Recently I received an email from a reader who was in a bit of a sexual slump in her marriage.
She was wondering if she should wait until she felt like having sex before trying to turn the trend around — or should she simply have sex with her husband and hope the feeling of desire would catch up to the action.
Many couples don’t have huge ominous issues sabotaging their sexual intimacy. Instead, they have what I call the “perfect storm” of circumstances that make sex lackadaisical at best and non-existent at worst — low sex drive by one or both spouses, young children, the wife not experiencing orgasm, and life in general feeling ho-hum and exhausting
With a backdrop like this, is it any wonder that sex begins to feel like a chore? Just one more “thing” to check off an ever-increasing “to-do” list.
Fake it till you make it or wait for desire to come?
You may be surprised that my answer is neither.
Having sex and simply hoping that desire will catch up could result in the situation actually getting worse. Here’s why — the spouse who is just going through the motions may end up resenting the other spouse. Or she or he may turn their frustration on sex itself. Sex becomes the enemy, despised by the person who has no desire to be there.
Keep in mind… I’m not talking about the occasional sexual encounter where you maybe don’t really feel like having sex, but you do it anyway because you know it is important to your spouse. We all have moments like these where the very best thing to do is offer your body to your spouse or genuinely receive their initiation.
I am talking about consistently just going through the motions and hoping desire will kick into gear. Probably isn’t going to be the golden solution one would hope it to be.
So what about waiting until desire comes?
This theory would say that once desire is on the scene, this is a “sign” that it’s time to kick things up a notch and follow the yellow brick road to actually having sex. Well, I’m not too crazy about this waiting game either as a sure-fire way to nurture sexual intimacy.
Here’s the problem — you could end up waiting indefinitely, which obviously isn’t good for your marriage.
There could many different reasons desire is low, including physical reasons, which typically won’t rectify themselves magically on their own. There also may be relational issues that aren’t initially easy to recognize, but again… these aren’t going to improve all on their own.
My mantra has always been that unhealthy patterns are usually unintentional, whereas healthy patterns are usually intentionally.
Once a couple falls into a pattern of little or no sex, the scenario is likely to remain stuck there — unless one or both spouses begin to walk in a better direction of nurtured intimacy.
So, if I don’t think the “faking” or “waiting” methods are effective, do I have any suggestions as to what can help? Yes!
3 Ways To Turn Around a Sexual Slump
1. Have an honest discussion with your clothes on. Find even 30 minutes free of other distractions to sit down with your spouse and start shedding light. Need some conversations starters, try one of these:
“We don’t really have sex much and I want this to look different. What can we do to turn that around?”
“I miss you. I miss being close to you. I miss making love to you.”
“I know I haven’t been very sexually available to you. I don’t have all the answers, but can we together start to make sex a better part of our marriage.”
The key with a vulnerable conversation like this is tone, motive and a shared sense of safety. You may even have to say, “I don’t want us to fight. I want us to really hear each other. Please say whatever you feel and I promise not to judge you. I want us to talk without fear of rejection.”
2. Take responsibility for your own physical or emotional issues.
Doctors get the fancy degrees for a reason — the vast majority of them genuinely want to help people. So, if you are unsure why your sex drive has taken a dive, go to your doctor to explore a physical explanation. Some medications and physical conditions can negatively impact sex drive.
Certainly don’t “self diagnose” or stop taking your prescribed medication without first seeing your doctor. Tell your doctor what you are experiencing and that you want to talk about possible solutions. Is this too embarrassing? Well, a strained marriage is worse than embarrassing — it ultimately becomes heartbreaking. Too much damaged collateral to really count, so it’s wise to raise your tolerance for embarrassment when it comes to talking to your doctor. If the doctor doesn’t listen or ignores your pleas for help, find a different doctor.
Just like physical reasons, emotional reasons also can sabotage intimacy. For example, if you have past sexual abuse from which you have not healed, please consider contacting the RAINN organization, Committed to Freedom, and/or local Christian counseling. Or if you have other issues going on in your marriage, be proactive and take baby steps to start improving those challenges.
Also, if you are struggling with thinking God can’t forgive you for past promiscuity, read what I have to say about that here. Your past sexual sin is not beyond the reach of Jesus. And it does not have to be an insurmountable barrier when it comes to great sex with the man you married.
3. Start viewing sex for how it benefits you rather than depletes you.
Can’t think of any benefits? Here are some to ponder: It helps protect your marriage. It reminds your husband (and you) that you took your vows seriously. It is one of the best ways to worship God. It can help you relax (orgasm and genuine intimate contact release endorphins, which are a boost to your general well-being). It can be fun. (Hey…sexual playfulness with your spouse is some of the best and cheapest entertainment around!).
Some research would even indicate your husband’s semen can have a positive impact on you. (For more on that, check out this post by Lori Lowe or this post by Paul Byerly).
If you see sex only as a chore — if you’ve locked that mindset in to place — then that becomes the path your body will walk. Peel back the layers on that mindset to start to embrace a healthier viewpoint of nurtured sexual intimacy.
Don’t “fake it till you make it” or “wait for desire.” There are better paths available to you.
Get your courage on, okay? Start changing unhealthy patterns in your marriage, even if they seem like “no big deal” right now.
Copyright 2011, Julie Sibert, Sexual Intimacy in Marriage.
10 thoughts on “3 Ways To Turn Around a Sexual Slump”
I’ve been viewing your site for awhile but haven’t been able to work up the nerve to post until now. Your article has really hit home as my wife and I are in a sexual slump. Lately out love life has been nothing but a series of sparse, uninspired quickies because she has too much on her mind as she puts it. Because of her lackadaisical attitude I’ve stopped asking her for sex. I’d rather not have it at all than for her to not even put forth any effort. And sadly she seems not to care about the lack of sexual intimacy. She just blissfully, ignorantly goes about her way thinking that all is okay and that I’m contented because I haven’t asked for it lately. But inwardly I’m starving for sexual fulfillment. And at worst, I’m becoming very bitter and resentful towards her, for her ambivalence.
Aaron, I can relate but only to a point. For a long time I was in the same situation with a very natural ‘what about me?’ attitude. With us having sex about once a month and it being a chore, I got angry and fed up. One day she said just before we got going, “I know you need this.” And I stopped and said “I love you, but the truth is we both need this, and I’m sorry that I’ve lead you to that mindset.” She was shocked, then rolled out of bed then got dressed and didn’t say much the rest of the day. When she said that it made me aware that she has needs that I’m not meeting or meeting with no genuine interest or emotion.
In early 2010, at work I made a list of what I do every time I’m home and on the other column what she does when I’m home. I compared notes, and found that I do a lot of nothing while she’s busy. I was watching TV, playing with my iPhone, surfing the web or playing games, monkeying around with some lost cause in the garage. Sometimes I’d play with the kids or make small-talk with her. After reading some articles online I decided initially that if I want good sex then I need to be someone she wants to have sex with. And my list above was not winning any contests.
I came home one day, walked right up to my wife and pulled her away from the counter where she was making a salad for dinner. Holding her in my arms and smiling I said “I want to tell you that I appreciate that your bust your cute little buns all day long for us.” I moved in to kiss her, she turned her head and I got her cheak. I pulled back with the same grin as she pulled away, partially confused and partially put off. And then I did the unthinkable: I sat on a barstool and asked her to tell me about her day. After an awkward pause, she sounded like a typical teen with a “Not much” and then a check list of what she did and didn’t do. She asked me at bedtime what that was all about. I just said “I need to show the appreciation I’ve always had for you.” She smiled and said “I need that even though I wasn’t ready for that.”
That night I had begun to phase out the meaningless activities like watching TV, mindless webbing and gadgeteering, and “sputtering” around the garage. In about six months we (GASP!) cancelled cable TV and now rely on movie rentals like Netflix and Hulu. I replaced my desktop computer with an iPad so I can use it anywhere in the house or even outside (it does the job). One weeknight almost every week I take all the kids to a park, a neighbor’s or relative’s house (and I stay to visit), or on a “Mission” trip to run errands while mom stays home to do whatever, usually for an hour or two. And one Saturday per month I take the kids somewhere a little more special so mom has a day to scrapbook, clean, read, sleep or just whatever she wants. And while it’s hard for me to do that sometimes, I’ve made a lot of memories with the kids.
Most importantly I’ve traded in the wasted time for wife time. We spend time together, sometimes sitting quietly, sometimes talking about what we’re reading or wanting to do or goals or dreams. We’ve even gone for walks, out on “talking” dates at A&W, and even shopping. I’ve learned, and it’s not easy, to be a real listener. What network news is more important than what’s on my wife’s mine or in her heart? Really? I used to spend 5 hours per week listening to Bill O’Reilly and Larry King and almost zilch for my own bride. What is online that matters more than who is in my very home or in my arms? Did you know devices can be turned OFF and ON easier than the human heart? I shut off my iPhone as I walk in the door each day and put it away – and I live to tell about it.
I dreaded making these sacrifices at first. And guess what? I was far more miserable then than now. I am so much happier! Our sex life has been improving: she’s initiating more, and she’s more open minded than a year or so ago. It’s not perfect, but I’m excited about the progress. And a few weeks ago she brought up sex in a conversation with me after the kids were in bed. It wasn’t an easy talk, but it was good. And we hugged afterward, went to bed, chatted a little more, and I cuddled with her and… we drifted off to sleep. Just as I intended after such a good talk. I wanted her to go to sleep knowing that I wanted her – all of her – more than making her think I just wanted sex. We haven’t had sex since that talk, and you know something? I’m OK with that. (But I did leave a note in her underwear drawer this morning telling her that I’ve really been envying these items lately and ended it by saying “I really want to get clothes to you.”)
And the best part is that I thought I wanted good sex, when in reality what I wanted was my wife back. And by building more non-sexual intimacy with her, I’m finding my wife is the best thing I could ever spend time with! Sorry this is so long, and I don’t mean to preach but to encourage you. Think about her and the blessings of marriage will grow naturally from that love. Trust me: I know you need this.
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Wow… Hank i needed that, very encouraging. I wish my husband could do the same. I can totally relate to your wife. I had a baby about 6 months ago and from about 6 months into the pregnancy till now ( baby is 5 months old now) only had sex a couple of times. Tried to bring it up, but he doesnt sem to think its a big deal.
I have need some advice. My husband and myself have fallen into the sexsual slump, and its because of me. I will be open with it, we are both Christians and believe sex is a bond between you both. I had a problem for about 3 years where i didn’t enjoy it anymore, can’t seem to get into the mood or it just really hurts so i always try to make excuses not to do it or avoid it, which I know is wrong. Recently we found out I had stage 3 endometriosis which was a big part of why it was hurtful and I guess because of the soreness I got anxious doing it. A few weeks ago i had surgery to remove the endometriosis, cyst so it should all go better once i am healed. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciate which can help me get my mindset out of the fear of it being sore and start enjoying it and start having foreplay again, and get the spark back as I used the love the time with my husband, I just need to know it should be fine now.
Hello @NeedAdvice… Thank you for your comment.
It is good that you have seen a doctor and are on your way to having some of the physical conditions resolved. It is no wonder you were experiencing pain and of course this was causing you to further tense, which then causes more pain, etc. Be diligent about talking to your doctor about what you are experiencing and if you feel your doctor isn’t hearing your concerns regarding pain during sex, then definitely be open to a second or third opinion. Your physical health, as well as the health of your marriage, are worth it.
My other biggest suggestion would be communication between you and your husband. You have been through a tough journey that obviously has affected your sexual intimacy over the years. The more you and your husband can talk openly, vulnerably and specifically, the better…. and not just about your sexual intimacy going forward, but also about how the past has affected both of you. Strive to communicate with love obviously and a goal that you both are committed to enjoying sex, but also are deeply willing to work through hard issues and to not let them fester, etc.
My other practical suggestion would be lots and lots of foreplay. Foreplay is key to relaxation and getting in the mood and preparing your body for sex. Foreplay is a key component of sex. Speak openly about what you each enjoy. Teach each other sexually. Learn to slow down when you need to slow down… tell him and show him what you need to climax and so forth. Become a student of his body as well… seek to know what really turns him on.
My last suggestion would be to have sex as often as you can… not with a goal of frequency for frequency’s sake, but more so that sex would become deeply woven into the fabric of how you do life. Possibly read some Christian sexual intimacy books together. Nurture your friendship and the way you enjoy each other outside of bed and this will lend itself well to the odds you will want to have sex more often.
Anyway, just some ideas… hope this is helpful. Don’t give up… keep fighting for your marriage, and not just a marriage that exists, but one that is strong with all forms of intimacy… emotional, physical, spiritual, etc.
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So, I was googling some advice for my marriage and I came upon this site. I love this article and as I was reading, tears are pouring down my face. I have felt for some time now that my husband has become a different person and just acts different. He came home one day a couple of weeks ago and said his boss at work said the exact same thing I have been saying and gave him some advice. He suggested that he has got into a routine since we have been married for almost seven years and he needs to find a way out of it. He has done so much better but I just feel as if our sex life has gone drastically downhill. We have three kids, all under the age of 6, but that has never stopped us before. We are known to stay up late to make sure we have “us time” but that really doesn’t happen anymore. It’s making me feel bad about myself but when I try and bring up the topic, he makes me feel crazy for feeling this way. Help!
I’ve been having sexual problems in my marriage for a out 3-4 years now and I can tell you it can really take a tole on your marriage. Most of our problems stem from communication problems. I see a counselor for 1 1/2 years now and I can’t get her to go or when I casually bring up sex she always brushes it off. I’ve been suffering physically for a while now. My sexual desires that were once met pretty much the majority of the time only get met about 10% of the time. I’ve been though it all tried everything. I first learned that men and women both have different love languages. My greatest live language is physical touch, affection and sex. As far as hers, hers is listening to her and asking about her day. Acts of service such as helping her with the kids and cleaning the house. I have literally done s everything for her at times, I mean making her #1 on my list of shit to do and peoeple to please. (As it should be). And yes I actually did all this with sincerity and then sat down and told her I was not satisfied with our sexual relationship. I mean she used to take time to get cleaned up, put on clothes/lingerie that really turns me on but know its just kinda half ass sexual engagement and her wanting me to orgasm. She has totally put me and sex and the bottom of the list.I mean I’ve busted my ass going out of my way doing things for her, draining all my physical and emotional energy and I think to myself she can’t give me 30-45 minutes every 2 to 3 weeks. When we start going 2+ months without sex and we are still in our 30’s. Man, I’m scared what it’s gonna be like in 10 years?. I always try to plan family events and time together. She is either at her Mom’s (every single day) She has to go to Wal-Mart. She is on the phone or on Facebook. It’s like I have a literal 5 minute window to initiate anything all week. The thing that hurts the worst is she won’t come to counseling. Idk we will go to Victoria’s secret and she’ll have me pick out a couple pair of sexy things and 1 of 2 pair has been used once and they are almost a year old. Like, what a way to send me mixed messages. I’m so confused. I know what a lot of people think…..dude! She is cheating. Trust me I’ve already thoroughly investigated that to tracking her and having people watching her and although I still think it’s a possibility. I don’t think so though. Idk sometimes it’s like I’m so horny…..nope can’t have sex with the woman I have married, taken care of, never cheated on. I gotta go in here and take care of myself. I mean I just don’t get it. I’m seriously thinking about getting something on the side if it gets worse. I’m not gonna live like this but I’m also not gonna have my children suffer through a divorce. To those of you who are wondering about her sexuality. Once the clothes come off she is not shy she loves to do everything . From my past experiences. Wtf I dont k ow what to do, another lonely no affection or touching night. Even that would make me feel better if she would frigging touch me. Help!!!!
My husband and I have been together 17 years but have only been married for about a year and a half. We have lived together for the last 7 of the 17 years. About 4 years ago, my husband got really sick and was diagnosed with kidney failure. Prior to this he was struggling with getting and keeping erections. He tried Viagra and it seemed to help a little but we managed. We went about 2 years with no sex at all. About a year ago he started seeing a doctor who prescribed him an injection to help with erections. At first we were all gung-ho and doing it regularly. But for the past year, things have dwindled down – a lot. I’ve found myself becoming less and less interested in sex. I rarely orgasm anymore and when we do engage in intimacy, it seems to only be for his pleasure. Recently my husband has started making comments about me not wanting to be touched and I know it’s driving a wedge between us. But it seems when I initiate things, he pushes me away and when he initiates it, I do the same to him. I feel helpless. I love my husband so much and don’t want to get stuck in the ugly place. We have always had a great sex life – even when we weren’t actually having sex due to his health issues. He is not one to sit down and have heartfelt conversations about things like this – he’s a hard core military man (which has always been one of the things that I love about him). How do I get over this? How do I jump start our sex life again without being weird or obvious? I want it to happen naturally but I feel like if I don’t take charge and do SOMETHING then it is going to hurt our relationship. Any advice??