Sex problems in a relationship are more common than you’re thinking.
You’re nestled in separate corners of the sofa at the end of another relentless day, binge-watching “Ladies of London” (which he likes more than you, but he’ll never admit it to anyone else but you), when Marissa confesses that she’s nervous about having sex with her husband, Matt. A complicated pregnancy kept them apart for nine months, but her doctor just gave her the all-clear sign.
The tension in the living room suddenly tightens by tenfold. Nine months, you think. I could do that standing on my head—I am doing that, actually. If you’re thinking it, it seems pretty certain that he’s thinking it, too. He hasn’t looked over at you from his end of the sofa, but it looks like he’s willing himself to keep his gaze focused on the TV. This is how things are now, how they’ve been for a while.
Beyond those early weeks, when you were still getting to know each other and it could barely even be called a relationship, there was never a ton of sex. But then it dried up to nothing. The intervals went from weeks to months, and you noticed—you always notice—but you never balked. At first, a wall went up between you, a natural defense mechanism. Before you reached your first anniversary, your marriage already felt like it was in dire straits. You entered into couples counseling, which started to turn the tide. You saw just how vulnerable he was, and he began to appreciate the same of you. Impassable channels gradually loosened and became unblocked. You became attentive to each other on a level that maybe you never reached before, not even in the beginning, when it felt like you were trying to swallow each other whole.
As open and honest as those conversations were, as intimate as you now felt together—truly, the two of you against the world—the sex never followed suit. There were fleeting instances, after which you always promised to do it more. It was too good not to. But then, weeks became months again.
Sex problems in a relationship are more common than you’re thinking. We tend to think of them as an impossible-to-ignore symptom of much deeper issues in the relationship, the way a crack in the basement wall finally signals mounting trouble with the foundation. And sometimes it is, but just as often, they stem from a simple breakdown in communication. The longer they go un-discussed, the harder they become to broach.
Angela Winslow is a professional marriage counselor based in San Diego who specializes in treating couples with low sexual desire. Between her inherent compassion and the skills she’s learned through her education, experience and ongoing studies, Angela’s equipped to help couples resolve intimacy and communication breakdowns and achieve rich, fulfilling relationships.