Expert tips on how to improve your sex life

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In my clinic, I often see people seeking help for lack of sexual intimacy in their relationship. Both men and woman present with this problem and there is often concern about what is normal.

People want to know “how much sex is normal in a long term relationship?” Often they have read the statistic that married couples have sex on average 3 times a week and they are worried.

My answer to this question is that everything is normal. Some couples have sex very frequently, some have it once every 3 months and some are not having it at all. I urge people to take the view that what is more important than a statistic is that the amount of sex in their relationship is negotiated and is an agreeable compromise between both partners.

The frequency of sex in a relationship is usually determined by the lower drive partner. Most couples are having sex as much as the lower drive partner is willing to participate in. Something I ask my clients to consider is whether frequency is the only measure of importance. For example, that sex is enjoyable or satisfying could be more important than frequency.

Common problems that reduce the frequency of sex and what to do about them

There are a number of reasons why sex has become problematic for the low or no sex people that I see.


  1. You have little or no interest in sex

Low interest is typically considered to be a female problem, but I have had a number of men brought to appointments. First it must be established whether there are any physical contributions to the problem, so see a GP and get some blood tests done.


If there is no physical contribution look at what might be contributing to lack of libido. Stress and relationship problems are major contributors. I’ve got some reading suggestions at the end of this article which can help but you may also need support from a clinical psychologist or sex therapist.


  1. You no longer desire your partner. It’s tough when you no longer desire your partner. This can happen due to major betrayals and hurts that have occurred in the relationship, unexpected changes in physical appearance or poor hygiene.


I find most partners can adjust better to changes in physical appearance such as weight gain than they can to the major betrayals and hurts. For many people, they need to like their sexual partner and feel safe with them. Also when there have been sexual betrayals, having sex with your partner can trigger memories of the sexual affair or comparisons to the affair partner.


Poor hygiene needs to be addressed in a firm but not hurtful way. If your partner has bad breath or body odour, tell them that’s the reason you don’t want sex and suggests ways to improve


It can be very hurtful to address physical changes such as weight gain with a partner so it needs to be done sensitively. It is likely to be more helpful to try to focus on the parts of your partner you still find attractive rather than request changes such as a diet.


  1. Your partner no longer initiates sex or responds to your advances

A number of assumptions are often made when a partner stops initiating and or responding. These include my partner no longer finds me attractive, my partner is having an affair, my partner is secretly gay. Whilst it is possible that these assumptions could be true, generally through the course of therapy we discover that they are not.


The most common reasons for men are:

  • They are is very stressed by work and financial responsibility and this has negatively impacted their libido,
  • They are concerned about erectile difficulties which occur often with age and also as a result of stress,
  • They have been criticised about their performance (not long enough generally).


For women the most common reasons are:

  • they have a baby or small children and feel too tired and touched out to want to have sex. These women dream of that half an hour at the end of the day were they can quietly read or watch a tv program, so when there partner gives them the “how about it?” look the minute they sit down, it can lead to feelings of resentment and being overwhelmed by demands.
  • their partner pressures them constantly for sex but is generally not affectionate,
  • their partner is selfish and does not make sex pleasurable for them
  • As women age, their libido tends to drop and they may also experience vaginal dryness or atrophy which makes sex less physically comfortable and enjoyable. It is because of these problems I mention that I highly recommend having a sexual repertoire outside of penetrative sex.
  1. It is painful to have sexual intercourse. Some women experience pain as a result of penetration. Sex is not enjoyable when it hurts. If you are finding vaginal sex painful, do not put up with it and do not continue. Ask your partner to stop when pain that is beyond discomfort begins.


If you continue to have sex when it’s painful, your muscles can respond in ways that cause ongoing problems and you may develop neuropathic pain. Once your brain makes an association with pain and sex, it is difficult to relax and enjoy sex.


Deal with common contributors such as lack of lubrication by ensuring adequate arousal and using lubricant. If it is an ongoing problem, seek a referral from your GP to a women’s health physio and a gynaecologist. You may also need help manage anxiety and other feelings associated with this problem from a psychologist.


6 tips for dealing with sex in your relationship


The most important tool for dealing with sexual difficulties is to talk and educate each other about the problem and possible solutions.


  1. Choose a time to discuss what is happening in your sex life with your partner
  2. Approach the problem from a view point of curiosity rather than judgement or entitlement about how much sex you are getting.
  3. See a GP to determine if there are underlying biological problems.
  4. Read up about sex and learn more about your partner’s body and your own body.
  5. Be open about what you can try to get back on track.
  6. . Work on the relationship issues that are contributing. For suggestions see the reading list below or see a counsellor or psychologist.

Importantly, if you want to increase sexual frequency ensure you keep working on your relationship connection as a whole.

Reading suggestions:

o   King, R. (2011 ) Good Loving Great Sex. Sydney: Arrow Books

o   King, R. (2010) Where did my libido go? Sydney: Arrow Books

o   Hall, J. (2004) Sex-life solutions. Easy ways to solve everyday sexual problems. Sydney: Finch books

About Nadene van der Linden

Nadene van der Linden is a clinical psychologist in private practice. She is the author of Tales from the parenting trenches. A clinical psychologist vs motherhood and Live life to the full. Your guide to feeling better sooner.
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