If you’ve been in the dating game for a couple of years, your drug of choice may be the rush of oxytocin to your brain when you’re in the throes of an exciting new relationship. But like any chemical substance, once you get too used to it over the course of time, the thrill will lessen and the once-hot-and-heavy relationship will slowly cool off. And after the love drug dissipates, you may discover that you're not having as much sex as you used to and maybe you don’t have as similar sexual appetites as you thought, landing you into a reluctant, unsatisfying sex rut.
But once the sex slows to the point of it becoming almost a rarity, how much of a warning sign is this for things to come for your relationship? I talked with Eric Marlowe Garrison, sex and relationship counselor, and author of the book Mastering Multiple Position Sex, to get a little more perspective on understanding sex ruts and the ways in which we can respectfully navigate out of them. Garrison tells Bustle:
“A relationship is like a bicycle, when one of the wheels is flat, it will still go, but not well. Even if only one partner is in that sex rut, it's going to affect the relationship sexually. When you need something that your partner doesn’t need, it's difficult to understand why they don't need it.”
A sex rut can stem from a lot of outside factors, but it's the fear of the unknown when we don’t communicate with our partner during this time that pushes a resolution off further and further. If the rut is viewed impassively as the inevitable thing that happens once a relationship fizzles, we could be missing out on working through a much deeper sexual understanding of ourselves and our partner. “We don't want fear to be the guiding force of our life. If the bones of the relationship are good, you can ride the ups and downs of your relationship once you’re out of that honeymoon phase,” Garrison says.
Here are a few ways that Garrison recommends opening the conversation with your partner to try getting yourselves out of your sex rut:
Optimize, Not Maximize The Pleasure
There is an awful lot of pressure around sex, even in an established long-term relationship. When you and your partner have had so many mind-blowing experiences in bed, going through a period of lackluster sex can seem like something’s gone horribly wrong. Garrison says, “Sex should be about pleasure, not about orgasms.”
Try taking the focus off of getting off, and pay more attention to having satisfying “outercourse” to recalibrate your sex drives. “Sometimes you do need to go on a sex fast. You can focus on non-penetrative things like showering together or massage, and that will start to build up some anticipation for sex,” he says.
Be Direct About Your Needs
What is it that you really want? Would it scare you to say it out loud to your partner? To get rid of the fear of the unknown while you’re going through a sex rut, your partner needs to hear all of what’s missing from the relationship directly from you.
"Take one day a week, and sit down with each other, and say, ‘I need less of this, I need more of that.’ Go through your own list before they go through theirs, so you're not attacking their points. This helps get to the nitty-gritty of what's going on,” he says. These relationship check-ins don’t always have to be heavy conversations. Once you and your partner are more comfortable talking about where your “needs” line up, you can start making sure that they are addressed, and possibly even lead your discussions into a bit of foreplay.
Go with Option C
If you think that relationships are built on compromise, you may need to rethink that. "Getting out of the sex rut is not about compromising. That doesn’t solve the problem. If what you want and what your partner wants are not the same, there’s always an Option C.”
Letting your partner get their way when you are still unhappy with the situation, builds resentment and can further damage the relationship. You shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells with the person that you love, it’s about finding the third option where nobody misses out and everybody wins.
When The Sex Rut Means It's Over
The sex rut alone should not be the cause of the relationship falling apart. If there is love and affection still there, then there is a way to get back to a happy, stable place together once again. However, if someone’s actions are hindering the relationship, it may be a sign that the relationship needs to end. “If your partner cheats in a moment of passion, that's actually easy to remedy,” Garrison says. “It’s not always easy to forgive, but it can wake them up and make them realize how much they need you. However, if it was an emotional cheat, where they’ve been cultivating a happy relationship with someone else without telling you, that's when you need to reevaluate why you’re still together.”
Falling apart lovingly is about being compassionate, empathetic, and leaving each other in better condition than how you first found them. But it’s also about going through every possible option before it gets to that point. As Garrison says, “Look at the big picture in the relationship, not just the lack of sex. The hard and right thing may be to stay together.”
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