“Love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. We let go of phase, one aspect of love, and enter another. Passion dies and is brought back. Pain is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to embrace and at the same time withstand many ending, and many many beginnings – all in the same relationship.”- Women who run with the Wolves
Often, we need to look outside the bedroom to find out what’s causing the problems within the bedroom. And one of the issues you might be facing is a lack of warmth or affection between you and your partner.
Or likely, unresolved conflict.
I was really worried about considering that there might be a problem in my relationship.
I instantly panicked and went straight to the “OMG we’re going to have to break up” train of thought, so tried to ignore this part for ages and just focussed on myself. But, the more I thought about it, it’s really healthy to examine your relationship and whether it’s dampening your desire. After all, we can always improve.
So, if you recognise that their is a lack of affection, warmth, or distance between the two of you, I’ve compiled some tips below. Remember, there are experts that are able to help you resolve these issues through counselling. Check out the therapists registered by Respect or the Tavistock Clinic, or visit your GP/sexual health clinic for more support and information:
Step one: the relationship health check:
Pop the kettle on for this, and lets brainstorm how your relationship makes you feel.
I LOVE wellness wheels to understand more about myself and how I feel. It’s super geeky but I often do these for my life in general!
So, using a Blank Coaching Wheel, AKA the wheel of life, list out the 8 most important qualities you want to focus on within your relationship and write them within the spokes of the wheel. Some ideas include…
- Shared responsibilities
- Physical affection
- Roles and responsibilities
- Spontaneous fun
Then give each category a number out of ten on how satisfied you feel, and mark it on the wheel. 1 is the lowest (the center of the circle) and 10 is the highest (the outside of the circle). Then you draw a line to connect each of the marks together to create a rough circle. The idea is that if every part of your relationship is fabulous, you’ll have a full circle (who are these people?!). Most people will have a blob shape, with some parts that they feel more or less satisfied on.
I really love it presented visually infront of me like this and hope you find it helpful too. How does your relationship look? For me, conflict was the complete disaster, along with lots of needs around fun and sex/intimacy- as I thought would be the case! You can use this wheel to guide where you need to go next with repairing your relationship.
Step two: Reflection time.
I found it helpful to ask myself a series of quite difficult questions about our relationship, some of which were really scary to consider. And many of the answers were quite negative despite knowing that I did want to be with my partner, which I found worrying at the time but I believe point you towards where you need to go. So, try honestly asking yourself:
- Do you feel close to your partner?
- Do you have warm feelings towards them?
- Do you FEEL in love?
- Has your interaction changed since the beginning of your relationship?
- Are you happy? If not, what needs to change?
- If past you, the newly in love one, saw how you interacted now, would she be happy with how you are?
- Do you recognise any of these signs of being taken for granted?
It’s really important to consider your relationship and how satisfied you feel within it. Although it feels scary to address the problems, it also means that you’re willing to put in the work for your relationship which takes courage. This exercise left me with a much clearer idea about how we could get our relationship back to a good place. How about you?
Step three: Conflict Resolution
The first thing that I looked at was conflict resolution, and I think this is key to a healthy relationship and sex life.
For me, I realised that over time, unresolved conflict was simmering away in the background and this had created distance between the two of us that was chipping away at my sex drive.
Mainly, I just didn’t want to have sex because it meant opening myself up in an intimate way to my boyfriend. And because I felt a constant, background hum of pissed-off-ness off at him, this was such a turn off!
For many women, unresolved conflict and open wounds can leave them feeling as though they don’t want to make themselves vulnerable and can’t feel close to their partner or want to have sex with them. it’s like pouring cold water over your desire!
Often, conflict resolution centres around how good your communication is when issues arise. The great news is- it’s a skill that can be taught!
Let’s think about what happens when you argue.
- Are there patterns to your fights?
- Do you feel understood by him/him when you fight?
- Are you happy with the way you resolve conflict?
- Can you express yourself fully and feel heard in return?
For me, I noticed that I became really defensive when we were arguing, and that I clam up, hear what I want to hear, and need processing time (aka sulking) whilst I think through how I feel and what I want. Meanwhile, he is shouty and angry straight away, then stays moody for a while before the clouds clear completely. It’s like ice and fire, chalk and cheese, so we need to learn to understand ourselves as well as respect each others conflict styles.
I found that the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when the stakes are high (2002) is a great resource that really goes into depth about the HOW of communication. There are tips and tricks for any communication style in how to talk to others. I’d recommend getting the book as an excellent place to start.
There’s also some specifics that might need to be addressed.
For anything around betrayal/hurt/affairs, check out the amazing work of Esther Perel.
Resentment is also a very specific issue in a relationship, so find out more on why that impacts on desire here.
Interestingly, for many couples they find a gendered pattern- he wants to have sex to feel close, she wants to feel close and then have sex. So there’s often a no-mans land aspect to a low sex drive, in which unresolved conflict is the impasse and you become stuck in a loop. Read more about this issue here.
Step four: Getting to know each other again (AGAIN):
This bit’s fun. Trust.
Sure it’s cheesy- are you blue, green, red or yellow? But it’ll give you something to do, help you reflect on your conflict styles, and might also open up some really great areas to talk about.
Another quiz (who doesn’t love quizzes!) is the 16 personalities Myers Briggs test. Get some wine, a takeaway and do it together like we did. We also talked loads about our results- what makes us similar? What makes us different?
Step five: We need to talk:
If one of you has been experiencing a low sex drive, I’m willing to put money on it that its also begun driving a wedge between you. Feelings of shame, rejection, unwantedness, attraction, frustration aboud. Not a good mix.
Understanding that it’s time to open up the channels of communication and stop being embarassed about it is a HUGE step in beginning to understand each other and how this issue is affecting you. BOTH of you.
Often it’s the shame that clams us up, so try watching this TED talk by Brene Brown about the power of vulnerability. Opening up might just be the thing that brings you closer together.
Find out more on how to talk to your partner about a low sex drive here.
Step six: Maintain a united front
Use “The work” worksheets. I only discovered these recently and I’m yet to do them with the boyf, but he’s going to be subjected to this (whether he likes it or not!). These are worksheets that help you stop “judging thy neighbour”- aka encouraging you to empathise a bit more with your partners (often stupid) opinion. So far, they’re actually quite good!
Step Seven: Spend quality time together, don’t focus on sex but rather why you fell in love in the first place
I feel like the rest ain’t rocket science ladies.
The way to get back your connection is think about what you used to do together to just enjoy each other? A really key part of this for me was how I could reconnect to the person that my partner is and see his good points? (When drunk haha) I wrote a list of all the reasons why I like and love him. I held so much resentment towards him, and the aim was to melt that big iceberg inside and to remembering why we’re together in the first place. The warm feelings that came after the big thaw were really powerful ones, and I really felt so much love and appreciation towards him that I hadn’t felt in a while.
So why not plan a date together? Write a list of what you love about them? Do a random act of kindness for them? It’s about thawing out the anger and annoyance and bringing back the lurrrve. And however you do that, good luck. Getting back a sense of closeness is so rewarding and can be the first step to picking up where you left off sexually.
Now everyone is different so you might not feel like all of these are the best fit for you. If not, don’t give up hope and keep searching or maybe share below what has helped you reconnect to your partner?