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by Vance Larson

Sex! Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about the 4 year headache. This is what I commonly call a relationship when the sex has died down. I see countless couples every year regarding this issue. There really isn’t an age group or gender that is exempt from this scenario and when it happens, it has the potential to tear relationships apart. So lets talk, shall we…

To get to the point, when is it okay to leave your partner, or to step outside of the relationship because the sex has died down? To step outside, never. To leave though, is a more complex subject. When we’ve been in a long term relationship, it is natural to see periods of on again off again intimacy but what happens when it is one excuse after the other? What happens when “Not tonight dear, I have a headache” lasts for 4 year? Is it okay to run? Is it okay to look for outside fun?

The truth is, couples stop being intimate for many reasons. Barring any physical issues or trauma, what has changed? (We’ll circle back to physical issues or trauma a little later.) One of the things that I commonly see, is one partner wants to be intimate and the other one doesn’t. Could this be false advertising? You know when you first get into a relationship and it’s sex sex sex all the time. Then the decline starts. The next thing you know, it’s been a few months, or in some cases years and all you can think is what happened?

If you love someone, you work the problem together but whatever you do, please don’t step out on your partner.

Both genders are guilty of false advertising. In the beginning of a relationship, we see a lot of accommodating. Which is good, but if that is not your nature, problems could be around the corner. Let’s look at an example. If you’re not into cultural events, you should be clear about that in the beginning, because if you’re not, you are setting unrealistic expectations and leading the other person on. The same holds true for sex. If you’re not a sexual person by nature, you would probably want to be clear about that up front. Yes, you miss out on a few dates, but in the long run, it is better for the both of you. Don’t lead someone into believing that you are something you’re not. I can literally recall a couple sitting in my office, because she won’t go to baseball games anymore.

man giving woman a flower

They met at a baseball game. It was her first game, and she went because it was a work function that got her out of the office for a day. Long story short, she met a handsome guy there and they hit it off. He assumed that she liked baseball. Over the next year and a half (yes I said year and a half), they went to 1-2 games a week. All the while, she secretly did not enjoy going the games. False advertising. He was shocked when she finally disclosed she had no interest in going to games anymore. Likewise it is the same with sex. You’re strong out of the gate, and 6 months down the road, he is seeing tumbleweeds roll past him. The point that I am trying to make is be authentic.

So to answer the question when is it okay to leave someone because they’re not having sex anymore, ask yourself: are you in love with that person? No? Then walk. It’s a messed up thing to do, but in the long run, you’re saving each other from resentment and other bad feelings. If you are in love with them (and assuming there are no physical problems going on), you will have to find ways to connect on deeper levels. Some of you are going to say that is unrealistic and for some, they would be right. However there are couples who have overcome this issue and have a beautiful relationship, because love can really overcome all obstacles.

I am reminded of a lecture that I gave not too long ago, and was asked about dating and sex. I reframed the question to “Are you more attracted to looks or a genuine connection?” If it is looks, you will probably experience multiple relationships on a surface level. If it is connection, you would probably have a better chance of a successful relationship. Why? Because looks get you a conversation. Connection keeps you in one. See what I am saying?

I fall deeper in love with her year after year.

As for physical issues and trauma, again I go back to are you in love with your partner? Without going into the intimate details of my relationship, I can say that I fall into this category. My wife and I enjoyed a very healthy and satisfying sex life. After a decade of being together, the next 7 years would bring 6 major surgeries to her, and our sex life came to a screeching halt. The way we handled it is was with open communication. Now together for 17 years, we have never been more in love. While her pretty face got my attention. Her beautiful spirit keeps it and for that reason, I fall deeper in love with her year after year.

If you are struggling with a “4 year headache” relationship, start a conversation. Rule out any medical issues. And if necessary, seek help from a professional. If you love someone, you work the problem together but whatever you do, please don’t step out on your partner. Nothing good will come of that. Be honest about your concerns, fears and desires. I am a firm believer in doing what is right for me. For me, I could not see being without my wife but you’ll have to answer that question for yourself. Don’t be guilted into staying if it is not in your heart. Yes it will sting if you leave but staying if it is not in your heart, will only lead to resentment.

Intimacy is an ebb and flow.

couple sitting on a beach

I will wrap this up by giving you the aspirin to the 4 year headache. Honesty. Be honest up front and communicate often. Intimacy is an ebb and flow. When we stop talking and being honest, that’s when the headache will begin.

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