- There are many reasons why a relationship can lack sexual intimacy, from stress to spending too much time together
- It is possible to fix this; a pleasure coach shares tips on how to get that fire burning once more
Sexless marriages are more common than you may think. Surveys done over the years have shown that 15 to 20 per cent of marriages are sex-free.
One definition of a non-sexual marriage is where sexual intimacy occurs fewer than 10 times a year. Sometimes, even happy, committed couples cease sexual intimacy after having been together for a while.
There are many reasons for this. One common cause is a drop in libido; its level fluctuates throughout our lives. A reduced sex drive can be brought on by a demanding career, stress, raising children, hormones, ailments that may affect stamina, and the general effects of ageing.
Tony has been married for more than 30 years but he feels no sexual attraction towards his wife, whom he loves dearly. He doesn't want to leave her, neither does he want to have an affair, although he admits he has been tempted.
Long-term committed partners often seem to keep their relationships at what I call a "low-power subsistence level", which is sufficient to keep the partnership alive but not vigorous enough to fire up the love or lust engine.
Sometimes when a couple gets into a routine, both in and out of the bedroom, everything can become repetitive and mundane.
Never become complacent or get caught up in the everyday monotony and don't allow your sex life to become the last item on a long to-do list, according to Sara Tang, a pleasure coach and founder of Sarasense, which offers online resources and coaching material on improving bedroom skills.
Sexual attraction is not destined to fade despite the common belief.
"I actually don't believe that sexual attraction is bound to fade. I think this is a limiting belief, and an excuse that couples sometimes use to justify not putting effort into their intimate relationship," says Tang.
Sexual attraction and desire will not be as spontaneous and effortless as in the initial "honeymoon period", as they take effort to maintain, but the good news is there are many couples that still maintain sexual attraction after being together for decades, she says.
There are many ways to rebuild a connection, boost intimacy and revitalise a sex life that has gone stale, according to Tang. But both parties have to approach the matter as a team rather than as opponents.
"Don't complain or criticise each other. Start with a shared understanding that your sex life is something you'd both like to keep as a priority, and commit to doing it together. It shouldn't feel like a burden. Instead, make it fun and something you look forward to," she says.
To begin with, Tang suggests, "Reconnect with physical touch " this doesn't necessarily have to be about sex. Instead, try holding hands first, then cuddle, caress, or massage each other. Then increase eye contact because it is one of the first signs of sexual attraction and chemistry. It's a powerful tool to show your partner you see them, and are present with them."
After the initial warm-up stage, you can move onto some more direct and daring methods. They include validating each other by telling them what you appreciate most about them; come up with a "sexy bucket list" together such as role playing, new sex toys, unusual positions, or different venues. Recreate favourite sexual experiences, plan date nights, take turns to surprise each other or flirt with each other.
There is no shame in seeking professional help from a sex coach or couples therapist because such professionals can approach problems "in a more structured manner by uncovering the lifestyle, physical, emotional 'blocks' to sex, and then work out a plan on how to clear them".
Tang also points out that sexlessness that has gone on for a long time between a couple might indicate a deeper relationship issue " like the discovery of an affair, repeated criticism, frequent arguing, or just growing apart.
On the question of whether it is all right to just rejuvenate a marriage or partnership without putting the sexual spark back, Tang says it's possible. "Many couples are perfectly fine in sexless marriages, if they both have a similar libido levels and don't place a particularly high priority on sex.
"There are many other things like friendship, companionship, co-parenting and financial security that keep them together. And they can still find other ways to stay intimate such as through affectionate touch, meaningful conversations, date nights, etc."
Keeping the flame alive
● Keep your partner interested by creating "healthy distance" and maintaining independence. Having regular solo nights out with friends or take courses.
● Share an adventure with your partner, seek out novel experiences rather than just doing everything together.
● Don't let yourself go physically or mentally. Invest in your fitness and wellness to maintain physical and mental health, confidence and self-esteem.
● Take time to share deeply and converse in a meaningful but also vulnerable way.
● Be present with your partner as this helps to maintain intimacy and strengthen the bonds of affection, friendship and companionship, from which sexual attraction springs.
Luisa Tam is a correspondent at the Post
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