some good news: "It is possible to reverse those patterns with intentional communication and action."

The key to breaking out of these patterns in "sexual avoidance," says Smith, is communication — even when it can feel really fraught and awkward to do so. "If you are caught in this pattern, I don’t blame you for feeling stressed about the conversation," she says, but adds that the sooner you address it, the better. "The more anxiety mounts, the less likely it is for partners to talk openly about it." Here's how she suggests you best approach the issue, so that you and your partner can feel good about your sex life and no one feels pressured into doing anything that they're not totally comfortable doing — because that last part is crucial.

1. Pre-game With Some Self-Reflection

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Before you approach your partner, Smith advises spending some time in self-reflection. “Before you begin, look at yourself first. Think about the current patterns in your sex life that aren’t working, and examine how you are contributing to them. How are you initiating sex? What are you currently doing or not doing? Do you pressure your partner? Are you getting their feedback on what works or doesn’t work? Resolve to share some of these thoughts during the conversation,” says Smith.

2. Approach The Conversation On A Positive Note

Instead of starting the conversation by talking about what the relationship is lacking, Smith says to make the focus on what addressing the sex issue would bring to the relationship. “Start the conversation by expressing this vision of better intimacy and a stronger relationship. Ask your partner about their ideal vision of intimacy, as well,” says Smith. “By grounding the conversation in hope and positive vision for the future, you are helping your partner start to focus on the larger picture, instead of initial fears or insecurities that could lead to defensiveness or even anger.” If the conversation starts to derail or get off topic, Smith it back to your “vision of ideal intimacy.”

She adds that you may get emotional during the conversation, and that’s OK. “Are you feeling a clenching in your gut? Tears coming to your eyes? A lump in your throat? Remember, these reactions are totally normal — this is your body’s response to stress. Breathe deeply and be compassionate with yourself.”

3. Don’t Play The Blame Game

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Assigning fault or blame should be avoided at all costs, says Smith, and that goes for both your partner and you. “When you share your perceived contributions to the situation, don’t allow your partner to hide behind blaming you as a way to avoid facing responsibility. Respect goes both ways, and you are both as much responsible for the current pattern of sexual avoidance you're in as you are for making a commitment to work on improving it together,” says Smith. “Remember, this conversation is not about blame. It is about recognizing patterns that do not work for your sex life, and committing to work together to forge new patterns.”

4. Problem Solve Together

When dealing with any issue in your relationship, especially around issues of intimacy, it's important to remember that the two of you are a team. Smith says to work toward finding a solution that works for both of you, together. “Collaborate together about what works and doesn’t work for you. Ask your partner about their needs, desires, and limits — if what you’re doing now isn’t working,” suggests Smith.

5. Keep The Lines Of Conversation Open

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Working through the issue might take some time, which is why Smith says it’s essential for the communication between you to be ongoing. “Sexlessness does not always have a one-talk solution. Initiate conversations about sex and intimacy often, and don’t make them too serious. Talk about what you love about them. Tease and be playful. Ask what turns them on,” she says.

Having these kinds of conversations can be challenging because they require a certain level of vulnerability, but that vulnerability has the potential to bring you closer because it's so intimate. If you aren’t making any progress or you just need some support, Smith says to reach out and get some professional assistance. “If you continuously find yourself hitting roadblocks, consider reaching out to a professional for support — a sex coach, educator, or therapist who specializes in sexlessness will be able to provide you with communication tools and frameworks to guide the conversation in a more productive and effective way,” she concludes. So hang in there, be gentle and compassionate with each other, and work through the issue one way or another, together.