5 Things Strong Couples Do To Stay Connected During A “No Sex” Phase

While many couples start out hot and heavy at the beginning of their relationship, there may come a time when it all comes to a crashing halt. In fact, it's almost inevitable that your sex life will go through lulls (yes, multiple, if you're together long enough) but that knowledge doesn't make it any less jarring when you realize it's happening. And beyond that, it's totally normal to not really know how to fix a dry spell in a relationship. Suddenly the long weekends of having marathon sex like bunnies turn into long weekends of Netflix and actually just chill. Or you both just get so busy dealing with the hustle and bustle of life — making deadlines, working overtime, and adulting like mad — that you start losing all that time you normally set aside for each other. And if you have kids, it often also means that your futile attempts at sexy time just get immediately blocked by your adorable but rather frustrating new form of birth control: the screaming baby.

Then there are other reasons you might not be having sex for a time. Hormonal changes, including those caused by birth control, might make you feel less than frisky. Or depression may hit you or your partner and cause libidos to all but vanish. In my case, I went through an awfully long, doctor mandated “no sex” phase during my second pregnancy. My OB/GYN called it “pelvic rest” but I called it simply “hell.” Before then, I was quite an avid fan of all things under the sheets. But afterward, I was forced to pretend I didn’t care. For six excruciatingly long months, which got extended further thanks to a pretty traumatic childbirth experience, I dealt with my new sexless reality. I often wondered how the hell my husband got by, but we did do lots of other things to try and keep the romance alive. Nowadays, we’re back in swing of things, but that didn't happen without a bit of work (I mean, we still have a toddler in our midst who would prefer all attention were on him).

For any of you currently going through a sex drought, fear not. Whatever the reason, there is plenty to do in the meantime to keep your relationship solid until you’re finally able to do the deed once (twice, three times) more. Here are some things the strongest couples know to do even (especially) when they're going through a sex-free phase.

Go Out Of Their Way To Stay Affectionate

Sex can be the ultimate form of affection. But when it’s gone, does that mean any other physical expression of love and caring is also gone from your relationship? There’s plenty you can do to keep showing your partner you care for them and are attracted to them while enduring a “no sex” phase. When your partner (or you) comes home from a long day out, greet them with a hug and kiss. Maybe even make it a nice, long kiss. Hell, if you’re feeling it, you can even make out a little. Hold hands, if only occasionally, when you’re walking side by side. Rest your head on their shoulder or do a little snuggling on the couch while you catch up on some movie watching. Brush the hair out of their eyes when they’re talking to you, or caress their face now and again. Offer to give them a massage (and accept if they happen to graciously volunteer to give you one). These other forms of affection will keep the flame ignited even when things are cool...ya know...genitally.

Go On Dates When Possible

This is a tricky one for new parents, especially those without reliable babysitters, but it’s still possible. I'm not going to issue some concrete rule like "go on a date at least once a month or else" because what's realistic and doable for one couple might be wholly impossible for another couple. And as with anything else on this list, if you can't swing it, it doesn't mean you will be subject to inescapable detriment — that's why there are so many options of sex-free intimate things you can do on this list. That said, dates are great, and you should go on them if you can. Partially, dates are so awesome because you tend to be on your “best behavior” which includes things like not ignoring your date to go check up on the baby, not ignoring your date to check your texts or your work e-mails, not having to deal with cleaning up the kitchen after cooking or enjoying a long meal, etc. You can do it, I promise. I believe in you.

Date nights are meant to be fun pockets of time during which you connect with your partner. Ask them about their work, their current projects, what shows they’ve watched or albums they’ve heard lately, or to tell you stories about their past you might not have heard yet. And if you just can’t get away from your offspring, maybe set aside some time for a late-night date. Yes, you’ll be tired, but even just teaming up to put the baby to sleep and then going down into your living room for a nice bottle of wine and some conversation can really open the gates to connecting with your significant other. For those experiencing a non-doctor mandated sex break, it may even end up in you getting laid! Woo! But if that’s simply not an option, you’ll at least get some quality relationship time.

Frequently Compliment One Another

Compliments are great. They make you feel good about yourself and they show you that someone else out there cares about you. So why is it that after a while in a steady relationship, we often forget to let our partners know what we like about them? If you’ve stopped this important practice, pick it back up. Tell your girlfriend you love her eyes. Tell your husband he has a wonderful smile. Compliment your wife on her laugh, or her ability to keep her shit together even when the entire house is in shambles. Or hell, let her know you think she’s just incredibly funny or excellent at her job or totally sexy. Let your partners know that you want them and appreciate them, and they will likely begin to reciprocate this. It will bring you closer together in no time (so long as you are being thoughtful and honest in what you're saying — no handing out empty compliments).

Spend Time On Or Start A Hobby Together

Sometimes a couple just needs something new to bond over. You might have kids to bond over, but they are often also the thing that is keeping you apart. So look into what other hobbies you have, and share them with your partner. For example, my husband is an avid sports fan and while I am anything but, he does try to share his passion with me and I do my best to (sometimes) watch with him. And I have totally gotten him into watching Game of Thrones with me (because he was actually averse to watching it at first), and now we can discuss episodes and theories, giving us fodder for communication. But I'm not just talking about TV: Couples can also start new, non-TV hobbies (yes, I promise they do exist), like learning to play poker or chess, or building model planes, or knitting, or cooking, or learning to code. You can both take an art class together, or start practicing yoga together. So many fun things to do in the world: why not do them with your best friend?

Surprise Each Other And Keep Things Interesting

When your relationship has hit a wall in the sex department, being spontaneous can be an effective way to shake yourselves up and over that wall. And this doesn't have to mean a huge spontaneous move. It can be in small ways, like showing up at home with flowers one day or surprising your partner with tickets to a concert they've been wanting to go to. Or you can drop the kids off at grandpa’s and take your love on a weekend cruise (OK, that's a little bigger, but still, you could!). Maybe you re-arrange the furniture in the house one day and find a way to display their collectibles. Perhaps you wake them up in the middle of the night to go outside and watch a meteor shower together.

The point is, routine can often be a libido (and even a love) killer, so the strongest couples to “spice things up” now and again. And if you're ready to finally push past your sex-lull and get back to business, mix it up: Try a new position, or take your S.O. to a sex shop and tell them to pick out a new toy or a video or an outfit; or book a few hours at a sleazy hotel (seriously, this can be a whole lot of fun if done correctly). Find some new moves and then when you’re finally able to do the deed again, try them out. All, some, or none of these things might sound appealing to you specifically, but the point isn't even to do the exact things I'm listing — the point is to put a little extra time and energy into doing new, fun things with your partner, whether or not that includes sex.

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