There are lots of reasons why couples stop having sex. But sometimes it’s confusing to understand your lack of intimacy when you’re in a loving, happy relationship. You text each other throughout the day and enjoy weekly dates. So, what gives?
If you’re someone who sees your partner as your best friend there is a chance your overwhelming friendship is taking over. In other words, your partner is literally becoming your best friend.
Friendship plays an important role in relationships. Research shows that couples that have a strong friendship enjoy higher marital satisfaction. When you consider that Dictionary.com defines ‘friend’ as ‘a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard’, it makes sense for us to link ‘friend’ and ‘partner’ together.
But there is a clear difference between the two. You don’t shave your legs and wear lingerie to look sexually appealing to your bestie.
Relationships require passion and intimacy – they need more than shared interests and deep life conversations. If you’re missing passion, there is a chance your sex life has stalled because your partner has become too much like a friend.
Gottman therapist, Dr Cheryl Fraser, teaches what she calls a ‘passion triangle’. This triangle is comprised of three equal sides: thrill, intimacy and sensuality. Fraser believes couples need each side to be just as strong to create ‘sustainable passion and connection’.
In long-term situations, many of us have the friendship and the emotional intimacy but lack the sensuality and thrill. We often become so comfortable around our partners that we feel the effort we made in the beginning is no longer necessary.
Why dress up and go on dates or send sexy messages when you’re in a committed relationship. After all, your partner has pretty much seen every angle of you naked. A friend said to me, ‘It must be nice to be in a relationship where you don’t have to keep dressing up.’ She’s in the dating scene and currently frustrated with constantly looking good to impress new dates.
Finding someone for the long-term is not an excuse to give up making effort. From the messages I receive, I notice that the most optimistic people are those desperate to create a relationship with a person who isn’t fully committed. The most pessimistic are those in long-term partnerships who believe it’s normal for excitement to end.
It should be the other way around – what if we placed the highest expectation and hope on the people we’re already invested in?
If you’re not having sex despite being in a happy relationship, the simple answer is to tell you to dress up and make more effort to look sexy. But this just places pressure on women to keep up with demanding beauty routines.
Instead, if we use Dr Cheryl Fraser’s passion triangle, write down the different things you do each week to create emotional intimacy, thrill and sensuality. The sides that you’re struggling to find examples for will indicate where you need to focus.
Discuss with your partner some things you can both implement each week to boost your passion. Before writing down, it helps to know how we create sexual desire.
Medical News Today published findings from researcher Emily Nagoski’s book, ‘Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life’. Nagoski mentions two different types of sexual desire: spontaneous and responsive.
Spontaneous sexual desire happens randomly and does not always include stimulation. As the name suggests, this is when you can instantly feel turned on. The book states that 70% of men can feel spontaneous sexual desire compared to around 10-20% of women.
Responsive sexual desire happens after physical or mental stimulation. This could be reading an erotic book or cuddling your partner.
When couples act too much like friends, they can miss out on responsive sexual acts. This often leads to random attempts of spontaneous desire in bed which is difficult for many of us to feel.
Depending on where you are in your relationship, it helps to do a temperature check before trying to build passion. If you’ve not been intimate for a while, your partner may feel uncomfortable with sudden hand holding and snuggling on the sofa. Think about going back to creating a courtship and slowly taking your time to build up sensuality.
The simplicity of making a more romantic and unique dinner or gifting your partner with their favourite chocolate can be a good starting point to creating a more passionate connection. And for a thrill, consider spending some time apart. Our desirability can increase when we take away from our partners.
Note that it’s normal for uncomfortable feelings and awkwardness to arise – if you have not had sex for a while, it can feel strange going from where you are now to where you would like to be. Communicate with your partner and think about what turns you on and what makes you feel sexually attracted towards them. How can you express these thoughts?