Just not ‘feeling it’ with your partner? You might need a relationship reset
If you’ve noticed a change in your desire, you’re not alone. Sex coach Georgia Grace talks about ebbs and flows in this department and what you can do about it.
The last year and a half we’ve lived has been extraordinary, and I mean that in the most literal, not necessarily positive way. Our lives have been upended and challenged in more ways than one: financially, emotionally, psychologically, and these stressors can manifest in lots of different ways.
Maybe you’re not sleeping so well. Or maybe, you’re in a long-term relationship and just aren’t ‘feeling it’ with your partner. You still love them, of course, but the idea of slipping in between the sheets isn’t all that exciting. Conversely, perhaps you’ve been separated from your partner by distance and finally get to relish in some, or a lot of, physical time together.
Sexual health expert for We-Vibe and sex coach Georgia Grace says she’s encountering both ends of the spectrum when couples come to her, but perhaps most commonly has been a reported drop in desire.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.
“Many have noticed a dip in their passion and drive, which is completely expected and understandable,” she says.
“When you’re stressed, your body goes into fight or flight response. These responses also trigger the release of hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine, which in high levels can cause decreased sex drive.”
Stay-at-home orders have created a unique challenge for partners that reside together, too. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, where does it leave those of us who are living on top of each other 24/7?
“Most relationships thrive when the couple can enjoy moments apart throughout the day but how do you do this when you literally have to stay inside with each other? Boundaries,” says Grace.
“Perhaps that involves going for a walk or exercising separately, working from other areas or rooms, or agreeing on a ‘no touch’ policy for an agreed amount of time—this’ll be for those who are experiencing touch fatigue.” (Touch fatigue is exactly what it sounds like, by the way, and a quite common experience in postnatal sexuality where you can no longer stand physical contact with another.)
If any of the above sounds like you, “create the context for an open and honest discussion (at a time that is relatively good for both of you), speak from the perspective of ‘I’ and intend to listen and understand each other,” advises Grace.
“Then the next important step will be to really consider the time you do spend together. Is it a meal without screens, or a day without speaking about a specific topic, i.e. finances or the pandemic, or getting creative and taking the initiative to prioritise sex and pleasure, like organising a sexy date or trying something new?”
You may need to take things a step further, though, and that’s where the idea of a ‘relationship reset’ comes in; the idea that you’re reassessing what each other needs from the partnership and looking to make changes in an honest and healthy way.
This can be beneficial in a change of contexts. You could be moving into a different stage of your relationship, i.e. getting married, having a baby, maybe there was a death in the family, or, like now when you’re living through a pandemic.
“Or it could just be that you’re curious and you want to make your relationship even better. For these reasons, and more, a little reset can do wonders for the system,” she explains.
“The best thing about having a relationship is that it’s yours. So, communicate your needs and boundaries, discuss your relational agreements and do what is right for you.”
How to do a relationship reset
Seek professional support
This is possibly the best first approach, you may choose to seek support from a coach, therapist, online course, a workbook etc. You don’t have to navigate this on your own.
This can feel like a tricky skill to learn, though solid communication skills can support you in a relationship pulse check. Asking what’s working? What isn’t? What could we do to make this even better? I believe attuned communication can solve most relational concerns.
Set an action plan
Grand ideas are wonderful, but true resets and change come from ‘doing’. So sit down and agree to a plan of action. This doesn’t need to be anything too intense, choose a few daily habits or weekly activities that are easy to integrate and even a little bit exciting.
Engage in new behaviours
We’re all about rewiring neural pathways, and the best way to hack your nervous system is to engage in new behaviours, thoughts, and experiences (neuroplasticity is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganisation).
This may be a couple’s meditation, attending a workshop, investing in new toys or a blindfold, etc. Figuring out what excites you both can be great learning. Once you’ve decided on it, and everyone involved is willing and excited, give it a go.
Do things differently
I love working with this phrase for any time you feel stuck, uninspired, awkward or clunky. Remember, you’re intending to do things differently and that’s why you’re engaging in a relationship reset. It may take some time, and it certainly may be a little clunky, though that’s a sign that you’re at your ‘learning edge’ which is a great space to lean into as a couple.