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The Real Reasons Couples Stop Having Sex

New relationships are exciting, getting to know the person intellectually, emotionally and — let’s not forget — physically. At the beginning, you don’t have to deal with downers like meeting each other’s families and shared household expenses — you’re simply enjoying learning more about the other person.

But as we all know, that phase doesn’t last forever. Sure, you probably still have sex, but maybe not at the same frequency as when you first met. The thing is, that’s completely normal and not something to be too concerned about. But why, exactly, does it happen?

New research by DrEd (an online doctor service based in the U.K.), which involved surveying 1,000 men and women from both Europe and the United States, has some surprising answers. And to clarify, in this survey, “sex” wasn’t defined — it was left up to the person responding — and participants included all sexual orientations and identities.

More: These Things Could Be Behind Your Low Libido

What’s not surprising is that 71.5 percent of couples reported that one of the reasons they don’t have sex is being too tired. Around half of respondents said that work or being too busy in general also keeps them from hitting the sheets.

One aspect of sex that isn’t mentioned frequently is the impact of pain. In reality, it’s pretty significant, with 12.8 percent of people surveyed saying they avoid sex because of some sort of pain. Whether that’s pain directly resulting from penetrative intercourse — common for people who suffer from conditions like vulvodynia, vaginismus and vaginal atrophy — or other types of discomfort, like a bad back, knees or arthritis, knowing sex will hurt doesn’t exactly make it enticing.

Other people prefer sex with someone who knows exactly what they want — themselves. The survey found that 9.1 percent of couples don’t have sex because one or both partners prefer to masturbate instead. That’s completely understandable and more efficient, but also not a total deal-breaker because masturbation could be incorporated into sex with a partner relatively easily.

More: Masturbation Comes With Some Serious Health Benefits

But it isn’t all doom and gloom: There are also many reasons sex in a long-term relationship can be even more satisfying than with a new partner, including being able to be more open with each other about sexual desires and experimenting with new experiences. Better yet, the survey found that the more couples talked to each other about sex, the more sex they ended up having.

Communication really is key regardless of the stage of the relationship, and since it can lead to a more fulfilling sex life, you might as well get that conversation started now.

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