There are many reasons why couples will experience lulls in their sex lives, and it’s not uncommon for there to be periods when couples are not having much sex at all. Anything from illness, to the birth of a new baby, or temporary work stress or projects can really put a damper on sexual activity. But some couples will fall into a pattern of avoiding sex and all physical touch altogether, which not only damages their relationship, but can damage their personal health as well.

Physical, sexual intimacy is actually good for you.

Since your sexuality and sexual functioning are directly connected to the rest of your health, ignoring it or keeping up barriers to an active sex life negatively impacts your wellbeing. When there is skin to skin contact, you have better blood pressure and less heart disease. Physical intimacy increases a feeling of peace and security and helps relieve tension. Unfortunately, some couples may find themselves creating patterns of avoidance that can rob them of the physical closeness that they are designed to have.

How does the pattern of avoiding sex develop?

It’s very common to want to protect your partner’s feelings and not be a burden to them. This is something that I see very often in the private practice when one person or both have some sexual difficulties. It could be a temporary shift in hormones, or increased stress that caused some difficulty with arousal. Whatever the case, one partner may start to avoid approaching the other because they don’t want to pressure the other person or make them feel bad. They may even assume that their partner is not interested because they have not initiated sex. Trouble is, their partner may be assuming the same thing about them. What happens then is that the couple can get into a pattern of avoiding all physical contact because they don’t want even the slightest touch to be misinterpreted as an invitation for sex. I have seen many couples where they both actually would love to be closer, but both are afraid to be the ones to initiate contact.

How do you bridge the gap of no physical contact?

At some point, one person has to be brave enough to try to have some physical contact with the other if you want to overcome the impasse. Many times, some form of relaxing touch, such as a foot massage or a shoulder rub can start you back on the path of skin to skin contact. You can even give your partner a disclaimer and tell them that you would really like to touch them, but that it doesn’t have to lead anywhere if you don’t want it to. Even a small amount of physical touch causes the release of Oxytocin, a hormone that helps us feel calmer, more secure, and bond with the person we are with. Much more of this hormone is released during sex, especially after orgasm. Couples find that when they have more non-sexual physical touch, they actually feel more relaxed with each other and like each other better. Something as simple as keeping in touch not only improves your health and wellbeing, it can be the path back to having regular sexual activity as well.

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