Why Does Sex Decrease in Relationships?


For many couples, sex is a vital part of their relationship. However, it's common for couples to notice a decrease in sexual frequency and intensity as the relationship progresses. There are a variety of reasons why sex may decrease in longer-term relationships.

Why Does Sex Decrease in Relationships?

Loss of the Honeymoon Phase

In new relationships, there is often an intense sexual attraction and excitement that couples experience. This "honeymoon phase" is driven by novelty and the early discoveries about a new partner. Chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine are surging during this period. Over time as a relationship progresses, the honeymoon period inevitably ends as couples settle into deeper intimacy. The crazy-in-love chemicals start to fade. This transition can lead to less frequent and less adventurous sex.

Decreased Priority for Sex

When couples first get together, they often prioritize sex and intimacy. As the relationship matures and other commitments like careers, children, and home ownership enter the picture, sex can often move down the priority list. Partners may be tired from long work hours or caring for kids. Sex becomes more planned rather than spontaneous. The busyness of life can make it harder for couples to make space for physical intimacy.


The early stage of a relationship is marked by constant novelty and discovery about a partner. Each sexual experience is exciting. As time passes, couples become extremely familiar with each other's preferences and rhythms. Sex can start to feel predictable and routine. The sense of mystery that fuels sexual desire fades.

Poor Communication

Good sexual relationships require open and honest communication about desires, boundaries, and changing needs. Over time, many couples get worse at having these conversations. Resentment or disconnection can build. This breakdown in communication negatively impacts sexual frequency and satisfaction.

Mismatched Libidos

Everyone has a unique libido that is influenced by many factors like age, hormones, stress, medication, depression, trauma, etc. In a new relationship, libido differences are often less pronounced. But as a relationship progresses, mismatched libidos can become more evident and problematic. This can create tension, disappointment, and rejection that harms the sexual relationship.

Lack of Effort

It's easy to take a sexual connection for granted and let it slip down the priority list. Couples may put less time, energy and effort into creating opportunities for sex. Foreplay, date nights, flirting, lingerie, and other forms of intimacy fall by the wayside. When sex becomes less of a shared creative endeavor, it loses steam.

Limited Sexual Repertoire

When sex becomes boring and routine, it reduces the desire and motivation to have it. Partners may fall into a rut of engaging in the same sexual activities over and over. They stop expanding their sexual horizons and trying new things together. This stagnation and loss of novelty dampens sexual interest.

Body Insecurities

With age, bodies change through pregnancy, weight gain, illness, and other factors. Many people struggle with declining body confidence over the years, which negatively impacts their sexuality and desire. Partners may become less comfortable being naked and vulnerable during sex. Self-consciousness shrinks sexual openness.

Medical Issues

A variety of health conditions like erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, pain disorders, disabilities, prostate issues, low testosterone etc. can emerge with age and hamper satisfying sex for one or both partners. Medications like antidepressants also commonly reduce sex drive. Ongoing medical challenges can get in the way of great sex.

Relationship Issues

Problems like poor communication, distrust, resentment, boredom or power struggles in the overall relationship inevitably spill into the bedroom. Partners who fight frequently, ignore each other's needs, or struggle to be vulnerable with each other will likely experience a decline in their sexual connection. Sexual issues are often a symptom of deeper relationship challenges.

Focus on Parenting

The demands of parenting are hugely energy-consuming. Parents of babies or young kids often feel touched out and exhausted by childcare responsibilities, leaving little bandwidth for sex and intimacy. Couples struggle to reconnect sexually and emotionally. Their primary focus becomes the kids, rather than their partnership. This can starve a sexual relationship.

Affairs or Infidelity

After an affair, the trust and safety needed to fuel satisfying sex is shattered. The hurt partner may use sex as a punishment or withdraw physical affection entirely. Even if couples rebuild intimacy after infidelity, the damage can linger. Ongoing jealousy and relationship trauma are barriers to great sex.

Poor Mental Health

Depression, anxiety, trauma, stress, and other mental health issues can take a major toll on libido and sexual function. Mental health challenges reduce sex drive and make it difficult to be present and vulnerable during physical intimacy. Poor mental health numbs sexual desire and satisfaction. Medical treatment is key.

How Can Sex Improve in Long-Term Relationships?

There are many strategies couples can try to counteract the decline of sex over time. Reigniting sexual vibrancy in a long-term relationship requires creativity, mutual understanding, and consistent effort. Here are some tips:

  • Make sex a priority: Schedule intimate time and date nights. Protect your sexual relationship as life gets busy.
  • Communicate openly and honestly: Share your needs, challenges, desires, and relationship issues with empathy. Stay attuned.
  • Try new things: Experiment with sexual activities, toys, locations, role play, pornography, books, etc. Keep an open mind and get adventurous.
  • Focus on foreplay: Take things slow with touch, massage, baths, music, and other forms of physical and emotional intimacy.
  • Address health issues: Get medical help for sexual problems. Improve mental health. Prioritize sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
  • Therapy: Seek professional support to improve relationship dynamics, process affairs, or tackle specific sexual issues.
  • Accept natural ebbs/flows: Recognize that sex drive is not constant. Ride the ups and downs together.
  • Temper expectations: Understand that sex often looks different in long-term relationships compared to the start.
  • Focus on fun: Keep things playful. Don't take sex too seriously. Laughter and lightness are passions' allies.
  • Appreciate non-sexual touch: Hug, cuddle, hold hands, massage. Physical closeness leads to greater sexual openness.
  • Strengthen your bond: Cultivate intimacy through shared activities, adventures, interests, and quality time together.
  • Practice gratitude: Notice and vocalize appreciation for your partner. Lovingly accept each other's changing bodies.
  • Be patient and persistent: Improving sexual issues takes time and ongoing effort. Don't give up.

The passion and excitement of new relationships isn't sustainble forever. But there are always ways to cultivate a deeper, more mature sexual connection as couples grow together over the years. With care and attention, sex can flourish in profound new ways in long-term relationships.

Frequently Asked Questions: Why Does Sex Decrease in Long-Term Relationships?

Sex often declines in frequency and intensity as relationships progress. This FAQ explores the common reasons why, and how couples can reignite sexual vibrancy.

Why does passionate sex fade as relationships mature?

The early stage of a relationship is marked by intense sexual desire driven by newness, discovery, and surging brain chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine. This “honeymoon phase” inevitably ends as relationships transition to deeper intimacy. The constant novelty that sparks early passion lessens over time, leading to less frequent and adventurous sex.

What role does familiarity play in decreasing sex?

Familiarity breeds comfort and connection in relationships, but it can also breed boredom in the bedroom. When sex becomes predictable and routine due to knowing a partner’s body and responses so well, it loses steam. The sense of mystery and fascination with a partner that fuels sexual desire fades.

How do priorities change to deemphasize sex?

Early in relationships, sex is often the primary shared activity and focus. As the relationship matures and other commitments enter the picture like careers, kids, home ownership, etc., sex slips down the priority list. Life gets busier, often leaving little energy left for intimacy.

How do libido differences impact sexual frequency?

Everyone has a unique libido influenced by many factors. In new relationships, libido differences are often minimized. But as time passes, desire gaps between partners can become more pronounced and harder to bridge. This leads to sexual frustration.

How does poor communication reduce sex?

Good sexual relationships require ongoing open communication about needs and preferences. Over time, many couples get worse at having these conversations. Unresolved conflicts, bottled-up resentments, and emotional distance then sabotage intimacy.

Why does sexual boredom happen?

When sex becomes repetitive and spouses stop trying new things, boredom kills bedroom passion. Partners fall into a rut of the same activities and positions during each encounter. This lack of novelty and creativity saps sexual motivation.

How do body image issues interfere with sex?

With age comes natural body changes that can severely dent sexual confidence for one or both partners. Weight gain, pregnancy effects, or illnesses often diminish self-image. When people don’t feel sexy, they avoid sex.

What medical conditions lower sex drive?

Issues like erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, chronic pain, disabilities, prostate problems, etc. can emerge with age and hamper great sex. Medications like antidepressants also commonly reduce libido. Ongoing health struggles shrink sex drive.

How do mental health challenges impact sex?

Depression, stress, trauma, body image disorders, and other mental health problems can significantly reduce libido and sexual performance. Poor mental health diminishes desire and the ability to be present and intimate.

Why does parenting lower couples’ sex frequency?

Raising children is profoundly exhausting. Parents of babies or young kids often have little energy left for sex amid the demands of childcare. Couples struggle to reconnect intimately post-kids when parenting becomes the primary focus.

How do affairs damage sexual intimacy?

Infidelity severely ruptures the trust and vulnerability needed for satisfying sex. The hurt partner may withhold physical affection. Ongoing jealousy and relationship trauma after affairs are huge obstacles to great sex.

What are some solutions for improving sex in LTRs?

Solutions include better communication, priority-setting, trying new things, addressing health problems, therapy for specific issues, focusing on non-sexual intimacy and fun, cultivating gratitude, and accepting natural ebbs and flows in desire. Reigniting sex takes openness, creativity and ongoing effort.

How can couples boost intimacy even with desire differences?

Partners with mismatched libidos can still increase affection through non-sexual activities like cuddling, massage, baths, dancing, date nights, shared hobbies, etc. Physical closeness without pressure for sex helps bridge gaps in desire.

What's the mindset shift that can help reinvigorate sex?

Understanding that sex will look different in mature relationships versus the beginning helps couples avoid disappointment. Focusing on playfulness versus perfection, and on maintaining intimacy in varied ways, lightens the burden on sex.

The passion of new relationships evolves over time. But couples can absolutely cultivate satisfying sex in deeper, more nuanced ways as they grow together. With expectation adjustment, creativity, and consistent nurturing, sexual vibrancy is very possible in long-term relationships.

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