Don’t feel guilty if you can’t remember the last time you and your partner got it on; sexless marriages have become almost endemic in modern society. According to data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, the top-searched marriage complaint on Google is “sexless marriage” ― and it only takes a second to stumble upon advice forums, like the Dead Bedrooms board on Reddit.
But couples in sexless marriages don’t have to go on quietly suffering. Below, psychologists and sex therapists share their best advice for revving up your sex life.
1. Work out your marital issues first.
Nothing kills your sex drive quite like unresolved relationship issues. If there’s emotional baggage between you and your partner, address it head-on, said Chris Maxwell Rose, a sex educator and the creator of the Pleasure Mechanics online courses.
“Practice radical honesty and forgiveness outside the bedroom,” she said. “Take a walk or a drive together and share all of the emotional baggage that has been getting in your way. Then, make a joint commitment to move forward together.”
2. Acknowledge that there’s a problem in the bedroom.
The most effective intervention to a sexless relationship is surprisingly simple: Partners need to acknowledge the problem and express interest in reconnecting sexually, said Kimberly Resnick Anderson, a sex therapist in Los Angeles, California.
“Just having an honest conversation can quickly shrink the elephant in the room,” she said. “Honoring the value of sex in a relationship is the first step toward reconnecting. Believe it or not, it’s not uncommon for couples who have avoided sexual contact for years to leave my office after just one session and go home and have sex.”
3. Spend a few hours every week getting touchy-feely.
Sex isn’t always going to be spontaneous. To get things started again, carve out two windows of time a week where all you do is touch. Think of it like a grownup makeout session, said Gracie Landes, a sex therapist and marriage and family therapist in New York City.
“Focus on your own sensations while you touch your partner, then gradually add in more mutual touch and slowly build up to intercourse,” Landes said. “But only pursue that last step when you’re both ready, comfortable and confident.”
4. Use your memories to your advantage.
It’s going to take some time to get in a sexy frame of mind. To get there, New York City sex therapist Megan Fleming recommends reminiscing about a really hot sex experience from your past.
“Replay it in your mind’s eye, like watching a movie,” she suggested. “You have to really allow yourself to reconnect with how the experience felt, incorporating all five senses. It’s important to realize you have the power to turn yourself on long before your partner enters the room.”
5. Read erotica or watch porn together.
It helps to have an active imagination during sex, but if you’re struggling to imagine something that gets you or your partner off, outsource the job, advised Ian Kerner, a sex therapist and the author of She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman.
“Many of the couples I work with are surprised at how hot it can be to read erotica together,” he said. “Others enjoy watching porn and letting their fingers do the talking.”
Kerner’s top erotica recommendations include old-school works like Emmanuelle by Emmanuelle Arsan, the Story of O by Pauline Reage or Delta of Venus by Anais Nin. If you’re more of a visual person, you may want to give ethical, women-friendly porn a chance. (Kerner recommends the films of Jackie St. James or Erika Lust.)
6. Find out what your partner is craving sexually, and learn how to give it to them.
Chances are, your turn-ons have changed over time. The same is probably true for your partner. Take the guesswork out of the equation by talking openly about your sexual interests, said Keeley Rankin, a sex therapist in San Francisco, California.
“Sexual needs can change over time and it’s important to ask every once and a while, ‘hey, what have you been craving sexually?’ Once you find out, learn how to give that to them,” she said. “If they want something you’re not familiar with, let them teach you.”
7. Develop new “sex menus” together.
Try to picture your sex life this way: Just like there are different food groups that make up the food pyramid, there’s a limitless amount of sex positions and kinks to explore to keep your sex life vibrant and healthy. Read the Kama Sutra, search sex positions online ― do whatever it takes to get excited about sex again, Kerner said.
“I often ask couples to come up with menus that emphasize different themes: emotional connection and love-making for instance, or fantasy-based menus that emphasize imagination,” he said. “And if you’re on the run, put the ‘quickie’ back on the menu ― whatever it takes!”