When you first met your partner, there was electricity, there was passion, and there was s*x—lots of it! Now, it’s a challenge to remember the last time you were unclad together. “Virtually all relationships go through some sort of tapering-off period, typically after 6 months to a year,” says San Francisco-based licensed marriage and family therapist Vanessa Marin. In a National Institutes of Health study that followed couples over 30 years, a whopping 75% reported a decline in bedroom activity over time.
While there are dozens of reasons for lack of lust—from illness to stress to scheduling—the truth is that s*x is healthy for body and mind and builds closeness, intimacy and a sense of partnership in your relationship. A 2013 study in the journal s*x and Marital Therapy found that women who are s*xually satisfied report higher levels of overall wellbeing than women who aren’t getting the same satisfaction. We invite you to recognize the real-life obstacles to your healthiest, most fulfilling s*x life, so you can find ways to overcome them.
You’re too busy playing Candy Crush
Smartphones keep us connected to everyone except the one person we’re sleeping with. “We’re on our phones and computers when we spend time together, before we go to sleep and all too often first thing when we wake up,” says Amy Levine, s*x coach and founder of IgniteYourPleasure.com. In a 2015 study of nearly 150 married women, 70% said that technology interferes with their s*x lives.
You’re busy with stuff
When it comes to day-to-day priorities, s*x often falls low on the totem pole. “We prioritize the things that stress us out the most, even if it’s emptying the dishwasher,” says Anita Clayton, MD, University of Virginia psychiatry professor and author of Satisfaction: Women, s*x, and the Quest for Intimacy. “When our partner approaches us, we think, ‘I have to get this done and you’re talking about that?’”
s*x Rx: Accept the fact that the dishes and laundry will still be there later, and a roll in the hay will likely not decimate your world order. Take 20 minutes out of the multitasking marathon of life for some private time with your partner, which is likely to be heaps more rewarding than an empty dishwasher or a neat pile of shirts.
You’re letting stress win
Stress is par for the course, especially for women. The American Psychological Association’s 2014 Stress In America survey confirms that women report higher stress levels than men, and are more likely to feel stressed in the first place. What’s important is how we manage it. “Some people can handle pressure and crises in their life and stay calm and loving,” says Stanley Ducharme, PhD, clinical psychologist and s*x therapist at Boston Medical Center. “Other people sort of fall apart—they get frustrated and upset and need to blame someone.”
s*x Rx: Find healthy outlets for stress, whether it’s yoga, running, a painting class or…s*x! Unless your partner is directly responsible for your stress (more on that later), connecting in a physical, soulful way will bring on the happy hormones and send stress packing.
You haven’t laced up your sneakers in weeks
Besides easing stress and boosting mood, exercise increases blood flow to your lady parts and stimulates feel-good hormones, allowing you to get turned on more quickly and easily and heightening sensation. In a study from the University of Texas at Austin, women who rode stationary bicycles for 20 minutes got more physically aroused by a racy film clip than women who had filled out paperwork beforehand. Other research suggests men benefit too, so if you’re not moving, you’re missing out on this biochemical foreplay. “The brain is very plastic, so the more you reinforce those circuits, the better they work,” Clayton says. “And if you don’t use it, there’s this atrophy.”
s*x Rx: Move your body for at least 30 minutes a day—bonus if it’s just before s*x. And if you can work out together with your partner, even better!
You’re obsessed with your weight
Worrying about a muffin top, saddlebags, a spare tire, cellulite, or other perceived body flaws can leave you hiding under the covers—especially if your body has changed after pregnancy or packing on some pounds. “Whether you realize it or not, your body image has a huge effect on how you feel and act sexually,” says relationship expert Terri Orbuch, PhD, author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. Your self-consciousness can lead to avoiding s*x, but it can plant seeds of doubt in your partner’s mind. He (or she) might think: Does she not love me? Is there someone else? Am I doing something wrong?