Old joke: Q: How do you get a woman to stop having sex with you? A: Marry her.
For many guys, unfortunately, this is no wisecrack; it's real life. Night after night they approach their partner for sex; night after night their partner has a headache — or else she's taking the concept of "must-see TV" way too seriously.
But a libido doesn't lag without cause. If your mate isn't as stoked for sex as you are, there's a reason. Here are seven common causes of a flagging sex life, and seven ways to raise the spirit so it flies again.
Talk About It
Reason #1: You don't discuss sex, ever. "For all I know, my wife wants more sex, too," says Dave (not his real name), a 32-year-old computer programmer who has been married for 14 years to the high-school sweetheart he still loves very much. "But sex isn't something we talk about. I'm afraid I'd hurt her feelings if I told her there was something wrong with our sex life. Besides, I don't think we should have to talk about sex. It ought to be one of those things that just happens, the way it used to."
Ah, the way it used to. Once that initial, steamy attraction settles into something calmer, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy doesn't cut it any longer.
What to do: If you and your wife already talk easily about other aspects of your relationship and feel happy with your marriage except in this one area, broach the subject of sex without blame or defensiveness, says Clifford Sager, M.D., a New York psychiatrist who treats couples with sexual problems.
Patricia Love, Ed.D., a couples therapist and co-author of Hot Monogamy: Essential Steps to More Passionate, Intimate Lovemaking, suggests telling your wife something like, "I'm feeling really sexy tonight. I'd like to make love to you," or "I would really love it if we had sex tonight. I'm really turned on by you." Then give your wife a fair chance to react. If neither of you has mentioned the "s" word before, she may be stunned by its sudden appearance. But she may also be relieved that the topic is finally up for discussion.
Reason #2: The chicken-and-egg problem. Another reason couples stop having sex is that, well, they've stopped having sex. "When some couples get stuck on sex frequency, they polarize around it," says Helen Crohn, a New York clinical social worker and sex therapist. "He's feeling so hurt and rejected that he's become insulting, angry, and resentful. She's so defensive and upset with how he's treating her that whatever little sex they used to have has just about stopped." And things only grow worse when they look for a solution: He says if they'd just start having sex again, everything would be OK. She says everything has to be OK before she'll feel like having sex with him again.
What to do: If you and your mate are truly at a standoff and every attempt to discuss your sex life turns into an argument, make an appointment to see a marriage counselor who's certified in sex therapy. "Very often the sex problem is really a secondary problem, and there's another issue that has not been addressed," says Crohn. "The point is to get the problems sorted out."
Make Her Feel Appreciated