The first time I tried scheduling sex, I typed “SEX” in all caps into my husband's calendar, not realizing his coworkers and boss could see it too.
Things have come a long way since then. We’ve been happily married for nearly five years, in couples therapy for one, and I no longer have access to his work computer. But, most important, I’ve learned the importance of setting time aside for one’s relationship. In my case, this came in the form of counseling I sought out after having a breakdown, in the midst of a dry spell, thinking I wanted a divorce. (I did not.) It turns out nothing was actually wrong with our marriage; all we needed was consistently allotted time, sans distraction, dedicated to us as a couple. Once that clicked—and I’m sorry if anyone in my family is reading this—our dry spell was over, and we were back to having incredible sex. And often!
It can be easy to forget that relationships take work, and work, like all things, requires time, effort, and planning, especially for sex. Most things in life require preparation. Why should intimacy be any different? Without strategy, sex becomes theoretical—the “We should get together sometime!” of domesticity. If you don't sit down and schedule it, it’s just not going to happen.
“The more we intertwine our lives with logistics, finances, cleaning toilets, kids, work, etc., the less space we have for sexy stuff,” Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT, licensed psychotherapist and founder of Shame Free Therapy, tells Glamour. “Unless you’re committing to prioritizing your sexual connection and pleasure, it’s easy for it to get lost in the shuffle of life.”
That doesn't mean anything is “wrong” with your relationship though. “It is completely normal for couples in long-term relationships to go for long stretches of time without physical intimacy,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, MA, LMFT, in-house relationship expert at Paired. “What a ‘long time’ means depends deeply on the couple: for some that's a few weeks, for others it’s a few years.”
Still, a sharp decline in sex is noticeable, and it can be tough to determine what needs to be done to get the spark back. “There are many, many reasons sex can decline in a relationship,” says sociologist and certified sexologist Sarah Melancon, PhD. “As time goes on in a relationship, we tend to have more responsibilities that take our time, energy, and focus.” She points to children, work, and caregiving as examples. Alternatively, it could be as simple as the dynamic having changed over time. “For instance,” she says, “a couple may have enjoyed concerts or other events, where sex tended to occur after, but once they have kids, there’s less time for a one-on-one outing.”
What's more, Melancon adds, after the first six months to two years of a relationship, the honeymoon-phase hormones and chemicals wear off and reality starts to set in. “Your partner has annoying habits, you always have that fight, and you may start to feel the strain of some unmet needs in the relationship,” she says. “At this point, sex can decline in the face of drama.”