What to do when your partner has lost interest in sex

Explore the common reasons why your partner may have lost interest in sex and uncover research-backed solutions to tackle the issue.

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Sexual desire plays an important role in romantic relationships. But what happens when one partner has lost interest in sex? If you’ve noticed that your partner has lost interest in physical intimacy, it can evoke a whirlpool of emotions - from confusion, rejection, and maybe even anger. You’re not alone, and this situation is far more common than you might think.

In this article, we will explore whether it’s normal for your partner to lose interest in sex, the possible reasons behind this shift, and, most importantly, what you can do about it.

Check out our guide on intimacy in relationships for insightful information and advice.

Is it normal for your partner to lose interest in sex?

If you’re grappling with a decrease in your partner’s sexual interest, you may be asking yourself, “Is this normal?” The comforting answer is yes.

It is generally considered to be a normal part of the ebbs and flows that characterize human sexuality. Studies suggest that an individual’s level of sexual desire is not static but fluctuates due to various factors throughout life. 1

Research has revealed that sexual desire tends to peak during the honeymoon phase of a relationship, gradually diminishing as the relationship evolves. 2 This decline can be attributed to various factors.

One of the factors that can impact sexual desire is becoming accustomed to your partner, leading to a decrease in the novelty and excitement that initially fueled the relationship. 2

Moreover, as a relationship evolves, many couples place less emphasis on the role of sex. Life events like becoming parents or simply aging can also have an impact on sexual desire, as they bring about lifestyle changes that may divert focus and energy away from sexual intimacy. 2

In summary, a decrease in sexual desire is generally considered to be a common experience, especially in long-term relationships. The reasons behind this can vary greatly, but they are often tied to relationship dynamics, life changes, and individual experiences.

Discover how communication can save your sex life!

6 Reasons why your partner may be losing interest in sex

Understanding the why behind your partner’s decreased sexual interest can be the first step in finding a resolution. The causes can range from emotional factors to physiological changes, and pinpointing them is crucial in navigating this sensitive issue effectively.

Here are some of the most common reasons:

1. Relationship length

One of the most consistent factors that influence sexual desire is the length of the relationship. Initial stages of a relationship often see a spike in sexual desire, primarily because intimacy is building rapidly as you’re still in the process of discovering each other. 2

Over time, as levels of intimacy stabilize, it’s not uncommon for sexual desire to decrease. Over time, partners can become more accustomed to one another. In some cases, this familiarity can diminish the importance of sex within a relationship. 2

So, the longer you’ve been with your partner, the more likely it is that the initial flame of sexual desire has simmered down—a natural progression that is often influenced by increased familiarity and changing priorities. 2

2. Stress

Another common reason for a dip in sexual interest is stress. We all know life can get hectic, and stress from work, family, or even social commitments can pile up.

A 2010 study found that individuals who experienced higher levels of daily stress reported a decrease in both sexual activity and satisfaction, as well as a decline in overall relationship satisfaction. 3

To sum up, stress has the potential to become a major roadblock in your sexual relationship. As stress levels rise, it’s not uncommon to see a corresponding decrease in sexual activity and relationship satisfaction. 3

3. Relationship conflict

If things have been rocky between you and your partner, it’s worth considering that relationship conflict can be a big reason behind a loss of sexual interest.

In fact, research shows a strong link between conflicts in a relationship and sexual problems. 4

If you’ve noticed a decline in sexual activity or interest, it might be worth taking a closer look at the state of your relationship overall. Resolving underlying issues might not just improve your emotional connection but could also reignite your sexual spark.

4. Anxiety & Depression

Sometimes, the root of declining sexual interest is not in the relationship itself but within the individual. Conditions like anxiety and depression are often significant players in this. 5

Studies have shown that a drop in libido is a frequent symptom among people experiencing major depression. The more severe the depression or anxiety, the more likely it is to affect sexual interest. 5

If your partner has been feeling persistently down or anxious, it can have a direct effect on their sexual desire.

5. Antidepressants

Sometimes, the treatment for one problem can create another. If your partner has recently started taking antidepressants, particularly SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), this could be affecting their interest in sex. 5

One of the well-known side effects of these medications is that they can disrupt sexual function. They can make it more difficult to reach orgasm, and can dampen overall desire and arousal. 5

6. Age

In a study, including 2341 individuals from Germany aged 18-93 years, they investigated the frequency of sexual desire and activity across different life stages. 6

The results showed that, in general, as people age, they tend to experience a gradual decrease in their level of sexual desire. Women seem to experience a decline in sexual desire earlier an life. 6

So, as one gets older, it is likely that sexual desire will decrease naturally. Find out what to do when you have lost interest in sex!

What to do when your partner has lost interest in sex

Understanding the problem is only half the battle—the next step is taking action. Here are some tips to help you and your partner get back on track. Here are actionable steps you can take when your partner has lost interest in sex.

1. Talk it out

The first and perhaps most crucial step to take when your partner has lost interest in sex is to have an open and honest conversation about it. It may seem like a no-brainer, but the importance of communication in resolving sexual issues cannot be overstated.

In fact, a comprehensive meta-analysis has shown that improved sexual communication is linked to better overall sexual function, from desire and arousal to orgasm. 7

Open dialogue can pave the way for identifying the root cause of the problem and finding a solution together.

For tips on how to talk about this sensitive subject, check out our guide on how to talk about sex with your partner.

2. Manage your expectations

Another vital step in addressing this issue is to adjust your expectations about sexual desire in a long-term relationship. If you go into it expecting the honeymoon phase to last forever, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Research has consistently shown that acknowledging the natural ebbs and flows of sexual desire can have a positive impact on sustaining that desire over the long term. 8

In other words, understanding that it’s entirely normal for sexual interest to fluctuate can take off some of the pressure and help both you and your partner approach the situation with a more balanced perspective.

Are you struggling with mismatched sex drives? Read our guide on handling mismatched sex drives in a relationship.

3. Try something new in the bedroom

As relationships evolve, it’s easy to fall into a routine, and this extends to your sexual life as well. While predictability can be comforting, it can also be the enemy of desire. 9

The long-standing familiarity with your partner and the established norms of your relationship can sometimes make things feel less exciting or even desexualize the relationship altogether. 9

So, make an effort to switch things up by introducing novelty into the bedroom. Whether it’s a different kind of touch, a new position, or introducing sex toys, breaking the monotony can breathe new life into your sexual relationship.

Here are more tips on how to rekindle your sex life.

4. Address relationship problems

Sometimes, a dip in sexual interest isn’t just about the sexual aspect of your relationship; it’s a symptom of larger issues within the partnership itself. 4 It could be an ongoing conflict, emotional distance, or a breakdown in trust - problems that can all serve as significant barriers to a fulfilling sexual life.

By taking the time to address these underlying issues, you’re doing more than just working to improve your sexual relationship; you’re fortifying the relationship as a whole. Sorting out other areas of friction can often pave the way for a renewed sense of intimacy and sexual interest.

5. Seek professional help

If you’ve tried the above strategies and still find yourselves stuck in a sexual rut, it might be time to consider professional help. Whether it’s individual therapy, couples counseling, or even specialized sex therapy, a qualified professional can provide tailored advice and techniques that you might not have considered.

Sometimes, the perspective of an unbiased third party can illuminate underlying issues or patterns that aren’t easily visible from within the relationship. Therapy can offer a safe space to discuss sensitive topics, explore emotional blocks, and develop constructive communication strategies—all of which can contribute to a more satisfying sexual relationship.

If you’re looking for more ways to improve your relationship (not just your sexual relationship), don’t miss our comprehensive guide on communication in a relationship.

  1. Mark, K. P., & Lasslo, J. A. (2018). Maintaining Sexual Desire in Long-Term Relationships: A Systematic Review and Conceptual Model. Journal of Sex Research, 55(4–5), 563–581. doi.org ↩︎

  2. Muise, A., Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., & Desmarais, S. (2012). Keeping the spark alive. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4(3), 267–273. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  3. Bodenmann, G., Atkins, D. C., Schär, M., & Poffet, V. (2010). The association between daily stress and sexual activity. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 271–279. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎

  4. Metz, M. E., & Epstein, N. B. (2002). Assessing the role of relationship conflict in sexual dysfunction. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 28(2), 139–164. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎

  5. Zemishlany, Z., & Weizman, A. (2008). The impact of mental illness on sexual dysfunction. In KARGER eBooks (pp. 89–106). doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  6. Beutel, M. E., Stöbel-Richter, Y., & Brähler, E. (2007). Sexual desire and sexual activity of men and women across their lifespans: results from a representative German community survey. BJU International, 101(1), 76-82. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎

  7. Mallory, A. B., Stanton, A. M., & Handy, A. B. (2019). Couples’ Sexual Communication and Dimensions of Sexual Function: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Sex Research, 56(7), 882–898. doi.org ↩︎

  8. Mark, K. P., & Lasslo, J. A. (2018). Maintaining Sexual Desire in Long-Term Relationships: A Systematic Review and Conceptual Model. Journal of Sex Research, 55(4–5), 563–581. doi.org ↩︎

  9. Sims, K. E., & Meana, M. (2010). Why did passion wane? a qualitative study of married women’s attributions for declines in sexual desire. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 36(4), 360–380. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎

Author picture of Janet Smith
Dating Expert

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a freelance writer who writes about psychology, relationships, and dating. She has always been interested in understanding the human brain and how it affects our …

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