Articles by Jacqueline McDiarmid, Couple's counselling

Keeping your sex life alive in a relationship.

An unfulfilling sex life is one of the most common complaints among couples who come to see me. So the question is, how do you keep your sex life alive in a relationship?


Particularly if theirs is a long-term relationship. I get questions like: “Is it possible to get back that sexual attraction we had in the beginning?” “Do we really need to be having that much sex to have a good relationship?” “What impacts do menopause and aging have on libido and therefore attraction?” This article provides some tips and insights that should help you understand why your sex life might not be what it used to be – and how you can keep it alive and healthy no matter how long you’ve been in your relationship.

The loss of sex in a relationship can have a profound affect on many aspects of your life, including your sense of self-worth. Having sex is a way of saying to your partner “You are important, attractive, loved and valued.”

Sex is a big topic. Too big to cover in a single article.

But I am going to give you tips and insights into how almost couple – that means you – can rekindle the flame and get your sex life back to where it used to be.

The trick is…

Get the balance of sex and intimacy right, and attraction, desire and action will follow.

This may not be what you were expecting. In fact most couples I’ve seen don’t understand that intimacy is not the same thing as sex, although both play crucial roles in a healthy long-term relationship.

Intimacy is about disclosing/sharing information and feelings with another person. It’s sometimes used as a word to describe sex – but it’s not the same as sex. We can be intimate with all sorts of people in our lives, parents, children, partners, friends and Therapists. Intimacy requires a level of trust and closeness. In couple relationships intimacy usually increases over time. A lot of the long term couples I see are quite intimate – but are not having the sex they once had.

Think back to the early days of your relationship. Chances are that you felt physical/sexual attraction first – desire. This desire is exciting, intoxicating and extremely distracting. Most people report that at this stage their sex lives are in full throttle. When a couple is in this stage they feel happy, close and attractive to the other. Intimacy also begins as you start to disclose more about yourself – but the balance is usually weighted towards feeling sexy and attractive, and having a good time.

So how do sex and intimacy get out of balance in a relationship?

Some couples do so well on an intimate level that they are practically merging and are losing their sense of selves. Couples like this might work together or share a work space, share other aspects of their relationships like parenting, cleaning, gardening, socialising and interests. They can end up with undefined roles and an undefined sense of self. They are typically the couples who start off “with so much in common” but end up feeling like they don’t have space in the relationship or to develop individually. Sharing everything = no mystery or worse, boredom.

And this increased intimacy can mean a decline in your sex life.

Remember I said it’s about the right balance. It’s great if you feel comfortable enough to discuss your feelings/thoughts with your partner. And it’s great if you are comfortable enough to disclose body functions and slope around in your PJ’s – but is this creating sexual energy? Would you have done this when you first met your partner? Would you indeed do it when you first meet a new friend who you really like and want to get to know? Is this setting the scene for desire and attraction?

Don’t get me wrong – intimacy is also needed in a relationship and there are a whole lot of people out there who should really be ignoring this article. It’s not about not being intimate – it’s about the balance between healthy intimacy and a healthy sex in a relationship. And it’s about understanding that because external factors influence both aspects (children, time, health etc.) that constant work is needed to create this balance – so don’t get too comfy in those P.J.’s.

Here’s how to get your sex life back on track if intimacy has replaced passion:

  • Some people describe their partners as best friends and share everything with each other.  For some couples it is a case where day by day they are embarking on great “deep and meaningfuls”.  Health concerns, problems with the kids, work issues, financial concerns and more.  Some of these concerns lead to conflict – which often further adds to sexual issues and resentments – other times these ongoing disclosures and concerns lead to well – just a lack of fun and lightness in the relationship.  And fun and lightness opens up space for sex.  Try to be aware of this trap and look for ways to include fun in your relationship.
  • These days with gender roles being less defined than ever before couples move along becoming intimate reasonably fast (unless there are other issues like trust).  In the past there was a lot more of a divide between the genders and information sharing – there was a least some mystery.  Whilst you don’t need to worry about going back to years where it was not okay to share information, I suggest you think about the information you do share and its impact on your partner.
  • If you work together or spend a lot of time together in a shared area ensure that you engage in an activity that is yours alone – all relationships need fresh idea and energy brought back to them to combat boredom and to create difference and interest.
  • Are your children merging into your relationship?  It’s very difficult to create sexual energy when you have children (or even pets) sleeping in your bed or walking freely in and out of private spaces like bathrooms.  Try and create good boundaries so children understand that some spaces are for adults only.
  • Experiencing a bloated gassy stomach after that lunch?  Perhaps some stomach cramps?  Think twice before you share all of this information – often these bodily concerns don’t need medical attention – just time.  In the meantime sharing them with your partner is likely to take away from setting your sexual scene.
  • Are you giving your partner a constant running deep and meaningful commentary on your thoughts and feelings as the day goes on? Are you exhausted after talking instead of energised? Try to replace with sexy observations and desires you have.
  • Don’t feel like sex?  Worried about your libido? Although libido impacts sex our brains are another big factor.  Generating sexual attraction and desire starts with generating sexual stories, fantasies and desires in the brain.  Give yourself the time and space to explore your own fantasies to help you key back into a sex life with your partner.
  • Certain friends and social contexts add to your sex life.  There is often a very big difference between socialising with extended family or with other families and couples where you get to talk adult talk only.  Making space to have exclusive adult time is important for a relationship for two reasons:
  1. It is fun which adds attraction and lightness back into a relationship
  2. Each partner is able to witness the other be an adult with interesting thoughts, idea or feelings which might be otherwise reserved for a work  (or other) context that you never get to see.
  • Think about how you dress for your partner – are paying as much attention to the way you dressed when you first met?  Spending some time and money investing in clothes that make you feel sexy and attractive and wearing these clothes instead of the trackpants creates sexual energy and desire.  Many people tell me that their partner’s colleagues see their partner looking attractive but that they don’t.
  • When you are intimate what do you talk about?  Kids?  Extended family?  Finance?  That’s likely to be a turn-off. Try to ensure you set time up to talk about your relationship – what you like and appreciate about your partner.  What your goals are as a couple.  Asking your partner questions about your partner tells them they are important – that the relationship is important and nothing breeds resentment for a partner than feeling like they are low on the food chain – and resentment will never lead to sex.
  • Watch how you speak to your partner.  Swearing, name calling and criticising will never lead to sexual energy.  Equally avoiding issues so it’s better to have conflict that can be resolved than avoidance and then disconnect.
  •  Make time for yourselves.  If you have to schedule it then schedule it – better than never having sex at all.

None of that is too difficult for most couples, but it does take a bit of effort.

If you really want to keep a great sex life life going in a relationship then you have to put the work into generating attractive energy between the two of you.  Both intimacy and sex are important in a relationship, but a good balance between the two will keep you satisfied – in more ways than one.

Need a professional couples counsellor to talk through this issue? Contact us today and make an appointment.

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