It’s fairly safe to assume that we all recognize the importance of sex in romantic relationships. Between the advice plastered across newsstand magazines, the wide world of products designed to “help” people with their sex lives, and even our own natural desires – it’s pretty clear that sex is a big deal.
But what about when it stops being a big deal? How does that happen? And more importantly, what can you do about?
For married couples, there are all kinds of reasons why sex may be pushed to the back burner, why desire or libido can change, or even reasons why the act of having sex is difficult. It could be an injury, illness, self-esteem, kids, stress from work, not enough sleep, or any number of problems in the relationship – the list could go on and on.
This might sound worrisome, but it shouldn’t be! It’s important to understand just how many parts of your life affect sex drive and the sexual relationship you have with you spouse. It’s just as important to recognize that over time, things may wax and wane, you may experience problems, your desires might change – and all of that is ok!
What’s not ok, though, is ignoring the problems. Sex, and all of the related physical intimacy, is a major part of the connection we share with our spouses – it’s what separates lovers from friends. When that connection is disrupted (whatever the reason may be), the whole relationship can suffer.
And because sex is so intimate, so personal, so potentially embarrassing, it’s often easier for people to let their sex lives fade into the background, instead of facing the issues head on.
So, if the causes can be so broad, what can people do to get their sex lives back on track? What can couples do if they’ve fallen out of the practice of physical contact and intimacy?
The absolutely essential first step is looking at the situation honestly. It might be tough to admit, but if you feel like there’s something missing from your sex life – or if it’s missing altogether – you have to be brave enough to say so!
Admitting to yourself (and to your spouse) that you want to make an improvement is the beginning of making it a reality. Exploring the causes of the problems will be a little different for everyone, and they may not be immediately apparent. Because of this, seeking professional help is one of the best ways to dig deep for the little nuances that are affecting your unique relationship.
Professional marriage counselors and sex therapists specialize in creating a nonjudgmental environment to get everything out in the open, to explore what is happening (or has happened) in the marriage to cause your sex life to change. By evaluating your specific situation, a professional can help you find steps to take in the right direction.
Outside of tailored professional help, there are a few ways to help rekindle the passion in your marriage, though if the problems have been longstanding, or there are other serious issues at play, professional counseling still may be the best option.
To keep that spark alive (or to get it lit again), there are a few simple ways to just get your body back into the swing of things.
First, touch each other! Physical contact, from hugs and kisses, all the way to sexual intercourse, causes our brains to produce oxytocin (the “cuddle hormone”), which helps us feel connected an in love.
Even if it has been a while, if you feel a little uncomfortable or shy, just a little bit of familiar physical contact will start the process. Don’t worry about taking things slow, it’s just fine to take your time! Hold hands, hug, cuddle up on the couch – simply being near each other will help your body re-acclimate to physical intimacy.
Another great way to ignite a spark in your marriage is fun and flirting! Simply making a point to be playful and upbeat with your spouse, finding fun activities to do together, complimenting one another, and just engaging in some “flirty” behavior helps relieve tensions and increase your comfort level (comfort is worth mentioning because sometimes, as couples grow older, they begin to grow apart in personality – which can make people feel like they no longer know one another).
Other methods include improvements to diet and exercise (health is directly related to sex drive), spending quality, distraction-free time together, and just sitting down with your spouse (outside of the bedroom) to talk openly and honestly about what’s going on with your sex life, what you would like to work on, and what you think might be holding you back.
A happy, healthy sex life is an extremely important part of maintaining a strong marriage, and can unfortunately be overlooked the longer couples are married. This deeply personal and private part of a marriage can be hard to talk about when there are problems, but the longer they go unchecked, the harder it is to get things back on track.
Don’t let a breakdown in your sexual relationship put cracks in the foundation of your marriage. Make the overall health of your relationship a priority, and be brave enough to approach the issues in your marriage with honesty and motivation to improve!