When partners stop being physically intimate, the tone of the relationship begins to shift. There frequently is a misconception that lack of sex is a consequence of emotional wounds and relational concerns that accrued over a period of time. However, this perspective may very well be prolonging experienced unhappiness and emotional dissonance between partners.
Physical intimacy has the ability to create connectedness, a demonstration of care and selflessness, and permits each partner to feel wanted and loved. When the desire for touch gets denied, either because there is a desire gap between partners (low experienced desire/higher experienced desire), or because the couple is stuck on several emotional conflicts that they are unwilling to give to the other, all other elements of intimacy also eventually are reduced. In other words, the couple stop’s spending quality time together, laughing with each other, a lack of empathy develops and the relationship is placed at risk. One may inquire how to physically get to the point of intimacy when emotional issues are unresolved. The answer is just do it.
Desire has been placed on a pedestal and in its absence, many false assumptions are made: a self-misdiagnosis, jumping to conclusions that the low desire partner is no longer attracted to the higher desire partner and other cognitive distortions. In actuality, after transitioning from the passionate phase of love, where serotonin and dopamine drive us towards intimacy automatically, in the familial phase of love it often takes a conscious effort to maintain and prioritize a sexual connection.
What we gain in long term committed love (predictability, permanence, safety) is, in fact, the opposing elements from what fuels desire and passion (novelty, discord, and mystery). This transition may onset a sense of disappointment and confusion for couples and often because of the taboo nature of it, individuals internalize the shift and often do not seek or receive the education, validation, or tools as to how to navigate a desire gap in their relationships.
Instead of waiting for sexual desire to be present to ‘be in the mood enough’ to have sex with your partner, consider the human sexual response cycle from a different perspective, with arousal the first stage and desire the second (orgasm third and resolution fourth). This means both partners engage in physical touch, whether kissing or various forms of foreplay, to generate arousal and onset desire.
In short, you do not need to already be ‘in the mood’ to be intimate as investing in arousal can aid in the development of desire that if often conventionally assumed a necessity to achieve orgasm and have a positive sexual experience.
Working with a professional who is trained in relationship therapy can be useful in assisting individuals and couples to navigate and more effectively communicate concerns pertaining to intimacy and lack of closeness. By reworking unhealthy constructs that may be working against your relationship, therapy provides the education and tools necessary to rebuild closeness and promote lovingness. Sex can be utilized as a tool for connectivity and reconciliation so challenge that ‘I don’t feel like it mentality’ so you can begin introducing themes into your relationship that works for you and not against.