How do you get you and your partner’s sex drives back in sync?

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We’ve all been there some time or other: you and your partner have been together for several years and things in the hay have begun to take the backseat to more “important” things like work, hobbies, hanging out with friends, cleaning the house, etc. Maybe the relationship itself is great, with long conversations, cuddles and whatever floats your boats, but sex is something you save for Saturdays and New Year’s Eve.

My partner and I really want to conceive a child, but as we know, the more you have sex the bigger chance it is to conceive. We are working on getting our mutual sex drive back, but right now it feels like a chore.

How do you get the intimate part of your relationship back? -Fern

Hell, I know that even the child-free, non-married couples in the audience need advice in this area at times. So Homies, whatchu got for us as far as rekindling intimacy in long-term relationships?

Comments on How do you get you and your partner’s sex drives back in sync?

  1. I. Need. Help here. Newly married, sex still hurts, and some days I think if I never had sex again, where can I sign? My husband is patience incarnate, but the pressure and guilt of being sexless is defeating. Ha….do I sound like I need professional help yet? It’s just really nice to know I’m not alone.

    • Were you a virgin before you got married? It takes a long time for sex to be just awesome, it takes lots of talk and experimenting and being honest with yourself and him.

      • And if your OB can’t help, try another one. It might just be a process of figuring out how you two work together, but there could also be an underlying issue like vaginismus.

        • There can be soft tissue points that cause pain, tigger points. It is definitely possible. Never give up finding an answer and the great sex you deserve!

    • 1. Use lube. Use more lube. Seriously, there have been days when I’ve used literally half a bottle of lube and went from “Ow, damnit, stop it” to “Oh hell yes.”

      2. Talk to your OB/Gyn. Get detailed. (When does it hurt? Where does it hurt? How does it hurt?) Rule out anything purely physical going on.

      3. Have more non-penetrative sex. Yes, it is “real” sex, and can be just as awesome for both of you. Also has the side benefit of you learning more about your body, your spouse learning more about your body, and potentially making penetrative sex better too.

      4. Hey, professional help may actually, you know, help! There are therapists who specialize in sex who could be a fantastic resource in a) figuring out what’s “normal” pain and what isn’t, and b) offering suggestions of ways to deal with and/or change it.

    • If it doesn’t get better talk to somebody soon. It may be vaginismus, you seem to have similar symptoms to what I had. Hopefully you just need a little more time.

  2. Been there! I have three tips, some of which are echoed above, but in combination usually serves to get both of us on the right track again.
    1. Just say yes. When one of you is in the mood, go with it. Yes, there will be legitimate times when you don’t feel well or you have to be up at 4am the next day, but if your excuse is “there’s another episode of Friends on right now”….have sex. No really, do it. Even if you didn’t start out in the mood, chances are you’ll end up happy you did.
    2. Switch up the time of day. Instead of having before-bedtime sex, have just-got-home-from-work sex. Or morning sex. Or noon quickies. This has been a struggle in the past for both of us, as we like to chill out after work, which turns into us zoning out in front of the TV/computer, which leads to bedtime with no sexy times.
    3. “Sex” doesn’t always have to be intercourse. Do oral and leave it at that. Make out. Dress up but don’t do anything physical at all. Send sexy text messages. For years, my husband had health issues that resulted in some serious ED. We still “had sex”, just not of the baby-making variety. If you’re not ovulating, have non-sex sex. Then the actual sex will the culmination of all that teasing you’ve been doing at other times.

    • Make out!!! Yes!!! We realized that it had been forever since we made out, and we went at it, and it was SMOKIN. It brings you back to a place of horny teenagerdom.

  3. My boyfriend and i haven’t had much sex in years and I’m pretty desperate to fix it myself. I have seriously low esteem and no confidence, and i tended to sleep with aggressive and dominate males. He is more sensual and its a huge turn off for me. He wants to kiss a lot and I always have to turn away because its so damn annoying. I have tried many times to talk to him about it but then he wants me to give him directions in the bed, and that doesn’t inspire me. None of the suggestions have helped us but I’ll be keeping an eye on this thread.

    • I had a similar thing with my hubs, he’s a little… submissive for me at times. Finally one time I got a little frustrated and told him “Quit having sex with me, I want to fuck, I don’t care if that makes it a quickie.” I still get frustrated at times, he thinks it’s cute but will usually finish things up how I want it.
      Another thing you might want to try is take charge. Tell him you don’t really want to give him directions in the heat of the moment but this time will be you making sex how you want it so he can see & feel what levels of dominance you are wanting. You don’t want to kiss as much as he does? Don’t let him, tell him you’re the boss and you didn’t give him permission to kiss you. Put on a bossy dom persona to get through. Who knows, he may like it and you can trade off on who gets to be submissive.

    • Giving directions in bed doesn’t work for me, but giving directions in advance does. Also finding things to say “I like it when…” rather than “I don’t like it when…” makes it easier for him to take the suggestion.

  4. Between opposite schedules and both of us being prone to bouts of low self-esteem, depression, and high levels of stress… weeks and weeks, sometimes months go by for us. Which makes initiating even harder.

    Here’s my advice, which works for me when I feel like I can’t stand the dry spell any longer and CHANGE MUST HAPPEN:

    1. Masturbate. Even if your partner isn’t around, getting yourself into the mood on a regular basis can help for later.

    2. Keep sex in your thoughts… if you make a conscious effort to think about it, it’s more likely to happen. Send sexy texts to your partner, leave love notes around the house. It will get him/her to think about it too.

    3. Be positive. Be kind to yourself and be kind to your partner. Go out of your way to spread good feelings. Especially about self-image. Compliment your partner AND yourself.

    4. Be prepared. Whatever makes you feel sexy. For me, it’s shaving, vanilla lotion, sexy underwear. Even if I don’t think we’ll have the time or be synced up, at least I know I’m ready to feel good about it! I don’t want to feel self-conscious.

    5. Just get naked. Even if you’re not in the mood, but you know you want to have more sex, just wear less clothing at home. Not easy if you already have kids, but snuggle up on the couch in just underwear and a tank top. Go to bed naked. Even if my partner isn’t in the mood, that definitely helps him think about it.

    Hope that helps! I should be taking my own advice more often.

    • I’ve also had these challenges and my therapist had some great advice: always have a plan B in mind. Such as, “If we have sex tonight, great, but if he’s not in the mood, I’m also excited to catch up on my Netflix.” That helps ease the disappointment when sex doesn’t happen, which keeps negative feelings away from sex.

  5. nothing to do with baby making, and most people aren’t open to this but…if you and your long term partner are in a serious dry spell and you feel you’ve lost your mojo… opening up the relationship to include experiences
    with other people can certainly infuse some new life into an old relationship. I realize it’s controversial…but as no one brought it up yet I thought I’d be brave and throw it out there.

  6. I’d try some mindfulness as well – essentially about being in the moment, not worrying about later or before. especially if it is a case of ‘oh theres no time’ ‘but we need to go shopping’ ‘ah I just want to veg out and watch tv’ ‘I’m too stressed out to enjoy this’.
    There is a bit to mindfulness, and it does take practice. But then once you’ve got the technique, instead of someone making a move and the other being like ‘not now’, you just stop, be in the moment, enjoy the feeling of the other person and remember that oh yeah, sex is awesome! and totally worth being late for work/ family visits for!

  7. I recently read that working out with your partner can increase your sex drive, and I find its true. We get all sweaty at the gym, and then will often have sex before we get into street clothes, either before or after showers.

  8. If I don’t feel attractive or sexy, it makes me unwilling to initiate, yes, but also unwilling even to simply receive, so my own lack of confidence is often the cause of our dry spells.

    My first go-to when it’s been too long is just to resexify myself. Everyone’s methods will be different according to what makes them feel sexy, but I shave my legs and paint my toesies; sometimes I’ll go get a new haircut or color; I might buy a new outfit I feel really confident in. Also I try to engage in activities I feel really proficient at – since reminding myself I’m good at a lot of stuff also helps make me feel sexy again.

    On all occasions when I happen to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and really like what I see, I make sure to stop for a minute and pay attention – not to search out flaws, but just appreciate this moment when I feel totally self-assured and sexy. Making a point of constantly doing this really helps me mentally get past those other times when I’m not so happy with what I see (and when that happens I just walk away from that mirror as fast as I can!)

    I’m not in any way saying it’s you or it’s your fault – but I often find starting with myself, with the things I can directly impact, makes me feel more in control of the situation.

    So yea, to sum up, Confidence and Control – I need to get my mojo back before I can get my mojo on!

  9. Ok…..what do you do if you have a certain condition where sex was really painful? For me it depends on the day, sometimes, it’s horribly painful….and sometimes….it’s okay. I’ve actually gone to physical therapy for this issue, but had to stop when it got too expensive. For me, my sex drive is bad because 50% of the time I’ll be in severe pain.

    • Continue your pt at home as much as you can! Some pt,s will give you exercises for home if you can’t afford to come in. If pt was helping research what else you can do, tell your doctors, keep asking. Is it possible self massage would help? Like perennial massage. Can you develop a test to figure out if it’s a good day or bad day without getting all amped up first? Are you easily overstimulated?

    • Sounds like maybe vulvodynia or vulvar vestibulitis?

      1) Don’t have sex when it is painful (even if you got started thinking it wouldn’t hurt, stop if it does).

      2) Find other sexual activities to do on the days you are in pain — probably non-insertive. Sex isn’t only intercourse.

      3) Start keeping records of when the good days are and when the bad days are — it may be less random than you think and have something to do with your menstrual cycle. The good days may be mid-cycle. Or it may relate to stress.

      Good luck, I know it sucks when sex hurts!

      • Reminder, you guys: please try to avoid giving medical advice. Feel free to link to resources, but as a publisher, I get really squeamish about hosting any sort of advice about medical conditions. It’s a liability issue for me.

        Ultimately, if someone’s in physical pain, they need to speak to a doctor (which it sounds like MountainGal has already done).

  10. More ideas,
    Turn the heat up, the temperature in the house. Or add another blanket at least. Sometimes cold makes for very unsexy. Sleep naked! Good for self esteem, trust and intimacy. Take it out of the house. Change of scenery perhaps? Scream out the frustrations of baby making together, I mean those darn feelings. Practice some PDA, sorry world. Dancing? Or Go somewhere people are definitely not trying to have sex to make a baby. Girl time / guy time with friends instead of mixed couples.

  11. I agree sex begets sex but you don’t have to have sex with someone for that to work! If I want to increase my libido I spend some quality time alone, guilt free. I say guilt free because while trying to conceive I felt like if I was horny then it had to be intercourse or I was wasting my horniness. It’s not wasted time, and it can really help!

  12. I’m watching this waiting for some sort of idea or clarity! I have run into the same problem with my husband as well. It’s not something that sexy undies, or games, or switching it up can change. He just doesn’t want to. He feels “pressured” if you try to initiate, but if you give him space you’ll be on day 8 (like me right now) of nothing and no action in sight. Even when it’s definitely time to get in gear, he’s hesitant and often just won’t do it. He says he doesn’t feel like it. He says he’s tired, stressed, busy, he wants to ride his bike, he wants to watch a movie, etc.. I’ve asked him what I can do different thinking that I wasn’t pressing his hot buttons but that’s not it. I’ve asked him if he’s sure he wants to have kids “Yes! I’m really excited to be a dad.” is what he says. His actions suggest otherwise though. He’s otherwise very affectionate, sweet and kind. Nothing to suggest that he’d be so uninterested in sex. While I can’t offer any advice (and boy have I sought it), I can offer a kindred spirit! Best of luck to you!!

    • Just wanted to give a solidarity fist-bump. 🙁 It’s soooort of helped to talk really specifically with my husband about it… Like, “Ideally I would want to have sex every 2-3 days. How often would you ideally want to have sex? What do you think we should do to get both our needs met?” It’s been helpful in that I feel less angry at him after we talk, but hasn’t got me more sex yet.

      The other thing is I just try not to take it personally. I try to believe him when he says I’m attractive and he does find me sexy. I try not to turn “we haven’t had sex in a week” into “he never wants to have sex with me”. Again, doesn’t help me have sex more, but helps me feel a little better about it.

      • Dunno if this will help anyone, and it´s a bit (A LOT) counterintuitive, BUT… I find that if I become non chalant (i.e. NOT interested in hubby), he usually comes around (sexually and otherwise), though I do have to wait it out a bit (sometimes more than others).
        Kind of in line with the “missing your partner” thing someone said above, but more of a face to face “oh, hi, I forgot I was sexual at all, aren´t we just kissy roomates?!” kind of thing.

  13. I’m currently freaking out over our first dry spell. We’ve been regular every-other-dayers forever, even all thru the first 8 months of my pregnancy. But now I’m in the last few weeks, and am uncomfortable and tired and miserable, and my body is just so cumbersome, and I feel as sexy as a bag of moldy potatoes, and hubby looks at me with more pity than lust…. So yeah, dry spell
    Which, I’m sure is normal at this stage, but I’m scared about when will it get better, cos the impending baby’s sure not gonna help things…

    Sorry that was a bit off topic.
    On topic:
    I’ve never had the highest libido, and agree with “do it till you want it”. The more sex I have, the more I want. 🙂 (except when I’m the size of a blimp)

  14. I’m currently freaking out over our first dry spell. We’ve been regular every-other-dayers forever, even all thru the first 8 months of my pregnancy. But now I’m in the last few weeks, and am uncomfortable and tired and miserable, and my body is just so cumbersome, and I feel as sexy as a bag of moldy potatoes, and hubby looks at me with more pity than lust…. So yeah, dry spell
    Which, I’m sure is normal at this stage, but I’m scared about when will it get better, cos the impending baby’s sure not gonna help things…
    Sorry that was a bit off topic.
    On topic:
    I’ve never had the highest libido, and agree with “do it till you want it”. The more sex I have, the more I want. 🙂 (except when I’m the size of a blimp)

  15. I’d also like to say a few things about my experience with painful sex, as a few comments have brought this up.
    With my ex, who was my first, penetrative sex was always painful. For all 5 years.
    One thing that was discovered is that I’d developed an allergy to latex, which of course made condom use horrible. Burning! Ugh!
    But even when that contributing factor was removed I still found sex painful. The first time we did it we couldn’t do it, because i was so tense. Second time powered thru and I was left bleeding heavily for days. And even though it got better than that, i was left scared of sex and found penetration awful.
    This changed when I split up with the ex and had sex with other men. Turns out it was all about tension, and since my ex was a nasty, abusive, a-hole, I never felt relaxed and comfortable with him. But I managed to figure it out with others and rarely have problems with penetration anymore.
    So, for me, being relaxed, comfortable and happy about sex is key. The more i worried about pain, the more painful it got.

  16. This website can be really useful for looking at some of the relationship dynamics that can lead to lack of sex in relationships:

    I had a bit of a ‘baskets’ moment when I read her posts about responsive and spontaneous desire. We’d got into a bit of a terrible cycle where ‘woman with responsive desire’ + ‘man with spontaneous desire’ + ‘overly simplistic ideas of enthusiastic consent’ = almost never having sex. Having a feminist scientist expert explain that some people need to start doing sexy stuff to feel like doing sexy stuff and those people will have a lot more sexy fun if they’re willing to give it go when they don’t feel that sexy and see whether they get into it as they go along.

  17. I wish I had a sexy cure for the BF. My sex drive is – well, not too wild, but I could do with a little naughty time two or three times a week. The BF, on the other hand… if I did not remind him every now and then, he would go for months without. As soon as I try to talk about it, he claims he feels pressured. So no talking, not much couple sexy time – at least I’ve got my own fantasy to keep me company.

    (It may make things wors that he was my first guy. Heck, I don’t even know if that is normal behavior, or if I am doing anything wrong.)

    • Woah, the talking = pressure thing throws up big red flags for me. I mean, there are definitely ways to talk about it that are full of pressure (“Why haven’t you jumped me this week? Do you think I’m ugly?”) but it’s not good if a reasonable adult can’t say to another reasonable adult “Hey, I’d like to talk about our sex life (or any other important topic), is now a good time or would you prefer after dinner?” without being accused of pressuring.

      Other good ways to have pressure-free conversation: use “I” statements like “Ideally I’d like to have sex about two or three times a week.” Avoid saying “should”. Ask for help before proposing a solution (“what do you think we should do to get both our needs met?” instead of “let’s have sex more often”).

      And if he still won’t talk, talk about why he won’t talk. 😉 (“Hey, I’d like to talk about our sex life, but I don’t want you to feel pressured. What do you think we should do about that?”)

      • Great tip about “I” Statements!! Another great “I” Statement goes like this:

        “I feel _____ when _____ because ____.”

        You just need to fill in the blanks with your feelings. This puts your feelings on you instead of blaming your partner and (for me) is a much easier way to start a difficult conversation. Watch your tone of voice – it should sound like your asking for help. Here’s an example:

        Example: I feel distant from you when we don’t have sex because sex is an important part of our relationship.


        Example: I feel the opposite of sexy when we’re trying to make a baby instead of being more spontaneous because I’m thinking about being a Mom.

        Maybe that’s not a good example for everyone – but you get to fill in your own blanks. This works with ALL of my arguments by the way.

        Example: I feel unappreciated when I clean by my self because it’s a big, lonely, thankless job.

        Notice on this one, I didn’t say “when YOU don’t clean” – that would be blaming him…

        Or go the other way and give a complement about sex to start the conversation off on a different tone.

        Example: I feel amazing after I orgasm because it makes me feel closer to you.

        Use your own words because this is your statement about how YOU feel. And I plan just that statement ahead of time and let the conversation flow naturally from there. They can’t ask you “What does that mean” because you just said what it means. They can’t say “That’s not MY fault” because you didn’t say it was. It’s an opening to ask for help, or change, or to help someone close to you understand you better. And that’s my usual follow up question when he sits there in silence absorbing what I said, and I KNOW he FINALLY heard me.

        Follow Up: “What can we do about this together?”

        This has worked wonders for me and as long as I DON’T BLAME HIM with my statement, it’s never backfired.

      • While I appreciate that this ought to be something that reasonable adults should be able to discuss without feeling pressure, I’d like to complicate the idea that it’s got to be a “red flag.”

        In my relationship, I am that person. That pressure-feeling sex-avoiding person. And it sucks. I have no idea why it’s happened (though I’ve always been less libidinous than my husband) and I have no idea how to fix it. I’ve been off hormones of all kinds for years (and my numbers all seem to be in order) and have been in therapy for just shy of a year. I exercise, eat decently, do all the things I’m supposed to. But I’m just a sexual camel. I may always be a sexual camel. I’m starting to suspect that this is my new normal; this is my default.

        Once a week would be a lot of sex for us these days. Usually it’s a couple of times a month, usually clustered fairly close together when I’ve gotten overwhelmed with guilt at what a “bad” wife I’ve been in this regard. It can often go longer.

        I feel tremendous pressure, mostly from myself, to fix this. (Then sometimes I get mad that I’ve been deemed broken. I like my sex drive! It’s fine with me. If it weren’t not fine with my spouse, I’d be entirely uninterested in addressing it.) I know the lack of sex hurts my husband, who has been nothing but kind and loving and supportive for years. (He’s awesome, really.) I cannot tell you how many times I’ve cried about this.

        What does all this mean about pressure in conversations? I am really, really, really emotionally fragile about our libido issues. REALLY. It’s very easy for my fears about being a bad partner to leap to the forefront of my mind when my husband brings up the subject. And those fears can equal me feeling pressured. Should they? No. Do I try to not let them? Yes. But I’m only human (and a very worn out one at that), and sometimes I let them anyway. I like to think that I’m a grownup and that I can handle a conversation about an important part of my decade-old relationship. But this is a very tender spot for me and I don’t always react with the grace that perhaps I should. I suspect that I am not the only less-libidinous partner out there who struggles with shame and defensiveness about the issue and therefore can feel pressure where none is necessarily intended.

        • I previously posted here as Anon because I wasn’t really willing to bring up my sexy laundry online, but you just summarized pretty much my current relationship with sex. And well, I think you deserve a hug, because it sucks, and it’s not cool, and it hurts. And also because calling it a red flag really didn’t do much more than feed into all that insecurity myself.

          So, internet hugs and solidarity fist bumps for you, for saying what I was too embarrassed to say myself.

  18. Hello girls!

    I am the one that sent in the question and am amazed by the response and all the good advice!

    Since I sent in this question (some weeks ago) we are actually crawling out of our dry-spell, but have used many of your advice (even before you sent it, I must be a telepath,hehe).

    We have forced ourselves to have sex every other day (because,the more you eat candy, the more you want it, y’know), played with our selves both with and withour our partner, done it every time we want, not “I shall just empty the dish washer first” and now sleep naked.

    And as an extra bonus: I HAVE GOTTEN IMPREGNATED!!! i GOT THE TEST TODAY!

    Now we just have to keep up the good work without the pressure 🙂

    Thank you for all the great advice!

  19. I’m not sure many here can relate to my problem. My husband and I have been married only 3 years. We’ve been living together for 7. When it comes to sex drive, it seems like its always the woman who isn’t into it. In my situation, my husband never makes an advance for sex. Ever. When months go by with out us having sex, it takes a toll on my self confidence and I shut down too. We are fairly young and I’m in my early 30s and he just turned 40. No kids, but we want them… which is going to be difficult in our current situation. I know there is therapy, but that is expensive. I’m thinking about trying a doctor to see if something is wrong with him, and me.

  20. Revel in the small things – brushing hands while sharing a bowl of popcorn, hugs from behind while cooking/washing dishes, kisses – even ones that start out as perfunctory smackers – go back in for seconds, linger, enjoy tongue again… close your eyes and trace faces or hands… it doesn’t have to go to full on intercourse, but those brief touching moments will build so that when you do have time for the whole shebang – you have more inclination and sensations from which to draw.

  21. Has anyone had issues with thyroid disorders affecting their sex drive? I was diagnosed with a thyroid tumor and auto immune thyroid disease, and will be getting radioactive ablation in a couple of weeks. My diagnosis was a year ago and since then (and even before when I was sick and didn’t know it), my sex drive has gone away. I don’t even think about it because it’s like a part of me that doesn’t exist anymore.

    I’m ok when my man initiates but I hardly think about it so I don’t initiate which of course leads to problems. Both of us would give anything for things to go back to normal but I just don’t know if/when that can happen.

    Perhaps I might try the Maca mentioned earlier in the comments sigh.

  22. The things that have helped us when we’re in a dry spell are:

    – Sleep naked. All the time. Get another duvet if you have to.
    – Spend more time together in general. I found that when I put down my laptop and he switched off the xbox and we curled up to watch tv together or eat meals together instead of being half distracted like usual, we ended up having much more sex.
    – When you say no to sex, think about why. Are you saying no because you don’t feel like it? Fine, don’t have sex right then. Are you saying no because it seems like a lot of effort/you don’t want to get sticky/you’re in the middle of a good bit of your book/you have to work in the morning? Screw it, have some fun. Life is short. Basically, try saying yes more often even if you’re not immediately into it, unless you really definitely don’t want to.

  23. I’m also one of those commenters that just want to be kept up-to-date.

    But I will say this: I’ve been thissing these comments like it’s nobody’s business.

    Our dry spell is well underway (and will have to stay that way for a few days at least while I’m all fertile for egg donation – so I plan on implementing these all next week or so), and I just wanted to say this thread is a perfect example of why I keep coming back to Offbeat – so much love. So much community. No judging, no shame, just warm fuzzies.

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