How do you get out of a sexual rut in your marriage? When you find your love life growing stagnant, can you rediscover passion?

I received this question recently from a woman whose sex life has dried up, and I thought it would be a good one for Top 10 Tuesday:

Reader Question

My husband and I have been together for just over 10 years and we have 6 kids. For the first few years we had hot passionate sex. The last few years it’s all dropped off. My husband doesn’t even kiss me anymore. I do believe we both love each other deeply but our relationship is not physical as much as I’d like it to be. At first he said it was because he was afraid of being rejected, which I actually rarely did. Lately it feels like it’s an effort to get things going. He plays games and says he’s not interested but then every now and then he gets upset because we are not having sex. He hardly ever made the first move and for a long time there was a battle of who will do the first move. I think now we both are just too tired to play the game. It’s not fun! This is only part of the problem… I just don’t know how to get out of this vicious cycle? I tried to spice things up in the past but I got tired of it always being me making the effort. I’ve tried to talk to him about it and he is very stubborn about it all and it’s hard to get through? Help!!!

So here we go–I’m going to throw out 10 different ideas for escaping from this negative spiral in the hopes that a few of them will be just what you’re looking for! So remember our Top 10 Tuesday philosophy: Don’t do all 10. Just read them like it’s a brainstorming session, and then choose one or two that you’ll latch on to and try to put in practice.

But first, I want to paint the picture of what’s caused this sex rut, because a lot of couples go through this.

They’re busy. They don’t have a lot of time to connect during the day. The house revolves around the kids. Then evening comes and they head to bed. And as soon as you hit the pillow you start drifting off to sleep. But you think, “I wouldn’t mind having sex tonight.” You wonder if he wants it. You wonder what you should do about it. But the thought of having to seduce anyone sounds simply EXHAUSTING especially when you’re already drifting off.

If you could just start without having to feel someone out or try something elaborate to initiate, you would. But you wonder if it’s worth the effort when you’re so tired…

In this case, the letter writer sounds like the main issue isn’t spicing things up or being more adventurous in bed. It’s not about sex being boring, just about getting excited about sex again!

Can you relate? Has your sex life disintegrated? Let’s see what we can do!

1. Schedule Sex

It doesn’t sound romantic, I know. But if the “game” of figuring out are we going to tonight is just getting too tiring and demoralizing, then sometimes scheduling sex and knowing that “Tuesday nights and Saturday nights we’re going to rock each other’s worlds” can take the pressure off of having to try to get them in the mood. You both know it’s going to happen, so you both get ready.

Here’s a longer post on how scheduling sex works if you want to try it.

2. Head to bed half an hour earlier

So many of these problems in the bedroom could be solved if people simply weren’t as tired when they headed to bed! So try going to bed half an hour earlier. When you stay up playing computer games or watching Netflix, you may think you’re relaxing after a busy day. But then when you do get to bed you’re just so tired that anything else seems like too much effort!

Change your evening routine. The things that we do earlier in the evening often determine how that evening will go. So if your bedtime routine isn’t working, check out the few hours that lead up to bedtime. Maybe you need to start changing what you do then so that when you get to bed you’re not as tired!

3. Reserve a half hour earlier in the day to talk

Here’s another impediment to sex: before couples are often ready to make love, they feel like they should connect by talking. But if you’re tired to begin with, the thought of having to have a half hour conversation before you can even begin to try to initiate sex can make the whole thing seem like too much work.

So have that conversation earlier in the day! Get off of the games and Netflix and head out for a walk after dinner. Or tell the kids, “you guys get to clean up dinner while Mommy and Daddy get 20 minutes to ourselves in the living room–with no children bothering us.” I’ve known families that make that the rule. And kids get it after a while.

4. Create a signal that says, “I’m interested”

What is it that’s so exhausting about initiating sex? Is it that seeing if they’re interested seems like you have to jump through too many hoops? You have to try to romance them when it really should be a lot easier? Then create a signal together that says, “I’m interested if you are.” Friends of ours put candles on both bedside tables and if they were interested, they’d light the candle. It didn’t mean “we have to tonight”, but it did mean, “if you want to, you don’t have to go through that whole 15 minute seduction first.” We can get right to the foreplay!

5. Create a signal that says, “I’m NOT interested”

I like the candle idea, but I actually like this one more. I try to tell myself that my default is always “yes”. Sure, I’ll have sex tonight. After all, it helps me sleep better! But there are some nights that I really don’t want to, either because I’ve got too much on my mind or I really don’t feel well. And on those nights I’d like to let Keith know. He really doesn’t want to have sex if I’m not that into it, and I hate turning him down. So if you’re in that situation–where you’re more likely to say yes, but sometimes you just need to say no–then create a “No Trespassing” signal for those difficult nights.

Maybe you wear No Trespassing flannel pyjamas. Maybe you put in ear plugs. Just talk about it so the other spouse knows the signal!

One of our problems is that Keith thinks I’m giving him “no” signals when I’m not at all. I might complain during the day that I’m stressed or that I have a headache, and he thinks that means, “there’s no way she’s interested tonight.” But what it more likely means is, “take my mind off of all this stuff that’s running through my head!” But he doesn’t try anything, I’m too preoccupied to be the one that makes the effort, and we both go to sleep frustrated.

So I’ve had to learn to tell him, “this is not a NO signal. This is just me venting.” And now ear plugs are my signal that, “I’m going to sleep now.”

6. Try Morning Sex

If evening sex just isn’t working because you’re in this major sexual rut where you always do the same thing, neither one of you likes initiating sex, and it all seems like too much work–then try morning sex! Some people just have more energy in the morning. It’s lighter in the room. It starts the day off well, and is a great way to deal with a stagnant sex life.

Here’s a longer post on the benefits of morning sex for those of you who may want to try it!

7. Take turns being the “aggressor”–the more active one

This couple has gotten to this point largely because they’re both sick of trying to convince the other person to have sex. It really should be easier than this, shouldn’t it? And when you’re lying there thinking, do I have to reach out tonight?, you sometimes just give up.

We tell kids they have to take turns, so maybe you should take turns, too! If he initiates one night, then that means that it’s your turn to initiate the next night. And when it’s your turn, go all out! Start kissing him passionately. Put your all into it, because you know that next time he’s going to put his all into it.

Warning: for this to work, you each have to agree on the frequency that you’ll make love. If you decide, about 2-3 times a week is good, then it works fine. But if one of you wants 3 times a week and one wants 2 times a month, then going back and forth will backfire! And if your husband never initiates sex or never wants to make love, then there are deeper problems. Read the links to help you there.

8. Be blunt

What is it that has plunged you into this sex rut and stopped you from having sex? Is it feeling like you have to go through this whole seduction process? Is it wondering if they want to or not because they often turn you down? Is it feeling like you have to convince someone?

All of this can become a “game”, because you’re not really being upfront with someone. The seduction thing can be fun–if you’re on a romantic weekend together and you have a ton of time. But that can be tiring on a day-to-day basis.

We’d all benefit from some more open communication! How about talking with each other and just saying, “I think we’re not having sex as often because we’re always second guessing what the other is feeling. So how about when we get into bed, we just be upfront and honest.” And decide on what you can say, like, “I’m up for it totally!”, “Honestly, I wouldn’t mind tonight, but you may have to get me in the mood a bit because I have a lot on my mind,” or “I want to give you a gift–but I don’t think I’ll get into it tonight, and I’m okay with that.”

We think sex=seduction or else it’s not real. But if open communication means fewer mixed signals and more sex, even if it doesn’t seem as romantic, I’m all for it!

Just make sure that your spouse is able to be that blunt, and able to take it if you’re that blunt!

9. Add some humor

Sometimes you can get out of a rut by adding some humor!

I’ve been talking with some of my married sex blogging friends, and one of the resources we’ve been looking for is a book on sexual positions that isn’t too graphic. Too many have pictures of actual people that are way too pornographic.

Or you get a book on the Kama Sutra that is too much focused on the Hindu religion behind it.

Well, I found something that I think is really quite funny. And it’s not pornographic.

It’s the Sock Monkey Kama Sutra.

Sock Monkey Kama Sutra: Tantric Sex Positions for Your Naughty Little Monkey

That’s right–it’s pictures of sock monkeys in different positions! And while it’s called the Kama Sutra, it really doesn’t dwell on the religion. It talks more about sock monkeys, with lines like, “It is important that her partner support himself by holding her tail with both paws …”

So if you just need some humor, as well as some ideas for spicing things up, this may be a good addition! (Warning: of course the book isn’t perfect. No book like this can be. But it’s the cleanest that I have found, and the most unobjectionable. That doesn’t mean it’s totally unobjectionable. But I’m assuming you’re both married and you’re both adults, and so the stuff you don’t like you can just disregard.)

10. Try 31 Days to Great Sex

Finally, try my 31 Days to Great Sex! And I’m not saying that just to try to sell books, either.

I honestly wrote the book for just this situation. A couple is in a sexual funk. Sex seems like too much work. Misunderstandings and mistrust has built up over the years and you’ve lost the fun.

31 Days to Great Sex--to make your marriage sizzle

31 Days to Great Sex helps you start at the beginning with fun exercises you can do together. But the best part, from what people tell me, is that they finally figure out how to talk about this stuff again. Whenever I speak I have women come up to me and whisper, “that book saved my marriage!”

Yes, there are exercises on how to make things spicy again. But there’s also exercises that help you talk about how to initiate, what to do if someone loses their libido, and how often you should make love. If you’re in a sexual rut, this can help you climb out of it!

Check out 31 Days to Great Sex

So there you go–10 ideas to stop sex like feeling like so much work and too much of a game (in the bad sense). Choose 1-2 ideas and start trying them! Talk to your spouse about them. Often all it takes is one little change to make all the difference!

Now let me know in the comments: Do you find this “guessing game” of “are we going to or not” at the end of the day tiring? What do you do to get around it? What idea do you think would work best for you to help you out of a stagnant sex life?

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