While I began 2020 single, I got into a relationship right before the pandemic hit Australia. It was early March, my now-boyfriend had come back from overseas and asked me to be his girlfriend. I hadn’t said yes to that question for a long time, so it felt like a big moment.
My closest friends had had their big ‘new relationship moments’ a little earlier, and entered the pandemic and its lockdowns with long-established, adoring partners. Each of their relationships I’d come to know well, and although I didn’t realise as it was happening, the fact my friends and I operate in a bubble of constant communication meant I’d been there for just about every step in their respective relationship journies.
Now, it’s nice to be at a similar place to your friends. You go through ebbs and flows with long-term friendships, so when you find yourself at the same stage it can be really fulfilling. You can talk things out, compare notes and have discussions about the issues you’re facing on that particular day, knowing that it’ll probably have relevance to their situations too.
But it can also be difficult at times, especially with circumstances around relationships. It’s tricky to give the right advice or to understand a problem between two unique individuals. Every relationship reacts differently to difficult moments and let’s be real; 2020 was just one big difficult moment.
Last year, every romantic relationship I know of encountered big moments of strain. Whether it was exhaustingly serious and long-winded conversations, alarming moral or political disagreements, constant bickering, existential crises, mental health struggles or just general annoyance by living in such close proximity to someone else. My friends and I certainly needed to vent.
However, in my friends and my regular chats and debriefs, there was one theme that kept popping up: A lack of sex.
I can’t even count the amount of martini-soaked Zoom conversations that were had on other people’s sex lives (or lack thereof). And I didn’t know what to say. My boyfriend and I are definitely not without our miscommunications, but a lack of sex is not something we’ve encountered thus far.
As much as I could understand it, my friends were still feeling sexual within themselves. Almost more so than usual. They were watching more porn, masturbating more, even noticing sexy people more in TV shows and walking down the street…
So, in a bid to better understand how we can feel more sexual and yet find ourselves going without sex, I reached out to Imago Couples Therapist, Annie Gurton.
“It’s totally normal for couples who spend loads of time together to begin to feel less sexual towards each other.
“Romance requires surprise, and without romance, there is less sexual attraction. Its hard to give and receive surprises when you’re together 24/7, which is why sex for couples who frequently spend time together, sex becomes routine.”
Makes sense, but then again, sometimes I really enjoy having routine sex. Super sexual, animalistic sex can be fucking exhausting and also loses it’s thrill if you do it all the time.
Although my boyfriend and I haven’t struggled with our sex life, sex when you live together sometimes does just feel routine, and that can be comforting. Surely our sexual attitudes change with our mood and our environment, and in the time of a pandemic, moods definitely fluctuate.
“We’re all sexual creatures with a sexual side, whether it’s strong or passive, erotic or vanilla, risky or mundane,” Annie explains, “Sexual desire and creativity changes over time, and that’s normal. Being locked up during COVID doesn’t help, but you can still do things to maintain surprise.”
I think about the pressure society puts on the “success” of a relationship. And one of the metrics that seems to define it is how frequently you’re having sex and how “good” or “bad” it is.
Annie says that when a couple is finding it difficult to initiate sex because they are overly familiar with each other, therapists will often recommend the couple NOT have sex, and this can sometimes be enough to create desire again.
Which means maybe, during a dry spell with your partner, not having sex is the answer.
Listen to your body, your intuition, your partner’s body language and yourself. It’s okay to be attracted to other people. It’s okay to like watching porn. It’s okay to get ample satisfaction through masturbation. It’s okay to not feel sexy.
Give yourself a break. It’s a tough time to be alive and you’re doing great. Don’t let the amount of monogamous sex you’re having define the success of your relationship.
Even if you’re not having sex with your partner right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t do nice things for them. Romantic gestures never go out of fashion, and while we’re going back to basics we may as well dip our toes right in and go back to writing love notes, whaddaya say?