Sex

Sexual Complacency: 5 Ways to Get Out of a Sexual Rut

Every couple experiences sexual complacency. Here's what to do about it.

Posted Mar 03, 2021 | Reviewed by Devon Frye

Key Points:

  • Most long-term couples will experience periods of sexual complacency, where sex is repetitive and dull or stops altogether.
  • Sexual complacency is more common during periods of long-term stress, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • To get out of a sexual rut, couples should prioritize frequent, honest communication about sexual desires and limits.
  • Partners can also take steps to create a sexual spark, like buying a sex toy togther or exploring self-pleasure.

Sex is something that people often fixate on, even when they should be focused on other things. In my practice, I see people so focused on sex, they are driven into a place of sexual complacency. This complacency ultimately leads to a sexless relationship.

Sexual complacency, commonly known as a sexual rut, is a state in which sex becomes a routine. You have that same-old-same-old kind of sex. The neutrality that is created around sex decreases one’s desire. Over time, this also decreases the frequency of sex.

Where Sexual "Ruts" Come From

Many factors can push a relationship into a sexual complacency cycle. Some common culprits are stress, external changes (such as adapting to COVID-19), low testosterone, medications, alcohol, fatigue, personal challenges, and emotional struggles within a relationship.

Sexual complacency is not a new concept within long-term relationships. As the “honeymoon stage” lapses, a couple begins to experience common life challenges. Think back to the first date you went on with your partner. You put your best foot forward, and set aside stress, tiredness, and your daily struggles. As the relationship grew, you began to share more internal experiences with your partner. Yes, this is critical to a healthy relationship, but daily stressors and experiences can be libido killers, too. In the end, they may lead to mundane or less satisfying sex in the relationship.

How to Break the Cycle of Sexual Complacency

Sexual complacency cycles are common in relationships. But there are many ways a couple can break their sexual complacency cycle and begin having great sex again.

1. Communication is key.

It can be difficult to see when our relationship is gradually falling into a sexual complacency cycle. Couples are not always aware they are facing complacency—sometimes until the relationship is totally sexless. This is often when couples begin to identify their challenge, and need to learn how to break the cycle. The first step is communicating that the cycle exists. 

When addressing the problem with your partner, start by talking about what you enjoy about your shared sex life, and what you would like to experience more of. This will help you and your partner feel mentally more confident, and that confidence is a great way to increase your libido and desire for more sex. Tell your partner about your fantasies. Listen to what your partner fantasizes about. Does anything seem surprising? This is your first step out of the rut.

The desire for sex comes from the pleasure we experience during sex itself. In order to experience our full pleasure, we must communicate our desires and what we enjoy. The secret to having great sex comes from effective communication. Talk to your partner about what you enjoy during sex. Yes, we should always be communicating during the sexual act, but I also encourage you to talk about sex outside of the bedroom. Talk about sex over lunch or dinner. Share what you would like to explore. State the things that are off-limits, but most importantly, praise your partner for the things you enjoy. 

2. Shop for a new sex toy together.

Whether you shop in person or online, buying a sex toy together is a fun way to increase desire. First off, the anticipated pleasure that comes with the sex toy increases libido. That is when you become grateful that most toys come with a half-battery charge right out of the box.

A second perk is the shopping experience itself. When the couple is shopping for a toy, or multiple toys, they are communicating their desires. They are saying where and how they would like to experience pleasure and vocalizing some of the “off-limit” zones. All this communication is critical to creating a great sex life.

3. Have a romantic evening.

Sex is between the ears, not the legs. Sex is mental. Sex involves our thoughts and feelings. A romantic evening is a great way to help relax and create a sexy and confident feeling. Whether you have sex or not, it is important to feel sexy in your own skin. What you see, smell and experience can help ignite your inner spark, increasing your libido.

For example, create a romantic dinner. Think dim lights, a calming candle, and foods that make you feel healthy and energized. Wind down from a stress-filled day into a calm and confidently sexy you. Sex itself is not always the goal, feelings sexy helps increase one’s libido. 

4. Try mindful masturbation.

Sexting is not only for millennials. Your most important sex organ is your mind. Send your partner a sexy message. It is an exciting way to connect with your partner from afar. Let your partner know you are fantasizing about them.

Before hitting that send button, though, talk to your partner. Ask them if this is something they would like to spontaneously receive on their phone. Consent is required.

5. Engage in self-exploration.

Our pleasure is our own responsibility. In order for us to experience pleasurable sex, we must first know our own body and our pleasure zones. Whether through parental messages, sex education classes, or other outlets, children often internalize that sex should not be discussed. It’s a taboo that follows us into adulthood. I encourage you to learn your body, and explore it.

The next step is to explore your pleasure pathway. Identify what feels good to you. A toy can be a great aid in this process. Once you understand your body, you can communicate your desires to your partner.

Most couples find themselves experiencing a sexual rut at some point in their relationship. There are many factors that influence sex. These factors range from the emotional, physical, all the way to the core connection the couple shares. Working through the physical challenges of sexual complacency, and learning yourself will ultimately deepen your emotional bond with your partner, only enhancing the resulting sexual experience and giving you back your sexual spark.