Maybe your go-to sex positions have started feeling stale. (Missionary, again, really?) Maybe she just had a baby and after being a mom all day, would rather binge watch Netflix than initiate sex. Maybe you’re exhausted from work, and would rather do the same. Does this mean your relationship is doomed to a lifetime of subpar sex? Absolutely not.
“Couples may feel bad when they come across issues in their sex life, whether it’s boredom or being too tired to do it at all, but it’s important to remember that every couple deals with these kinds of problems at some point,” says Lauren Zander, couples coach and author of Maybe It’s You. “The good news is that being honest, open, and willing to keep your sex life alive and fun will help you find solutions.”
Here are the most common challenges couples face in the bedroom—and how you can overcome the bumps in the road.
“We’re too tired to have sex.”
There may be times when you really are too emotionally or physically drained to have sex, like after a job loss or cross-country move. But for most people, exhaustion is often a cover up for laziness, Zander says. “If you can make time to watch Netflix or scroll through Instagram, you can certainly fit 30 minutes of sex into your schedule.”
To tackle dry spells, Zander has couples discuss how often they’d each like to have sex. Once they agree on frequency, she has them make a non-negotiable promise to stick to their schedule—whether it’s once a day or twice a week.
“I then have my clients create consequences if they don’t fulfill their promise—nothing serious or life-threatening, but something that they would miss if it were gone, like skipping that glass of wine with dinner or giving up TV for a week. You’d be surprised how quickly people find the time and energy to have sex when you threaten to take away their indulgences,” she says. (Here’s how one woman found the time to have sex twice a day.)
“I want to try sex toys, but my partner isn’t interested.”
While sex toys can certainly spice things up, bringing something tangible into the bedroom can make some people feel like their sex skills are subpar, says Fran Walfish, Psy.D., a family and relationship psychotherapist. You’ll want to gently tell your partner exactly what you’d like to try and be crystal clear that you are completely satisfied with her as your partner, she says.
“You can offer to exchange the favor by trying something your partner would enjoy, too,” she adds.
Another thing to consider: Some people may balk at the thought of using toys at first, but be curious about them later. So don’t lose hope if your partner says no the first time you ask. As feelings of safety and trust are built up, a person’s hesitancy to try new things may fade, says Wendi Dumbroff, L.P.C., a New Jersey-based family and couples therapist.
“However, there may be things that are a ‘hard no,’ so it’s important for partners to discuss how important it is to each person to try new things and see if a compromise can be reached,” she says. (Don’t miss these 10 positions to try if you’re sick of missionary.)
Related: The Best Sex Toys For Men
“We have sex regularly, but I don’t feel emotionally connected.”
“While having sex is a necessary pillar of a healthy relationship, having sex for sex’s sake can deplete that emotional connection that comes from such a private and personal act,” explains Stan Tatkin, Psy.D., a California-based couples therapist and author of Wired for Love. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to nurture your emotional connection that doesn’t require pricey fixes: Look into her eyes during sex.
That sounds pretty simple, sure, but you’d be surprised by how many couples don’t do this, he says.
“Often sex feels empty because we’re too busy thinking or worrying about other things rather than enjoying what is happening in the present. Making eye contact can help us be more in the moment,” he says.
Saying your partner’s first name (not a nickname) can improve intimacy as well. “Since our first name is deeply embedded in the brain, we’re wired to associate it with closeness. Evoking this feeling in bed can bring forth deeper bonding between partners,” Tatkin says. (Feel closer to your partner with the help of these 10 things connected couples do.)
“My partner hates oral sex.”
If you enjoy giving and receiving oral sex, but your partner doesn’t share your enthusiasm, it can be a tough road to navigate.
“Utilizing things that will enhance your pleasure while making oral sex more comfortable for your partner can help,” says Walfish. “For instance, if feeling self-conscious about body odor is something that’s holding your partner back, suggest taking a shower together first.”
While it can get messy, experimenting with foods can also help. Try putting whipped cream or chocolate sauce on your penis or the outside of her vagina, if she’s into that. (Keep in mind that placing food inside her vagina may cause an infection.) You both may feel more comfortable with oral sex when you add other flavors in the mix.
Related: 5 Oral Sex Moves You’ve Never Tried
“Our libidos are like night and day.”
If you always wants to have sex, while she’s more of a once-a-week kind of person, it may seem like an unfixable situation. But it’s absolutely possible to make it work, Dumbroff says. “You can begin intimacy with willingness instead of desire.”
Spontaneous desire—that sudden, I-need-to-tear-off-your-clothes feeling—often fades in long-term relationships and can be difficult to sync when two people have different libidos.
Say you’re really tired, and she tries initiating sex—don’t shrug her off: “If you’re willing to follow your partner’s lead in the bedroom to see where it takes you—even when you’re not in the mood—you’ll likely want to have sex. Once you get going, it usually starts to feel good, and you get excited about continuing,” Dumbroff says.
“We had a baby, and our sex life tanked.”
Whether you’re welcoming baby number one or four, sex is one of the first things that gets sidelined. “When you have a new person in your life that requires so much of your effort and focus, it leaves very little time to spend on habits that previously made you both feel sexy like working out or getting dressed up for date night,” says Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., professor of sociology at the University of Washington and relationship expert on Lifetime’s Married at First Sight.
“Women may feel it even more: physical injuries from a vaginal birth or C-section and conditions like postpartum depression can really extinguish the flame.”
While every couple is different, many will need a break after their baby is born before they think about sex again—and that’s OK.
“To give your sex life a little nudge, hire a babysitter, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. As new parents, alone time is important and allows you to focus on each other, whether you reconnect over dinner or decide to slip away to a hotel room for the afternoon,” Schwartz says.