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How couples turned around their sexless marriage

Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, is a clinical therapist, and the author of three books, among them, Love Lessons from Bad Breakups and The Complete Marriage Counsler. She gives love advice on programs including Today and HuffPost Live, conduct...

Don't take a sexual drought in your marriage lying down

Since ‘sexless marriage’ is one of the most Googled phrases about marriage, it's beyond clear this is a serious problem. Here is how three women took matters into their own, umm, hands and revived physical intimacy in their relationships.

“We went on a marriage retreat.”

Anna, 40, and married 10 years, says, “When Bill and I first married we were all over each other. The sex stopped so gradually one day I suddenly realized it had been 16 months since we’d made love, three months before the birth of the youngest of our three children."

The two weren’t fighting. Rather, they were mainly communicating practicalities like, “We need milk” or “Pick up Suzie” or little else. Anna, afraid one or both would drift into an affair, enrolled them in a weeklong marriage retreat being held in Hawaii. (The couple lives in Connecticut.)

“It was great, “she recalls, adding, “It forced us to pay attention to one another, to really talk, really listen, get in tune with one another’s bodies again…” They came home with new skills and new appreciation for how much they loved one another and how important it was not to take their connection for granted.

While it may not seem feasible to attend a marriage retreat, it is very helpful to enroll in marriage education classes, workshops — do something that forces the two of you to focus on one another again in a structured but sensitive way and also surrounds you with others who have the same issues. Anna says, “It helped us feel less alone to know other couples had similar problems.”

"Sex wasn't what brought us together."

Sarah, 35, and married eight years, lost interest in sex after two years of marriage. “I think that’s common,” she says wryly… “After the honeymoon period things seem routine and boring… We were both relatively inexperienced when we got together. Sex was never the driving force that brought Josh and me together.”

In the ensuing three years the couple made love only a handful of times. One day, Sarah received a birthday gift from a friend — a package of sex toys to use both solo and with her husband. Sarah laughs, “I’d never used a vibrator before so I was intrigued.” She had an orgasm and thought, ‘Wow, maybe that part of me isn’t dead.”

When Josh came home that night she was wearing lingerie (“I dug it out from the back of a drawer") and had her ‘goodie bag’. “He was shocked but happy… very happy.” That night the two of them made up for lost time and resolved to not put sex on the back burner anymore. “We’ll never be sex maniacs but intimacy is part of our relationship again. And we’re both very happy about that.”

Sex doesn’t have to be the most important thing in your relationship but it’s important to make an effort to try new things together, shake things up — watch porn together, share fantasies, use sex toys, go away overnight for a romantic idyll.

“Going to a sex therapist was the best thing we ever did.”

“We stopped having sex after five years together because Dan was impotent a few times and I wasn’t sensitive and so he stopped wanting to even try,” Beth confessed in a rush. Now married 18 years, the 48-year-old says, “After nine years of pretty much nothing, I begged Dan, “Please do this with me. I don’t want to live the rest of my life without sex.”

Initially nervous the sex therapist would suggest having threesomes or cheating, the couple calmed down when they realized the sessions were about helping them communicate and giving them homework assignments — i.e., giving one other massages, role playing… Dan’s ED (erectile dysfunction) had given him strong performance anxiety, which shut him down totally. The sex therapist taught Dan to focus more on his body and worry less. And Beth learned how to be gentle and supportive.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and go to an expert. The rewards of being helped will more than outweigh the discomfort of admitting, “We can’t get through this alone.”

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