Dear VE,

My partner and I have been together for quite a while now and we care for each other deeply. Recently, my partner’s libido seems to have taken a nosedive and, while we enjoy being around each other, we don’t have sex as frequently as we used to. I’m still a very sexual person and being intimate with my partner is incredibly important. What can we do to ensure that we are both happy in our relationship?

-Sexually Stunted in Sandy Hill

Dear Sexually Stunted in Sandy Hill,

Most long-term couples deal with mismatched sex drives at some point, since it’s so rare for anyone to have a sex drive that is constant or stable throughout their entire lives. It can be a super hard situation to deal with and can hit sore spots for people on either side. But know that you’re definitely not alone in this.

If you haven’t already talked to your partner, this should be your first step! Since this can be a loaded topic, try to approach it in a non-judgemental and curious way. Try and stay away from blame as much as possible, and try to imagine that you’re working as a team to find solutions.

There might be a concrete reason that your partner hasn’t been in the mood lately. Stress, for instance, is one of the most common desire-killers. Is your partner in the middle of a super stressful term? Maybe they just can’t turn off the stress long enough to turn it on right now. If there’s an end-date in sight, your best bet might be to decide that sex is off the table for a limited amount of time and agree on a date when you’ll revisit the topic.

If your partner’s desire for sex has just changed, you likely want to take a different approach. It might work to redefine what sex means in your relationship. If your partner’s no longer into penetration, maybe they would be into getting off together, or making out while you get yourself off? A yes/no/maybe list would be a great tool to help start this discussion, and you’ll easily find a ton with a quick Google search.

Otherwise, think about what sex brings you on a deeper level, and try to imagine other ways you could add that to your relationship. If it’s touch that makes you feel closer, find ways to get in lots of cuddling, hand-holding or neck massaging. If you like the intimacy of exploring new things together, take up an exciting, new-to-both-of-you hobby that will push you out of your comfort zones a little.

And hopefully this goes without saying, but whatever strategies you come up with, no one should feel pressured into having sex or doing anything they don’t feel good about. You both ultimately get to decide whether or not it’s a relationship you want to continue in, but you never get to pressure someone to have more sex so that the relationship will keep working for you. For more information about sex drive and relationships, I would definitely recommend Emily Nagoski’s excellent book, Come as You Are.

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This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 9, No. 6 (Spring 2017).