Weathering a Dry Spell

Weathering a Dry Spell

Q: I am so frustrated with my boyfriend and have no idea what to do. We have been dating for around 3 years and he never wants to have sex. I am so confused; we used to have sex all the time, and now he seems so annoyed when I come on to him. Not to mention, he never seems to initiate sex with me. I feel like we have a good relationship and are affectionate with each other, just not sexually. I find myself getting angry and being passive-aggressive with him. I also know that I am pulling away from him, and I really don’t want to. I want to be in this relationship, but I don’t want to commit to a life of no sex.  

He: This may or may not be a long-term problem, as all relationships go through some changes in terms of sexual contact. You are not supposed to be pawing at each other like you used to during the first 6 months of your relationship. But after only 3 years, there should be some pawing going on.

Of course, there is the possibility that he is seeing someone on the side, but those are very visible signs (more attention to how he looks or clothes that he wears, time that is unaccounted for, or any secretive behavior). Let’s assume this is not the case, and move on to try to eliminate the other obvious factors that may have caused this recent change:

You didn’t mention if you had kids. As much as we all love those little munchkins, they can be a real boner-killer sometimes as they demand the attention and time that you once dedicated solely to each other. Even the addition of a new puppy or dog will throw off the delicate balance of sexual contact. This is particularly true if the dog is sleeping on the bed with you.

A new schedule or new work hours may also throw things off in the sex department. Sometimes sleep becomes an even higher priority than sex.

Did either of you recently gain any weight? Most guys would not react too adversely to a few extra pounds on their girlfriend/wife, but if they recently gained a few pounds, they may not feel so good about themselves and it may affect their libido.

All of the above factors may be transitory and can be improved with a little more communication, strategy and effort. If none of the above seems to fit, it may be that his libido just decreased a bit and you haven’t found the right formula to harness it to find a suitable level of sexual contact.

But before you make assumptions on what that suitable level is, make sure that you understand that even when you were having sex “all the time,” it may not have been as substantive as you might have thought. There are three basic categories of sex for a guy: Utilitarian, Recreational, and Romantic.

Utilitarian is just what it sounds like – it’s very purpose driven – to help one get to sleep, relax, or just satisfy that need for a release. That urge is powerful and near constant in younger men and can translate into a lot of sex if one is in a relationship, and a lot of masturbation if one is not (of course, the masturbation will continue even in a sexually healthy relationship. Some women feel slighted by this. Don’t. Guys don’t masturbate because they are feeling romantic; this is purely utilitarian).

Recreational sex is typically “hook up” sex, but in a relationship can look like something that is a little more dispassionate, maybe a little more aggressive, dirty-talky, acrobatic or alcohol-fueled.

Romantic sex is the more connected interaction that women in an established relationship typically want with their partners. You may not have been fully aware, but this may have been happening only 25% of the time in the past; it is often hard to tell. If you were having sex 3 times per week, when you factor in the 25%, that is only 3 times per month of romantic sex. Instead of thriving to achieve the amount of sex you were having early in the relationship, a goal of about three times per month of high-quality sex may be a good start.

If he was previously the initiator of sex, you may have to take the reins for a while. It sounds like your approach to initiating has not been working thus far. This may be because the two of you may have fallen out of synch, and you are probably approaching him in a romantic manner. I’m certain that the drive is still there for him; it may have just diminished enough to not push him out of the routine that you guys have fallen into. You may need to meet him at utilitarian sex and steer it toward romantic. Don’t try to set the mood with candles, soft music and bubble baths – remember: Utility. A few times a month, when he is not tired or stressed, greet him with no clothes on and, in a non-romantic way, be the aggressor. I can guarantee that he won’t protest. Remind him how fun it is to have sex with you. It might not be romantic sex at first, but my guess is that with a little repetition, it will become so again.

She: Firstly, has something changed in your life? In your relationship? Has there been an increase in stress? Has your boyfriend had any medical issues? Any environmental reason that his sex drive would be decreased? These are some of the important first things to look at and to talk about. Speaking of talking about, have you made any attempt to talk about this issue with your boyfriend? It can be so difficult to talk about sex (especially when it’s not going well), but it is imperative. Without talking about this issue, you are left to assume that there is something wrong with you, or something wrong with the relationship. When sex in a relationship deteriorates, most people go immediately to feeling like there is a loss of attraction, or love; but it is usually not that simple. As Andy points out, sexual drive can decrease fairly quickly. This can happen for a number of reasons including: depression, stress, hormone deficiencies, a partner’s own feelings of inadequacy, medical issues, drugs and alcohol, just to name a few. By “withholding” sex, your boyfriend holds a lot of power over you, which is not a positive thing for you or your relationship. Being left to guess about the reason for the reduced sex drive, and the feelings of confusion and rejection you subsequently feel, is not good for your relationship, and often leads to the deterioration of the relationship.

I am also a believer that intimacy comes in a lot of different forms. There is a lot of pressure in our society to maintain a healthy sex life at all ages. While I do fully believe this is important, it’s not everything, and what feels like a healthy sex life for your relationship should be a decision you make together. For some people, two times a week is too little, for others, that much sex is impossible to imagine. Some couples make an appointment for sex and use this time as a way to reconnect physically each week. There are couples who are no longer sexual, for one reason or another, and still feel very connected and satisfied with the amount of intimacy in their lives. You must communicate (yes, I said it) and figure out what works for the two of you. If being sexual is the way you experience closeness and love, you both have to understand this and come up with a frequency that keeps you both feeling loved and satisfied.

There is so much more to this topic, as it is an important and complicated one. But it is one that must be addressed with honesty. As Andy gently pointed out, there is always the fear of a third party entering (or having already entered) the relationship. That person either being the reason for the decrease in sex, or the thing you do to feel wanted again. Infidelity is one of the greatest traumas a person can experience (a person recovering from infidelity almost always experiences symptoms of PTSD). Making sure that your relationship is connected and that there is not an opening for this third person is a primary responsibility for both of you. That responsibility begins with open, non-blaming, and loving conversation.

Dr. Jen Semmes and Andy Wilson have been (mostly) happily married for ten years (currently happily).  They are the owners of Coastal Counseling therapy center in Carlsbad, California.  Jen holds a license in clinical social work and a doctorate in psychology, and is a therapist at Coastal Counseling. Andy just tries to hold it together.

If you, or anyone you know, has a question for ‘He said, She said’ please send a private message to Coastal Counseling on Facebook or email the question to Check us out on the internet at

Disclaimer: This blog and the information herein are for educational and informational purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional psychological or therapeutic services.  The self-help information provided by this blog are solely the opinion of the bloggers and should not be considered as a form of therapy, advice, direction, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. Instead, the information is designed to be used in conjunction with ongoing treatment provided by a mental health professional. Use the information in this blog at your own risk. All of the information is provided “as-is,” with no warranties of any kind, express or implied.


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