5. At least one of you routinely tries to appease or distract the other through sex. When a conflict arises, or when one partner senses that a conflict is imminent, they try to lower the heat in the relationship by having extra sex—or their partner’s favorite kind of sex. At first, this feels good to both lovers: one gets lots of their favorite sex, and the other gets relief from some of the natural pressures in the relationship. But after a while the sex loses its charm, because it’s become a business deal. Eventually at least one partner says, “Enough!”
6. Sex has become an act of duty, or charity, or even pity. This is the uninspired sex one partner gives the other before they go out of town for a week, or the blow job one partner asks for from the other when they’ve had a tough day at work. This sex undermines both respect and trust. The partner who gives it loses respect for the recipient, because the recipient settles for sex that doesn’t require both partners’ full presence. The recipient loses respect for the giver, because the giver fails to either say no to sex or to be fully present and intimate within it. Over time, when one partner settles for uninspired or obligatory sex, the other partner usually stops wanting to have sex with them.
7. As people move out of middle age, sexual desire often wanes. In fact, as we grow old, almost everything about sex and intimacy changes for us—including what we want, what feels good, what’s important to us, and what we’re capable of. When this happens, both partners need to adjust. This may mean less (or no) sex. But for the relationship to thrive, there still needs to be strong trust and intimacy.
8. There’s a medical problem you didn’t know about. Some people have genuine medical issues related to sex—erectile dysfunction, poor lubrication, etc.—that may have nothing to do with aging. If you think this might be the case for you and/or your partner, check with an MD in order to rule out (or identify) a medical problem.
Looking for creative ways to rev up your sex life? We’ve got those right here. Resmaa Menakem is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in couples therapy and domestic violence prevention. A former radio talk-show host, he has appeared on Oprah and Dr. Phil as an expert on couples in conflict. He is the author of Rock the Boat: How to Use Conflict to Heal and Deepen Your Relationship.