Lana settled into the couch and took a deep breath. This was her second therapy session with me, and I could tell she was upset from the moment she walked in. During our first session, she told me that her relationship with her boyfriend of three years is not sexually satisfying. She decided to come to therapy because she wasn’t happy with the lack of intimacy with her partner.
Sex and intimacy were great during the first year of Lana’s relationship before they decided to move in together. This is when she noticed that things began to change. She loved living with her boyfriend but noticed that they had less and less sex. She complained that became more like roommates. She shared how much she loved him but couldn’t understand why she felt so unsatisfied. What Lana is experiencing is very common, and many couples don’t know how to make the needed changes to save their relationship. Here are a few questions that we worked through to help Lana explore her feelings.
Are you bored?
Has your relationship become boring sexually, recreationally, socially, or in the area of emotional connection? It’s impossible to have a sexually satisfying relationship when you feel disconnected from your partner. Lana realised that she felt bored in the relationship. She also suspected that her boyfriend probably did too. Lana couldn’t remember the last time that she and her boyfriend went on a date. She stated that they always go out with other couples or groups of friends. She enjoyed this but missed the date nights that they use to have when they first started dating.
She shared that they both work long hours and when they do have free time they try and pack as much in as possible, including time with friends. I challenged Lana about her role in asking her boyfriend out. She laughed and said that she was willing to ask him out on a date. I told her to think about what he might enjoy doing and for her to plan it. She identified that she hadn’t initiated a date in a long-time and would enjoy doing something new. She took the advice and realised that doing something new and adventurous translated into their sexual relationship as well. Boredom in long term relationships is extremely common, and it will grow if it isn’t addressed. If you’re outside the bedroom activity is boring, what do you expect in the bedroom? If you aren’t ready to end the relationship, then you need to take action to change things up.
Are you talking to your partner about your desires?
Lana told me that she and her boyfriend only talk about sex to complain about it. Either one or both are too tired, not in the mood, or wish they had more time. She realised that if she stopped complaining and talked more about her needs then she may see some forward movement. Lana sometimes avoided talking about her desires and fantasies with her boyfriend because she felt awkward. She said that they didn’t use to having these types of conversations but knew they needed to start having them.
Lana identified her desire to talk about her sexual fantasies but she needed to feel safe. I challenged her to start the conversation by asking him about his sexual interests and desires. As she does this, she permits him to share his as well as she gets the opportunity to share hers. She models the behavior she wants to see. It can be challenging to have these conversations if there are issues with trust within the relationship. Start the discussion by sharing with your partner that you want to grow closer to them by sharing your desires but also to hear theirs. Once Lana started having these conversations with her boyfriend she found that they shared similar desires and interests. Just talking about this allowed trust to build which made them feel closer and more connected.
Does your partner want to receive more than give?
Lana shared that she gets frustrated with her boyfriend because when they do have sex, the primary focus is on him and his pleasure. She stated that this had led her not to initiate as much as she used to. When I asked her if she has talked to him about this, she said that she didn’t know how to bring it up. Through exploring this with Lana, she figured out that she had become resentful that he expected always to give him oral sex and never returned the favor. Since she didn’t bring this up to him as a concern, it was unfair of her to blame him. She knew what she needed to do.
Lana realised that if she wanted the relationship to change then needed to make changes within herself first. She needed to speak up more about what she wanted from him. If she wanted oral sex, she needed to get comfortable asking for it. She started having a more open dialogue with him. She was able to tell him that she enjoyed pleasing him and wanted him to reciprocate. When she opened up to him about this resentment he told her that he didn’t know she felt this way and appreciated her being honest. This open dialogue led them to connect more intimately which boosted their sexual relationship. This allowed them to work harder to make sure that each other’s sexual needs get met.
It can be difficult to discuss sex and intimacy even in long-term relationships. Your experiences, past events, and fear of what may happen can prevent you from having an open discussion. I encourage you to face your fears and have these conversations with your partner. When you have these discussions, you give the opportunity for trust to grow and flourish. Don’t forget that trust and intimacy move in tandem. As trust increases so does intimacy. Commit to yourself and the future of your relationship that you will continue to discuss any satisfaction and dissatisfaction you have. If you don’t, then you will likely stuff and stack resentment which can be the silent killer of your relationship.
All the names in the article have been changed to protect the innocent.