Anyone who has endured month after month (or year after year, even) of sexual dry spells with their partner is usually at their wits’ ends, fearing that the only real solution is separation.
It doesn’t have to be, said Los Angeles-based sex therapist Shannon Chavez. But a sexless marriage can only be saved if both people are willing to commit to changing.
“The higher-libido partner should have a positive attitude and be patient. Don’t take what your partner is experiencing personally,” she said. “Be open to hearing what your partner is saying without reacting in a negative way. Show empathy and be understanding as a first step to addressing the concern.”
The lower-libido partner also needs to be willing to show some empathy, Chavez said, as well as to “try new activities that focus on both connection and pleasure.”
Online message boards are dominated by people who failed to revive their dead bedrooms, but there are success stories. Below, real men and women share the specific things they did to fix their sexless relationships ― including adopting a better attitude toward the problem.
1. We enrolled in some sex classes.
“When my husband and I were having problems, we went to sex classes and we learned how to have sex. It turns out, like everyone else in the world, no one gets a sex education and we really didn’t know enough techniques. There’s a lot of reasons that hold people back from having good sex. For us, we needed to learn that couples that play together, stay together, especially in the bedroom. We also learned new techniques that we didn’t get from porn but from teachers who knew what they were doing.” ―Susan Bratton, sex educator and author of Sexual Soulmates: The 6 Essentials for Connected Sex
2. We explored my lower-libido spouse’s sexual fantasies.
“My wife is very submissive and very shy about sex. She is straight, but she has confessed having fantasies of being with other women. But she is also very jealous and the couple of times there were options to include a third, we decided against it due to jealousy. Instead, we played out the fantasy during sex, with us pretending to have an imaginary third person in bed. My wife told me what I could and couldn’t do with the other woman. It seemed to give her a slight dominant feeling of being the boss in bed.
This put me on a search to find porn that included the threesome acts she described most. I generally assumed she was pretty anti-porn or not very into it but I got these videos from a women’s porn site and that piqued her curiosity. It’s different from the porn I have always watched, and together we found that we like the ones that start with some kind of plot and build into a good scene. We call it ‘movie’ night and now she has a way to ask for porn when she wants to watch it and was too shy or felt odd in the past to request it.” ― Neil
3. I advocated for my sexual needs.
“It’s hard to come up with one thing we did to break a drought. For us, the solution to our dead bedroom was more of a systemic change in how we communicate about sex. If we haven’t had sex in a while I can just say, ‘Let’s have sex tonight.’ That didn’t used to work, but now it does.
As far as getting to that point, the biggest thing I had to do was learn to advocate for myself. Being a guy in a sex-starved relationship is hard, because it feels like you’re not allowed get upset about it. Once I stopped stifling that and stopped pretending I wasn’t hurt, she started taking the problem seriously and we were able to develop the tools we needed to improve things.” ― Matt
4. We stared talking about our feelings around sex, candidly and often.
“My wife and I are doing many things differently than we used to: some small and easy ― a morning kiss just before leaving the house and staying in touch throughout the day ― and some much larger, like working to eliminate blame and intentionally promoting mutual autonomy. We learned that intimacy requires letting your partner see the sides of you that you’re ashamed of and trusting that they’ll love you anyway, even if their initial reaction is hostile. Learning to accept that temporary hostility as a necessary part of growing closer and resolving differences requires learning to stay calm in the face of your partner’s reaction. That’s really hard to do, but very worthwhile. Honest sharing builds intimacy, and intimacy builds desire for sex.” ― Pete
5. I realized how important sex was to my spouse.
“The most crucial thing I, as the lower-libido spouse, had to do was learn to understand how vitally important sex in our relationship was to him. We’d previously done The 5 Love Languages test. His was ‘physical touch’ and mine was ‘words of affirmation.’ I imagined how I would feel if he stopped having conversations with me, or stopped listening when I needed to open my heart and be comforted. I imagined him sitting staring into space without eye contact and unresponsive, just waiting for me to hurry up and finish speaking, in the same way that I’d been giving him zero-effort sex for months. I’d be distraught and feel unloved and worthless. Once I could truly appreciate that sex was as crucial to him as verbal interaction was to me, I could start putting in the time and effort to love him as he needed.
In return, he had to work at it too. It took a lot of courage to trust that I wasn’t going to try for a few days and then abandon him again. He has had to be very honest with me about his feelings and the impact frequent rejection has had on him, whilst I had to listen without being defensive. He’s had to let go of many years of wariness and resentment. Fixing a dead bedroom takes two committed people willing to put in effort. You have to be a team to overcome whatever relationship, sexual, or medical issue is at the heart of it. You can’t fix it if you’re fighting against each other. But it is very, very worth it!” ― Christina
6. We scheduled sex.
“We had a slow bedroom, with duty sex three times per month. My personal goal was to have more and better sex. To understand the issues, I read many books and articles, as well as forums such as DeadBedrooms on Reddit. My wife decided to embark on such a journey and we built a plan with many actions. Communication was key and we talked a lot. Intimacy enables great sex, so we cuddled and kissed on a daily basis. We scheduled two and three passionate sex dates each week; the more we did it, the more we felt desired and loved. We learned to share and to care more for each other. It’s been two and a half years and our recipe is still evolving. I’m 70 years old and my wife is 66. This journey took a lot of work, but we are so happy.” ― John