Maybe your go-to positions have started feeling stale. (Missionary, again, really?) Maybe you had a baby and after being mom all day, binge watching “Designated Survivor” sounds far more appealing than the effort that goes into sex. Or maybe you want to try sex toys, but your partner prefers sticking to the basics. Does this mean your relationship is doomed to a lifetime of subpar sex? Absolutely not.
“Couples may feel bad when they come across issues in their sex life, whether it’s boredom or being too tired to do it at all, but it’s important to remember that every couple deals with these kinds of problems at some point,” says Lauren Zander, couples coach and author of Maybe It’s You. “The good news is that being honest, open, and willing to keep your sex life alive and fun will help you find solutions.”
Here are the most common challenges couples face in the bedroom and how to overcome the bumps in the road. (Looking for more relationship and health advice? Sign up to get sex tips, relationship solutions, and slimming recipes delivered straight to your inbox.)
“We had a baby, and our sex life tanked.”
Whether you’re welcoming baby number one or four, sex is one of the first things that gets sidelined. “When you have a new person in your life that requires so much of your effort and focus, it leaves very little time to spend on habits that previously made you both feel sexy like working out or getting dressed up for date night,” says Pepper Schwartz, PhD, professor of sociology at the University of Washington and relationship expert on Lifetime’s Married at First Sight. “Women may feel it even more: physical injuries from a vaginal birth or C-section and conditions like postpartum depression can really extinguish the flame.”
While every couple is different, many will need a break after their baby is born before they think about sex again—and that’s OK. “To give your sex life a little nudge, hire a sitter, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. As new parents, alone time is important and allows you to focus on each other, whether you reconnect over dinner or decide to slip away to a hotel room for the afternoon,
“I want to try sex toys, but my partner isn’t interested.”
While toys can certainly spice things up, bringing something tangible into the bedroom can make some people feel like their sex skills are subpar, says Fran Walfish, PsyD, a family and relationship psychotherapist. “You’ll want to gently tell your partner exactly what you’d like to try and be crystal clear that you are completely satisfied with him or her as your partner,” she says. “You can offer to exchange the favor by trying something your partner would enjoy, too.”
Another thing to consider: Some people may balk at the thought of using toys at first, but be curious about them later. So don’t lose hope if your partner says no the first time you ask. “As the couple becomes more fluent in their sexual language, and safety and trust are built up, a person’s hesitancy to try new things may fade,” says Wendi Dumbroff, LPC, a New Jersey-based family and couples therapist. “However, there may be things that are a ‘hard no,’ so it’s important for partners to discuss how important it is to each person to try new things and see if a compromise c
an be reached.” (Don’t miss these 10 positions to try if you’re sick of missionary. The best part: You don’t have to be an athlete to pull them off!)
“We have sex regularly, but I don’t feel emotionally connected.”
“While having sex is a necessary pillar of a healthy relationship, having sex for sex’s sake can deplete that emotional connection that comes from such a private and personal act,” explains Stan Tatkin, PsyD, a California-based couples therapist and author of Wired for Love. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to nurture your emotional connection that doesn’t require pricey fixes: mindfulness. (You’re not alone if you find mindfulness irksome or difficult. Prevention Premium shows you how to make it a part of your day.)
Saying your partner’s first name (not a nickname) can improve intimacy as well. “Since our first name is deeply embedded in the brain, we’re wired to associate it with closeness. Evoking this feeling in bed can bring forth deeper bonding between partners,” Tatkin says. (Feel closer to your partner with the help of these 10 little things connected couples do.)
Tatkin says couples should try looking into each other’s eyes during sex. That sounds pretty simple, sure, but you’d be surprised by how many couples don’t do this, he says. “Often sex feels empty because we’re too busy thinking or worrying about other things rather than enjoying what is happening in the present. Making eye contact can help us be more in the moment,” he says.
“We’re too tired to have sex.”
There may be times when you really are too emotionally or physically drained to have sex, like after a job loss or cross-country move. But for most people, exhaustion is often a cover up for laziness, Zander says. “If you can make time to watch Netflix or scroll through Instagram, you can certainly fit 30 minutes of sex into your schedule.”
To tackle dry spells, Zander has couples discuss how often they’d each like to have sex. Once they agree on frequency, she has them make a non-negotiable promise to stick to their schedule—whether it’s once a day or twice a week. “I then have my clients create consequences if they don’t fulfill their promise—nothing serious or life-threatening, but something that they would miss if it were gone, like skipping that glass of wine with dinner or giving up TV for a week. You’d be surprised how quickly people find the time and energy to have sex when you threaten to take away their indulgences,” she says. (Think having sex twice a week sounds tough to squeeze in? Here’s how one woman found the time to have sex twice a day!)
“Our libidos are like night and day.”
If your partner always wants to have sex, while you’re more of a once-a-week kind of person, it may seem like an unfixable situation. But it’s absolutely possible to make it work, Dumbroff says. “You can begin intimacy with willingness instead of desire.” Spontaneous desire—that sudden, I-need-to-tear-off-your-clothes feeling—often fades in long-term relationships and can be difficult to sync when two people have different libidos. “But if you’re willing to follow your partner’s lead in the bedroom to see where it takes you—even when you’re not in the mood—you’ll likely want to have sex. Once you get going, it usually starts to feel good, and you get excited about continuing,” Dumbroff says.
“My partner hates oral sex.”
If you enjoy giving and receiving oral sex, but your partner doesn’t share your enthusiasm, it can be a tough road to navigate. “Utilizing things that will enhance your pleasure while making oral sex more comfortable for your partner can help,” says Walfish. “For instance, if feeling self-conscious about body odor is something that’s holding your partner back, suggest taking a shower together first.” You can also put whipped cream or chocolate sauce on your partner’s penis or the outside of your vagina. (Placing food inside the vagina may cause infection.) Your partner may feel more comfortable with oral sex with other flavors in the mix. (For more ways to have hotter sex, try these