The frequency of sexual activity in marriage varies a lot from couple to couple. There is no definitive answer to how often a married couples should have sex, as individual circumstances, preferences, and relationship dynamics influence it. And while men most often initiate the end of the couple’s sexual relationship, this is often unnecessary.

But if you have a sexless relationship and want to enjoy sex and sexual frequency again, there is help. Read on even if you don’t like sex, have erectile dysfunction, or haven’t had physical intimacy in a while. Lack of sex in a relationship or marriage is no reason to grieve or seek sex therapy. To improve your sex life, you will need to pay attention before paying a sex therapist.

Most couples continue to have an active sex life throughout their marriage. They still do this even if their sexual desire, interest in sex, or frequency changes. Here are some tips for getting things started again.

When you’ve been in a sexless marriage, reactivating your body requires tolerating discomfort. It’s like starting up a cold engine that has been garaged for a while.

Face the resistance

When you’ve been in a sexless marriage, reactivating your body requires tolerating discomfort. It’s like starting up a cold engine that has been garaged for a while. If you expect it to turn over the first time the key is inserted and turned, you’re dreaming.

There will be resistance, ambivalence and even hard feelings, and cold exchanges.

Tolerate it with good humor, and keep trying. Your marriage and family are worth it. There needs to be a willingness to try it this way and that way and be patient.

And the shocking surprise will be that resistance will come from both of you. Even the “sexual expert” who has previously complained about how much they miss sex with you.

To be clear, even if you are reluctant to get aroused, that is not the same as being unwilling to be sexual.

For many people, once they are excited, they can easily and joyfully participate in sex. But getting to that state of arousal is the challenge.

End the war with yourself.

You need to figure out a way to make sex more enticing and less costly. This may mean coming to terms with your own innate attractiveness. Learn to accept yourself as sexual people, flaws and all.

When someone believes that they are a sexy person, they have less of an attitude when their partner refuses sex with them. Or when one asks the other to be sexual. Or when they ask for a change of direction from a sexless marriage.

If you don’t believe you are a sexy person, you will have difficulty believing that your partner finds you sexy. After a time of rejecting your partner’s advances, your partner may stop reminding you how attracted to you they are. This reinforces the, “I’m not sexy” belief.

If you don’t believe you are a sexy person, you will have difficulty believing that your partner finds you sexy.

.So believing in yourself as a sexually attractive person is the first step.

It is common in my Sex Retreats for both couples to report in the BIG BIG Book that they find their partner attractive, but they don’t think their partner finds them hot. No one forces them to indicate that they find their partner attractive, as this is a private communication between both of us (the client and I), so I believe they are being honest. So I enter the weekend with good news. Sometimes, surprisingly, they find the news unsettling. They are believed for so long that their partner isn’t attracted to them, when their partner says they are wrong, they don’t believe they are being truthful!

Try tossing the ratty p.j.’s and spraying air freshener when using the facilities (not to mention closing the door if you aren’t already). Put on pleasant scents. Before going to bed, take a shower and freshen up. Know what your partner finds “sexy” and put yourself in that place.

Grab an ally

Imagine having this conversation with your partner:

You: “You know, Charles/Helena, as a married couple, we’ve really let our sexual lives slide. I know I have played a big part in it. I want positive changes. I am wondering, what do you think? Do you want to break our bad habits? Do you want to work with me on better sexual health? I really love you, and I want to fix this and have a healthy relationship. I want this part of our lives to be a wonderful experience.”

For some of you, you’ll have to memorize that phrase and say it after extensive practice. For others, it just takes saying it upbeat and positive. Sex can make people grim, and fights about sex are typically nasty. To change things, open up and ask for a companion.

Start wherever you are. There are no baby steps to restarting sexual intimacy after a sexless partnership. Fixing a sexless marriage isn’t easy.

Even the seemingly insignificant things feel big. One of you reaches out, and the other freezes. You quickly withdraw, feeling hurt and rejected.

“Wait! That was only trying to hold your hands! This will be impossible!”

No, it was both of you trying to find comfort in touching again.

Hold hands

Next comes learning to be a special friend. This involves holding hands. Walking together. Sharing intimate secrets.

Make them the first person you call when you have good or bad news. Special friends. Begin by holding hands privately. Try it while watching your favorite series on TV.

Progress is resting your heads on each other or putting your feet up on the other’s lap. Or your head. Then rub the body part resting on your lap.

Progress is holding hands in public. Especially if you’re over 50, people love seeing that. Try it and see!


If you have never embraced, start now. Schnarch suggests you hug “until you both relax” in each other’s arms. You know the feeling, experience an exhale and find comfort in holding and being held. Do it every morning and evening, and when you meet and leave each other.

There is no need to leave air between you two. Press up against one another like you’re trying to get warm. And no grinding your groins at this point. It is rude and not appreciated. Press and warm your whole body, and relax into it.

Kissing involves first looking, really looking into your partner’s face. 


Many couples have given up kissing entirely if they’ve stopped having sex with each other. If you have stopped kissing and want to fix a sexless marriage, start doing it again. If you kiss each other briefly, do it a moment longer than you kiss ‘hello’ to your favorite aunt.

Work up to Gottman’s six-second kiss. Count “one Mississippi” for each second silently. Don’t complain about how your partner does it unless you set aside time for “sex class.”

Never criticize someone kissing you (outside of a sex class). It’s a terrible habit. Stop it. Kissing is such an intimate thing to do and extremely difficult to restart.

Look at Each Other

Kissing involves first looking, really looking into your partner’s face. You might get emotional. No big whoop. Take them in. Like you, they are also a fleeting mammal on the earth for a limited period of time. You might recognize all of the time you’ve already wasted not being close to them. Tell them. That’s an intimate moment.

Kissing requires initial tenderness to allow heat to build. And repetition. And navigating glasses and beards, braces, and dentures.

In order to introduce a tongue, it is necessary to wait for an invitation. Do it tentatively when invited, not riotously.


Fondling is the next step to improving a sexless marriage. We tell couples that real fondling is more than groping the erotic zones hoping to jet-propel a reaction. Fondling does two things:

1) the caress arouses the person touching and

2) it arouses the person being touched.

It is not a professional massage, and neither is it a mechanical act. Know the areas that are sensitive and responsive (verses sensitive and ticklish). Learn how to touch in a way that pleases your partner.

This takes experimentation and feedback. People change over time. Re-learn.

Mourn the porn

And if you’ve been watching porn, now is the time to stop. Pull the plug and mourn the porn. And mourn you might if it’s been a daily sexual partner “in vivo.”

You might need a porn blocker on your computer to block your inner 13-year-old.

Just do it.

Because sex in real committed relationships does not look anything like fantasy sex in pornography. No one can do what Mary Palm and her four daughters do naturally. If you are looking for genuine sexual desire, you must forsake sex frequency for the rebirth of real sexual intimacy.

Give it three months and notice the burn. That’s ‘mourning the porn.’ It will pass and if it doesn’t, consider whether you have a sexual addiction.

There are no sex police

If you haven’t had sex in a year, redefine what “sexual activity” means. Stop thinking that if V and P don’t intersect, it’s not “healthy sex.”

Repeat after me:

“There is no ‘sex police.'”

Timing is everything. And so is effective communication.

If you are already kissing and embracing, spend more time with it. Work up to 5-10 minutes a day. You are mammals, and you have to get used to each other again.

Practice the acceptance and refusal dance

To start being sexual again requires both of you to practice the art of accepting and rejecting sexual overtures. Describe them as “rain checks.” Rehearse together what you’ll say to each other.

It can sound something like this:

Charles: Helene, I was hoping we could have some intimate time tonight. Are you interested in turning in early?

Helene: (accepting) Oh Charles, what a charming invitation. Honey, I’d love to cuddle up and be close.

Helene: (raincheck): Oh Charles, what a wonderful invitation. Thank you so much for asking me. I really appreciate you suggesting it.

Tomorrow, I’m having that major presentation, and I need to stay up late tonight to prepare it. Can I take a raincheck until tomorrow night? I promise I’ll be ready then!

Key things to note:

  • Charles isn’t asking for a particular set of behaviors other than intimacy and turning in early.
  • Helene doesn’t get angry that Charles forgot about her big presentation.
  • They act like “intimate friends” and keep things positive.

Charles also uses his words.

He asks for what he wants and risks being deprived. Too many sexual initiators initiate sex so timidly that their partners miss it as a sexual invitation. Others seem to pick times when they can “hit and run” the sexual invitation, intentionally choosing times when their partner cannot reciprocate. Even in those situations, their partners can ask for a raincheck, turning an otherwise “hit and run” invitation into a promising later rendezvous.

Remember, every couple’s journey is unique, and there is no right or wrong way to restart sexual activity. The key is open communication, mutual consent, and a focus on rebuilding intimacy and connection with your partner. And not putting it off. Sit down, have the conversation. Start today.