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Darcy Sterling Ph.D.
Darcy Sterling Ph.D.

'Lesbian Bed Death' CPR

An attempt to cure "lesbian bed death."

About a month ago, a woman wrote to me and reported that her partner and she were in the throes of lesbian bed death, a phenomenon that is said to occur between lesbian couples in which their sex life dies over the course of a long-term relationship.

I proposed a 30-day experiment to see if we could revive their passion, and I requested that she report back to me in a month to update me on how they were doing. Below is the response that I received on 4/3/11. Below my answer is the original post:

Dear Dr. D:

The last 30 days has been very interesting. I almost don't know where to start. We've followed your list. I guess the hardest part was taking care of our to-do lists before we come home at night. I didn't realize how much the nagging contributed to our problems. Also, the no-tech dinners was tough and again, I had no idea how compulsively we checked out email and FB over dinner.

My girlfriend really loved the date nights (I did too). And we both really appreciated the no sex for 30 days, although we cheated once or twice, which you're probably going to be really pissed for but, hey, we figured it's worth getting yelled at, even publically.

So thank you so much for the help. I think we're headed in a good direction. No more lesbian bed death for us!


So you cheated and had sex despite my very clear directive not to.

You disconnected from the distractions in your life, rediscovered each other, began dating again, which you'd probably stopped at month four of your relationship, and started flirting. And you weren't allowed to have sex, which tends to make things a little hotter, and eventually you decided you'd rather withstand my wrath than endure the continued buildup. Fine with me. I'd say we hit our goal on this one.

Next step: Get yourselves into couples counseling before things go south again. I hate to be the bearer of doom and gloom, but what I just put you on was a crash diet. Yes, you had sex, and yes, it was probably really good sex, but it's not sustainable because you're no longer prohibited from having sex, which will likely cause your drive to tank. So get into couples counseling to determine the deeper issues, and you'll reap the benefits of that work for years to come. The great news is that you've proven that you still have a spark between you, which is something that no amount of therapy can create. Now go do the hard work, lest I receive another panicked email about your second onset of LBD.

Original post from 3/4/11

Dear Dr. Darcy:

My girlfriend and I are in the terrible throes of lesbian bed death. We've been through couple's therapy and nothing is working. We get along fine, love each other, and other than the fact that we're not having sex, it's a very good relationship. It's been almost six months without sex. My friend saw you as a therapist and said that you can fix this. I am desperate to save my relationship. I promise I'll do anything you tell me to do.


If my sessions began the way your question ended, my clients would spend a lot less time on my couch.

Lesbian bed death is not necessarily symptomatic of a doomed relationship and it's certainly not a phenomenon exclusive to the lesbian community. Pair any gender combination and most will report a decline in sexual activity over the course of a long-term relationship. Having said that, I hear loud and clear that regardless of how common it may be, you want an active sex life.

What I've found in my work with couples is that the more I focus on sex or the absence thereof, the more pressure the couple feels to fix the problem and the bigger the issue becomes. Consequently, I'm going to propose a rather unorthodox methodology that I want you to try for 30 days. Follow every step exactly as I describe and write back on April 3rd to give me a progress report on how the two of you are feeling. I will, of course, post your report.

1. No sex for 30 days. Nothing. That means no touching any body part that would normally be covered by underwear and bra.

I used to own a restaurant in the West Village. I had a killer menu with about 10 no-fail hits. Every month, I'd take a handful of those hits off the menu. Why? Because no matter how good it tastes, if it's always available, eventually it gets boring.

2. No discussing sex for 30 days. Lesbians can talk just about anything to death. Sex is now officially off the list of things to "process."

3. Take care of your to-dos before you walk in the door at night. Do not discuss any domestic management tasks in person for 30 days. Do it via email, on the phone or through texting, but from the moment you walk through that door at night, no more talking business.

4. No-tech dinners for 30 days. That means no phones or computers. Dinner, by the way, lasts a minimum of 30 minutes. Daily.

5. Engage in 15 minutes of non-sexual touch daily. Clothing should be on and keep your hands on G-rated areas.

6. Begin sexting. You heard me. Send her the most descriptive texts you can think of at the most unexpected times of the day, explaining exactly what you wish you could do to her. Repeat this as often as you'd like, but do not discuss this in person.

7. Work out a minimum of three days weekly for a minimum of 30 minutes each time. As women, we become more sexual when we feel better about ourselves. At the very least, it will relieve some stress.

8. Engage in an extracurricular activity without each other 1 time weekly. The activity should last at least an hour. It will give you something new to discuss when you're together.

9. No masturbating for 30 days. In case you can't tell, I'm trying to build up some sexual tension between the two of you. If you're taking care of your own business, you defeat my goal.

10. Institute date night on a weekly basis. Just the two of you. I don't care what you do, but don't invite anyone but her to attend, and take turns planning it to bring an element of surprise back into the relationship.

So there you have it. A recipe for reconnecting without the pressure of having sex. A new way of relating to one another that includes dinners without distractions and dates to remind you how to court one another. Good luck and don't forget to report back.

About the Author
Darcy Sterling Ph.D.

Darcy Sterling, Ph.D., is Executive Director of Alternatives Counseling in New York City.

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