How to deal with a declining sex life in marriage


Sex—or, more accurately, the lack thereof—is a huge reason couples come to therapy. It’s not unusual for psychologists to hear couples confessing that they haven’t been intimate in months or years. Or that intimacy has come to involve a lot of resentment or even infidelity.

There are many reasons that lead to a diminishing sex life in marriage. One thing to consider if you’re dealing with lack of sex in your marriage is that stress can have a huge impact on your sex life. Partners react to stress by getting distracted, overworking, and feeling angry or tired—all of which can easily lead to a lack of desire. Stress can also be a key factor in feeling “not in the mood,” or not wanting to be touched.

If either of you have too much stress your lives, try to share what’s really bothering you with your spouse. If the stress is coming from something that the two of you are conflicted about, you can either bring that to therapy or work through it at home, if you’re both committed to listening attentively to each other.

Besides stress, other reasons for a dwindling sex life can include anything from a partner feeling hurt, rejected, unappreciated, or neglected. Communication issues, lack of trust, and the presence of children are also big contributing factors.

To start healing the situation, first know that being anxious about the lack of sex will only make things worse. Try not to think negatively about the situation; instead, focus on creating intimacy. Act to relieve your own stress though whatever means work for you, be it yoga, a bubble bath, reading, exercising, sleeping, eliminating detrimental thinking patterns, and so on. If you need to communicate to your spouse that you’re unsatisfied with your sex life, don’t frame it as a complaint. Use compassion and sweetness with phrasing like, “I miss you.”

Work to help your spouse relieve his or her stress too. Make sure you’re doing fun stuff together—go for a bike ride, take a class, whatever you both enjoy—and make sure to stay connected. Intimacy isn’t all about sex—emotional intimacy can be just as powerful—so remember the importance of doing things like holding hands, taking a bath for two, giving each other massages, and just laughing together.

You can even schedule sex. Sure, it doesn’t sound all that romantic, but sometimes, in hectic lives, actively planning for intimacy can be one of the only solutions. Mark the calendar for “date night”  once a week (or at least once a month) and make it as romantic as possible—candles and music always help—including providing for a clear situation and time when sex can happen.