Dedicated to Gen Z
A first disclaimer must be that people in a happy, close, steady, long-term sexual relationship by far not all are that sexual always. Even ‘normally’ frequent sex in an intimate relationship may be short and unpassionate. Its best part can be to remember how good it used to be, and it seems many people settle. Others try to ‘spice up’ the passion, but there are two ways to achieve this. You could try new things with each other. Some people also like to try new foods—while others prefer to always eat the same. Another option is to work on the relationship, rediscover each other, be passionate about each other again, and have sex play its part in that renewed contact.
There exist many arguments to opt for an intimate relationship without or with very little sex, and also many causes that could push this onto you against your expectations or will. Both categories are not uncommon.
You could choose a platonic relationship because you value it or expect it to work for you, and/or just to fit in when your homosexual preference is taboo (a so-called lavender marriage or marriage of convenience).
You may want no or little sex from the start because one or more of you dislikes sex (asexuality, demi-sexuality), fears sex, intimacy, or losing control, or feels inapt (lack of sexual education, exaggerated expectations), is traumatized around sex, finds it unethical (religious dogmas), finds it bad for the equality, doesn’t want to risk spoiling the friendship, has fine sex outside of the relationship with others or oneself, doesn’t make time or have energy for it, doesn’t long for it with this partner (‘incompatible’ sexual orientation, not ‘one’s type’), or in general (introvert, depression, chemical problems (hormones (sex change, pregnancy), medication, or recreational drugs (alcohol),) feels bad about it afterward, or wants to wait until the relationship is more stable (marriage?) or mature.
If this was what each partner initially wished for, how do you each find it now? Over time, you may see changes in how you each like it, what you think about it, and/or what you would prefer next. And when one or more partners want changes, what individual and joint options will emerge? Will you split up? Are you such good friends that you’ll continue platonically while each gets their sexual needs met outside of the relationship? Will you take therapy to see what could be done? Do you agree to just continue and think about it again in five years from now?
Or, to your surprise, partners may find themselves in a sexless or sex-rare relationship for now or seemingly for always, because one or more of the things mentioned above started playing, or pain at intercourse (for medical reasons, or because of lack of empathy, sexual knowledge, or experience), problems in the relationship (disappointment, anger, revenge, selfishness), a problematic motivation during sex (I should, s/he should, I don’t matter, s/he doesn’t matter), old emotional trauma surfacing, emotional problems between and/or not between the partners, physical problems (aging, physical illness, or health’s complications), partners not finding joint sex forms that work for each, fear or condemnation (religion, culture) to experiment or do other things than ‘normal’ intercourse, sexual problems (fear of impotence can give sexual ‘failure;’ premature ejaculation can be solved by going for seconds because then, climaxing will be much slower), a changed appearance (pregnancy, bodybuilding, weight changes, sex change, operations, age), a lack of friendliness, interest, or intimacy outside of sex times, worries, or finding it boring (no ‘spark’ anymore).
Less sex could threaten a relationship, or the opposite, a relationship going bad may show itself in less sex, as a warning. Sometimes, the focus on what would lead to an orgasm shifts more to emotional closeness, affection, listening, cuddling, and ‘foreplay’ instead of just going for climaxing. The partners may actually experience that as an improvement.
If it’s not what you originally expected or now wish for, you may ask how good and bad it is for each, and if not so good, if the relationship overall has enough potential to fight for and for how long, as far as you can see now. Or would you stay for emotional (for old-times’ sake, love, solidarity, fear of loneliness, or what others may think) or practical (financial, kids) reasons?
To bridge differences and incompatibility in needs, frequency, intensity, and style, try to avoid words like you, should, normal, always, never, and instead, use I need, I like, to try, and what would you need or appreciate? In any case, the way to be stuck is to not talk about it, and forget about it. It’s easier for many couples to just have sex, or not, than to speak about it.
In any case, when emotions (anger, shame, fear, etc.) have shut up one or more of the partners, talk-therapy seems often to help to admit to, face, and slowly solve the problems. Pharmaceutical treatment of (rare) physical problems or sidestepping (more common) emotional problems can quickly come via sildenafil (Viagra) ‘to solve’ erectile dysfunction of the penis, libido-enhancing drugs, and others. Sex education and physical therapy can help against pain during intercourse and fear or taboo to experiment.
If one or more partners are ambivalent about how to proceed, you may play out the different scenarios in your head or on paper or talk about it with a partner or an outsider. You could also list plusses and minuses for each option to get clear which option you like best. If you all agree, you could even play out each alternative for a week or a month and see how you like it. You could ask a mutually trusted person to help you negotiate. If other partners decided for or before you, you can still make up your own mind and try negotiating a change in what was presented as final by others. “What would help you change your mind or be more flexible?”