“Not Tonight Dear, I Have a Headache”

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4 ways to save your sexless marriage

If you hear “I’m not in the mood” more than you hear “come hither” whispers from your spouse, you may be among the many couples living in a sexless marriage. When couples aren’’t connecting intimately, marriages suffer because ignoring each other’’s physical and emotional needs is not how to make a marriage last. If this common marriage problem sounds familiar, read on to find out how to turn your chaste union into a nonstop spicy soiréée……Once a month? Once a week? Every night?

How often must you have sex with your spouse to have what’’s considered a healthy love life?There’’s no set number. However, experts define a sexless marriage as one in which couples make love no more than 10 times a year.A 2003 Newsweek magazine study concluded that between 15% and 20% of couples fall into this category. That’’s enough for experts to label it an epidemic.

Sex isn’’t the ultimate litmus test of a loving relationship, but physical intimacy is a vital way to stay emotionally connected with each other. Besides, it’’s fun! Touch is therapeutic, especially when it’’s given or received regularly.Spending time together between the sheets can also be a great stress-reliever. And don’’t forget about the body-sculpting benefits of sex exercise.

Women aren’t the only ones who use ““I’’m not in the mood”” to avoid sex, but we do fall back on the clichéé more often than men do. Another common excuse? Turning him down because we’’re too tired. Getting some shut-eye often sounds better than getting some action (even though a feel-good orgasm can make drifting off to sleep a lot easier).Biological changes, too, may sap your libido.

Your hormone levels can shift dramatically due to things like childbirth, menopause and depression (antidepressants often affect sex drive).

One study found that 30%-50% of women and 20%- 30% of men reported having little to no sex drive. At least part of that statistic likely stems from hormonal issues.But that’’s not the only reason you’’re refusing. Unresolved emotional issues are at the root of many sexless marriages. Resentment, unexpressed anger and hurt feelings often lead women to withhold sex. Maybe you’’re too upset with him to let him touch you. Maybe you’’re hoping that rejecting him sexually will send a message that you either can’’t bring yourself to say or can’’t seem to get across no matter how often you say it.

Maybe you’’re simply punishing him. (See related articleSay, for example, you feel taken for granted because your husband doesn’’t help around the house. You think ““If he isn’’t doing something for me, why should I have sex with him?”” (Memo to guys: A recent University of Washington study found that men who help with the housework have more active sex lives with their wives than their dishtowel-shunning brethren. Need more incentive? A 2003 University of California study found that women are not only more sexually receptive to men who help clean up at home, they’’re actually more physically attracted to them.)
If you withhold sex long enough, eventually you’’ll both get used to the lack of it and will stop trying to initiate it.Usually, both partners end up feeling neglected and resentful:

“She never wants to sleep with me anymore!”

“He doesn’’t care enough about me anymore to ask why I’’m too angry to sleep with him!”If left unresolved, such problems set the stage for divorce or affairs. (You’’re not getting the affection and intimacy you crave from your spouse, so you seek it elsewhere.) That alone proves how important sex is to a marriage.Now, here’s the good news: You can rekindle the intimacy you once enjoyed.Start by following these three rules:

1. Stop the Blame Game

Hormone-triggered mood swings aside, the first step to salvaging your sex life is to stop blaming each other. Resolve together to get to the real root of the problem and to fix it.Hectic schedule getting in the way? Reassess your priorities.Odds are, you’re putting less important items ahead of sex with your spouse. (If you’’ve ever seen him giving you “the look” and told him, “I’ll come to bed right after I fold this laundry, make the kids’’ lunch for tomorrow and take out the recycling,” you’re guilty.)Why reserve a roll in the hay for only those occasions when you’’ve got extra time or energy? Scrap the insignificant stuff and make sex a part of your schedule. (It looks a lot more fun on your to-do list than “buy cat litter” or “balance checkbook”!)

2. Talk It Out

If you’’re in agony over the abstinence, stop silently hoping things will work themselves out. Communication is key in any healthy relationship. And since you’’ve already gone all the way with your husband (presumably many times), sex shouldn’’t be an off-limits topic.Get over your embarrassment already and talk to your partner about his perception of the problem. Which of his needs are not being met? Be open, honest and sensitive to his feelings, and try not to get defensive. Urge him to approach the conversation with the same constructive attitude.

3. Enlist a Pro’s Help

If you need help communicating, consider individual therapy or couples counseling. You may have already given having more sex an honest go, but to no avail. And that’’s probably because the real root of the problem wasn’’t properly addressed –– by either one or both of you.

A therapist can help you articulate what you might not be able to, including emotional problems within your relationship, resentment or unexpressed anger, or any hang-ups about sex that may stem from your past. He or she can give you a fresh perspective and send you on your way with new solutions to save your sexless marriage. (Financial worries turning you off?

You might also talk to your doctor if you can’’t pinpoint why you’’re never in the mood. Health issues may be responsible for a low sex drive or nonexistent libido, not your partner or a hectic schedule. Some culprits include menopause, certain medications like birth control pills or antidepressants, or depression itself. If you’ve recently given birth and are breastfeeding, the hormone prolactin, combined with other hormonal changes, can also affect your libido. Talk to your doctor about your options.

4. Take Action

Once you’ve talked things through, stop analyzing the emotional issues and start resolving them physically. Translation: Get in the bedroom.
And don’t wait until you feel “in the mood.”

Unfortunately, modern life is filled with more 10-hour workdays and tiring nights with the kids than candlelit dinners and bubble baths for two. All the more reason for you and your hubby to enjoy a happy, healthy release for all that stress.Initiate sex –– or even just physical contact like hand holding or hugging –– every day until you get back on track.But don’’t simply go through the motions. Tune in to your body and his, and focus on enjoying the intimacy.Who says married couples have to go from sizzling honeymoon stage to fizzling Honeymooners scene?Take a moment to remember how exciting your love life was in those first few years of marriage. It should remind you that it’’s worth working at to recapture the magic.

No matter how long you’’ve been married or how busy your life has become, it’’s never too late to reignite your passion for each other.But, like all good things in life, it takes a little effort. Recommit to making sex a priority. You’’ll give you and your spouse a happier, healthier life together.

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