Sex Starved Relationships
Lisa Thomas, LCSW, LMFT, DAACS
Why is sex important in a relationship? Sex is an activity that keeps us connected as a couple. It is a significant form of intimacy. When couples aren't having sex or having sex less frequently than desired, often times they are not touching to even include kissing or holding hands out of discomfort that it could lead to sex. It is unfortunately not unheard of for couples to split over different visions of what the sexual relationship should look like. A sex starved relationship is defined as couples who have sex less than ten times a year. A lack of sex in a relationship can have several contributing causes but the top two are a lack of sexual desire or relationship discord.
Treatment options for both problems need to be tailored to the specific needs of the couple. Visiting a therapist who specializes in the treatment of couples and or sexually based difficulties is an important first step to get an overview of the problems as well as personalized treatment recommendations to get things back on track.
Generally speaking, when a sex starved relationship is being driven by mismatched levels of sexual desire, or when one partner is more interested in having sex than the other, a problem can occur. Since the frequency of sex is driven by the lower desire partner, they are in control of how often sex is occurring. Statistics currently show that 1 out of every 3 couple's struggles with problems associated with mismatched levels of sexual desire. So the question then becomes what can couples do to treat the low desire problem that is affecting the frequency of their lovemaking?
When treating low sexual desire, look at what may be driving it by first having a conversation with your partner about what is motivating the lack of desire. First and most important, agree that it is a couple's problem and that we are both contributing to the cause. Next, have a conversation about what we want our sex life to look like specifically. How many times per week or month are "normal" for us to be sexual? Then, talk about taking different approaches to sex. For example, different times of day, different positions, weekend sex instead of weeknight sex. Agree to alternate who is initiating and what initiating could look like. Making sex part of the relationship starts with discussing the vision of the sexual relationship and then following through on participating with the result.
When a sex starved relationship is being caused by relationship discord, it is important to discuss the root of the problem that is contributing to the discord. For example, if one partner is overly controlling within the relationship, it can create an imbalance of power that can lead to withholding behaviors both inside and outside the bedroom. For this couple it is important to pay attention to how they have set up their relationship. Are they spending any couples time together? Can they balance out the power in the relationship by doing something different so one person doesn't feel overwhelmed or underappreciated? Fixing underlying problems by communicating needs to each other will help create an atmosphere of friendship and love that will lead to a more fulfilling and frequent sex life. First the couple must be friends and like each other in order for a love life to happen and looking at reprioritizing the way they are "doing" their relationship can help boost both the desire and frequency of lovemaking.
Finally, whether the problem is low desire or relationship discord that is getting in the way of having a fulfilling sexual life, don't give up. A relationship is a verb and you must look at what you can do everyday to contribute to having it work better for both of you. Implement the change you want to see by doing something differently on your end of things to have something be different and even better for the relationship.