8 minute read
When you’re stuck in a dry spell in a relationship it can feel hopeless. But dry spells aren’t permanent states – they can be broken, unearthing better sex and more intimacy than ever before. You just need to know what’s going on and how to do it.
A dry spell in a relationship usually refers to a lack of sex or a reduction of sex between partners. Despite what the phrase alludes to, it’s not about a specific amount of time passing between sexual encounters. Rather, a dry spell is usually about what your sex life has looked like in the past, and what it looks like now (or what you would like it to look like currently).
This means one couple might feel that sex once a week is a dry spell, whereas another might feel the same when it’s been months or years since they were last intimate.
A dry spell is subjective – and sometimes, it even means different things within the same relationship. For partners with more desire, it might feel like you end up in frequent dry spells, whereas a partner with less desire might feel everything is fine even when weeks go by without sex
While it’s easy to feel like you and your partner are the odd ones out (cause people generally don’t shout it from the rooftops when they’re in a sexless relationship) – dry spells are really common.
In fact, you’re bound to run into one from time to time in a long-term relationship. Especially when life gets hectic and sex falls down your priority list!
This is because our sex drive isn’t a constant (even though the term suggests it is).
Desire is more like a complex emotion, but when we view it as a basic biological urge, it makes it that much harder to get out of a dry spell. Because if low or no desire is seen as abnormal – it naturally will make you worry something’s wrong with you, your partner, or your relationship. When really – that might not be true.
Dry spells occur for many different reasons. Sometimes it has to do with deep-seated relationship issues such as resentment, anger and conflict. If you and your partner are constantly arguing about who takes out the rubbish the most or who needs to pick up the kids, you’re probably not itching for a romp in the sack.
If you’ve been struggling with mismatched libidos for a long time – this can also easily snowball into a dry spell. When just the idea of sex sends one partner running in the opposite direction, it can be hard to break the negative pattern – so avoiding sex at all costs becomes the new normal.
Other times dry spells have less to do with relationship challenges and more to do with a lack of prioritizing sex.
Because whether you’ve got a lot going on at work or your hobbies take up most of your leisure time – it’s easy for everything else in life to take priority over intimacy.
Most couples I speak to as a sex therapist and coach tell me their dry spell started quite undramatically. Perhaps it started with a hectic period at work, or a sick in-law. They might even both have been fine with taking sex off the table for a while. But over time it became harder to get back to having sex – and the dry spell became their status quo.
While it can be tempting to analyze what a dry spell means, the truth is, it doesn’t have to mean much at all. Because the truth about sex after marriage (or a long time together), is that it often requires some kind of effort to keep happening.
Contrary to what the movies (or even the media) may have us believe about sex – it’s not always easy, straightforward and bountiful. Not even if we’re in a compatible relationship.
This doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a life without sex though. It just means that reading into the significance of a dry spell might cause more problems than it solves your dry spell.
My free resource The Desire Test helps you take that first step towards an increased sex drive, by understanding your decreased desire.
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No matter if it’s been 3 weeks, 3 months, or 3 years – there’s lots you can do to break a dry spell.
When we’re stuck in a rut we often want to take action right away to change things. While this doesn’t have to be bad per say, it can sometimes lead to unnecessary frustration. Because when you don’t know why you’ve ended up in a dry spell in the first place, you risk choosing a solution that doesn’t solve the problem.
For example, say you and your partner have stopped having sex because one of you doesn’t want sex so often, while the other does. In this case, scheduling a sex date could potentially reinforce the problem, creating more pressure and stress surrounding sex for the partner with low desire.
But if you and your partner feel like best friends and no longer lovers – maybe ripping off the bandaid could be the best solution.
How to get out of a dry spell in a relationship is about understanding why you’re there in the first place, and then taking a step forward. That’s how you start having sex again – sex that feels good, right, and wanted.
If you’re unhappy with the state of your relationship and sex life, you’re probably going to need to talk about it.
I know, I know, it’s obvious yet it’s also one of those things that most people avoid. Because talking about sex (especially when you’re not having it), feels uncomfortable.
It easily gets awkward, and who wants to be awkward, right?
But talking about your dry spell will help you approach it as a team. And at the end of the day, your sex life is a joint activity, which means you both need to be involved somehow. Talking about the dry spell and how you both feel about it will help put you on the path to moving past the blocks and creating more intimacy again.
It will also reveal whether you both want to have more sex. Because if you’re going to work on it, you both need to be clear about the intended goal.
To have a productive conversation about a dry spell in a relationship, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
Sometimes dry spells become so big in our minds it feels almost impossible to build up to having sex again. If this sounds like you, you might find it helpful to “rip off the bandaid” by simply scheduling sex.
Sure, it may not sound like the sexiest idea you could imagine, but there’s some relief there in knowing once you’ve had it, it won’t feel as daunting to have it again.
This, however, is usually not something I recommend if one party (or both) feel immense pressure surrounding sex. If knowing you’re going to sleep together at 8.30 on a Saturday evening fills you with dread – it’s usually a good sign you need another approach; like taking it slow.
You wouldn’t run a marathon if you hadn’t gone for a run in a year – and the same can be applied to sex. If you haven’t been intimate in ages, going “all the way” might feel like way too much, too soon.
If this sounds like you, breaking a dry spell in your relationship will hinge on starting with small steps towards sex. For instance, you and your partner could decide to make a more conscious effort to share a long kiss every day.
Not because it has to lead to sex, but because it will start to build intimacy that feels natural again.
Once you’re used to kissing, you might wish to advance to making out, or even petting. Whatever feels like a slow build towards being sexual together is the goal here.
When you’re stuck in a dry spell in a relationship it can feel like it will never end. Like there’s something seriously wrong with your relationship (or you). But there very likely is nothing wrong – and lots you can do to change it, if you want to.
In my 9-month, sex-therapist-created online course Re:Desire, I help you have more and better sex. In it, you take bite-sized steps towards sex, so you can revel in stress-free, shame-free, guilt-free sex again. Forget new sex positions, or years of therapy; stress-free intimacy is about accessing your own desire. Cause it’s still there somewhere hiding – dry spell be damned.
If you want to get it back – you can.
Get instant access to expert advice, delivered directly to your inbox weekly, when you download The Desire Test.
With 11 years of experience in the helping profession - Leigh helps her clients create stress-free, shame-free, pressure-free sex lives, through her unique combination of sexological science, & psychotherapeutic & coaching tools.
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