The bed is dead … can we bring it back to life?

Bed death – when couples stop having sex with each other – is far more common than you may think. An estimated 20 million Americans are living in sexless marriages and it’s not just happening in the US; the trend is on the rise all over the world.

According to a survey published in the New York Post, 69 percent of couples are intimate eight times a year or less, and 17 percent of those surveyed hadn’t had sex in at least one year. Another study, conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, shows sex for all adults dropped from an average of 62 times a year to 54 times a year. 

Even though the statistics are stacked against you when it comes to a sex-filled relationship, maybe it’s time to ask yourself why. What happened, when did it happen, and do you want it to continue? 

The answer should be a resounding “NO” … unless you want the bed to be dead.

In general, most couples want sex and sexual intimacy with their partner to continue, in fact, they want it to thrive. They still are attracted to their partner but don’t know where to begin to reignite the fire they once had.

Why do couples stop having sex?

Clients have shared countless reasons with me: work, kids, stress, financial concerns, body image issues, fatigue, the abundance and accessibility of porn, menopause, pregnancy, infidelity, erectile dysfunction, and even political differences. Sometimes, the couple is so focused on the amount of sex they are not having, that it causes anxiety issues in the bedroom.

Most of these issues are temporary and fixable. However, if their sex life has come to a complete halt for a long period of time, it’s time to dig deeper into the relationship.

When I meet with a couple who express concerns about the dead bed, I first ask them how troubling this is for them. If they feel that their relationship is healthy and loving, and the communication between them is strong and open, they are happy, and sex is not a major focus in their partnership, then they really shouldn’t be worried. Our culture is forcing unrealistic standards on us when it comes to sex. 

If couples want to talk about some of the issues they are having in the bedroom that seem fixable, here are a few discussion points in our sessions:

When was the last time you had honest and open communication with each other that didn’t involve work, the kids, your family or your finances? When was the last time you talked about your sex life? Have your needs and desires changed? This conversation can be difficult if you haven’t shared your true feelings with your partner in a long time … and maybe never. These conversations can lead to greater intimacy and a deeper connection with each other. And the dead bed just may breathe life again.

I ask couples when did the dry spells in the bedroom start? Maybe a life-changing event was the initiator. The more a couple worries about their sexless life, the more it can impact them physically, emotionally and sexually. 

I also talk with couples about focusing on each other as well as the kids. Often, parents allow their kids to share their bed, which can make it a sex-dead zone pretty fast. Parents also often bring their kids’ concerns to bed with them. Pillow talk is about grades in school, peer pressure issues, or who is taking their son to soccer practice. This isn’t exactly foreplay talk. Bedtime should be your time.

If you can’t seem to find time for each other, schedule a date night and write it on the calendar, or have a quick make out session in the car before heading inside your house and its many distractions.

Remember to say “I love you” with meaning and do it at least once a day. Hold hands while watching TV, cook dinner together, listen attentively to your partner and ask questions … all of these small actions can lead to big results in the bedroom. 

I also encourage couples to agree on a “no technology” zone in the bedroom. Research shows that sleep deprivation reduces sexual desire. In addition, social media use can decrease self-esteem if you are focused on comparing yourself to bathing suit models. Studies show that positive body image is linked to having better sex.

If infrequency is bothering you, maybe you should stop counting how often you are having sex and start focusing on how great it is. Maybe you’re not doing it as often as you used to, but do you still feel fireworks? Which do you prefer? Mediocre, forgettable sex several times a week or mind-blowing fireworks a couple of times a month? Only you can answer that question.

Have you established expectations and boundaries in the bedroom? What do each of you want and not want, and have you told each other? Have this conversation from time to time. Your needs and desires may change as your relationship grows and changes. 

Relationships often become comfortable, and no one wants to rock the boat. It’s as good as it gets, you think, and you are content. But are you happy and can you be happier? If you aren’t talking about it, contentment can change to resentment.

Communication is the key to any successful, intimate relationship. Keep talking. In most cases, the issues you are having are temporary and you will get past them if you talk about them and resolve them. When you navigate these troubling times, remember to be open, honest and kind. No blaming, shaming or guilting.

I also remind couples that sex isn’t always necessary to have a healthy relationship. A sexless partnership does not mean an unhappy relationship. It also doesn’t mean you are just “roommates” as the cultural myth perpetuates. A partnership filled with intimacy and support can be very fulfilling if that is what both partners want. Do what is right for you and what makes you happy as a couple.