How To Overcome Intimacy Issues In Your Relationship If The Sex Isn’t What It Used To Be

Ashley Batz for Bustle

There’s a lot of advice out there about rekindling the flame in a long-term relationship. But how do you tell your partner that the flame isn’t there anymore for you? Improving your sex life isn’t something you do alone, and if you want a better sexual connection, you’ll have to start off by talking and building the emotional connection. It’s a delicate conversation, because you don’t want your partner to feel at fault for your declining sex life — you want to work through it as a team. But with the right wording, you can do that.

“Why does the sex life decline in the first place? It's because we get comfortable settled into a regular routine,” Mayla Green, sex coach for TheAdultToyShop.com, tells Bustle. “Humans naturally form regular patterns — we are creatures of habit after all — and our sex life is no different. Unfortunately, this affects the sex life and it becomes boring.”

The boredom that may set in as your relationship goes on, though, is just an invitation to try new things. If you’re not as satisfied with your sex life as you used to be, here are some ways to broach the subject with your partner.

1. Ask Them How They Feel

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Dr. Jane Greer, New York-based psychotherapist, sex expert, and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, tells Bustle to first ask your partner if they've noticed a change in your sex life. Ask if they find your sex life as active and fun as it used to be, she says. Express how much you enjoyed when you were having sex more often or were more into it, and ask if they'd like to get back into that rhythm.

2. Ask What's Getting In The Way

Next, ask your partner why they think you're not enjoying sex as much anymore. If they don't want to get back into the rhythm, ask why. For example, they may be experiencing a decline in sex drive (which could come from many things like hormonal imbalances, stress, insecurity, medications and nutritional deficiencies), so you could work on that, Greer says. Or, you may not be doing what's necessary to turn them on. "Talk about how you can address these issues together and move past them," Greer says.

3. Avoid Accusations

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Even if the issue is that your partner doesn’t do what they used to, you don’t want to tell them, “You never do X anymore. It can be taken as blaming the problem on them,” Green says. Then, they may get defensive and be less open to taking your feedback. “Approach the topic from a neutral position, as if the problem is both of yours equally,” Green says. You can do this by saying, “I notice we’re not keeping up with our old routine and usual rendezvous time, and I was wondering if you’ve noticed the same thing and what we might do to change it,” says Greer.

4. Focus On The Future

Instead of expressing discontent over how your sex life is now or regret that it isn’t the way it was before, state how you would like it to change in the future. Green recommends something like, "I feel like we could improve our sex life by trying new things together.”

It's best to have this conversation at a neutral time like a meal, says Greer — definitely not when you've been drinking or just had sex. "Avoid blaming or being critical," she says. "Stay away from phrases like 'you never' and 'you always,' and don’t say things like, 'Why can’t you do this?' or 'I don’t like it when you do that.' Instead, put it in terms of what you would like to be different or what you enjoy and would like more of."

5. Brainstorm Ideas To Try

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Greer recommends playing a game where you each suggest one new thing you’d like to try in bed. “Talk it out over dinner at home,” she says. Stumped? One idea to bring up is to have sex in a different room of the house than usual. “It's amazing how something as simple as a change of setting creates a feeling of excitement,” says Green. Other new things you can try include sex during a different time of day than usual, role playing, toys, lingerie, and new positions, according to Greer.

6. Tell Them What You’ve Liked In The Past

“Re-living the exciting sex from your courting period brings back nostalgic memories that are emotionally exciting,” says Green. Plus, telling them how much you liked something they used to do will instill confidence that they can please you again. Tread carefully if you're discussing things you liked with past partners — Greer recommends avoiding mentions of other people and instead just saying “This could be fun” or “I would enjoy it if we tried this.”

7. Bring In Toys

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When all else fails, new toys can always add excitement to the bedroom. Green recommends going shopping together for toys or lingerie. The new products might spark new ideas for what to try together in bed. If you're concerned that toys will make your partner uncomfortable, you can bring them up by saying something playful and low-pressure, like “I had a great idea about how we could have more fun” or “I was thinking this could really spice things up from our usual routine,” says Greer.

If you use your declining sex life to start a conversation, it has the potential to bring you two even closer, says Greer. "Having a longer conversation can lead to a solution you’re both happy with."