Everything seems better at the beginning of a relationship, but especially the sex. Impromptu romps in the sack are the norm as you and your partner are excited to explore each other’s bodies. You’re never too tired or bored either — you’re almost always in the mood.
But now you’ve hit a drought. Maybe you’re stressed and busy or maybe you’ve hit a rough patch with your partner and your timing is off. Whatever the reason, the sex is infrequent or has stopped altogether. It could be a few weeks or a few months or even a few years. Yep, you’re in the middle of the dry spell. Now what?
“Dry spells are completely normal whether you’re in a relationship or single, whether intentional or not. There will always be times in your life and relationships where you want to take a break from sex and that’s completely OK,” Aliyah Moore, a certified sex therapist, tells Lifehacker. “It all boils down to how you choose to respond to it as an individual and as a couple.”
A lot of the shame attached to having a dry season comes from the social construct on how much sex we should be having rather than focusing on what is right for our current situation.
And although dry spells happen within all relationships, according to Moore, many couples ignore the signs and don’t take the time to understand why it’s happening and how to remedy the situation. “If you avoid the problem and distance yourself from your partner, you’re just making it harder for the both of you to figure out how you can get back into the game,” she says.
While dry spells are completely normal and are nothing to be ashamed about, if your dry spell is bothering you, Moore provides insight on how to break out of it.
What causes a dry spell in a relationship?
“Dry spells often happen after the ‘honeymoon’ phase in relationships. This phase varies from couple to couple, but usually, this ‘euphoric’ stage in the relationship lasts a couple of months to two years,” Moore explains.
Once this phase ends, Moore says, couples start to see their partners for who they truly are — their imperfections, quirks, etc. “Some get annoyed by them and leave their partners, while some choose to stay and accept their partners despite their flaws.”
But then, for some, a long-term partner can also turn into a constant presence that often doesn’t make them very sexy.
“They become a part of your routine to the point that sex gets boring,” she says. “Plus, it no longer becomes a priority with everything else happening in life, like a new job or kids.”
Factor in partners being taken for granted and couples dealing with many major issues in their lives including everything from demanding jobs to family problems to health issues, and sex taking a back seat is very common for many couples.
Why sex is important in relationships
Maybe you’re thinking that a dry spell isn’t a big deal; that you can do without sex so long as you and your partner are still committed and sharing a life together. So why is sex necessary in our relationships?
“Sex is a vital part of life. Any sexual activity (solo or with a partner) offers many benefits to the person’s overall health and well-being,” Moore says. “In relationships, having sex increases the levels of intimacy, trust, and love between partners.”
Aside from increasing each other’s confidence levels in bed, according to Moore, sex between partners also empower couples to open up and be vulnerable to each other.
“Having regular sex improves a couple’s ability to perceive and identify their partners’ emotions. As a result, couples become better at expressing their feelings toward not only each other but also other people.”
Additionally, when a person orgasms from sex, the process triggers the release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which plays a vital role in creating a bond between partners.
Moreover, says Moore, most if not all couples feel more satisfied in their relationships when they can fulfil each other’s sexual desires. “Relationships tend to grow when partners can freely express themselves, as well as their sexual needs, desires, and even their fantasies.”
Figure out what’s causing the dry spell — and address it
First, you need to figure out why you’re not having sex as often or not having sex at all anymore. Dry spells happen for many reasons, ranging from minor problems (like being apart from your partner due to travel or job restrictions) to more serious ones (like trauma, health issues, or problems within the relationship).
“Taking a step back to assess the situation and identify the root cause makes it easier for all parties to understand the dry spell and remedy it,” Moore says, who suggests identifying and address these issues alone or with your partner. But either way, you must communicate to your partner next.
“I can’t stress the importance of being open with your partner enough. If you still haven’t learned the cause of your dry spell, you could discuss it and figure it out.”
If you have identified the potential cause, Moore says don’t wait for it to blow out of proportion without doing anything about it or talking about it. “Sharing your concerns and hearing what your partner has to say about them (and vice versa) may surprisingly resolve your dry spell issues. Moreover, communicating with your partner regularly helps you feel closer. Also, it relieves couples from talking to each other about anything — the good and the bad.”
So how do you broach such a subject? Moore cautions against starting the conversation with your partner if your emotions are high. “You’ll only end up saying hurtful things to them that you can’t take back and end up regretting.”
Also, try to avoid opening up this conversation when your partner just got home from work or is stressed because the conversation isn’t likely to be productive, and both of you will end up being more frustrated.
Once you find the best moment to talk to your partner, Moore recommends simply talking about how you feel without blaming or pointing fingers. “Don’t be afraid to say something in the present. Something like, ‘This has been a struggle for me.’ or ‘The past few weeks/months have really been hard for me because of…” And then express to your partner what you need right now. This approach allows couples to really express how they feel about the situation and with each other.”
It’s OK to take things slow
After having the dry spell conversation with your partner, Moore recommends taking things slow in the bedroom. “Don’t rush things, and don’t expect that you’ll immediately go from zero sex to five times a day.”
Instead, she suggests focusing on quality time and quality sex with your partner. “Make sure you have the right mindset, especially if lack of sleep, stress, or a demanding job is the root cause of the dry spell.”
What might also help reignite the spark is remembering how your courtship first started. “I’m talking about all the flirting and lovey-dovey things you did when you were still starting out as a couple (aka, the honeymoon phase),” Moore says. “Don’t be afraid to go back to basics. Go on a date, and make conversations. The touching part can always follow, as well as kisses, hugs, and cuddles. Savour the moment. Remember, each act shouldn’t always end up with sex. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable at the moment.”
If having sex feels right, Moore suggests initiating sex with words like, “Do you want to do something tonight?” or “do you want to play?”
Once things return to how they used to, Moore says don’t be afraid to experiment and explore different ways you can pleasure each other from time to time. “If you’ve reached this point in your relationship, you have to cultivate intimacy on a much deeper level. And by trying something new together, you’ll be surprising yourselves each time.”
Moore emphasises it’s key to not expect that sex will be the same as it used to be when you started as a couple, because that can lead to disappointment for both of you.
“You have to remember that many things that have happened to you (or your partner) in the past contributed to the dry spell. Stress, lifestyle changes, and physical, emotional, and psychological factors are things you don’t easily resolve overnight. So again, take it slow and be patient with your partner.”
Moore says it’s important to focus on cultivating intimacy and a deeper connection with your partner without the pressure of making it all about sex all the time. “Do what’s comfortable for you at the moment. If you only feel like hugging or kissing one day, then feel free to do so. If you feel like doing it roughly the next day, so be it. And if you just feel like cuddling and talking about random things, do those, too. At the end of the day, it’s the bond you share with your partner that matters most.”