If it’s been a while since your partner has suggested spending Sunday morning in bed, or kissed your neck like that or, really, shown any interest between the sheets, you’re not alone.
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, 15% of men surveyed and more than 34% of women reported a lack of interest in sex. The same study says women are almost four times more likely than men to lose interest in sex with a partner they’ve lived with for over a year.
It’s normal for even the strongest relationship to go through phases that are red hot—and ones that fizzle, says Teesha Morgan, a psychotherapist and sex therapist in Vancouver. Still, whether your relationship is just-off-Bumble new or you’re in it for the long term, it can be unsettling when a lover’s interest wanes. Here’s how to deal, and more importantly, get back to getting busy.
Why has my partner lost interest in sex?
Pinpointing a problem can be complicated, but Morgan starts by ruling out physical issues including erectile disfunction or pain during sex, which is not uncommon for women postpartum, especially if they had a traumatic vaginal birth. The addition of certain medications, like many antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, can cause libido to drop, too. “The birth control pill can also lead to that,” she says, especially for women who’ve been on the pill for years without a break.
There are also a number of psychological factors that can stall a healthy sex life. For example, maybe they’re just starting to explore #bodypositivity but are still dealing with a lot of insecurities or hang-ups. Or they don’t feel safe sharing their true needs and wants.
It’s common for people who’ve suffered abuse to have issues with libido—even if the abuse occurred in childhood. “You might think you’ve had a healthy sex life for 15 years, but something keeps popping up and it might be past abuse you haven’t dealt with,” she says.
And of course, even the best sex can get boring, if it turns into a habit. “If your routine is to watch Netflix, brush your teeth, turn off the lights and get into bed in the same positions, that’s not a fantastic recipe for desire,” says Morgan.
How do I talk to them about all the sex we’re not having?
If you’re uncomfortable having the “our sex life kinda sucks” talk face-to-face, do it sitting up in bed so you’re side-by-side. That way, you don’t actually have to make eye contact. And consider dimming the lights—chatting under the cover of darkness can be easier. (Bonus points if you are also literally under the covers.) Another safe space for tough talks in general is the car, says Morgan—assuming there are no other passengers, obvs. “You can do it when you’re driving because you can’t run away and you’re not staring at each other. You’re just kind of stuck there together, so you’re forced to keep talking” she says. “Just be sure it’s a long enough drive that you’re not going to stop and leave something hanging that’s very raw.”
Wherever you decide to do it, the most important thing is to approach the issue as a “we” problem, no matter whose libido is waning, says Morgan. When you’re doing the talking, use “I” statements to avoid finger pointing, and focus on really listening when they speak. If you’re still having trouble getting the conversation started, talk to a therapist.
3 ways to score a steamier, more connected sex life
Talk isn’t cheap, when it comes to keeping the spark alive. Open, honest communication is necessary for a healthy sex life–and it can take you to new and more satisfying places. Here’s how.
1. Think beyond the big O
You may need to expand your view of success when it comes to sex. “We don’t want to have tunnel vision on an end goal,” says Dr. Morgan. “When there’s a narrow view of success we tend to have more failure—it’s important to change that narrative.” Instead of the goal being penetrative sex, or an orgasm for both partners every time, you may want to just aim for some form of intimacy—whatever feels good in the moment. “Looking for other ways to connect is especially important if someone is sick or just had a baby, and what you used to do isn’t working right now,” she says.
You may also want to think beyond your usual sex scenario. Exploring different kinds of touch, trying new positions, or even taking a deep dive into yours or your partner’s sexual fantasies can bring back the spark.
2. Take up mindfulness for mind-blowing sex
Research has shown that a mindfulness practice can quiet a busy mind, take the focus off body image issues or other mood-killers and help you be truly present between the sheets. A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine showed meditation can be a helpful tool for treating some types of erectile disfunction. Plus, Vancouver-based sex researcher Lori Brotto, author of Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire, has shown that women who are able to report more arousal, heightened desire and more sexual satisfaction.
3. Don’t compare your sex life to your friends’
If you’re getting busy twice a month, but you think your neighbours are doing it twice a week, you may be inclined to think your sex life is lacking. “If you think everyone else is only having sex every two months, though, then you’re going to view your sex life as something wonderful because of the social comparison,” says Morgan. When it comes to frequency, forget about keeping up with the Joneses. How often you’re doing it only matters in relation to how often you want to be doing it. That’s why it’s so important to have regular check-ins with your partner.
How often you want to be hitting the sheets is bound to change over time, too. “Maybe you used to have sex four times a week, but lately it’s been four times a month,” she says. “If you’re both okay with it, then that might be fine for you right now,” she says. That doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be back in business again soon, though. “Our sex lives are supposed to ebb and flow,” says Morgan. “That’s normal.”