Are you bored with your sex life? It’s a big question, and your honest answer requires bravery. If your answer to the question above is “yes,” I know it can be hard to admit. I also know it’s really common—and there are ways to work through it. Perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you or your relationship. Hope lies ahead.
This story was written in partnership with my very favorite Psychotherapist + Sex Therapist, Christopher F. Brown LCSW, CST of Sapient Therapy.
“Am I bored with my sex life?”
What do you feel when you ask yourself? You might feel embarrassed, and there might be resistance. Perhaps you’re reluctant to admit the answer is “yes.” You might be relieved that you finally get to put into words something that’s been bothering you for a long time. You might be happy to say “no.”
As you find your answer, what happens in your body? Did you smile? Do tears come up for you? Maybe you feel tightness in your shoulders or nervousness in your belly? Can you feel a reaction in your genitals? Are you used to noticing sensations there? Just notice; don’t judge.
If you’re not sure what you feel in your body, that’s okay too. The mind/body connection is real—but daily tasks and a world of distractions keep us focused outwardly, so we might not yet have a sense of what our bodies really feel. We can learn to pay attention to our emotional and embodied selves by slowing down, taking a few deep breaths, and listening to the information that our sensations give us. So take three deep breaths. Now, what do you feel about your answers?
In this article you’ll learn some information that will help you understand sexual boredom, and you’ll get some practical tools to think differently about sex (even if you’re only having sex with yourself at the moment).
And if you’re not bored, yay! You should still read on because the tips here will enhance what’s already good and make your sex life even better.
What is Sexual Boredom?
Psychology Today defines sexual boredom in two ways: “the tendency to feel bored with the sexual aspects of life,” or “…boredom with…dull, routine, and over-rehearsed sex.” Pleasure is notably absent from this definition, so we’re going to put pleasure back in! That’s what our work is all about!
We are going to define sexual boredom as an indifferent emotional reactions to sex that is not pleasurable enough to activate the sexual motivation system.
There are a couple of things to know here. First, we need to define (or redefine) sex. Pop culture and other sources say sex is just one thing going into another (usually, a penis into a vagina)—but there is so much more to explore beyond that definition. Secondly, sex is a motivation system, not a drive. Hunger, thirst, and sleep are drives for humans—without these things our bodies will deteriorate and we will literally die. Though it’s often referred to as a drive, sex does not fit into this definition. But it is a motivation system—that is, when a thing feels good, we want more! Therefore, in order to motivate ourselves to seek more sexual activity, we need to ensure we’re having sex worth having.
What are the Causes of Sexual Boredom?
If you answered “yes” to the opening question, please read below and consider which explanation best fits your current situation.
1. I’m not having sex that I actually want.
Many of us don’t actually know what kind of sex we want—and this is way more common than you might think. When I teach consent classes, I use an exercise called the Three Minute Game from the Wheel of Consent. The game is for two people, and includes two questions. I ask you, “How would you like me to touch you?” and “How would you like to touch me?” Then we switch and repeat; it sounds simple, but it’s actually quite nuanced and complex. And most people have a moment of shock—how many of us have been asked about what we really want? And when have we been truly encouraged to express it?
To figure out what you really need and desire in a sexual relationship, we need to talk, explore, and experiment. You need to spend time with yourself, perhaps with the guidance of sex coach, to help you figure out the type of sex you really want. And you need to learn how to ask for it, so that you can begin to have the sex and the pleasure that will activate your motivation system. You’re not alone, and I can help.
2. New relationship energy is gone.
New relationship energy (NRE) is a real phenomenon that hits the human brain’s reward center (the nucleus accumbens) in the same way that heroin does. When you’re in the excitement of a new love, it’s as if you’re on drugs… and your brain is a little bit high!
This effect doesn’t last, usually. Depending on the person, new relationship energy dissipates somewhere between six to 18 months. Some of us misinterpret this very natural human response as indication of relationship misalignment. We might tell ourselves and our partners stories like, “I love you but I’m not IN LOVE with you anymore.” If this sounds like you, please consider that it could be a new phase of relationship, and that’s totally OK! It could be that your relationship is now a place of security (aka love, connection, intimacy) but not enough novelty. See my article here about how to bring novelty into the relationship to keep our brains and bodies excited.
3. I’m not in the relationship that I truly want.
Sexual boredom can sometimes be an unconscious protection. That means that we don’t do it on purpose, but for some people in a bad relationship, being bored with sex (and therefore avoiding it) is often better than having sex with the wrong people.
This could be mismatched sexual orientation or relationship orientation. It could also be from romantic relationships that accidentally develop a parent/child or a caregiver/patient dynamic. This can also happen in emotionally abusive relationships. The solutions here are complex, and involve big changes. You can choose to change an ingrained relational dynamic; or you can consciously uncouple. Blowing up your life often works best with professional support—I can help.
4. Sex has become too predictable.
Within our sexual relationships, some predictability provides safety. However, when we’re bored with the sex we’re having, it’s often because we’ve fallen into overly predictable routines. Novelty is the solution. Research shows that adding one act of novelty per month can be enough of a novelty balance for long-term partners. See our article here about sexual novelty and how to integrate changes into your sex life!
Most of us need a mix of predictability and novelty, and we each need different ratios. Some people have a higher need for novelty than others. What is your perfect mix? What are your partners’ perfect mixes? It’s okay if you don’t know and ask. Ask yourself. Listen for your answer. Ask your partners. Learn their answers.
Imagine that you had to eat the same meal, at the same time, everyday. For some people, this is actually great (they need less novelty than most)! But for most of us, this meal is going quickly get boring, no matter how delicious it was initially. Guess what?! It’s the same with sex! Similarly, having sex in the same position, with the same foreplay, and the same aftercare week after week, month after month, might get a little boring.
This boredom is a totally normal, human thing—it’s called hedonic adaptation. This is important to understand, especially if you’re feeling bored in your relationship or sex life. Feeling a little bored doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner, and it doesn’t have to be the end of the relationship. If you’re generally feeling good in your relationship, but the sex feels boring, or if you’re less interested in sex than you were at another time in the relationship, don’t worry. There are lots of ways to bring back excitement and joy to the bedroom.
Also, please remember that sexual relationships ebb and flow. This is especially true with big life changes (like a death in the family, or the birth of a baby). The solution is to have honest conversations with your partner to communicate your feelings and needs. Together you can figure out how to best move through the challenge—whether it’s a ‘dry spell’ or something bigger happening in the relationship.
5. My pleasure capacity is too low… or not accessible at all.
Did you know that you have a pleasure capacity? You might feel really good with your pleasure practices right now, but you can always access more pleasure and increase your pleasure ceiling. Check out my story here about increasing your PLEASURE CEILING so that you can feel more!
However, sometimes general medical problems can interfere with our pleasure capacities, and we don’t feel as good as we used to. Anorgasmia is an example. If you’ve lost the ability to orgasm, or never cultivated your ability to orgasm, then treatments and/or skills building might be helpful.
Here are more pro tips from the Sex Therapist: look at the medications that you take regularly for side effect profiles that inhibit pleasure, sensation, and/or orgasm. Have your hormone levels checked annually, as endocrine problems can cause pleasure inhibition. Chronic pain can often hit your ‘sexual brakes.’ It’s impossible to accelerate fully when the emergency brake of chronic pain is engaged. A good sex therapist with ACT and CBT skills can help (those are psychotherapy techniques, so ask potential psychotherapists if they know them. And remember, not all psychotherapists are sex therapists).
6. How Shame and Guilt Block your Pleasure
Shame is another roadblock to your pleasure capacity—and it’s a far too common side effect to growing up in the US. Shame is an emotional pain that we feel when we believe that we are not enough or that we are intrinsically bad. For many of us, sex is the place where negative body image and the impact of sex negative families, communities, and cultures do the most damage. You deserve pleasure; therefore, you deserve to unwind the effects of shame in your sex life. Give yourself the gift of freedom from shame. If you don’t know how, that’s why sex coaching and psychotherapy exist. We can help.
Guilt is another pleasure blocker. Guilt—when it’s working correctly— is the emotional pain that lets us know that we’re doing something against our values. When it comes to your sex life, is guilt working correctly? Do you know your own sex and relationship values? Do you know your partners’ values? Are you within your relationship agreements (do you have relationship agreements)? Maybe you’re living by someone else’s code and not your own. Many of us are running our sex lives on the default values that were imprinted upon us by parents, churches, schools, and political parties. Do you want to keep those? Are they working for you?
Which of these ideas resonate with you and your current relationship? Are you maxed out on your pleasure capacity? Did the new relationship energy fade and send your sex life into a crisis? Are you in the right relationship and having the type of sex you really want?
I know these are really hard questions, and yet, in order to have a joyful and fulfilling sex life, we need to ask ourselves these hard questions, and be honest with ourselves about the answers. The next step is being honest with our partners about what we discover. This can be really hard to do, and a trusted sex coach can help guide you through your personal and relational questions as you work to build the relationship and sex life of your dreams. When you’re ready to dive in, schedule a session with me. Pleasure awaits.