Love life becoming dormant? 4 Proven ways to help
Many couples I see in my counseling and coaching practice complain about issues and concerns related to their emotional attachment and sexual intimacy in their romantic relationship. Keeping up with and maintaining our lives regarding our jobs, our couple, family, and other relationships, parenting, household responsibilities, and caring for ourselves, as well as, other matters of importance to us, becomes an all-consuming never-ending life dilemma. Love life becoming dormant?
Life itself can and does get in the way of maintaining our emotional connection and sexual intimacy in our couple or marital relationship if we do not adequately invest time and make the right effort to keep our connection strong. For many people I see, life is too busy and stressful with too limited time to adequately attend to their emotional connection and lovemaking in their romantic couple or marital relationship.
Couples I see, often indicate they have too many other priorities that get in the way or leave not enough time or energy for dating or lovemaking with their partner or spouse. While not everyone wants to have a love life, if you and your partner or spouse want to, this can be one of the most pleasurable and significant experiences you can have as a couple.
Let’s talk about sex
If your love life has become dormant, let me remind you of what sex can mean for you and your couple relationship. Sex, of course, is about procreation and having a family for those couples finding meaning in that life choice.
In addition, sex is an important bonding experience with your partner or spouse that helps keep your emotional connection strong. When we are sexually intimate with a partner or spouse we love, we are attached and vulnerable in ways that are very special to a couple relationship.
Sex also can provide an important physiological release that may be helpful in coping with the stressors, we encounter in the day-to-day of our lives. Sex is a strong biological drive that provides a profoundly pleasurable experience when we are sexually aroused and climax due to the chemicals in the brain and body being released. Along with sex being pleasurable, sex can also be a creative expression of our love or caring for another person in playful or fun ways unique to our couple relationship.
When your love life evolves into dormancy, it is usually the emotional connection that breaks down first in a couple or marital relationship.
There is an awareness of poor communication:
- less collaboration
- less reciprocity
- more problematic issues
- distancing along with a variety of troubling or escalating emotional states
We know from attachment theory that a romantic partner or spouse becomes the primary attachment person in a functioning couple or marital relationship. This means your partner or spouse has a special status among all other relationships as one person to turn to for empathy, emotional support, communication, sharing deeper parts of yourself, collaboration, reciprocity, being able to be yourself and in expressing your emotions, in a meaningful and fulfilling way.
When this primary attachment is disturbed or threatened in a couple, there is emotional turmoil for partners or spouses in trying to restore a secure attachment with each other. This can often be seen as playing out as one partner or spouse upset, anxiously pursuing the other to resolve related issues and the other shutting down or withdrawing to try to process what is going on and determine what needs to be done to resolve the matters involved.
When people I see in my counseling and coaching process come in they have reached some impasse in their emotional connection or their sexual intimacy having difficulty in successfully addressing the issues, concerns, and feelings involved in order to restore their couple attachment.
What to do?
For couples experiencing difficulties in their couple or marital relationship, they often indicate their lovemaking or sexual intimacy has also become more problematic or stopped occurring for a variety of reasons. In addition to time constraints, limited energy, too many life and work stressors, couples
may lose their sexual interest or stop making love due to a variety of reasons.
The reasons may include, but are not limited to:
- Pregnancy and having a new infant
- Parenting children
- Illnesses or chronic medical problems
- Being overweight or out of shape
- Low self-esteem or poor body image
- Poor hygiene
- Sexual problems including painful intercourse, erection difficulties or others
- Pressure being put on a partner or spouse to be sexually intimate at times when they are not receptive
- Low sexual desire or high sexual desire
- Unrealistic sexual expectations (wants or needs)
- Lack of adequate education regarding sexuality
- Lack of sexual experience
- Family background that was negatively oriented toward sexuality.
- Difficulty in discussing sexual interests and needs.
- Feeling sexually undesirable or sexual rejection
- Lack of sexual initiation or lack of sexual responsiveness
- Lack of adequate sexual foreplay or lack of sexual climaxing
- Unresolved frustration, anger, chronic criticism, controlling behavior, unresolved conflicts and resentment
- Family of origin or past couple relationship history that involved neglect, abandonment, verbal, emotional, physical, sexual abuse, molestation, rape, or other trauma, as well as, past affairs, betrayal, or trust issues.
- Domestic violence or other physical assault
- Overuse of or dependence on alcohol or other mood-altering substances
- Partners or spouses may differ in the type of conventional or unconventional sexual practices wanting to engage in, but have difficulty in bridging those differences
- Partners or spouses feeling too discouraged or hopeless in getting their sexual intimacy needs and wants met with their partner or spouse so they give up.
What happens to your sex life?
When you stop making love for long periods of time, your lovemaking begins to seem like an unnatural act or troubling experience fraught with stress, fear, and uncertainty that is no longer the pleasurable odyssey that it used to be. Sometimes, couples that used to have an exciting and vibrant love life conclude that their partner or spouse’s lack of sexual interest means they no longer sexually desire them.
This may or may not be true.
What can be worse is when partners or spouses conclude that lack of sexual interest means they are no longer “in love” or that their romantic couple or marital relationship is over. This also may or may not be true. Now, if the romantic partners or spouses never had a meaningful or enjoyable love life since the beginning of their relationship or have never had much in the way of sexual desire for each other, this may be more problematic in trying to generate a love life.
It remains to be seen whether possible or not with the right effort.
It is common in couple relationships for one partner or spouse to have more sexual desire or drive than the other. The challenge is to explore possible contributing factors to your loss of sexual desire or interest in having a love life and to find ways to address the issues, as well as, bridge differences in re-establishing a sexual connection.
It should be noted that romantic relationships don’t necessarily have to involve sexual relations, if as a couple they are lacking sexual desire or interest in a love life then they don’t necessarily have a problem. What I often see with couples is that one partner or spouse wants to have a love life and the other is less interested or does not.
Gender and relationship
In a heterosexual couple relationship, it is often the man, but not always, who wants to have more frequent or regular lovemaking and the woman tends not for a variety of reasons. This is not to generalize about either gender, because part of the problem may be the way men and women are brain-wise wired differently when it comes to sex.
Sex for men is usually, but not always is like having a turnkey lock, it is easy to find the erotic key and turn it.
Sex for women, again not always, is like having a combination lock that requires the right combination of erotica and connection before the lock opens.
However, It is important to keep in mind that couple relationships are a dance of two so both partners or spouses must identify how they are contributing to what the problematic patterns are in the lovemaking dance.
In same-sex couple relationships, it can be similar in that one partner or spouse has more sexual desire and wants a more regular love life, but the other is less inclined for a variety of reasons.
In a couple relationship, the partner or spouse that has less sexual desire or interest in lovemaking determines how much lovemaking there will be. It is difficult to get someone to dance with you that doesn’t want to dance. The latter becomes a source of frustration, disappointment, or conflict for the other partner or spouse involved.
Pursuing sexual desire
If this dilemma is not discussed or resolved, it will sometimes lead to one partner outsourcing their sexual desire or interests online through social media, erotica, sexual imagery, pornography, chatting, webcams, visiting erotic massage parlors, topless bars, escorts, or other sexual venues. In addition, this outsourcing of sexual or romantic interests may, but not necessarily, lead to connecting with someone known or that comes along to begin to have an affair with that may or may not involve sex.
Pursuit by one partner or spouse of sexual or romantic outlets can lead to lying, deception, or living a double life that may be stressful and ultimately problematic for a primary couple or marital relationship if it becomes known. Discovery by one partner or spouse of a secret sex life, viewing on-line erotica, connecting with others, or having an affair by the other often leads to feelings of betrayal, as well as, other emotions and narratives that pose a major threat to the continuation of the primary couple or marital relationship.
However, while it is necessary to assess the contributing factors related to the couple or marital relationship’s lack of emotional connection and sexual intimacy, it may be better to view your love life as being dormant rather than dead.
Two areas of focus and effort may be helpful if you find your couple’s love life has become dormant.
First, you need to be able to address the couple or marital issues and concerns that seem to account for the problems with your emotional connection. This may involve issues related to poor communication, conflict, collaboration, reciprocity, troubling emotional states, as well as, difficulty recognizing and accommodating differences you may have as a couple. It may involve an inability to self-regulate, empathize, or engage effectively to manage escalating conflicts that get in the way of problem-solving and expressing feelings so that they don’t turn into distancing and resentment over time.
The issues and concerns may be related to the past, present, or future that have to be identified and worked through, if possible, in order to reach resolutions and maintain a healthy and functioning couple relationship. In order for the emotional attachment to strengthen and maintained, it is necessary that both partners or spouses be emotionally accessible, emotionally engaged, and emotionally responsive on a fairly consistent basis.
In addition, both partners or spouses need to assess their individual and couple narratives about what the real issues and concerns are in order to see what can be done about them in a collaborative way. Often the narrative, we tell ourselves and each other about the couple relationship may be problematic or not accurate and is making things worse rather than better.
Second, even if your emotional connection improves and seems sustainable that may not necessarily be enough to begin to revive your love life if it has become stuck or dormant for some period of time. You begin to revive your love life by communicating more, spending more quality time together in being more engaging, attentive, affectionate, touching, hugging, dancing, exercising, walking, kissing, and showing you’re caring through loving acts that express your love for your romantic partner or spouse.
This may first involve day-to-day moments of being affectionate along with designated times together while nude in the shower, hot tub, your bed, or some other private space. It involves being close physically, cuddling, talking, touching, caressing, massaging, holding, and kissing with or without fully engaging in lovemaking. As you are warming up as a couple to the prospect of making love again, you may engage more in kissing or make-out sessions like you used to do at earlier points in your relationship.
Making out, as a reminder, can happen on the couch, in the kitchen, bathroom, living room, outside somewhere in nature like in a park, the woods, by a river, a lake, the ocean, in your car, or some other private or public place that you feel comfortable and safe. As a couple, when you are feeling more warmed up to the idea of lovemaking, it may be first a good idea while being affectionate, kissing, and engaging in mutual caressing or foreplay to agree not to have intercourse for a period of time so there is not the pressure of intercourse.
When the moment strikes
Engaging when there is sexual desire, arousal, and foreplay leading to non-intercourse pleasuring and climaxing can broaden your sexual spontaneity and discovery. You and your partner or spouse need to have an agreement about whatever happens sexually is ok as long as it doesn’t involve strong expectations or pressure to perform sexually in some way that is not acceptable to the other.
It may be helpful at some point to talk with your partner or spouse about your sexual interests or fantasies to see what you both might be willing to explore that is new or exciting. I find that for many couples being open to re-engaging sexually is really the most important first step in getting back to having an enjoyable love life.
It can be difficult for some partners and spouses to talk about their sexual interests or fantasies even when their lovemaking is going well. It is even more difficult for couples to talk about their love life when things have stopped or there are sensitive matters involved related to initiating, desire, foreplay, arousal, variety, sexual performance, as well as, conventional or unconventional sexual interests.
However, as in other matters talking about your love life, in terms of what you find interesting, exciting, or a turn-on can be helpful in getting things rolling again as long as it doesn’t turn into a grievance session. It is important to focus on what has been sexually interesting or exciting in the past as a couple, as well as, charting new sexual possibilities to explore together.
It is also important to consider that sexual fantasies or sexual content that you see on the internet and find arousing may or may not be something you want to play out in real life with your partner or spouse. In addition, what you may find interesting, exciting, or a turn on may or may not be something your partner or spouse sees in the same way.
While it is ok to propose or explore something sexual you haven’t, it is not a good idea to be pressuring your partner or spouse to engage in something sexual, they are not interested in or are uncomfortable with. Getting back on track with your partner or spouse regarding your emotional connection and sexual intimacy can be a challenging pursuit.
Dormant doesn’t last forever
However, if the history of your couple relationship has generally been a good fit, it makes sense to see if you can work through your issues and concerns related to your emotional connection and love life before moving on to another couple relationship. You may be surprised to find that with the right effort as a couple, things may turn around in your romantic couple relationship. Let’s connect if you want to explore this further.