Let’s be honest, when it comes to sex, intimacy and relationships, there are multiple views as to what is acceptable, how many times a week we should be doing it, how many partners we have had in the past and whether we should disclose this or keep our skeletons in the closet.

  • Statistics show that married couples have sex once a week. Is this a cause for concern? What is deemed healthy? 

Intimacy and sex are different for each person and therefore there is no one size fits all but rather what feels comfortable for you and what works for you with where you are at in your life stage, relationship, and lifestyle. The worst thing you can do is compare your relationship to that of others.

  • What leads to a decline in the number of times a couple has sex after being married?

When it comes to doing the ‘deed’, sometimes our partner just isn’t in the mood and that’s ok, sometimes we have an off day. Other times there may contributing factors such as stress at work, you’ve hit a bumpy patch, or your libidos are not totally aligned (i.e. one of you has a higher sex drive).

Real life involves commitment and responsibilities…housework, dealing with office politics, childcare, DIY, paying the bills, raising the kids, car repairs, gym time, managing relationships with extended family members, social activities, relationship misalignment (you’re out of sync with each other or disconnected) and more.

We tend to forget to make more efforts for ‘date nights’ or foreplay and romance doesn’t seem to carry the same weight. We can get into a rut/routine and everything else becomes mundane so we stop making an effort.

Routine and stress may translate into less energy for our partner, our relationship, and sex. The passion fades and romance becomes a distant memory. So we need to be intentional about making time for each other, connection, intimacy, romance, sex, keeping the spark alive and constantly communicating with each other.

  • Is it possible to love someone but not be sexually attracted to them? 

Yes, over time we can get to a point where we can love each other and care deeply about each other like brother and sister or housemates and not be physically attracted to each other anymore. Rather it becomes more about the companionship, enjoying each other’s company and being best friends than romantically

At the same time someone can go through a life transition and decide they have different sexual preferences e.g. becoming celibate for religious or other reasons, or decide they are Asexual (the lack of sexual attraction to others, or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity).

  • Is it possible for a partner to not find their spouse sexually attractive after a period of time? i.e can weight gain cause a partner to not want to have sex with their spouse because they are not attracted to how they look? 

Yes, over time changes in a partner or the relationship can contribute to not being sexually attracted to their partner anymore, examples are: weight gain, hygiene, bedside manners, emotional neglect, abusive or controlling behaviours.

Stress is a big one and often we will find unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol, inactive lifestyle, sleep disorders, anti-depressants etc which can affect one’s libido. There is also the possibility that a medical condition such as erectile dysfunction or hormonal imbalance due to menopause, low testosterone due to ageing, fatigue or a myriad of other things which can be difficult for us to deal with as it can send us straight to the embarrassment corner.

This is where you both need to be adult about the situation and talk things out to get to the root cause. If you feel you can’t do this together then consult with a professional that can help you both work through things together whilst still maintaining the love and respect for each other and supporting each other through the process than getting caught up in the blame game or toxic spiral to break-up or divorce.

  • How can couples enhance their sex life? 

Sex and intimacy are important basic needs. They’re often viewed as interchangeable, but they are not the same. The physical act of sex can help strengthen a couple’s connection, but intimacy involves emotional closeness. Intimacy is the connection that allows a couple to share their inner-worlds. Intimacy develops and deepens as a result of the way a couple interacts, the amount of quality time a couple spends together, and the activities they share.

Here are some things you can focus on:

  • Date Nights

    Many therapists and coaches, myself included, recommend date nights. Date nights are a chance for couples to disconnect from everything else in their day to day lives and connect with each other instead. The main objective of a date night is to get couples out of their routine environment (e.g. home) and into a neutral environment (e.g. a restaurant or a park) where they can relax, enjoy each other’s company, and talk about non-routine things. Couples can use date nights to engage in deeper conversations involving shared goals, struggles, or frustrations. It’s also a chance for couples to be more honest and descriptive about what they need from each other. Date night also involves a little bit of extra effort with our appearance and grooming – the same kind of effort we used to make in the beginning stages of the relationship. Remember? Date nights do not involve kids or other family members. They don’t have to be at night either. Be creative and have fun.

  • Flirt
    In a new relationship, flirting includes laughter, loving glances, and lots of touching. New couples regularly send cues that indicate a mixture of interest and passion.Flirting is something you can continue to do throughout your relationship. Compliment your partner often on things like their appearance or how you feel when you’re with them. Smile, laugh, and make eye contact. Use playful touch…a lingering caress, a sensual glance, or butterfly kisses. Use flirting to keep the curiosity going strong!
  • Arrivals and Departures
    Make arrivals and departures affectionate. For example, when you leave home, give your partner a long kiss and tell them you’ll miss them. When you return home, give your partner a long kiss and tell them you’re glad to see them.p
  • Create the Mood
    Ambiance is key. You can use things like candles, music, sexy lingerie to set the stage for action. You can do little things like paying attention to your personal grooming, wearing a scent you know your partner likes, getting your partner small gifts, preparing your partner’s favorite meal, planning surprise dates or getaways with your partner, or wearing an item of clothing you know your partner finds you attractive in.
  • Pamper and Spoil
    Whether it’s buying your partner a gift you know they’ve really wanted or just giving them a neck rub… the more your partner feels appreciated, valued, and loved, the more they’re likely to want to get it on with you.
  • Resolve Conflict
    Every couple experiences conflict in their relationship. It’s normal and necessary. If a couple doesn’t learn to navigate conflict, over time, there may not be a relationship. Conflict doesn’t lead to the breakdown of a relationship – the inability to manage and resolve the conflict does. If issues are not addressed and resolved, they can spiral into bigger issues.

Keep the spark alive by learning about each other as you grow and evolve in your relationship and your needs shift and change. It’s important to do things that both partners enjoy being intimate and having not just one of you. Find what that balance or thing is for you both and go and do it together. Most important have fun while you’re doing it.

 A version of this article appeared on Jacranda FM and East Coast Radio websites.

Paula Quinsee: Relationship Coach, author and Speaker specializing in creating healthy relationships at home and in the workplace to co-create a more human connected world and positively impact people’s lives. Paula is also a passionate advocate for mental health and Gender Based Violence, an international and Tedx speaker and author of two self-help guides: Embracing Conflict and Embracing No.