Do Changes in Intimacy and Sexual Desire Spell Trouble?

Is the relationship over just because desire has dipped? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In reality, physical intimacy and sexual desire can ebb and flow during the course of a long-term relationship. Of course, it’s also important to examine if your physical or mental health could be suppressing your desire and connection with your partner.

Is It Normal for Physical Intimacy and Sexual Desire to Change in a Relationship?

Yes, this can be normal as we settle into relationships. However, it’s impossible to apply a blanket answer here simply because relationship dynamics are complex. How bothered you and your partner become by a dip in physical connection could come down to your attachment styles.

One study found that having a more anxious attachment style is linked with being less satisfied with the amount of touch being received. That means that a reduction in physical intimacy can be a cause of anxiety, fear, and unhappiness for a person with an anxious attachment style.

The decline in physical affection may not be such a big deal for a person with either a secure or avoidant attachment style. This can be extremely important to know if it feels like you and your partner have mismatched desire levels. By working with a therapist, you can identify your attachment styles to begin to examine how they play into the dynamics of your physical relationship.

Should You Worry If Intimacy and Desire Decline?

Life sometimes gets in the way of our desire. While this generally happens to everyone, it should be said that a slowdown or pause in physical intimacy should be a temporary situation that resolves once the “stressor” has been removed. If intimacy isn’t returning, this could be indicative of a lack of true attraction. Here are some common reasons why physical intimacy dips in relationships:

  • Job stress.
  • Burnout caused by distractions in the bedroom. Turn off Netflix!
  • Exhaustion from parenting.
  • Unresolved arguments.
  • Hormonal imbalances. Low estrogen has been linked with lower libido.
  • Medications that are killing sex drive.
  • Mismatched schedules.

Yes, being together for a long time can also be a factor in reduced sexual desire. However, there are plenty of reasons for not letting this become an excuse. For example, a 2019 study found that declines in women’s sexual desire predicted declines in both partners’ marital satisfaction.

Deciding If It’s a Problem

How do you know if declining desire is a problem? You have to look at the issue holistically to see how it’s impacting the relationship. If one partner is feeling resentful, neglected, or rejected, you have a relationship issue on your hand. If the slowdown in intimacy is accompanied by a slowdown in spending time together overall, this is another sign of an issue. Have you had fights over the frequency of intimate encounters? That’s another sign of trouble.

However, you may simply be ruminating over an intimacy slowdown because you feel like other couples are having more intimacy. The bottom line? Lulls in “the fire” aren’t cause for concern if you feel good about the rest of the relationship.