So it’s been a while since you and your spouse have had sex, huh? There’s no real reason for it. Your relationship is going fine. Your marriage is stable. But for some reason, the sun keeps setting with the two of you in bed, too tired for anything hotter than a goodnight kiss—or maybe even just a “can you hit the light?”
It’s not an uncommon state of affairs, which is odd, because there was a time when the two of you couldn’t keep your hands off each other. How does sex go from being the one thing you can’t seem to stop thinking about to the one thing you can’t seem to make time for?
The reasons for this are varied and involve everything from time management to simple biology, but the good news here is that you’re not alone and there’s nothing wrong with you. As you get busier and your marriage gets more comfortable, sex becomes harder to make time for. It’s only natural. But just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s good. You can and should make time for sex in your marriage, even when time feels like the last thing you have. Just like physical, emotional or spiritual health, you can’t just sit around and expect your sexual life to right itself. But if you take the time to be proactive and take some initiative, you may be surprised at your results.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Sex is important and worth prioritizing
A lot of damage is done when couples start thinking of sex as just a perk to being married—sort of like an occasional dessert you treat yourself to after you eat some “real” food. The truth is, sex is an important component of marriage. It builds commitment and fosters increased emotional desire for each other. “Sex is designed to make you feel good for a reason,” says Dr. Helen Fisher a research professor and member of the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies in the department of anthropology at Rutgers University.
“With someone you love, I recommend it for many reasons: It’s good for your health and good for your relationship. It’s good for respiration, muscles, and bladder control. It’s a fine antidepressant, and it can renew your energy.” This goes far, far deeper than just a pleasant way to kill time when you’ve got a few spare minutes. It’s actually investing in your relationship.
Make Time for More Than Just Sex
If you’re struggling to find time for sex, the bigger issue might be that you’re struggling to find time for each other, period. For a lot of couples, the closest thing they have to a real interaction throughout the day is a brief chat while getting ready in the bathroom and, maybe, a check-in before going to sleep. These marriages are operating on fumes, and while that’s sustainable for a short season, it’s no way to keep a marriage thriving.
Experts recommend breaking routine with each other and doing something genuinely fresh and different to keep that spark burning. It can be once a week or once a month. It can be a whole day together or just an hour. It can be a walk in the park, dinner at a new restaurant or even just coffee on the porch. (Need some help here? brightpeak’s tool, Together, has 5 easy ways to help with this). The key thing is that you’re making time to connect with each other. If you’re able to connect emotionally, physical connection is much more likely to follow.
Keep Your Expectations Reasonable
Couples going through a sexual dry spell sometimes hesitate to initiate sex with each other because the expectation for what the sex should look like has been built up in their heads. Our most common pop culture depictions of sex remain one in which people consumed by desire are tearing each other’s clothes off in states of hormonal frenzy rather akin to sharks eating a whale carcass on planet Earth.
Those times can and do happen, but if you’re married, it’s best to be realistic. Just like not every single trip to the gym is going to result in you deadlifting a new record and not every single church service is going to usher you into rapturous worship, not every single sexual encounter with your partner is going to be up to the tooth-chattering, toenail-curling sex bar you’ve set for yourself.
But the good news is that research says that sex begets sex. In other words, like almost anything else, the more you do it the better you get at it. So keep your expectations reasonable at first and allow things to develop at a natural pace.
Scheduled Sex isn’t bad sex
For many people—especially many Christians—a sizable portion of their teen years were spent stuffing your hormones down and trying not to have sex, something youth leaders and well-meaning parents tended to talk about like spontaneous combustion: a mysterious phenomenon that could happen anywhere, at any time, utterly unprovoked.
But for many married couples, sex feels less like it could happen at any moment and more like a Bigfoot sighting. You keep your eyes peeled for any sign of it, but it never seems to show.
Here’s something worth trying: just make time for it. Pencil it in your planner or ask Siri to set a reminder. Sex doesn’t have to be a mystical experience.
Remember that Sex Honors God
God loves sex. He created it, for crying out loud. There’s a whole book in the Bible about how great sex is. When two people express their love and commitment through sex, it honors God. Even if sex wasn’t fun on its own merits, it’s important to remember that sex with your partner is a form of worship, whether it’s of the spontaneous, clothes-ripping, sweep-all-the-dishes-off-the-table variety or of the planned-a-few-days-in-advance-while-the-kids-are-napping type.
Don’t Be Ashamed to Ask for Help
Even at the best of times, sex is complicated. It involves vulnerability, communication and an absurd amount of honesty—three things many of us struggle with. And then there’s the fact that many of us are dragging in our own sexual baggage, be they hangups from previous relationships, toxic beliefs retained from a overly legalistic upbringing or abusive situations from our past.
Going to counseling is a good and healthy thing for all couples, no matter where their sex lives are at. And if you’re wrestling with sexual issues, talking to a therapist who has the resources to help you is an absolute imperative. Don’t let the sexual health of your marriage get held up because you were too ashamed to ask for help.