Recent studies reveal that people are having less sex. For single folks under 40, more than half haven’t had sex in a year. This trend is also reported among married folks as well.  Americans Are Having Less Sex, So Experts Say It’s Time to Shift Our Focus From Quantity to Quality | GQ 

The stress of economic problems and the social isolation caused by COVID-19, along with the growing negative impact of social media, account for much of the downturn among single, younger folks.  For married couples, however, the reasons are more basic.

While some factors that impact intimacy are beyond our control, other fundamentals are often neglected. Paying attention to these sexual essentials can improve both emotional and physical intimacy.

If you’re one who’s noticed a drop-off in affection and passion, here is a check-list of things to consider that could put the zing back in your relationship: Breaking out of the Sexual Doldrums | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (

Ignorance, Myths and Unrealistic Expectations

    1) Wanting sex is a natural desire that “just” happens.

In fact, after the rush of new love calms down, the desire for sex is influenced by environmental, physical and emotional factors that all come together. Good sex in committed relationships does not just happen, it’s the result of effort and caring.

    2) The desire for sex naturally declines with age.

Aging may affect one’s ability to have sex but it doesn’t have to decrease the desire.  Although the way or the frequency of having sex might decline, as long as folks are physically able, the joy of sex is a life-long entitlement.  As my professional inspiration and mentor, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, used to say, a healthy and loving couple can enjoy “good sex” throughout their lives together.

Sometimes the expectation that sexual desire will dim with age causes folks to ignore sexual problems that can be effectively treated .

Again, ageist stereo-types  can also influence how people feel about sex. Many folks worry that they are not normal and that goes double for having sex. How often to have sex or how often you must have orgasms are not questions that are dependent on what others do. It is important to realize that each couple needs to define the how and when and for how long etc… that works for them.

External Stress Factors 

In order to enjoy good sex, each person needs to be able to relax and be in the moment with their partner.  Things like work, finances and other stressors can distract and prevent one or both partners from being fully available and able to get “into” it.

Health Concerns

Physical wellness is a given for good sex but is overlooked by many. Besides being free from disease, other physical limitations or impairments must be considered.

For example, pain is an experience that is often not mentioned. Intercourse shouldn’t be painful. If it is, it should be discussed with your partner and a doctor.

In addition to general health concerns, there are specifically sexual disorders that many folks are embarrassed to talk about with their doctor.  Again, there are very effective treatments for these problems once the initial reluctance to do so is overcome.

. — Schedule Conflicts/Free Time

A common complaint from many couples is their lack of free time. Over-booked schedules and responsibilities rob couples of having the opportunity for intimacy. Therefore, planning becomes an important habit.

Although many think that good sex needs to be spontaneous and unplanned, the demands of real life don’t leave much time for that. Realistically, if folks want to enjoy sex on a regular basis, using a calendar and securing child care may be necessary.

Emotional Distress

Apart from medical and practical restraints, each partner’s emotional health is crucial for a happy love life. Anxiety and depression can dampen a person’s libido and diminish the joy of the experience. The good news is that doctors and therapists can provide help to restore both the interest in and enjoyment of sex.

Relational Resentment

Sometimes, when all of the above items are fine, buried resentments and conflicts between the couple can douse the flames of passion.  Neurologically, the experience of sexual arousal and anger are on the same circuit (the limbic ring).  Anger is primary, however. Thus,  resentments that one might not even be aware of can prevent arousal.  However, when identified and resolved, passion returns.

— Boredom and Tired Routines

Good sex requires novelty from time to time. It is not that partners grow tired of each other or are no longer attracted to each other.  It’s just that couples can get into sexual ruts that need refreshing. Changing things up, even just a little, can make a surprising difference.  Things as simple as changing the physical location, time of day, or foreplay pattern can arouse new desires.

— Communication

Finally. the key to good sex rests on communication between the partners. Sometimes this means getting over old taboos or inhibitions about talking explicitly about sex or worries that being sexually honest and saying what you really want will upset your partner.

Indeed, although it may take a little practice, being open and honest about what you like and don’t like in bed will pay huge dividends over the years and prevent the build-up of resentment and frustration.

To conclude, I want to repeat: Sex is a life-long entitlement for healthy couples. If your romantic life is not all that you would like, don’t give up. Check out these areas and, if needed, seek out professional help. You’ll be glad you did.

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC    June 3, 2024