Sex

7 Common Myths About Why Couples Stop Having Sex

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couple playing around on the beach

Sex can be the glue that keeps you and your partner together.

And when that special kind of intimacy dips, it can have you questioning just about everything. You wonder if you're no longer attractive, if you're no longer sexy, and even if you're no longer in love. None of which are likely to be true.

What do sexless relationships actually mean?

Here are 7 common myths about why couples stop having sex.

Myth #1. You’ve fallen out of love.

We often believe the right relationship means lots of desire and sex, no matter how long we’ve been together. That if your desire plummets and you rarely feel like having sex it must mean you’ve fallen out of love.

But this is a myth and not fact.

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. 

For example, are there biological and medical changes, like a new hormonal contraceptive or chronic pain? Psychological changes like anxiety, depression, or feeling insecure about sex? Or relationship changes like constant arguing or feeling emotionally distant

Once you begin to understand how complex desire is, you’ll be able to let go of the myth that low desire equals love lost.

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.

Myth #2. Your relationship or marriage is doomed.

Some sexless couples would tell you it’s because the relationship is over. And while it's 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. This boils down to that crazy infatuation we feel.

But about six months to two or five years into a relationship, most experience a dip in butterflies and sex drive. We stop feeling as excited and grow into a new phase — the attachment phase. 

So, if your sex drive has plummeted after a couple of years, it’s actually more of a celebration than a warning sign. 

It just means you’ve reached that solid attachment that so many long for. The kind played out in rom-coms and on Netflix (albeit perhaps less dreamy than the stories would have us believe!).

Does this mean you won’t ever want sex again? Nope, there’s a lot you can do to regain your desire. 

Myth #3. No one has sex 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. 

Just as the attachment phase causes shifts in desire and our priorities - so do children. However, plenty of couples continue to have sex, or make a conscious decision to revive their romantic connection. 

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.

The trick here is basing your decision on your and your partner’s personal preferences, not a myth that stipulates no one has an active sex life during the child-rearing years. Because that simply isn’t true.

Myth #4. Because women don’t really enjoy sex 

If I had a penny for every time someone told me women don’t really care about sex - I could probably retire. 

The idea that women in committed relationships simply lose their libido altogether might seem like the perfect answer to the question: why do couples stop having sex - but it’s not. It’s a myth that 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 in actual fact, this is highly uncommon to do. Women and people with vulvas often need external clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm and really enjoy sex.  

So while it on the surface may seem women are uninterested in sex - you’ve got to ask yourself; are they really disinterested in sex altogether - or disinterested in vaginal penetrative sex? And could the pervasive ideas about female sexuality shame them for their desires, causing their desire to plummet? The answer on both accounts is likely, yes. 

Myth #5. Aging equals low libido

The ageing process can do a number on lots of things healthwise - 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.

Thinking it isn’t just ‘cause you’ve hit a certain number in the books, is an ageist belief - one that serves no one. One that leaves you feeling like you should give up, when you definitely shouldn't. Great sex is available to everyone, no matter how old you are.

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Myth #6. Men are biologically programmed to only want sex with new partners

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. 

Beyond the scientific facts, this is also something I’ve come to see in my work as a sex coach and therapist. The men I've seen who have low desire don't seem to be bored by their partners in the same way my female clients have been.

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 longhaul, 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.

Myth #7: 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. 

This means we might love one kind of sex for years, for it to become less exciting over time. When this happens all we need to do is get curious about what we may like now. 

Understanding 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.

Leigh Norén is a sex therapist and writer with a Master of Science in Sexology. She’s been featured in Women's Health, Thrive Global, The Good Men Project, Elephant Journal, Glamour, and more. For more advice on sex and relationships, visit her website. Her resource, The Desire Test, is available now.

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This article was originally published at LeighNoren.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.