Written By: Somatic Sexologist and Sex Coach Alice Child
Sex is supposed to be fun, intimate and most importantly pleasurable for all involved. After all, it's where we can be most playful, authentic and connected with our partners.
However, it’s very easy to fall into sexual ruts and end up feeling like sex is a chore. Many people in long-term relationships stop desiring or prioritizing sex, which can lead to disconnection or even resentment within the relationship. This change in desire can make someone feel like the relationship is failing, that they no longer have what they once had, or that they are no longer capable of feeling pleasure the way they used to.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to help rekindle desire, arousal and connection, injecting more pleasure into a relationship. This can also be extremely fun and rewarding, especially when approached with a curious and excited mindset. Not to mention, couples who confront the challenges of maintaining passion are more likely to thrive.
Here are 8 reasons why sex might begin to feel like a chore along with practical tips and techniques to help keep the sexual spark alive.
1. Sex becomes a habit, leading to less pleasure
One of the most common reasons sex starts to feel boring is because we fall into sexual habits or routines. Sex therapist, researcher and psychologist Jack Morin says that:
“Attraction plus obstacles leads to excitement.”
He theorized that humans need some form of tension or novelty for sex to feel exciting. These sexual habits also form pathways in our nervous system that become more and more embedded. Unless we change things up, over time we might experience reduced sensations, less powerful orgasms, difficulty building arousal, and many other sexual concerns. Our tried and tested sex positions and routines might feel great at the start of a relationship but switching things up and continuing to explore are vital for keeping pleasure and excitement alive long term.
How to change sex becoming a habit
Trying new things is imperative for keeping sex exciting, from sex toys to kinky sex ideas, sex games to creative date nights. Try writing a ‘yes’ ‘no’ and ‘maybe’ list for you and your partner to compare. In the ‘yes’ column, write all the sexual activities that you find exciting. In the ‘no’ list write anything you know you don’t want to try - these are your boundaries. In the ‘maybe’ column write out the things you are curious about. These might become a ‘yes’ or they might become a ‘no’ further down the line, but they will always require some form of communication or conversation together beforehand. When comparing lists with your partner, talk about the activities you are most curious about exploring. Remember, when trying something new during sex it’s okay to laugh, make mistakes, and for things to feel a little awkward or uncomfortable. Embrace the experience you’re sharing with your partner.
2. Mismatched libidos
If one partner has a consistently higher sex drive (libido) that the other, over time this mismatch in desire might lead to feelings of disconnection. Mismatched sex drives in a relationship can feel like a bit of a balancing act. The partner who has a higher desire might experience feelings of shame, rejection, resentment when their sexual needs are not being met. The partner who has a lower libido might experience feelings of guilt, shame, or feel pressured into having sex. Unless couples actively practice open and honest communication where the desires and boundaries of both partners are acknowledged and respected, this could lead to sex becoming a topic of frustration or pressure.
How to navigate sex drive differences
Navigating sex drive differences begins with communication. It’s important to identify if there are any reasons or causes behind mismatched libidos, such as prescription medication, illness, trauma, etc., and talk to your partner about ways to reconcile these differences. Sometimes that reconciliation will involve compromise, like finding different ways to feel sexually fulfilled. Focusing on other sexual activities like mutual masturbation, oral sex, or erotic massage can help increase pleasure and teach your partner other ways to please you and get you in the mood. Other times, where the partner with a lower sex drive doesn’t want to physically engage in sex, there are non-penetrative or physical ways to fulfill each other. Watching your partner masturbate or using a vibrator on them can help deepen the intimacy and alleviate sexual frustration in times where one of the partners is not in the mood.
3. Different sexual styles
We each have sex for different emotional, physical, mental and even spiritual reasons, and express ourselves sexually in different ways. What feels amazing and exciting for one person might feel boring and unpleasurable for someone else. These different types of sexual expression are what sex researchers and educators refer to as ‘sexual styles’. If two people in a relationship have different sexual styles (and don’t know it!), over time they might feel disconnected and unsatisfied with their misaligned sex life.
How to connect with different sexual styles
Variety is the spice of life and can actually benefit your relationship if you’re both on the same page. Getting on the same page requires understanding each other’s love languages and developing a willingness to try new things.
Remove the cone of silence that often surrounds sex, and create a safe, positive and shame-free environment to talk openly about preferences, likes, and dislikes with your partner. A judgement-free space will make it easier to have these conversations about pleasure. Identify what factors might be contributing to your sexual differences. Practice being clear about your desires and boundaries before and during sex. Have a conversation afterwards about what you enjoyed and what you are curious to try next time.
At first, all this new communication might feel a bit clunky and awkward - and that’s okay! With time and practice, it will get much easier and you’ll soon discover that more conversation leads to more exploration, and much more pleasure!
4. Negative sexual experiences
A variety of things can lead to negative sexual experiences including painful sex, bad sex education, sexual shame, sexual abuse, unhealthy past relationships, a lack of knowledge of our own bodies - the list is endless. If you don’t have a positive relationship with sex or have negative associations with it, it's hard to derive pleasure from the act. Sex may end up feeling like something that just ‘has to be done’, or worse, something to avoid completely. In order to have great sex, we need to learn how to listen to our bodies, discover what we like, how to ask for it, and how to confidently give and receive pleasure.
How to overcome negative past experiences
As self-sufficient as we are, some past experiences require a helping hand to overcome. Sometimes we have mental blocks that don’t allow us to see certain biases or patterns we unconsciously perpetuate. Sexologists, sex therapists, and sex educators help people navigate their sexual journeys to achieve a healthy, happy sex life - whatever that means for them. This includes teaching people about the science and psychology of sex, developing practical skills such as communication, and exercises to help keep sex pleasurable, fun and connective.
5. Lack of comprehensive sex education
Many adults didn’t receive comprehensive sex education in school, if at all, which means there are significant gaps in knowledge on topics that have a direct impact on sexual desire and sexual fulfillment. Many people still don’t know where the clitoris is. And then we wonder why there is an orgasm gap! From pleasure anatomy to sexual communication, understanding consent or changes in arousal and desire - there are many aspects of sex education that without the knowledge can leave us finding sex unfulfilling and as a result... tedious.
How to educate yourself on all things sex
Learn as much as you can about sex, pleasure and bodies. Find the resources that work for you, whether that’s podcasts, books, online courses, workshops or seeing an expert. Surround yourself with expert-led, sex-positive, body-positive, up to date education, and challenge your own assumptions and beliefs that might be holding you back. Plus, this pursuit of knowledge is likely the most exciting education you’ve ever received.
6. Time pressures
The modern couple is performing quite the balancing act between work, children, family obligations etc. Sex can become deprioritized and suddenly feel like another task on an already long list of to-dos. After all, it’s hard to feel sexy when there are children screaming in the other room or a million things that need your attention.
How to balance sex with time restrictions
Just like you have to set aside time for your daily workout, you have to do the same for your sexual wellness and pleasure. If we don’t plan it, we don’t always do it. Although ‘scheduling sex’ might sound unsexy, it can actually lead to a lot of anticipation and build up, which is a huge aphrodisiac!
Stress is a huge mood killer. When we are stressed, whether inside or outside the bedroom, our body releases cortisol. This is a hormone that inhibits our sex drive and sexual responses. Stress from all areas of our lives carries over into the bedroom. For instance, if we are continually stressed at work, it can start to impact our sex life.
How to combat the mood-killer stress
Stress is one of those inevitabilities in everyone’s life. The good news is sex and physical affection are natural stress-relievers (oh, the irony). While we might not always be in the mood for sex at the start, if we are open to receiving physical stimulation from our partners, we can get into the mood. Not all sex has to involve penetration or orgasm as the end goal. Remove the goal of orgasm and instead bring a mindset of curiosity and exploration to the bedroom. With the looming pressure of orgasm out of the way, you might be surprised to see what new things you discover, like the power of a hug. Cuddling has numerous health benefits. Just your partner’s warm hands gently holding you and caressing your back can release ‘the love hormones’ aka, oxytocin and serotonin in our bodies, which relaxes us and helps foster closer connection with our partners.
8. Sexual Pain or Disorders
It’s frustrating when the parts of our bodies that are supposed to bring pleasure don’t, or even cause pain. While the term disorder sounds intimidating, it’s nothing to be ashamed about. Sexual difficulties are a normal part of sexual health with 43% of women and 31% of men experiencing some form during their lifetime. Sexual difficulties include things like erectile dysfunction, arousal disorder, premature ejaculation, and pelvic pain. While treatable, they can certainly put a damper on your sex life and make the act seem more laborious than pleasurable.
How to address sexual pain or disorders
Sex should never be painful. Pain is our body's way of telling us something is wrong. If sex is painful, consult a doctor or licensed healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis, as everyone’s situation will be different. Once you’ve identified the problem, you can start to implement solutions, whether that involves prescription medication, different therapies, or medical devices.
In certain circumstances, there are medical devices designed to alleviate sexual disorders while elevating pleasure. For instance, cock rings or a wearable male vibrator can help with erectile dysfunction and be an alternative to prescription medication. Pelvic pain is a common reason women experience painful sex, and products such as pelvic wands, dilators, and a bendable vibrator like Crescendo 2 can help alleviate this pain. A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine showed that Crescendo 2 was highly effective in alleviating pain in women suffering from genito-pelvic pain and penetration disorder (GPPPD). However, you should always consult a doctor first and foremost.
Despite our best intentions, relationships aren’t immune to the stressors of life and monotony of routine. If sex feels like a chore, remember that’s a normal part of any relationship. Besides, now you’re armed with 8 sensational ways to change sex from boring to breathtaking.