You're both tired. The kids are light sleepers. You're not happy with your weight. You're stressed out over deadline pressures at work. There are many reasons people in long-term relationships find themselves reaching for the pillow or the remote control instead of their partner's body after the sun goes down.
But a healthy sex life is a key part of an intimate relationship, and neglecting it can push the two of you further apart.
"When you're in a long-term relationship, you get into a routine," says ob-gyn Renee Horowitz, founder of the Center for Sexual Wellness in Michigan. "There's biological evidence that novel experiences cause the release of dopamine in the brain." Dopamine is a chemical messenger that affects the pleasure center in your brain. "That's why it's so much easier," Horowitz says, "to get excited in a new relationship -- everything is novel, and your brain responds accordingly."
Obviously, you can't switch partners every time the excitement wanes. But you can change up some of the other factors. "Try a different place, a different time, a different position," Horowitz says. Have a morning quickie. Try sex in the shower or in a different room in the house.
Problem No. 2: Too Much to Do, Too Tired
The Solution: Take a Romantic Break
All couples are tired at the end of a long day. And it’s hard to have energy for romance by the time you get everyone to bed and deal with chores. But that can be changed.
"You have to prioritize what's important," sex educator Sadie Allison, whose best-selling books include Ride ‘Em Cowgirl! and Tickle Your Fancy says."Tired as you might be, it's OK to just make it a quickie sometimes. Sex is so important to the overall health of your relationship."
Instead of waiting until it's time to put out the lights, take a break for a romantic encounter before you start the evening's chores, Allison says. "Make space and time where you can escape and get creative." She says it isn't going to happen spontaneously. "You have to find the time and make a date."
Problem No. 3: 'Who Are You?'
The Solution: Rediscover Each Other -- Without Pressure
If you haven't had sex for some time, a come-on from your partner can feel very artificial and forced. It helps to reconnect in a non-sexual way first, says psychotherapist Christina Steinorth. "If you haven't had any kind of quality time together, you're not going to feel sexual," she says.
Steinorth says it’s important to mix it up: Forgo the old “dinner and a movie” cliché in favor of something new, and make it a priority on your calendar. "Schedule time each week for date night. [Try a] shared experience: biking, bowling, something silly. Plan a trip to the farmer's market and a stop for a cup of coffee every Sunday morning. Let it become a habit," Steinorth says, "and you'll feel reconnected. The desire will just grow from there."
A quick sexual encounter may regain its excitement once you’ve reconnected. "When the relationship's alive like that, the 10-minute ‘let's sneak off and do it' quickie works great," Steinorth says. "It's like your little secret and helps further build the bond between you. But that bond has to be there in the first place."