At the start of your relationship, there was electricity, passion, and sex--daily, if not hourly! Years later, it's a challenge to remember the last time you were naked together. (Last Thursday--or wait, was it last month?) It's not surprising if you can't recall: Lots of committed couples aren't heating up the sheets as much as they used to, often because women have lost the urge. In one study involving nearly 1,000 women, researchers found that 65 percent of those in a relationship for a year or less reported wanting to have sex often, compared to just 26 percent of women who had been coupled up for three years. Besides taking a toll on your love life, a lack of interest in sex is bad news for your health. "Numerous studies show that people with active sex lives have fewer heart attacks, increased stamina, and a stronger immune system," says Beverly Whipple, Ph.D., a sexuality researcher in Vorhees, New Jersey, and co-author of The Science of Orgasm. Here are six real-life reasons your desire for sex may have waned, and the easy moves to help you get back in touch with your sensual side.
"I'm too stressed."
Sky-high anxiety levels can easily derail romance. "Stress raises the production of fight-or-flight hormones like cortisol, which stops the relaxation response necessary for the early stages of arousal," says Myrtle Wilhite, M.D., a sexual health researcher in Madison, Wisconsin. To lower stress hormones, squeeze in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day--and if possible, schedule your workout close to the time you plan to get horizontal. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that women became significantly more aroused from watching an erotic film when they had exercised for 20 minutes beforehand. "Even a brisk walk can help you get turned on quicker by increasing blood flow, which heightens sensation," Wilhite explains. Bonus: Having sex is a great stress buster as well. "You'll feel more relaxed after you've made love because orgasms increase levels of the calming hormone oxytocin, which creates a soothing, sleepy feeling," says Anita Clayton, M.D., a professor in the department of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia and author of Satisfaction: Women, Sex, and the Quest for Intimacy.
"I'm bored with sex. I'd rather watch a good movie."
Few things can renew your passion for, well, passion more effectively than knowing that you have an intense climax ahead of you. Producing stronger and more pleasurable orgasms is one of the benefits of regularly exercising the pelvic floor, a sling of muscles that supports the bladder, urethra, and vagina. (They're the same muscles that allow you to stop the flow of urine midstream.) One study from the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that women with weak pelvic floors were less likely to have orgasms than those with strong ones. Here's how to give these muscles, which progressively weaken with age, a workout, commonly known as Kegels: Imagine your pelvic floor as an elevator that goes up four flights, the top level being your waist. Lift and squeeze to go up to each floor, holding for a second at every "stop." Then go down again, one floor at a time. For maximum results, repeat 10 times two or three times a day.
To further rekindle desire, think outside the bedroom. Try recapturing the freshness of your early dating days by doing something different together. The best activities are those that get your adrenaline pumping, like riding a roller coaster, learning how to surf, or even watching an action-packed thriller. "Experiencing that heart-thumping rush physically stimulates you, enhancing your sexual connection," says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., a research professor at the University of Michigan.
"His foreplay needs work. I never get turned on."
Just getting under the covers may qualify as foreplay for him, but most women need more of a warm-up. Your goal? To regain that longing you felt when you first met. Let anticipation build with suggestive mealtime banter or old-fashioned flirting. "Make it a point to touch your partner often, whether you brush past him in the hallway or playfully smack his butt," advises Lana Holstein, M.D., a sex therapist who runs a couples program at Miraval Spa in Tucson, Arizona. Once you're in the bedroom, explore beyond the typical pleasure points. "Stimulation of the ears and neck can be very arousing," says Whipple. Experiment with different types of contact too, like tickling and massage.
"I've gained weight recently and don't feel as sexy."
It's perfectly normal to think you're not as desirable when you're carrying a few extra pounds. But believe it or not, your partner probably hasn't noticed. What really matters is that you remember you're attractive, says Orbuch. Try her self-esteem-boosting technique every time you look in the mirror: Identify at least five physical qualities you like, no matter how minor. Love your shapely calves? Blessed with curvy hips? Keeping these attributes in mind will increase your body confidence--"So what if I went up a size? I have amazing cheekbones"--and help you feel comfortable in your own (naked) skin.
"We're so busy."
In this age of tag-team parenting and 60-hour work-weeks, it's increasingly difficult to stay connected. But recent research from the University of Arizona shows that married couples lust after each other more during periods of greater emotional togetherness. One way to start reconnecting is to take the TV out of the bedroom: Couples without them have sex twice as often as those with them, according to an Italian study. Use your pre-snooze time to talk instead, advises University of Minnesota professor Paul Rosenblatt, Ph.D., author of Two in a Bed. "When partners are communicating, they touch each other more, which may eventually lead to sex," he explains. You should also try to get away a few times a year, even if you just steal away to a hotel in your own city. "When you're more relaxed and have free time, you're going to have more sex," explains Alice Domar, Ph.D., a psychologist at Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center in Boston.
"He doesn't seem into it."
Aren't men supposed to think about sex, like, every five seconds? So why does it seem as though he's always checking e-mail or watching TV instead of luring you into the bedroom? Problems at the office or worries over your finances could be affecting his sex drive, says Holstein. "Men often don't share what's bothering them, so you may not even be aware that something is wrong," she explains. "But if he's keeping things from you, he may feel more distant emotionally and physically." Ask questions to get him to open up; talking about his concerns will help him realize that he doesn't need to problem-solve all by himself. Another explanation for his lowered libido: If you've been refusing his advances lately, he may be frustrated. "No one wants to be rejected over and over," Holstein says. "After a while he figures you're not interested, and he stops trying as frequently." If your partner does suggest sex when you're just not into it, don't rebuff him with an outright no. Instead, ask for a rain check and figure out a time that would be better for you--like waking up a half hour earlier for a stimulating between-the-sheets session before work.