A 'Sex Fast' Can Give Some Relationships a Healthy Reboot

couple laughing cuddlingWhen it comes to long-term relationships and sex, it can be easy to assume that more is better. The average married couple is having sex about once a week, and sex is often considered an important part of a happy relationship. But some couples are putting that notion to the test by engaging in "sex fasts" and declaring that a purposeful break from sex can actually make their relationship better.

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Gloria (who asked for us not to use her real name) is one half of one of those couples. Gloria and her husband have been married for 12 years and recently completed a month without any intimacy beyond kissing. Gloria shares, "We've gone without sex before, like after the kids were born, but never on purpose. The truth is, sex had become a source of tension between us. He always wanted to have it more than I did, and I was tired of always feeling guilty for turning him down. After the umpteenth fight about it, we decided just to take it off the table for a month. It turns out that not fighting about it all the time left us with more time to actually talk and reconnect."

More talking and reconnecting sounds great, but is a sex fast a good idea? Maybe, but maybe not, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula, who notes that "anything that 'pulls back' on intimacy is not always a great thing."

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However, a sex fast might be beneficial for some couples, according to Dr. Durvasula. "In some cases, sex can also be a 'blind' from actually communicating about issues in a relationship. They may have great sex but cannot agree or compromise on other key issues." These couples might "hide behind the intimacy of sex rather than engaging in the more intimate communication of a relationship, and by removing sex they may actually be able to go 'deeper' (no pun intended)."

For Gloria and her husband, the break from sex did allow them to improve the intimacy of their conversations. It also had a fun "side effect": the return of lust. "After a month, we were both READY TO GO!" says Gloria.

Dr. Durvasula concurs that sex after a planned break can be "more interesting, more mindful, more connected, and more pleasurable."

More pleasurable sex sounds great, but before you decide to take a sex vacation, here are some questions you should consider to see if a sex fast is right for you and your partner:

  1. What's the point? Giving up sex just to give up sex is not a great idea, so first consider if your relationship would benefit from a bedroom break. The best candidates for a sex fast are, according to Durvaula, "a couple for whom sex is either a source of tension or an escape from communicating ..." If you fall into either of those categories, a sex fast could provide "a more open field in which to communicate, be mindful, and focus on the relationship in a more meaningful way."
  2. How long will it last? Having an end date in mind helps you use your time wisely, and as Gloria says, "It gives you something to look forward to!"
  3. Are both people on board? The whole point of a fast is to remind both parties in a relationship to "not take each other for granted," says Dr. Durvasula. However, both parties need to agree to the plan for that to happen.

Intentional sex fasting may not be right for every couple, but for those like Gloria and her husband, taking a break might just be the thing to improve your communication and, maybe, your sex life too.


Image via wavebreakmedia/shutterstock

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