A loss of intimacy or sexual desire can happen in any relationship. Both men and women can experience a loss of desire and it can be very difficult for the other partner to cope. It may feel as if the partner who does not want to have sex has shut down. It may seem as if he or she never initiates sex or has lost interest in completely. Even a temporary dip in your sex life can lead to other difficult feelings, ranging from minor frustrations to more severe distress.
There are many reasons a couple stops having sex. There are psychological and physical symptoms that can affect sexual desire, or there may be other factors at play, connected to your environment or other social pressures.
Psychological factors could play a major role in sexual problems. Your mental and emotional state can have a significant impact on how you feel about sex – including whether you want to have it at all. Your thoughts have a powerful effect on your body and, once you find yourself in a negative frame of mind, it can be very hard to move forward.
Think about how you have been feeling lately. Have you been under stress? Are you anxious about something? Perhaps this could be influencing your partner too. How do you think they might be feeling?
Intimacy can be affected by physical problems like erectile dysfunction, low desire, vaginismus, pain during intercourse, and premature ejaculation. These might be caused by psychological factors, a poor diet, lack of sleep, or side effects of some medications. If you are concerned about any of these problems, seek advice from your doctor.
After the birth of a child, both women and men can be anxious about having sex again. Women may still be in physical pain, and men can worry about causing damage. On top of this, new parents are often very busy and exhausted, making it difficult to get back to the way things were before.
There is more information on this in the section on 'parenting together'.
Where you live and your immediate surroundings might also play a part. If you or your partner live in a shared house or with parents, you may worry about being overheard, or just feel strange about having sex when there’s someone else in the house.
Other stresses in your life, like troubles at work, money worries, or a family crisis, can also put extra pressure on your sex life.
What is your current situation? Could something unrelated be causing a problem for you and your partner?
Portrayals of sexuality in films and TV, or even on our friends’ social media profiles might lead you to think that everyone else is having sex all the time. Even if you know this is unrealistic, it can still put pressure on you to measure up.
Sex is very personal for every couple. What feels right for one couple may not be for you. Try to let go of the pressure to do what you think you should be doing, and instead just focus on being happy with your partner.
Sex is a difficult subject to talk about, but each of us has our own needs and desires and it’s OK to talk about these with your partner. Try having a frank and open discussion about what you’d like and any problems you might have, encouraging your partner to share their side of things too.
If you can break the cycle of negative thoughts and start to think positively about yourself and your sex life, it will help you start to get back on track.
If you are concerned about any of the issues raised above, seek professional support from a doctor, or a sex and relationships counsellor.