~ JULY 2022 ~
Whether you’re in the throes of a new romance or have been together for decades, many people consider sex an important part of their relationship. So, why are Americans having less sex than ever?
The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, published in 2021, found a decrease in sexual activity across all age groups—even teens and young people— but this isn’t a new trend.
An earlier study that analyzed the sex lives of American couples between 1986 and 2014 also reported a steady decline through the decades. On average, couples had sex 50 to 70 times a year, but people in the 2010s reported nine fewer sessions annually than couples in the 1990s.
So, what can you do if you’ve found yourself in a sexless relationship? And how do you get your love life back on track?
Why are people having less sex?
According to relationship experts, to be considered “sexless,” you need to be having sex less than 10 times a year, but the reasons why people are spending less time in the bedroom aren’t clear-cut.
Tammy Nelson—director of the Integrative Sex Therapy Institute and a licensed sex and relationship therapist— said the reason that couples stop having sex is down to each individual partnership.
“There are three aspects of sex in a relationship—relational, pro-recreational, and recreational,” she told Newsweek.
If your relationship is going through a rough patch, then your sex life is also likely to suffer as your connection wavers. If you’re trying to have a baby, then issues such as infertility or hormones can have an impact. If you’re having sex purely for fun, then you may need to experiment to reignite that passion.
Gill Booth—a counselor specializing in psychosexual therapy—agrees that relationship dynamics play a huge part in why couples stop having sex, but that lifestyle factors should not be discounted.
She told Newsweek: “We’re looking at the quality of the relationship, but we’re also looking at lifestyle changes, such as stress, grief, illness or children.”
Every couple is different, and having more or less sex than “the norm” isn’t a problem if you’re both happy. Nevertheless, if your waning sex life is causing you strife, there are steps you can take to fix it.
Understand your sexual values
Each person’s sexual needs are important, and we’re not just talking about libido. Mix-matched love languages can lead to a “sexual deadlock,” even for couples that have been together a long time. According to Nelson, it’s important to take your partner’s feelings into account and work on that emotional connection.
“Some people need to feel emotionally connected before they have sex, and some feel connected after having sex,” she explained.
“Try not to judge each other and notice where you are needing to reconnect.”
Take a look at your lifestyle
Whether childcare, stress at work, or a health problem, you’d be surprised how much a seemingly unrelated issue can impact your sex life.
“Look at how you live and your stress factor,” Booth said. “Sometimes it’s one factor, sometimes it’s multiple.”
She recommends working together to tackle one issue at a time and see if any external factors are having a knock-on effect on your libido.
Spend quality time together
It takes work to keep a romance alive, and this is no truer than in the bedroom. To find the root of the problem, Nelson recommends working backward and focusing on strengthening your relationship as a whole.
“There are four resources in the relationship—time, attention, affection, and eventually sex,” she explained. “Each of you may need different things to get back that intimate feeling.”
Instead of jumping straight to sex, try spending quality together to connect on an emotional level, whether that’s a date night, holding hands or cuddling on the couch while watching TV.
“Reconnecting sexually doesn’t have to feel overwhelming,” she added. “Take it one step at a time and enjoy.”
Address the problem sooner rather than later
According to Booth, it’s usually one partner that checks out, with poor communication causing the issue to snowball.
She explained: “When one person has an avoidant personality, and you have limited or poor communication, the issue gets left.
“I’ve had couples come to me and they’ve not had sex for two years, as the problem compounds itself.”
This can also lead to the other partner feeling rejected, deepening the rift in the relationship.
“They start to think they’re not interested in them anymore,” Booth explained. “Open up the line of communication and talk about what it is that triggered the decline.