The decline of sex has burst onto the news this past week. The Times and BBC published articles about a recent survey that suggests that less than half of men and women in the UK have had sex at least once a week in the past month.
Is once a week enough?
If you were used to having sex 4 times a week or more and now find you’re being rationed, you may feel deprived and frustrated with only once a week. And if you haven’t engaged in any sexual activity for several months or possibly years, this may seem quite a lot.
Is sex really declining?
The results of the survey based on data from 34,000 people, suggest a decline in sexual activity amongst the over 25s and those who are married or cohabiting.
What about online dating?
Online dating sites are full of people ready for a sexual encounter with no strings attached as well as those looking for long-term commitment. Are you more likely to let go and engage with total abandon because you’re not emotionally connected to your bed partner? Does this give you a better experience, better sex? Or does an emotional connection and intimacy offer you a more fulfilling experience?
The answer depends on what you’re looking for in a sexual partner. If you’re looking for emotional detachment and just a physical encounter then the no strings attached approach will be your best option. You can have guilt-free sex with multiple partners. The key is honesty. Be honest and open from the onset. Let your sex companions know that you’re not looking for commitment and want instead to enjoy good sex. The problem arises when there’s a discrepancy between what you want and the other person’s perceptions or expectations. Stay with your truth; continue being honest about what you want even if it means you’ll lose your sex partner.
Why is sex declining?
Most couples whether married or cohabiting work full-time, some have children, others don’t. By the time you get home after a full day at work, having collected the children on the way (if you have them), you are already tired and experiencing mega doses of stress. You then have to prepare a meal (even if it’s a quick slap in the microwave type), help with homework, referee the arguing or fighting between your offspring, and do the bedtime routine. Even with all good intentions and structures in place, it’s probably gone 9.30 by the time the kids are asleep (if you’re lucky). Those with no children often go to the gym or an exercise class on the way home. You might grab a quick bite to eat if you didn’t eat earlier and then pick up the work computer and answer several work related emails.
You’re exhausted, the pot is full and you have no more to give. The smartphone, tablet or television becomes an attractive option, whether in bed or flopped on your sofa. It’s easy to lose hours meandering through social media, YouTube or with a Netflix box set. It’s an escape. Nothing more is needed from you. At this point sex is definitely off the menu.
On the occasions when sex could potentially be an option, the gender differences play a part on whether it happens or not. Men and women have different needs and approaches to arousal. Women want a heart connection, to feel cherished, considered and gently nurtured, in other words, plenty of foreplay; whereas men can go from zero to full arousal in less than 60 seconds.
Men are like a gas BBQ – a turn of the knob (pardon the pun) and they are ready for action. Women are like a conventional BBQ – you need to build the bed of charcoals, carefully light it and tend to the flames for 20-30 minutes before the coals are hot and ready.
When was the last time you really talked with your partner?
I’m not referring to everyday logistics about who’s picking up the shopping or taking the kids to cubs or ballet. I’m talking about real conversations, the ones with depth and meaning, the topics you once discussed that made each other laugh, the dreams and aspirations, the crazy ideas that left you tingling with excitement.
A relationship is like a garden – you can have a beautifully landscaped garden with flowers, trees and shrubs, a sweeping lawn and a paved patio. If you sit back and do nothing, soon it will become unkempt and overgrown. A garden needs constant care – the lawn needs cutting regularly, the flowerbeds weeding and the shrubs pruning. With regular care and attention, a garden grows and develops. A relationship is no different, except it’s harder at times to notice the weeds spreading.
If your garden is overgrown and in a mess do you move house?
Relationship issues that are left unattended and not dealt with can drive a wedge between you. To compensate you find ways of escaping through social media, films, gym classes or going out with friends (usually without your partner/spouse). You start orbiting around each other feeling isolated and alone, so you turn to your compensatory behaviours even more. Stress intensifies and your libido vanishes. Sex becomes this alien thing you once did many moons ago. The thought of it now repulses you.
Interestingly, while working with couples, as we begin to peel the layers of stress and explore the family pressures that led to the decline of their sex drive, I find that most couples want an intimate connection. Most couples want the time to have what they once had, they just don’t know how to do it or where to start.
So what do you do to turn things round?
Even if you’re time starved you can still allocate moments to nurture your relationship. The first step is to look at the benefits of sex and there are quite a few.
Sex reduces stress levels, lowers blood pressure and boosts the immune system.
Sounds good hey?
Sex also makes you look younger because orgasms increase oestrogen and collagen levels and these give you healthier and more youthful skin and hair.
That sounds even better!
Sex also helps develop intimacy and deepens a couple’s connection.
It’s cheaper than a divorce or separation.
What to do next?
Start by allocating time to nurture the relationship (remember the garden analogy).
- Set date nights where there’s no TV, no smartphones, no social media and no Netflix.
- Put the date in the diary and treat it as an important meeting – remember you’ll be busy that night.
- Go out for a walk or dinner, or stay in, prepare a nice meal or have a picnic in bed. It doesn’t have to be expensive; you could have beans on toast and eat them with chopsticks.
- Talk, laugh and reminisce about what attracted you to each other.
- Avoid discussing household or work related problems.
- Tell each other what you like, how you enjoy being touched.
- Make it fun and don’t take your phone into the bedroom.
This is just the start. There are many more strategies you can use to rekindle your relationship even if you think only a miracle would suffice. The approaches are different for each couple and focussed on your needs and what you want to achieve.
If you relate to what you’ve read and would like help, contact Carla Devereux on 0121 745 9044 to book an appointment.
I discussed these points in the BBC Radio Kent, Julia George’s programme (9/05/2019) https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0769p78