Economically you’ve likely had a tough few years. And it seems the austerity measures that hit bank accounts had an effect in the bedroom, too.
A recent poll, published by The Guardian, shows that the national libido has declined significantly since 2008. The survey looked at the sexual attitudes and behaviours of the nation. Six years ago, 44% of the population rated their sex drive above average; that figure has now fallen to 34% with a corresponding increase in the proportion rating their sex drive as average (42%).
It’s not just libido that has declined – so has confidence in performance. In 2008, 55% of Britons considered themselves to be above average as a lover.
That figure has nosedived to 33%, with the majority (58%) now rating themselves as average.
So while you’re definitely not alone in your sexual slump, it’s something that you need to tackle.
Sex is important for everyone’s health and happiness. It reduces stress levels, boosts feel-good hormones, and helps you stay connected as couples.
‘If you’re experiencing problems in your sexual relationship then a frank conversation is often the only way to resolve it,’ says relationship expert and counsellor Paula Hall.
‘The important thing is to try not to let it turn into a personal attack and keep focused on the common goal of wanting a sex life that’s fulfilling for you both. If having those conversations alone is difficult, a sex therapist can help you talk more openly and ensure you stay focused on finding the solution rather than constantly analysing the problem.’
So what are the biggest concerns long-term couples face?
‘I’m too tired’
Life can be exhausting, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to let the sexual side of your relationship slide.
You need to examine why you’re so tired (see pg 134) – are you working long hours or taking on too much? If so, delegate when you can, so you can finish on time, and ask friends and family to help out with childcare.
You could also try gentle exercise to boost your energy levels. Ginseng has also been shown to help increase energy levels and libido in studies.
It’s vital that you maintain intimacy, even if you’re not going the whole hog. ‘Touching each other is important and improves your relationship, and it’s particularly important during tough times,’ says psychotherapist, Phillip Hodson.
Kiss or cuddle whenever you say hello and goodbye to each other, and before you go to bed. Tell your partner that you love them at least once a day. It all adds up.
‘I’ve gone off sex’
It seems everyone has! While the report shows that the average Briton has sex four times a month, at least one in three does not have sex at all in that time period.
Ian Kerner PhD, sex therapist and author of She Comes First and He Comes Next (£14.99, HarperCollins), says: ‘It’s actually very natural for people to lose a bit of the spark. When you first meet, you excrete a lot of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that generates a feeling of arousal, excitement and exhilaration. As you move into a relationship, dopamine levels lower and a lot of couples get stuck in the ‘desire gap’, which means they now have to work at it.’ Working at it means you need to make an effort. Set aside a ‘sex night’, both put it in your diary, and stick to it.
If you still find your libido is still non-existent, it may be down to a physical problem, such as perimenopause or erectile disfunction (for your man), or an emotional reason, such as depression, so think about talking to your doctor.
'We don’t fancy each other anymore’
Once upon a time, you couldn’t wait to rip each other’s clothes off, but now... well, not so much. ‘This happens to every relationship eventually,’ says Tracey Cox, sex expert and author of Supersex For Life (£14.99, Dorling Kindersley).
‘Real love is about leaving this fantasy behind. It might have felt like you were much more in love at the start than you are three, four or more years on, but real, long-term intimacy happens when the initial flush of hormones subsides. Only then are you able to see each other as you really are – and a deeper, more satisfying, realistic love replaces the romantic one.’
Accept the relationship has moved to a deeper level, and that sex is now more about quality than quantity.
‘I know it’s cliché but a weekend break can give you an excellent opportunity to reconnect at an intellectual, emotional and physical level,’ says Paula Hall. ‘It will also give you a chance to create loving memories to carry you through to the next time you’re in a slump.’
‘We’ve grown apart’
Having sex releases oxytocin, a ‘bonding’ chemical that creates a sense of closeness between couples. The good news is that the more sex, the more oxytocin is released, so you’ll feel more connected. The bad news, of course, is that the opposite is also true: if you’re not having sex, you’ll start to drift apart.
Sex and relationship therapist, Simone Bienne, recommends getting back to basics physically: ‘Don’t underestimate the power of kissing,’ she says. ‘When you kiss your partner he passes testosterone on to you, through his saliva. This sex hormone can work wonders to increase your libido. Not only this, the art of kissing has anti-anxiety properties; so kissing is a perfect way to reduce tension, and it will create more intimacy between you.’
This shared intimacy will put you in a better starting place when you do feel up to having sex.
‘Sex is boring now’
It’s an undeniable truth that having sex with the same person for years is going to get a bit routine; nothing stays new and exciting forever.
Just as you’ve both changed over the years, chances are your sexual desires have, too. Don’t take it for granted that he still likes what he did 10 years ago, or vice versa.
‘Take a sexual inventory,’ suggests Tracey Cox. ‘Write suggested sexual activities on two sheets of paper, then each of you rates them from hot (would love to try) to warm, lukewarm and cold (not in a million years, buster). Add anything you fancy, for example you could choose from things like spanking, role-playing, tie-up games, blindfolding, or talking dirty. When you’re done, make note of the activities that scored high(-ish) for both of you. Try one every two weeks or once a month.’
LIBIDO BOOSTER Being overweight can have a big effect on your energy levels and your libido. Taking regular exercise, for 30 minutes five times a week, can benefit you both inside and outside the bedroom
63% of people surveyed are currently satisfied with their sex life
61% think it is possible to maintain a happy marriage/relationship without sex