"He just doesn't 'get' me anymore."
"All she thinks about is the kids, and not me, not my wants and needs."
"You guys still have sex? That's funny."
What are some possible psychological reasons for decreased sexual intimacy in a relationship?
As we age, we change (duh), but if a couple got together at a young age then their personalities and typical behaviors are going to change as they move into middle adulthood. Physical connection may become less of a priority for some while mental and/or emotional connection may become more important to them. Here's where Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages can come in handy. Chapman believes that each of us (sometimes at different times in our lives) want to be shown love in certain ways. Some people feel loved when someone does something for them (acts of service). Some people feel loved when they receive gifts. Some people feel loved when they are told they are awesome (words of affirmation). What's your partner's love language? Do you give them what they "need" to feel loved? If not, why not? Try working in some behaviors that fit your partner's love language and see where it leads you. Don't know their love language? Take the quiz with them on Chapman's website. Taking turns taking the quiz can help you see what your partner's language is, and it can show your partner what your language is. If we work together to make each other feel loved, then we're moving in the right direction toward more emotional and sexual intimacy.
|It's a heart of raked leaves - a cute gift!|
In social psychology there's a term that I think is super important to relationships and it's "equity." This basically means that people feel that what they do in the relationship (around the house, with the kids) is equal to what the other person does. If a person feels they do more X (more child care, more housework) then they feel underbenefited - they feel a lack of equity. They may even feel (or say) that you get more free time or that you carry less of the "burden" brought on by your family/home. Many times this perception of doing more is inaccurate - as an individual, I see what I do (obviously because I'm doing it) but I don't see what the other person does all the time. I don't know their thoughts and how much they think about me or our family or our home or our...you get the picture. So I assume I do more because I know what I do. Feeling underbenefited can make people feel, well, downright angry at their spouse. Angry people typically don't want to touch their spouse, never mind have sex with them.
So what do we do about this? Communicate. Figure out what they feel are the things they do and what they think you do. Make lists together of what you actually do. Find out through (non-negative) conversation what your spouse wishes you would do more of. By non-negative conversation I mean listen (actually listen, don't wait for your turn to speak), repeat back to them what you're hearing them say, and stay positive (no eye rolling, no raising of voices, no talking over them). Now obviously you can't control what they do, but set an example for positive conversation. Once we know how they perceive the situation, do something about it. If they say you never do the dishes, then do the dishes. Make it a point to do what they perceive you don't (if possible). And keep doing it (again, if possible). Once we've established a pattern of attempting to create equity in our spouse's eyes, they're more likely to view us in a positive light and be willing to do things for us as well. People who feel that equity is being established are definitely more likely to initiate intimate behaviors.
Have you ever sat back and thought, "We do the same damned thing every single night. We come home, we have dinner, we bathe unruly children, we get unruly children into their beds, then we watch TV, shower, and go to bed ourselves"? Consistency is great for kids (although "difference" is nice sometimes too like vacations or trips to the park or movies) but it can also create low levels of arousal or what we usually call "boredom." Our brain is under stimulated by consistency and may daydream or not be focused on our current day-to-day life. So what can you do? Help make your spouse un bored. Seriously. Get a babysitter, don't tell your spouse (or tell them "we're doing something special tonight" but not let on what so they don't make plans), and do something different. Something. Anything. Can't afford a babysitter? Exchange babysitting services with a friend with kids. You'll take their brood next weekend. Do something different. Show your spouse that you too are feeling the complacency bug and that you're willing and interested in getting rid of it.
You Expect It
You got it, expecting sex can cause you to not have it (especially if your spouse is feeling a lack of equity). Some women would be turned on by hearing, "I bought you new lingerie so you can model it for me tonight," but some may just think, "So...what, am I prostitute? You buy me stuff, I have sex with you? That's how you want this to work?" Giving a gift and hoping for sex in return can backfire. "I made you breakfast in bed so maybe tonight you can give me something in bed" can make the rest of your day silent as your wife refuses to speak to you and thinks bad thoughts about you. Again, some women find suggestions like these examples funny or cute, but some may not. This is where knowing your spouse and gauging their mood will be important. If your spouse's Love Language is giving gifts or acts of service, simply doing these things for them will make them feel loved. People who feel loved are more likely to want to have sex with you. Period. You don't need to tell them to or cajole them typically.
Obviously these two posts are not "all inclusive." There's no way I could talk about every single reason why a couple may not be having sex, but these lists are good starting points in trying to figure out how to make changes.