When I was a teenager, I thought every marriage was filled with hot, passionate sex every night like the movies depicted. But as I got older, I realized this was far from the truth. My mom was the one to break the news to me about how sex within marriage really is, and honestly, it broke my heart.

“Girl, you won’t have time for sex consistently when you have children, bills and PMS at your heels,” she said. I was disappointed when I got the news. In my perfect world, a married couple should be all over each other, eagerly enthralled with each other’s bodies. The world isn’t as I see it, however, so I decided to take to my Facebook page to get a general scope of how the average person is handling their sex lives within committed relationships.

“If you can describe your sex life in one word, what would it be?” The question posed to my Facebook followers was simple, and the answers were just as depressing as the words from my mom. “Dry,” one user said. “Nonexistent,” said another. The sentiment was the same for many of the responses I received, with only a few claiming to have “intimate” or “dynamic” sex lives.

After viewing these findings, I had to turn to statistical research to see just how many more couples were faced with less than satisfying sex lives. According to Newsweek, 15 to 20 percent of couples have sex no more than 10 times within a year, which experts define as a sexless marriage. While many believe women to be the deciding factor in whether sex is going down, experts have found men to be the ones who dismiss the act.

According to therapist Michele Weiner Davis, author of The Sex-Starved Marriage, the number of sexless marriages is “an underreported statistic.” The real number of marriages going through a sexual drought may not be known, but experts see this crisis as paramount.

There isn’t a magic number of sexual encounters that any one couple should reach yearly, however. In fact, sexual relations are completely dependent upon the standards a couple sets for themselves. Communication about desires and needs is necessary for partners to reach a clear understanding of what the other requires. But before trying to figure out how to bring the spark back into a sexless relationship, the underlying causes for why desire has left the bedroom must be pinpointed.

Common reasons why relationships become sexless

·      Busy schedule. Many Americans are overworked and stressed out from daily responsibilities, and partners can’t seem to find the time to make sex work. By the time lovers have calmed down from a day’s work, energy levels are low, and the enthusiasm to “get it in” just isn’t there. Both partners would rather sleep and prepare for the next day.

·      Hormone imbalance. Certain foods, stress levels, medications, becoming older and environmental factors can all have an effect on vital hormones needed in the sexual arousal state. When hormones are thrown off, libido can plummet and almost seem nonexistent. For women, this can also happen during menopause and after childbirth.

·      Loss of interest. Sometimes things can become stale in a relationship, from sexual techniques to physical appearances. A lack of interest can come about because there’s a need for something new and fresh to bring the spark back.

·      Health. Physiological factors play heavily into the levels of one’s sexual desire. When the body is in distress or when energy centers are blocked, the sexual body becomes dampened. Health issues such as vascular disease, diabetes and paralysis commonly bring with them the symptom of erectile dysfunction for men. Medications used to treat diabetes and vascular disease may also have an effect on libido and hormone levels.  Endometriosis, cystic fibroids and dyspareunia (painful sex) are common female health issues that can create a lack of desire to have sex. Treatments for these conditions can also throw hormones into an imbalance, causing vaginal dryness or lowered libido.

·      Psychological factors aren’t often associated with a loss of sexual desire, but the brain is the central control for sexual initiation. Mental health plays an important role in one’s desire to get it on in the sack, and these conditions shouldn’t be ignored. PTSD, stress, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, sustained trauma from previous abuse, resentment from experienced infidelity and shame centered around sexual expression (typical in women) are all mental issues that can place strain on sexual arousal.

So how can a couple seeking a renewed sexual spirit in the bedroom work on making improvements? There are several things that can be done to move a couple from sexless to “sex gods” once again.

1. Treating physiological conditions

Before working on sexual technique, those suffering from physical ailments or diseases should work on treating them first. Again, some of the treatments and medications suggested for certain physiological issues can cause dips in libido, so speak with your primary care physician or specialist about ways to maintain your sex drive while caring for your health. Making simple lifestyle changes in some cases may also help with bringing back desire. Eating less processed and refined foods and adding more natural ingredients can help with overall health, as well as adding 30 minutes of rigorous exercise daily.

2. Seeking therapy for psychological issues

Mental health should never be ignored, especially in the cases where trauma has gone unhealed.  Members of the African-American community are known for shying away from counseling and therapy. Still, I encourage those suffering from depression, PTSD, sustained trauma from abusive relationships or assault, or any other psychological issues to talk to a trained professional.  Medications prescribed to help some of these conditions may have side effects that affect libido, so it’s important (as it is with physiological ailments) to consult your therapist and physician about ways to balance libido during treatment.

3. Communication

Sometimes all it takes is a casual conversation to bring the spark back. When is the last time you’ve checked in with your partner sexually? Can you say that you know your partner’s current desires? Do you know what turns your partner on? What gets your partner fired up and ready for rounds of erotic fun?

If you can’t answer these questions, it’s time to start talking about sex. The conversation doesn’t have to be so serious. Have a date night where it’s all about building intimacy, which includes talking about sex. Making your partner aware of your desires can help with generating interest, and it’s always beneficial to remember that it’s not just one person benefiting in the relationship.  Trying new things and exploring is for both partners. Make the time to talk about sex more often, and watch your desire go from 0 to 10 over time.

4. Plan out sex night

It may not sound sexy to have to plan out when you’re going to have sex, but for the power couple on the go, scheduling time for sex is necessary. Decide on a day that will be designated as your “erotic play time,” and make that night of the week special. Mark the time off on your calendars, make plans for a babysitter, power down your electronics, and become one with each other. Scheduling sex shows that sex is important and should be made a priority. Have fun with these “date nights” and get that old thing back.

5. Go back to the beginning

Remember how you felt about your wife or husband when you first met? Remember the things he or she used to do that drove you crazy in bed? Sometimes going back to what worked in the beginning and remembering what attracted you to that person in the first place can work. Take a trip down memory lane and revisit those moments. Sometimes living in the past can remind you of what to do in the present. But don’t dwell in the past. Use the attraction from the past as a reference for how you can approach sex in the present. If something new is needed, open your mind to experimentation. Remember, sex is what you make it.

6. Write dirty stories

Sometimes a spark in one’s imagination can get a sexual fire going. Inspire your lover by writing a dirty story about the sexual things you’d like to do to them or the activities you would like to engage in. You don’t have to be a New York Times best-selling author to put your fantasies down on paper. Write from your heart and your imagination in your own voice and don’t leave any details out. Once the story is complete, place it in an envelope and deliver it to your partner. Think of it as a freaky love letter. Using writing as a way to express your desires is a clear way to communicate about what you want. Make it fun and use this method periodically to keep the spark alive.

7. Relax

Stress and anxiety experienced throughout the day can cause one to become out of touch with self. By taking the time to relax after a stressful day, you can become aware of what your sexual and emotional body needs. Light a few candles, sip on some cold wine, and kick back with your love. Whether you’re on the couch or propped up on pillows in your bedroom, take the time to become centered and aware of what your body is telling you. Sexual energy can be felt as it begins to rise, so pay attention to the call of your desires during relaxation.

8. Step outside of your comfort zone

Old activities become exciting again when they’re approached from a different perspective or performed in new places. Step out of your sexual comfort zone and try something new. Whether it’s incorporating toys into the bedroom, trying a new position, using edible lubricants or pasties, playing with sex furniture or adding a third party to the mix… you decide.

Have a conversation with your partner about the things that interest you and make a commitment to go outside of the box. Take a trip to an adult store and browse its selection of toys and goodies. You may find something you like. Some stores even offer classes to help couples spice things up. Give yourself and your partner permission to play.

You have your entire life to live with your partner, and your sexual desires will change. According to a study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at University in 2002, married couples say they have sex 68.5 times in a year, or little more than once a week. These statistics indicate there may be more couples romping in the sack than what’s been previously stated. But whatever the case may be for you, the goal is to remember that you are in control of your actions in the bedroom. Take care of your body and the rest will follow.

Glamazon Tyomi is a freelance writer, model and sex educator with a deeply rooted passion for spreading the message of sex positivity and encouraging the masses to embrace their sexuality. Her website, www.glamerotica101.com, reaches internationally as a source for advice and information for the sexually active/curious. Follow her on Twitter at @glamazontyomi.