The author of the forthcoming book Get Your Mojo Back, she met her husband Bryn Snelson, 40, 14 years ago. There have been sexless times in their relationship, but dry spells are completely normal, she says. Let’s stop pretending they aren’t. It is the reasons they occur that are worth investigating.
“At some of the best moments in our relationship, we might not have sex for three months, and then we’ll have sex three times a week,” Wood says. “Sex can be a barometer of the relationship, but it’s not the only thing you need to measure. You have to listen to what your relationship is telling you.” But she also adds: “There have been some down periods and it shows in our intimate lives.”
As she says, if you’re not happy with each other, if you’re rowing, spending too much time apart, or too much time together, it shows up in the bedroom.
Indeed, Hamlin says it’s often upsetting to hear how resentment has grown over the years, but they’ve tried to “get over it and move on” when you’re working with couples who aren’t having sex.
Often people don’t realize how smothering their pain has affected their intimate lives, and that instead of ignoring their pain, “it might be more helpful to understand it.” Rather than getting caught up in the circular reasoning of “We’re not having enough sex” or “You want too much,” Hamlin says, it’s better to ask, “What does it represent, what does it communicate?”
And whatever it represents — within the relationship and without — sex becomes a “big deal” when there’s a difference between partners’ desires, Moyle says. “We are talking about a discrepancy. So it is not that it is problematic that you want too much or too little, but that there is a gap.”
Modern existence against us
But which comes first – metaphorically, unfortunately – the discrepancy, or the relationship, personal or situational difficulty? Hamlin says that if there is a great emotional distance between you, “it is impossible to evoke the desire for each other”.
Or there could be a specific reason — menopause, depression, and antidepressants can all affect libido. The pace and cost of modern existence is also against us. Sometimes, Hamlin says, couples work so hard to create successful and comfortable lives together — or even just to fund the basics — that the foundations of “a happy successful relationship, being interesting and interested in your partner,” get out of hand. runs. sight.
You have to actively want and work to create that space. It’s easier said than done. Moyle cites the idea of ”switching off to enable”. Unfortunately: “We don’t switch off enough. We all have our laptops and devices at home, so it’s also harder to get into a sexual headspace – which is a different mindset –.”
We’re also under constant pressure, often tired — we carry mental exhaustion, not just physical fatigue — so it’s no surprise that, as Moyle puts it, “we’ve come to see sex as really hard work.”
The possible reasons why we aren’t motivated to tackle it are many, “whether that’s about quality, the act of having it, it’s pushed to the bottom of our to-do list, or it’s not a priority, or our perspective. is that it takes a lot of time or effort”.
Looking for a fight
But fully acknowledging this and addressing why takes courage and maturity. Wood and Snelson had both, yet their relationship was tested to the limit before taking action.
The trouble started after Wood gave birth to their first child, now seven. It was very traumatic – she suffered from PTSD and postpartum depression. “It really affected our relationship and our sex life,” she recalls.
They weren’t getting along well or communicating well with each other, she says. “I would be looking for a fight, and he would withdraw into himself. But that would turn into a big fight.”
Snelson recalls: “I felt a bit attacked. Clio was quite angry during that period, and in her own words she took it out on me a lot. I took that literally – that I was the problem. That made me worry about life in general and my self-confidence took a big hit. But,” he adds, “what she actually said was, ‘I need help here.’ However, I couldn’t see that.”
Wood knows she’s had occasional depression since her teens, but was reluctant to recognize it — and her mental state was a barrier, she says, to a harmonious marriage. In addition, she had scars from birth and a hypertonic – too tight – pelvic floor, which made sex painful. “That and the depression and the relationship meant it took a long time for us to have good satisfying sex again,” she says.
At the time of the crisis, they decided to seek therapy – together and individually. It was transformative. “We’re a million miles from where we were three years ago,” Wood says. Crucially, they understand themselves and each other better now, and the occasional crossword is not taken personally.
“It’s just as good to read what is meant as what is said,” says Snelson. “So the communication may be snippy, but what is meant is, ‘I’m not in a great place.’ That makes a world of difference and helps us feel more connected, making us like each other and ultimately want to be intimate.”
Practical changes improved their bond — for example, Wood says, with a date night. “Some of these things feel like treats when you really should be doing something else, like saving money or getting a chore on your to-do list. But that time as a couple is so important. If you do prioritize it, the difference is huge.” And of course, “The happier we are, the better the sex is.”
That rediscovery felt revealing, Wood says, “because if you don’t have sex, you forget how good it is, or how good it could be.” But, she adds, “That’s not to say you don’t come back those other times. But that’s the point. It’s okay that there are ups and downs, it’s okay that there are fallow periods – because that’s how a relationship is. It is not a straight road.”
Five ways to escape a sex drought
- Improve “sexual currency”. This is about building bridges between partners, and is everything sexual that isn’t sex: a kiss, a hug, eye contact, flirting. Desire is more responsive than spontaneous and by enhancing the sexual currency we create the context in which desire can occur
- Put your phone down. If you’re always scrolling, you’re missing cues that may have enhanced your intimacy — for example, one partner reaches for the other’s hand, but the other is texting
- Actively prioritize quality time for the two of you. We all believe that we should not plan this part of our lives. It’s the Disney model – that love is enough, and it just happens, and actually it doesn’t. Why would it? We book in to see our friends, arrange work meetings, gym classes – why do we have a very different attitude to this area?
- Have dinner together at the table. We eat in front of the TV because we are exhausted, but we miss opportunities to sit across from our partner, make a connection, have eye contact, talk
- Don’t stress yourself any further. If we think of sex as just a chore, we need to change our mindset. And since it’s harder to go from negative to positive than vice versa, we may need to work on it. But don’t feel obligated to make big changes. Think about what you could do that fits into your life and is manageable for you
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