How Can We Get Back to How it Used to Be?

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Reader’s Question

My fiancé and I have been together for nearly two years. We started out as a long distance relationship, so sex was often infrequent, but when we did see each other we would do it a few times a day. He moved closer to me about a year ago, and our sex life remained satisfying and happy. He moved in with me three months ago and started school full time. Since then his libido has been rapidly decreasing: we only have sex a few times a month, and it is usually me who has to initiate.

He knows there is a problem, but he hasn’t done anything to try to fix it. He says it has absolutely nothing to do with me, that he just has other things on his mind and that he just can’t seem to get “in the mood”. I believe this, even though it’s hard at times, and I end up feeling rejected and terrible.

I want to be supportive and understanding, but there has to be something that can be done, to get back to how it used to be, or at least close to how it used to be. I’m just wondering what I can do to try and help him regain some of his lost libido. When we do have sex it’s fantastic, and everything else in our relationship is awesome. It’s just the sex part that has been lacking lately. If you could offer me some suggestions it would be greatly appreciated because I’m getting desperate.

Psychologist’s Reply

This is a very sensitive issue because you report that you are both very happy in every way except for the frequency of sex. When he says he has other things on his mind, do you know what those things are? Are you able to talk about those things and give them the attention they are obviously demanding? Do you agree that those distractions are serious and warrant the level of concern your fiancé is giving them?

The answers to these questions will determine how you might respond to the problem. After all, this is a common problem and a common disappointment in marriages. Men are often disappointed by sex after their children are born and the mother devotes more of her time and attention to baby instead of husband (not to mention the hormonal changes). Women often complain about men getting ‘cold feet’ before the wedding as they hesitate about committing to the relationship. And then there are life-issues that upset both partners: work related issues, in-laws, etc., that interfere with the fantasy of how you wish things would be.

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Although this is a very serious problem for you both, it is not necessarily relationship-threatening. So here are a couple of things you could try.

There are a number of couples workshops available that can help you both get away from it all and refocus on yourselves. (See my book Of Sound Mind to Marry [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK] for possible referrals.) A retreat like this can serve you in a couple of ways. First, since he has other things on his mind, you can separate yourselves from external stressors and put yourselves front and center. Second, you can accelerate this healing process and treat this desperation that you’re feeling. I think this is very, very important. When you address your stress, you respect yourself and your relationship. That is how a relationship survives.

Although these retreats are inexpensive, they can still be too taxing for some people. If that is the case, then try your best to do-it-yourself. Get away for the weekend by unplugging the phone and telling everyone that you left town. Plan intimate time, including time to focus directly on the ‘other things on his mind’. Ask each other how often you really want sex. Find out if your expectations are in sync. Reassure yourselves that the problems of one are the problems of you both, and you can face them together. When a couple can come together to face adversity, then relationships blossom.

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