For years, we’ve heard about celebs who supposedly practice abstinence for one reason or another:
Justin Bieber before Hailey; the Jonas Brothers before they dropped their purity rings; and Jessica Simpson’s infamous vow of celibacy before her short-lived marriage. But what if you’re abstaining for a different reason altogether? Maybe you’ve met the right person, but simply aren’t attracted to them anymore. What now?
"Lack of attraction is a loaded dynamic," says
Susan Winter, a relationship expert and co-author of . "It’s a lot more complex than attraction to your partner’s physical appearance. It holds deep significance. There’s been a palpable shift in your relationship, and this is the outcome." Older Women, Younger Men: New Options for Love and Romance
For some, a lack of attraction can be a temporary phase — with or without a change in physical intimacy — but for others, it may mean
your heart isn't in the relationship anymore. Either way, it's time to reevaluate what's next for you and your partner. Four relationship experts talk us through potential paths forward. 1 Recognize The Gravity Of The Moment martin-dm/E+/Getty Images
It may be easier to hide your head in the sand than confront this feeling, but accepting it as truth is a necessary and likely long-overdue step. "Acknowledging a lack of attraction to your partner is a defining moment in a relationship," Winter says. "You didn’t get here by accident. Whether you’ve been aware of it or not, a constant erosion of your emotions has brought you to this point."
2 Ask Yourself How Important Sex Is To You
Sex isn’t a deal-breaker for everyone. "To some individuals, a rewarding sex life is the need and expectation of a committed relationship," Winter says. "To other individuals, it isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things. True, they’d prefer feeling excited by their partner, but the upheaval caused by
ending the relationship isn’t worth the price."
With that being said, there are many research-supported
benefits to sexual intimacy. “Regular sexual connection helps partners fortify their emotional attachment, reduce stress, exercise the cardiovascular system, and experience higher levels of oxytocin if they climax,” says Sari Cooper, a certified sex therapist and director of the Center for Love and Sex.
And regardless of how you view sex, take your partner’s needs into consideration as well.
3 Be Honest With Your Partner Jovan Doncic/E+/Getty Images It's important to be honest about your lack of attraction to your partner if you want to work through it together. (It will also help unburden you of the secret.) "Honest communication can assist you in releasing resentments," Winter says. "But you need a willing partner who can withstand listening to the ‘uncomfortable stuff’ you have to say. Honesty on this level requires two people headed toward the same outcome. Even though you may be willing to rectify this, you’ll need your partner on the same page."
Cooper agrees. “If [someone] can bring up their challenge without blaming their partner, but instead with an open-heartedness and willingness to improve the relationship, they can begin to create intimacy,” she says.
4 Discuss Both Of Your Sexual Turn-Ons Active listening is an important part of a relationship, both around the kitchen table and in the bedroom. Talk to your partner about what turns you on, and vice versa. It could be you’re not satisfying each other, which has led to a lack of libido. (And remember, your desire has a lot to do with your partner, but it has a lot to do with you, too.)
“I educate partners about John Bancroft and Erick Jannsen’s
Dual Control Model of Sexual [Response],” Cooper says. “It’s a system that measures an individual’s access to their own excitatory and inhibitory energies. I use this technique to notice when there are moments, even if they’re alone, when they feel a stirring of feeling turned on in their mind, or aroused in their body.”
Cooper also focuses on outside factors that could be
affecting someone’s libido. “I offer folks the opportunity to become more embodied and observe how high their stress or anxiety is throughout their day,” she says. You know that moment: After a long day at work, your partner comes by and squeezes your shoulders or rubs your lower back. Maybe they light a small fire — but then you remember your alarm is going off at 5 a.m. Fire squashed. 5 Try To Rekindle The Romance TwilightShow/E+/Getty Images
“Date your partner again,” recommends Julie Krafchick, the co-host and co-creator of the
“Oftentimes the magic is gone when we fall into routine life. Remember why you were attracted to them in the first place and recreate some of the experiences you had when you first met.” Date/able podcast. 6 Explore Whether This Is A Short-Lived Or Permanent Change
“Attraction is not a given thing. Attraction is created,” says Yue Xu, Krafchick’s co-host and co-creator of
Date/able. After all, relationships have their ups and downs, and it's during these swings that love and interest in your partner can shift. "Growing apart is a natural occurrence in long-term relationships," Winter adds. "But vibrant relationships find their couples growing back together again.” 7 Consider Couples Therapy PeopleImages/E+/Getty Images
While you may not be able to restart your attraction overnight, if you believe your relationship is worth saving, it's important to try every solution, which includes
"Going to a couples counselor or sex therapist together is a helpful move at this juncture," Winter says. "If you’ve got a lot that’s good in the relationship, now’s the time to work it out with your mate. And it’s the perfect opportunity to uncover the reasons you’re no longer attracted to [them].”
Stephen J. Betchen, a marriage and family therapist,
recommends individual appointments as well. “During this time, I inquire about their state of attraction and its history,” he writes for Psychology Today. “I ask if there is current physical attraction — and if it ever existed. I also ask detailed questions about each partner’s sexual activity, both past and present.”
Adds Winter, “Is this a question of you feeling uncomfortable with yourself? Is there an underlying issue in your relationship? These are things that will come to light with a good counselor."
Experts: Susan Winter, relationship expert and author Sari Cooper, LCSW, certified sex therapist and director of the Center for Love and Sex Julie Krafchick, co-host and co-creator of the Date/able podcast Yue Xu, co-host and co-creator of the Date/able podcast