Let’s be honest. As much as you try to communicate with your partner about your wishes and desires in the bedroom (and in all other aspects of your life), relationships can be hard. Sometimes, when you’ve been with each other for a long time or you have some extraneous events going on, it can be hard to know where your partner stands. We all want to be adored and desired, but the level of adoration and desire we receive can wax and wane over time, for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’ve just had a baby, perhaps one or both of you are going through a major career change … or maybe you’re just in a rut. It’s okay, these things happen. But now, you’re wondering, How do I make my partner want me more sexually?
First off, know that it’s not uncommon to have “dry spells” in a long-term relationship or marriage, and couples therapists acknowledge this. Unfortunately, a stigma remains about discussing this very common problem – probably due to shame and our overall discomfort of talking about sex in any form. In this piece, we’ll be sure to tackle some of the underlying issues that might be causing the bedroom rut you may be finding yourself in, as well as give you some tips on how to spice up a marriage.
Ways to Bring Back Intimacy in a Marriage & Underlying Causes
It’s important when you’re wondering how to bring back intimacy in a marriage to acknowledge the root causes of the disconnect that you’re seeing in the bedroom. When we want to spice up a marriage, we often forget that there are reasons that our sex life has taken a bit of a nose dive. But what are some of the underlying problems that might be causing the dry spell? Here are some of the most common ones.
Lack of Communication
Like anything else in a marriage, sex is a conversation.The ways in which you show up for one another both in and out of the bedroom, the ways in which you’re communicating (or not) about the things that are important to you, and everything else that goes into a marriage can make or break your sex life. When we have been in a relationship for a long time and we’re busy in other aspects of our lives, it can be easy to think there’s nothing left to learn about our spouse. If we feel like we don’t have time to sit down with our partner and make time to actively listen to one another, the conversation that started the relationship can gradually fall by the wayside. The truth, however, is that communicating frequently with your spouse shows your ongoing interest in their life, even after the initial romance has faded.
When couples go to therapy saying that they “just don’t communicate anymore,” what that really means, decoded, is that they don’t communicate effectively anymore. Lack of effective communication can make or break the daily moments you have with your partner and leave one or both of you feeling ashamed, guilty, resentful, and angry.
More and more research is coming out about how the effects of chronic stress can really do a number on your body, but it can also really do a number on your relationship.
The problem is that stress very rarely only affects one partner at a time. Oftentimes, between stress at work, at home, and in other family relationships, it can feel like both of you are continually being hit over the head. Stressors affecting both partners simultaneously can make each one feel isolated and alone, like they have to fight their battles on their own. It is in these moments of stress that communication begins to break down.
Maybe you’ve had a bad day at work, but so has your spouse, and instead of offering comfort and support to one another, you snap or get irritable about little things. When this happens repeatedly over time, then instead of healing and helping each other through the rough patches, you begin to feel more isolated. No surprise then that sex is soon off the table as well.
Lack of Focus on Each Other
It’s a common misconception that marriages just run themselves. Blame it on Hollywood or Disney movies, but there seems to be an overwhelmingly persistent idea that once you marry you live happily ever after.
Though we may not say it outright, we still often buy into these strong cultural fairy tales:
- We insist that marriages should always make us happy.
- If something goes wrong, we blame our spouse.
- If we hit a rough patch in our marriage, then we assume we are doing it wrong.
In fact, it's normal for relationships to hit rough patches, and it’s unrealistic for us to expect that our spouses will always be responsible for making us happy or that once we get married, we can just get by with having said our vows. Like any relationship, or anything else worth having, marriages take work, and the commitment that we pledge at our weddings isn’t always easy. If you and your partner have been coasting, it might be time to step back and deliberately refocus your marriage.
One of the major times in a marriage that this lack of focus occurs is after a couple has kids. It’s an overwhelming trend in Western parenting that once a child is born, everything else takes a back seat, including your relationship. Marriages often suffer particularly in the critical early years of adjusting to life with a new baby — and for a short time, that’s probably okay. The problem arises when you and your partner never get around to finding your way back to one another, instead falling into a “new normal” where you don’t put the necessary energy into your relationship. This can lead both spouses feeling angry, resentful, and silently frustrated with one another.
In a Rut – Sexually or Otherwise
Sometimes nothing major is happening – no new stress, no new baby – but you start realizing that there isn’t a lot of growth or change happening in your relationship. While it might initially feel nice to get into some sort of predictable rhythm with a stable partner, too much predictability, both in the bedroom and in your daily activities, can start making the relationship and everybody in it stagnant. No one wants to suggest any changes for fear of throwing off the rhythm. In other words, you’re in a rut.
It can be challenging to break out of a rut, and can even make you wonder if the relationship is worth putting the work into. Acknowledging the fact that you have fallen into a rut can be the hardest step, partially because stability just feels easy, and also because habits can sometimes be hard to break.
Mismatched Sex Drives
Another major reason that couples “lose that loving feeling” in long-term relationships and marriages is because the partners’ respective sex drives don’t align.
At the beginning of a relationship, this doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem because there is such joy and pleasure, not to mention such an overflowing of hormones, during the initial bonding and falling-in-love phase. Unfortunately, once the honeymoon period is over, it’s back to normal, meaning that you each have different sexual needs, and sex in a long-term relationship doesn’t always flow as easily or spontaneously as it does in the beginning.
There’s also a big misconception that all sex drives should work like they do in the movies – spontaneously, where just the sight of your partner sends you into sexual overdrive. In fact, many people have another type of sex drive: responsive. A responsive sex drive means that while you might not always have sex on the brain, once your partner actually starts giving you some loving, you suddenly find yourself turned on.
Without effective communication, these differing sex drives can leave you wondering how to bring back intimacy in a marriage. But the situation is not without hope if you’re willing to put some work into it.
Relationships as Vehicles for Growth
Culturally, we’re slowly ending the myth that relationships are meant to always feel “happily ever after” and that they don’t require any work. In reality, all relationships, if we let them, can be vehicles for growth. If you’re wondering how to spice up a relationship, ask yourself if you’re seeing your situation through a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
Adopting a different mindset can cause you to see the same problem in a new way. In a relationship, a fixed mindset has you saying something like, “This situation is never going to change so there’s no point in trying to change it.” A growth mindset, on the other hand, has you saying something more along the lines of, “How could this situation be helping us change or grow?”
According to psychologist Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, our mindsets can make or break our relationships. She explains that while people with fixed mindsets in relationships expect their partners to make them happy all the time, people with growth mindsets tend to be more understanding that both they and their partners have faults that they’re going to have to work through to find a solution.
So if you’re wondering how to bring intimacy back into a relationship, try to approach the question with a growth mindset and see how that changes the situation. How can you change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset in your relationship? Here are a few tips.
Work On Yourself
While you are wondering “How do I turn my partner on?”, you may have forgotten about the kinds of things you can do for yourself. We are all a work in progress, and part of having a growth mindset is asking how you can grow. Before you start looking for outside solutions for how to get your husband to notice you sexually, you might want to ask yourself if you’re taking care of yourself and your own needs.
Ask yourself if you’re currently feeling happy and good about yourself.
- Are you enjoying your job or career?
- Are you feeling stressed?
- Have you been taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally?
- Do you feel good about your body?
The truth is that self care isn’t selfish, even though we’ve been led to believe that it is. In fact, practicing self care can actually lead you to being an even better partner. When you’re seeing to your own needs, aware of what you want, and not expecting your partner to make you happy every minute, it’s easier to work through issues as they come up. Plus, it’ll leave you feeling sexier and more desirable. Once you start doing this inner work, you may find that you're better able to anticipate your partner's needs in the bedroom.
Remember That Relationships Take Work
Along with working on yourself and implementing individual self-care ideas, part of establishing a growth mindset in your relationship is to replace the idea that “relationships are here to make me happy” with the idea that “relationships take work sometimes”. That doesn’t mean your relationship should always feel like a chore or a burden. There are times when your relationship will be running more smoothly, and other times when it’s going to need a bit of a tune up.
This is part of the growth mindset, since fixed mindsets in relationships often lend themselves to the trap of magical thinking, where we believe that relationships should require no work and that if they do there must be something wrong. If you’re wondering how to spice up a marriage, this might be one of those times that you might need to put extra work in. But also keep in mind that both partners have to be invested in that work in order for the big payoff of getting through a dry spell.
While it’s always important to lay a good foundation at the beginning of the relationship, it’s never too late to start seeing your relationship as a place for growth and occasionally work.
Avoid Blaming Each Other
When you’re beginning to address the problem of how to spice up a marriage by adopting a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset, it’s important to avoid blaming each other. Earlier, we discussed the importance of acknowledging that there is a problem and seeking out the root cause. If you’ve started working on yourself and you’ve acknowledged that relationships take work, it might be a good time to start bringing your partner into the conversation.
It is essential, when you start this or any important conversation in a relationship, that you avoid playing the “blame game”. You’re probably familiar with this game: Something happens in your relationship, and one or both of you, instead of taking responsibility for your role in the argument, blame the other. The truth is that the blame game doesn’t feel good for either person. So why do we continue to do it? It’s hard admitting that we’re wrong, and it’s a lot easier to blame someone else.
So how do we avoid playing this game, especially if the habit is deeply entrenched in our communication over time? Using “I feel” statements puts the onus on you and takes a level of expectation out of the conversation. Other good tips include:
- Seeing the conversation as a problem-solving opportunity
- Avoiding threats or ultimatums
- Taking a break if the conversation gets too heated and isn’t going anywhere
Our favorite: Using the phrase “We’re on the same team” can be a really good way to dissolve the angry feelings when you’re in a conflict.
Now that you’ve acknowledged the problem, devoted yourself to a growth mindset, and pledged to solve this problem together as a team, you’re probably wondering, “how do I make my partner happy in bed?”
If you’re worried, just know that you’re not alone. Even the healthiest relationships go through dry spells, and many people are wondering how to bring intimacy back into a relationship. A few of our favorite solutions for how to spice up a relationship: Try something new, put sex on the calendar, and create a sex bucket list.
Creating a sex bucket list and trying something new kind of go hand in hand. If it’s been a while since the two of you have shared your desires with one another, this might be an excellent way to bring intimacy back into a relationship.
While putting sex on the calendar doesn’t sound like it will get your husband to notice you sexually, treating the arrangement less like a business meeting and more like you’re scheduling a date can increase anticipation and make both of you more excited for those special days.
In the meantime, consider trying new lingerie to turn your partner on, or send a spontaneous sext to let them know much you desire them. Remember how you felt when you were first dating? Trying new things and scheduling sexy dates can be excellent ways to relive and revive those early days if you want to spice up a marriage.
When To Seek Help
So you’ve tried all the things listed above and you’re still wondering how to make your husband want you more sexually. You might need help from a professional in your quest for how to turn your husband on if you’re seeing one another as enemies, your communication isn’t effective, one or both of you is withholding affection from the other as a punishment, or you’re just having trouble finding middle ground in your sex life.
If you’ve been working for a long time on how to bring intimacy back into a relationship, but you don’t really feel like much has changed, it may be a good time to get a professional therapist or marriage counselor to step in and help.
Remember there is no shame in asking for help when you need it!
If you’re constantly asking yourself how you can get your partner to notice you, just know that you’re not alone. More couples than not go through dry spells in their relationships. When you’ve been married for five, ten, or twenty years, marriage can feel less like a sexy romp in the hay and more like you’re living with a friend (or worse, a roommate). But, there are plenty of ways to bring back that loving feeling. Just remember to avoid blame, see it as an opportunity for growth, and work together to find sexy solutions to spice up your relationship.