Think of your sex life as a barometer for the general overall health of your marriage. A low or non-existent amount of sexual activity could be a sign that other areas of your relationship are in need of attention. Let us first define what a healthy level of sexual activity should look like.
The first thing you want to know is that there is no normal. That’s right. “Normal frequency of intercourse” for you may be “excessive” for your neighbors, or “not enough” for your best friend. Individuals differ widely in their level of desire and what they need to feel fulfiled sexually. So it is essential that you understand that you and only you (and your partner) can define what is normal in the context of your own relationship and not by comparing your sex life with anyone else’s.
Every couple has their own sexual fingerprint
There is no standard that applies to every couple. Factors like gender, age, individual expectations, how long the couple has been together, and cultural differences all affect the numbers. These variables are especially evident in early marriage when a couple is still in the discovery process of each other and there is a natural tendency to have more sex at that time in the relationship.
Quality trumps quantity
When it comes to sex, the emotional connection that leads to quality, soul-touching lovemaking really is more important than quantity. This doesn’t mean that a partner should not pay attention to having sex regularly. It is more a call to excellence and benchmarking “best practices” between the sheets.
Let us take the example of a couple in a long-distance relationship. For practical purposes, they cannot have frequent sex. However, they pay attention to having great sex when they do see each other. In this case, there are no complaints because they are mindful of the quality of their sexual activity in order to compensate for the forced infrequency of it.
Certain circumstances may put you into a low sex marriage
Outside factors, independent of your mutual desires, may put you into a low sex marriage despite all your best intentions. A partner may become sick, or have to take medications that affect their libido. They may have their attention pulled elsewhere due to family problems or work challenges.
Related: 22 Experts Reveal: How to Deal with Sexual Incompatibility
Life ’s milestones may put a temporary stop to “normal” rates of intercourse: a high-risk pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, sleepless nights with babies and young children, and finally, on the other end of the spectrum, menopause.
Some baseline figures
We have established that sexual frequency is a fluid concept. But here is some data, should you be curious about what others might be doing. This is culled from research done by the General Social Survey which follows American’s sexual activity since the 1970s.
Married couples have sex an average of 58 times per year
Bear in mind that this is averaging in newlyweds, who typically have a lot of sex, with seniors celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, who typically will have less sex than those at the other end of the spectrum. So that 58 times per year isn’t truly meaningful in the sense that it is merely an average taking into account a wide spread of ages of the couples surveyed.
Some factors that contribute to a low sex marriage
This is the biggest factor in a low sex marriage. Sex drives and capabilities diminish for most people as they age. On the other hand, in a healthy marriage, this may not be an issue, as comfort, security, familiarity, trust and a loving connection can do wonders to mitigate for the reduced sexual activity.
Mentioned above; exceptional circumstances such as illness, accidents, pregnancy, childbirth, the early years of raising children, stress at work or home, unexpressed or expressed anger in the marriage, infidelity, use of pornography for sexual release – all of these can contribute to a low sex drive within the marriage.
Physical and emotional health
Someone with a chronic illness, physical or mental, may see a reduction in sexual desire.
Many medications will diminish or take away sexual desire completely. Blood pressure meds, diabetes meds, antidepressants, mood stabilizers; all of these can impact the libido.
Having children at home
Ask any parent; there’s no better birth control than having children, especially young children, at home. You never know when the little one is going to wake up and call out for water, a hug, or just someone to come and check under the bed for monsters. Even when the children are grown, if they are still at home this can impact the couple’s sex life. It’s hard to be spontaneous or have a make-out session on the sofa when your adult child comes home from a party and interrupts the moment.
Shifts in hormones experienced during menopause or medical treatment can have a negative effect on sex drive.
Recent loss and grieving
It is completely normal to lose interest in sex when you lose someone close to you. This is a natural response and nothing to worry about unless you suspect that this lack of desire is persistent and does not appear to be going away.
Substance use and abuse
It is well known that alcohol will have a libido-dampening effect. Too much alcohol will render a man impotent and unable to perform sex. Having an addiction to alcohol or drugs will negatively impact your sex drive as well as contribute to issues in your marriage outside of the lack of sex. These situations demand urgent intervention.
Workload and stress
Challenges, even good ones, at work, can distract you from paying attention to keeping your sex life on course. Stress at home or at work will also have a consequence on your sexual urges due to the attention these types of situations demand.
Couples with other issues in the marriage, such as conflict, unresolved anger, or infidelity, will have a difficult time feeling close and loving.
A history of previous trauma or abuse
Anyone having experienced prior trauma or abuse would want to work with an experienced trauma specialist for as long as it takes to enable that person to participate fully in a healthy and satisfying sex life.
Diminished physical attraction and a corresponding lack of intimacy
While difficult to admit to for many couples, one partner may lose their sexual response to the other if they find the other has not kept up their physical appearance. This could involve weight gain, or general letting go of fitness, self-care with hair and makeup, or, for the man, lack of hygiene, teeth-brushing, shaving, staying strong and in shape.
Secrets and lack of relationship trust
A couple can experience a reduced or absent sex life if they are harbouring secrets or not be feeling an ability to trust one another. This can be due to a previous affair, or one of the partners hiding financial information from the other (overspending, or lending money to a family member or friend without consulting each other). It is difficult to feel in the mood with someone from whom you aren’t showing your true, authentic self.
We’ve examined some of the sources that can contribute to a low sex marriage. Now let’s look at some of the feelings you may be experiencing as a person in a low sex marriage.
1. You may feel shy or ashamed to talk to a counselor about this situation, as you don’t want other people to know that you aren’t having as much sex as you think they are having.
2. The situation has gone on so long you don’t believe anyone can help you if you do decide to move forward to talking with a counselor.
3. You fear of being blamed or made to feel inadequate, defective or responsible for the lack of sex in your marriage. Is it because you’ve put on a few pounds? Neglected to wear lingerie instead of flannel pyjamas? Sometimes don’t have time to put on makeup in the morning, and you’d rather hang around in sweatpants on the weekend rather than dress sexily for your husband?
4.You secretly wish things will right themselves on their own without having to address this sad situation with your partner directly. You are a little worried that talking about it will make it worse and lead to divorce.
Steps you can take to get your sex life back on track
The first step towards getting back to a healthy rate of sex is to talk to your partner
It is not going to be an easy conversation, but it is a necessary one if you want to see improvements. Start gently. “This is kind of embarrassing, but I’m worried that we aren’t having sex enough and wondered if you were feeling the same way” can be an effective entry point into this discussion.
Once you know that your partner is also concerned with the lack of sexual activity, you can both brainstorm about ways to make time and room for more lovemaking. These could include:
Schedule sex whether you feel like it or not
One of the reasons that sex drops off in a long-term relationship is that it becomes less of a priority, taking a backseat to children and work needs. A simple solution is to carve out deliberate time to have sex. And you don’t have to be in the mood, to begin with. Like coming to the dinner table without much of an appetite, once you see all the deliciousness spread out before you, your desire will grow. Many long-term couples attest to this phenomenon; they go to bed thinking they will just sleep but just a little fooling around is enough to get the old neurons firing on all cylinders.
Practice a sport together
Any intensive physical activity done together that will get you sweaty and hot. As you exert yourselves, a natural turn on will occur. Why not end the exercise session with a shared shower and see where things go from there?
Commit to unplugging a couple of nights a week
Maybe your low sex marriage is suffering because of too much screen time, which robs you of together, intimate time. On the nights that you are scheduling sex, make it a point to turn off your phones, tablets, PCs and other electronic devices a couple of hours before you know you are going to slip between the sheets. You will be amazed at how easy it is to connect with your partner when you don’t have all your devices on hand. This connection will contribute to a feeling of being tuned into your partner, which will have a beneficial effect once you go to bed.
For her: get rid of all that ratty underwear
Yes, they are convenient when you just want something soft and comfortable next to your skin. But men are visual creatures and seeing you dress (and undress) with a pretty, lacy and cleavage-enhancing bra will get his mind imagining all sorts of scenarios. It will also help you feel pretty and sexy, too, much more than those old granny pants will ever do.
For him: even though it’s the weekend, don’t neglect your hygiene
Yes, we know it is tiresome to have to shave every day. But your wife adores the feeling of your soft skin next to hers. And don’t forget to brush your teeth before hopping into bed. Nothing will kill the buzz faster than sharing a garlic-infused kiss. Make an effort and don’t hang around the house in your old college gym shorts all weekend. You’ll like the effect dressing nicely has on your wife’s libido.
A low sex marriage after years of togetherness is not necessarily inevitable. If you are not happy with the frequency of sex you and your partner are experiencing, don’t wait for things to work themselves out. You need to take action before this situation has a detrimental effect on your relationship. You deserve a happy relationship which includes good and frequent sex.