The fact is, is that for most couples sex becomes less frequent the longer they stay together. Different couples have different responses to this phenomena. For some friendship is enough and neither person feels negatively impacted, for others the change in sexual patterns increases stress and conflict, and in worst case scenarios, a distance occurs that results in either infidelity, separation, or divorce.
While some couples find the situation more difficult than others, most wonder why the change has happened to them. They always promised to themselves and each other that they would not become on of “those” couples. Life is certainly partly responsible for this occurrence, when a couple has been together awhile they tend to have bigger things on their plate than they did during their early years. Buying a house, moving up the career ladder, and having children all impact the couples levels of stress. Higher stress means less sex. In addition, these big aspirations can be exhausting.
But theres another reason why sex decreases, and that is a lack of separation. When attachment grows a strange thing can happen. We can feel securer in some ways but less safe in others. A person might feel better about staying home on a week night, more comfortable leaving the house in their “crazy” hair, or leaving the door open when they pee. But simultaneously a deeper anxiety grows. The risk of loosing that person becomes more looming. We become aware that it will hurt bad if that person is gone. Our behaviors shift and change to protect us from this anxiety.
Even those in the most trusting relationships have to manage anxieties around loss, since death takes all of us at some point. Many people start to blend with their partner in an effort to control their anxieties of loss. They might not say what’s on their mind as frequently, they care more if their partner is angry, they compromise more on their needs, they try to avoid conflict, or they become more agreeable. Too many of these behaviors causes less psychological space, and in turn harms a couples sex life. In her book “Mating in Captivity”, Esther Perel discusses the animal instinctual drive needed to engage in sex. That to have passion, the couple must on some level must think solely about themselves and their own needs. They must be driven to want orgasim, and that orgasim itself is a very individual experience. That to keep sex in a relationship, each person must temporarily set aside the fact that they know their partner as well as they do.
Negotiating the balance between sexual individualism and the every day relationship walk of compromise is tricky. Couples must talk about how to reclaim the instinctual passion once lost. They must try to take risks with each other again and be conscious of when they are playing things too safe. They should prioritize doing things that create more psychological space. They must remember that while too much conflict in a relationship is destructive, a relationship needs some conflict in order to be alive, engaging, and sexual. They should notice if they are agreeing to things because its easier, if they are believing in their partners opinion rather than taking the time to develop their own, or if they need to build more tolerance to anger and conflict. So if you want more sex in your relationship, make more psychological space.