We’ve been answering your questions for Sexual Health Awareness Month. If you missed some, catch up here.
Q: My partner and I just moved in together after 4 years of living separately. I thought this would have a positive effect on our sex life, but we hardly ever have sex anymore! He’s never in the mood when I am and vice versa. I respect when he isn’t in the mood, but he gets upset when I’m too tired to be intimate.
When we do have sex, it’s because he wants to, and he’s the only one who orgasms. I’ve tried to talk to him about it, but he doesn’t want to listen. Is there a way to move forward?
Yes, you can definitely find a way forward! I promise there’s no need to panic — it’s normal to experience ups and downs.
What you’re describing sounds like mismatched sexual desire. I find that this is common in long-term relationships, as the “honeymoon period” has ended and school, work, family, or other life happenings have claimed your focus.
That said, with the right planning and intention setting, you may be able to reach some common ground.
Talk about it
The first step is to have a kitchen — not bedroom — conversation about your concerns.
Although it may be tempting to place blame, this won’t lend itself to a productive conversation. Do your best to avoid making accusations or finding fault in each other.
Instead, try to put yourself in the other’s shoes so that you can both better understand where the other is coming from. This may help you both be more compassionate toward each other.
Identify your “why”
Why do you want to be intimate? Is it because you want to feel closer to them? Do you want to relax and find that physical touch helps with this? Is this how you show your love?
Your “why” will help you when you start to feel unmotivated again, and it will remind you of your reasons for wanting to be sexual.
Make a date
Once you’re both clear on your motivation, talk about your schedules.
When are you both more likely to have the most time, energy, and emotional bandwidth to give to the other?
Some couples feel most excited and available during the weekend, while others prefer weeknights. Try to find a time that’s similar.
Let’s say you both decide on Saturday morning. Make a date for Saturday morning and add it to your calendars.
On Friday morning, begin to build anticipation for your date. You might say or text something like:
- “I’m looking forward to touching you tomorrow.”
- “I can’t wait to be close to you again.”
On Saturday morning, instead of jumping straight into your usual routine, set the scene. You might try:
- playing some music that you both enjoy
- making breakfast together
- taking a bath or shower together
Then, when you’re ready, move into mindful touching.
Prioritize pleasure over performance
Also known as “sensate focus,” mindful touching allows you to slow down, reset, and focus on pleasure.
Set your mind to building bodily awareness and learning about what feels pleasurable to you, and share what you discover with your partner. You’re more likely to experience desire if you aren’t feeling pressured to perform.
Then do the same with your partner.
Begin to touch your partner wherever they consent to — anywhere but their genitals — and see how they respond to your touch. They should receive your touch without touching you back.
After about 15 minutes, switch roles. Allow your partner to touch you, and receive their touch without reciprocation.
When they’re done, share your experiences with one another. What felt good? What was just “OK”? What would you like to try again?
You might say something like:
- “I loved it when you touched my hair.”
- “I enjoyed feeling the softness of your hands on my back.”
- “I don’t think stomach rubs are for me.”
Having this conversation is key to moving forward. This will allow you to practice communicating about your sexual desires in a neutral way.
You may find it helpful to stop here for the time being, or you both may be open to trying other forms of erotic touch.
Keep at it
I typically recommend that a couple practice mindful touch on a few different occasions before introducing genital touch or penetrative sex.
Consistency, intentionality, and planning are crucial components of this practice. Commit to engaging in mindful touch — wherever on the body this might be — with the same intentionally as on your first date.
With practice, you’ll likely be reminded of what you brought together in the first place.
Take a step back and reassess
In addition to being more mindful in the way you engage with one another, take inventory of how you’re feeling as individuals and in your relationship.
You might find it helpful to ask yourself:
- What expectations, if any, did you have about moving in together?
- Are there any past resentments that might be getting in the way of you having the sex life you want?
- How is your mental, physical, and emotional health overall?
- What stressors are you facing? How are you managing these?
- Have you experienced any major changes that could be affecting your libido?
It may also be helpful for your partner to do the same and for you to talk through your discoveries together.
If you find that you’re both unsure of what to do next — or that you simply want another perspective — consider reaching out to a sex therapist.
They can help you and your partner unpack your feelings and find a healthy way to move forward.
Janet Brito is an AASECT-certified sex therapist and supervisor who also has a license in clinical psychology and social work. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Minnesota, one of only a few programs in the world dedicated to sexuality training. Currently, she’s based in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is the founder of the Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health. Dr. Brito has been featured on many outlets, including O: The Oprah Magazine, HuffPost, Playboy, Women’s Health, Thrive Global, and Midweek Publications. Reach out to her through her website or on Instagram.