Q. My partner and I have been together for over five years. We created a beautiful relationship over this time, but something has changed in that span. We are having less and less sex. In 2021 and 2020 combined, we have had sex less than 20 times. I feel like I am missing out with my partner and I miss this person in that way.
We have talked about it several times, and my partner cites changes in their body and feelings of discomfort surrounding self-esteem. I don’t bring it up often. I do my best to show them how sexy I think they are and always like to spice things up with lingerie or games or something similar.
After one year plus of this feeling, where do I go from here? How can we reconnect?
A. Whenever someone tells me, “My relationship has felt a little off since the start of 2020,” I’m like, “Well, of course it has.”
Some relationships thrived during the past year, which we all experienced so differently, despite the message that we were all in it together. Some people’s anxiety went through the roof. Maybe, for your partner, it became about intimacy.
Or maybe this has nothing to do with a global pandemic. All I’ll say is that many people are trying to “get back to normal,” whatever that means. Think about how other parts of your relationship have changed.
One idea: Ask your partner what turns them on. When do they think of sex? What would make them comfortable (even if, for now, it’s a very dark room)? Ask whether the lingerie and games are fun for all involved. Maybe they are, but again, maybe your partner has thoughts on what works. Another idea: Make it clear that this matters. You say you don’t bring the issue up often, and I’m glad this isn’t a situation where there’s already a ton of pressure, but I do think it’s time to tell your partner you miss sex with them a lot. You can say you don’t want this to feel like a task, but you really like that part of your relationship, so you want to know how to get it back.
The good news is that this person has acknowledged the change. Maybe a real “This is important!” conversation will result in them taking some steps to help themselves. I love that you don’t want to push, but hints and small gestures aren’t doing it. People’s sex lives ebb and flow, but this is big to you. You want to make sure it’s part of whatever routine you’re finding again.
Do you still have any kind of skin to skin contact? Do you still tangle your legs together when sleeping? Maybe this is their love language, not sex. Don’t have a talk about the lack of sex or wanting more, have a talk about each other’s love languages and what makes you both feel that each of you is paying attention to the other’s needs.
You need to make it plain to your partner that sex is important to you as part of a healthy relationship. If your partner can’t meet you at least somewhere in the middle, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate whether you should remain in this relationship.
You need to find a way to reassure your partner you love them no matter what, but I think your partner needs to do some work on their self-esteem if it’s really interfering with your relationship. You need to let them know how much this is affecting your relationship. This is a topic for discussion, not hinting around. If you can’t speak directly, find a counselor to help direct the conversation.
It is very common for that part of a relationship to fall off after a few years. Just like anything else in a long-term relationship, it takes work and making it a priority to be successful. I know you’ve talked to your partner about this before, but I think it’s time to come up with a plan to get back on track. Whether it’s going shopping for some new toys together, or making a commitment to do the deed at least once a week. It doesn’t sound sexy, but healthy relationships don’t just happen without some work from both parties.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to email@example.com. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.