When the sex starts to fizzle away in your relationship, it can leave you with all kinds of questions.
Here are some common myths that pop up when the question, “Why do couples stop having sex?” is asked that might change your views about what your sexless relationship really means.
7 Myths Why Sex Stops in Long-Term Relationships
1. You’ve fallen out of love.
It’s easy to assume that if you’re in a good relationship having lots of sex and desire will come naturally, regardless of how many months or years have passed. People worry that they’ve fallen out of love if this isn’t the case. But this is a myth and not fact—let me explain.
Sex drive isn’t a biological urge like hunger or thirst—it’s an emotion affected by all sorts of things.
This means, before jumping to conclusions when you’re experiencing low or no sex drive, you’ll first want to assess a range of factors that might be causing disinterest in sex for you or your partner.
>> Biological and medical changes like a new hormonal contraceptive or chronic pain
>> Psychological changes like anxiety, depression, or feeling insecure about sex
>> Relationship changes like constant arguing or feeling emotionally distant
Understanding the complexities of desire will allow you to let go of the myth that not wanting sex equals not being in love with your partner anymore. Because it’s far more likely there are lots of things at play. And some of them might not even have to do with sex itself.
2. Your relationship is doomed.
Why do couples stop having sex? Some would tell you it’s because the relationship is over. And while it is true that a sexless relationship could mean the end—it’s also a bit of a myth.
For most of my clients, low sex drive isn’t a sign they should give things up—it’s actually a sign of a really solid commitment, one that’s worth fighting for.
In the beginning phases of a relationship, we often want lots of sex, all the time. We feel a lot of infatuation, and this dips from 6 months to 2.5 years, when we feel less excited and move into the attachment phase.
So, if your sex drive has plummeted after a couple of years, it’s actually more of a celebration than it is a warning sign.
What’s probably happened is that you’ve developed a level of solid attachment with your partner.
Does this mean you won’t ever want sex again? Nope—there’s lots you can do to regain your desire.
One of these is joining my online program Re.Desire—a carefully curated program that combines video lessons and exercises plus 1:1 support features to reduce pressure and stress surrounding sex, and increase desire, intimacy, and closeness.
3. No one has an active sex life while raising children.
There’s nothing like a baby throwing up all over you to dampen the romantic mood. However, children don’t have to mean the end of sex as you know it.
The attachment phase links to changes in sexual desire and so do children. Don’t worry though; lots of couples maintain their sex lives and work together to revive the romance in their relationships.
The first step is to work out whether sex is important to you right now. Because while sex can be hugely important—that doesn’t have to be the case for you.
Sometimes you simply don’t want to want sex.
Taking both of your preferences into account is key, instead of blindly believing the myth that no one has an active sex life when they have small children. Because that simply isn’t true.
4. Women don’t find sex pleasurable.
If I had a penny for every time someone told me women don’t really care about sex, I could probably retire.
The myth that women lose their sex drive in committed relationships actually stems partly from a historic shift.
Before the 1700s, we tended to regard both sexes as equally sexual, obscene, and immoral. In the 1800s, women’s desire started to be viewed as something obscene and sick. Women were regarded as morally superior in every way, which meant they obviously couldn’t want or desire sex.
The idea that women don’t really like sex or find it important is also based on a specific idea of sex: vaginal penetration.
Women in heterosexual relationships or marriages are often expected to orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. But this is not a common occurrence. Women and people with vulvas often need external clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm and really enjoy sex.
So while superficially it might seem that women just aren’t interested in sex, if you dig deeper, you’ll find they might not actually be disinterested in sex—just vaginal penetration. Add to that the pervasive ideas about female sexuality causing shame for other desires—and plummeting desire becomes less about being a woman and more about gendered ideas about sex negatively impacting libido.
5. Low sex drive comes with age.
The ageing process can do a number on lots of things health-wise—among them, our sexual health.
Changes in desire caused by menopause and increased erectile unpredictability are just some of the difficulties we may face. However, ageing doesn’t erase sexual desire or arousal. Believing this myth might, though.
I have worked with people of all ages in coaching and sex therapy, and one thing I’ve come to know is true is that no matter your age, sex is still important.
The belief that hitting a certain age equates to a sudden drop in libido is ageist and will leave you feeling like you should give up, when you definitely shouldn’t. Great sex is available to everyone, no matter how old you are.
6. Men need new sex partners to want sex.
Novelty is important for our sexual appetite. Having the same kinds of sex in the same ways for decades can definitely decrease desire. And in some ways, it is the perfect answer to the question: why do couples stop having sex?
However, a new partner isn’t actually required for men or people with penises in order to keep wanting sex.
In fact, if anything, the novelty of a new sex partner might be more important for women’s desire than men’s. According to Daniel Bergner’s breakthrough book, What Do Women Want?—women actually require sexual novelty more than men.
In fact, during my work as a sex coach and therapist, I’ve seen a difference between men and women with low desire, and men don’t seem to show boredom with their partners the same way that women do.
So, what does this mean for the future of a heterosexual long-term relationship? Not much if you don’t want it to. Desire lost can be regained. If you’re in it for the long haul, this is the one thing you must know about keeping your relationship alive. Without this belief, you run the risk of ending a perfectly good relationship.
7. Because it’s impossible to keep your sex life exciting after decades together.
This final myth may very well seem like fact, especially if this has been the case for you to date.
But just as laughs in long relationships don’t dry up, neither does sex—at least not if you put in consistent effort to fan the flame.
We often believe sex has to occur out of the blue, and that the same sex moves should excite us equally throughout life.
But the thing is, our sexuality is ever-changing.
We might really enjoy a particular kind of sex for years but then find that our enjoyment of it dwindles over time. When this happens, all we need to do is get curious about what we may like now.
Understanding that both your and your partner’s desires will shift can help keep things exciting—because it sparks curiosity.
Myths are harmful
Sex can be so simple at the beginning of our relationship yet become increasingly complicated as we grow together as a couple.
If you find yourself wondering, “Why do couples stop having sex?” you need to take a step back and consider all the myths you’ve been sold about sex.
Because more likely than not, your beliefs are causing more harm to your sex life than the length of your relationship, your sex, your age, or your stage of life are.