Love Doc

Plumbing the depths of the psychology and neurobiology of love.

A Sexless Relationship

Can you bring sex back to a sexless relationship?

With skin sagging ever so slightly and wrinkles crinkling at the sides of her eyes, Lila could still light up the room with her smile. Unfortunately she was not smiling much these days.

"I have a hard time getting going in the morning. I guess I'm a little depressed; maybe it's because I'm menopausal. I think Larry is also menopausal." She sighed.

I asked, "Why do you think he's menopausal?"

"Well, he is not interested in me romantically or sexually."

"And you?"

"I'm not interested in him that way either." She looked down sadly.

"When did you last have sex?" I asked.

"About four years ago. I spoke to my friends and we're not the only ones living in a sexless relationship." Her attempt at rationalizing the situation was not working. She looked even sadder.

"That may be the case, but many long term seasoned relationships do not lose their sizzle and couples continue to make love. The question then is do you love him?"

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"Yes, I love and care about him, but I don't like him."

"And why's that? "

"He's so into himself. He wants me to come with him to hear a rock band he likes; he's still stuck in the sixties when it comes to music." Disdain marked her face.

"So you don't like this band."

"No, that's not it. It's just that when we go somewhere, like a concert, he gets busy socializing with everyone and he forgets that I'm there."

"It sounds lik you feel invisible with him." I interpreted her feelings.

She agreed. "Exactly."

"Do you discuss it with him?"

"I can't, he gets so angry."

"What do you say to him?"

"I tell him the truth. That he's egotistical, that he's always trying to get everyone's attention, that his stories go on forever, and that I can't stand him. His temper is viscous and he curses at me at the top of his lungs in front of the neighbors. He can't control himself." Her rage was evident.

"You don't know how to communicate in order to get your needs met. And you both lack empathy ─ the ability to stand in each others' shoes. Not too sexy."

"Well, we used to have make-up sex, but no more."

"That's because the ongoing hurts, the insults, the disappointments have become entrenched in your brains. When two people are in love, the brain signals the release of good mood chemicals and lust inducing chemicals, but when you no longer like each other, these chemicals are on hold. The good news is that you can bring lust back to the relationship and get the chemicals to flow once again."

"I feel as though it's impossible to bring lust back." She was clearly despondent and felt hopeless.

"You may feel that way, but if you are both willing to work at the relationship, you can bring sex back." I outstretched the hand of hope to her.

Lila and Larry decided they wanted to work diligently on the relationship with the goal of reigniting the flame of desire. They understood that the answer to great sex in their relationship lay in healthy ways of communicating, not blaming each other, finding empathy, and finally forgiving each other for the pain they incurred.

Of utmost importance was building self esteem so that they would stop blaming each other. Like most couples whose relationships falter, poor self esteem is at the core of the problems. For example if you maintain that you are right and your partner is wrong, your self esteem is poor. Neither is your sense of self strong when you try to change your partner and criticize him or her; it only ends up in a battle that no one win. It's then about making war and not making love.

With a healthier sense of self, you do not try to criticize or change your partner; rather you enrich yourself from his or her differences. And he or she enriches him or herself from your differences. This way you both grow and expand one another.

These are some of the ways you can begin to resonate with each other again on a deep emotional level. And that's what intimacy is about. What about sex?

Sex is an essential component of an intimate relationship. If, however, your relationship, like Lila and Larry's, is sexless, try working on the above steps. Remember the most erogenous zone in the body is the brain. That means when you bring emotional resonance and attunement back your brain will once again bathe you and your partner in dopamine, endogenous opioids, oxytocin, vasopressin, testosterone─ all those wonderful lust inducing brain chemicals.

Email: drpraver@cs.com

Web : www.drfranpraver.com

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Frances Cohen Praver, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and relational psychoanalyst and author.

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