1. We've stopped having sex
Most relationships go through phases where one or both partners have gone off sex, but there's no reason to think that the passion has gone forever. Once a pattern is established of having sex infrequently, or not at all, it can be hard to get back to a regular and satisfying love life but taking time to understand why you feel less like making love can hep you get your sex life back to how you want it.
Apart from simply getting bored with sex, or losing the habit of making love, many practical factors can affect your feelings:
• Children who wake in the night or want to sleep in your bed
If you can identify with any of these, you will need to tackle the root cause before you can work on improving your sex life.
Is sex the real problem?
Counselors often find that lack of sexual desire stems from a basic dissatisfaction within a couple's relationship.
Common problems include:
• Drifting apart and losing touch
• Feeling taken for granted or neglected
• Frequent arguments, nagging
• Problems such as money worries, family conflict, work-related stress affairs
Problems like these need working through, since only when you feel better about your relationship is there a chance of your sex life improving. Try talking with your partner about how to make things better. Counseling can be very helpful if your problems seem too daunting to tackle alone.
Common sex problems
Any of the problems listed here might put you off even trying to have sex, yet all of them can be treated.
• Difficulty reaching orgasm for women, and for men problems controlling ejaculation or in reaching orgasm
• Pain during intercourse
• Contractions of the muscles around the vagina (vaginismus) which make intercourse impossible
• For men, not always being able to get or maintain an erection even when you would like to
Working together to improve your sex life:
Talking about sex
Discussing your sex life may feel impossible, but you can learn ways to make this delicate subject more approachable. The following talking techniques come from Sarah Litvinoff's helpful book, The Relate Guide to Sex in Loving Relationships.
Get comfortable with sex as a topic by talking about it generally. Watch TV programs, or read magazine articles on sex, then talk about them.
Start being more open about your feelings. Going for a walk together can be a good way to have a relaxed chat, which doesn't turn into a confrontation.
It can be easier to talk about sex out of bed to start with. Later you may feel able to talk while you make love.
Be sensitive to your partner's feelings when you talk about sex. For instance, if your partner suggests trying something new, don't reject the idea out of hand. You might agree to try something you feel dubious about, on the understanding that you take it gradually and stop if you don't like it. Try to keep an open mind, and come up with new ideas between you. Lovemaking can easily become routine, and adding one or two new elements can help to bring back the excitement. Many useful books are available on sex technique, which could give you some inspiration.
The time, the place
A big problem for many couples is finding a time for sex when they aren't too exhausted to enjoy it. Get your diaries out, and book a time when you are both free to make love. Or arrange a night in a hotel - a change of scenery often works wonders.
Make the surroundings warm and atmospheric. Soft music, candles, wine can all help to put you in the mood.
Ensure your privacy. Send children off to stay with friends or relatives overnight, or get someone to take them out for an afternoon.
A specially trained sex therapist will be able to help you get to the root of your sexual problems and regain an active sex life. Relate findings showed that three-quarters of women whose problem was lack of desire, enjoyed sex more after they had had therapy.
What happens in sex therapy?
Firstly you will meet with a sex therapist. The therapist will take time to explore with you what you might want to achieve or change in your sexual relationship and what the reasons behind this might be. The therapist will talk with you about the best way forward in your circumstances.
You will have regular hourly sessions with your sex therapist during which you'll be given a program of exercises to try at home and discuss your progress (you will never be asked to undertake any sexual tasks during a session).
If the main problem is loss of desire, you can try the sensate focus program. This is designed to put you back in touch with the physical and emotional sensations you get from touching each other, while removing any pressure to 'perform'.