Sex is one of those topics we’re all constantly thinking about, reading about, and even acting out… but not necessarily talking about. Sure, you’ll dish to your friends about the steamy sex session you had with your new man last night, but you won’t necessarily be so eager to share when your sex life goes from consistent to non-existent. And yet, several studies have been revealing for the last decade that a dry spell in the bedroom is actually common among couples. Is a lack of sex the one thing our conversations are lacking?
“It is very common for couples to go through sexual dry spells,” says Rabbi Ed Weinsberg, EdD. “It’s estimated that this process begins for most couples anywhere from two to ten years after they get married.”
Defining a sexual dry spell, though, can be as difficult as dealing with the problem itself. One of my favorite scenes from the 1977 film Annie Hall features Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) talking to a therapist about their sex life. When the therapist asks how often they have sex, Alvy answers, “Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.” Annie, however, answers this way: “Constantly. I’d say three times a week.”
“The disparity is normal,” says Rabbi Weinsberg, author of two books on sexuality after illnesses, including Conquer Prostate Cancer: How Medicine, Faith, Love and Sex Can Renew Your Life. “Going through a sexual dry spell is fairly subjective.” Just as we all have different likes and dislikes when it comes to sex, we all have a different take on how often we should be having sex as well. “There is no one ‘right’ amount of sex that a couple should be having,” says Jodi Lipper, co-author of How to Love Like a Hot Chick. “For some married couples, normal is having sex every day. For others, it might be having sex once a month.”
Wondering if you and your partner are going through a sexual dry spell? Start by asking if both of your needs are being met. If your answer is no, then you may be facing a sexual drought. “It’s not enough when one or both partners is unsatisfied, or feels that his or her needs aren’t being met,” says Lipper. Her advice to couples in a sexless relationship? Talk it out with an open mind to determine the cause of the problem before you take drastic steps. In other words, share your sexual needs and wants before you demand that you and your partner either get it on, or get divorced!
“Sometimes a decrease in sexual activity in a relationship represents a manifestation of other problems,” explains Dr. Alexis Conason, a clinical psychologist in New York City. “It is important to understand why the couple has stopped, or decreased, having sex before we can diagnose a sexless period as problematic or not.” In other words, talking about your lack of sex could turn up a simple cause for what seems like a major problem. Before you give up on your sex life, Dr. Conason suggests asking yourself the following questions:
• Have you stopped having sex because one partner is furious at the other?
• Is one partner having an affair?
• Are there medical issues that interfere with sexual functioning or desire?
• Is one or both partners overwhelmed with childcare responsibilities?
• Is one or both partners overwhelmed with career stress?
• Was there ever a time when you were having more sex with your partner? Or has the relationship always been sexless?
Discussing these questions may seem like a daunting task, but it’s vital to the health of your relationship. “That hot and heavy sex that may have brought you together is not what is going to sustain the relationship,” explains Dr. Lisa Bahar, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Dana Point, Calif. “Now is the time to build intimacy on a deeper level, which requires awareness and a willingness to be curious about your partner in new ways that create spontaneous intimacy.” And spontaneous intimacy, my friends, is what leads to sexual intimacy… i.e. the opposite of a sexual dry spell!
The bottom line is that a lack of sex is an indicator of a greater problem. If you can’t remember the last time you had sex, make a list of all the obstacles holding you back from doing the deed – like work stress, a lack of time, etc. – and then work to find solutions to those obstacles – like trading massages with your partner to help relieve work stress, or planning a Saturday “staycation” in your bedroom to make time for an all-day shag. However, the most important step to finding your happy ending (pun intended) is to open up and talk to your partner about what’s really going on. You’ll hopefully go from “We need to talk” to “Less talk, more action!” in no time at all.