Why We’re Not Having Sex

by Lovehoney

on 18 Jul 2023

Lovehoney’s new survey of over 2,000 adults reveals the most common reasons people aren’t having sex, and what you can do to get over a dry spell.

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Although many of us might wish life was like our favourite steamy romance novel, where the main characters have sex drives higher than Mount Everest and stamina that could outlast an Olympic marathon runner, sadly reality rarely lives up to these fictional fantasies. From struggling libidos to low energy, there’s a whole conga line of reasons why it might have been a while since you last had a good shag.

And there’s no reason to be ashamed about it, either. The truth is, it’s really not uncommon for people to experience dry spells, whether single or in a relationship.

To shed some light on the situation, we surveyed over 2,000 UK adults about the most common reasons why they’re not having sex. We also enlisted the help of Elisabeth Neumann, Head of User Research here at Lovehoney, to reassure anyone who’s struggling with a patchy (or non-existent) sex life, and to share some advice for getting things back on track.

The most common reasons for not having sex

There’s a pretty long list of potential reasons for not having sex. So chances are, whatever problem’s been holding you back from having the sex life of your romance-novel dreams, a lot of other people have dealt with the very same issue.

Some reasons are more common than others, though, which is why we did some digging to find out which are causing us the most trouble in the bedroom.

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1. Feeling too tired

Ever found yourself getting into bed for a good romp with your partner, and then totally conking out before your hands even make it below their waist? Welcome to the club!

Almost half (45%) of the people we spoke to said that feeling too tired stops them from having sex, making this the most common reason of all. And according to our recent survey into what we really think about during sex, over half of us (53%) are thinking about how much longer it’s going to go on – possibly because we’re struggling to stay awake and engaged.

If this sounds like you, it could be worth speaking to a health professional to find out if there’s a bigger reason behind your tiredness. Failing that, the solution could be as simple as having sex at a different time of day. Lazy morning hump, anyone?

2. Stress

29% of people we surveyed admitted they struggle to have sex because life is just too stressful – which is a pretty relatable reason for a lot of us. Stress isn’t a particularly sexy feeling, so if you’ve got a lot on your plate and feel overwhelmed, it’s understandable that sex might have to take a back seat.

That being said, orgasms are a top-notch stress reliever thanks to the oxytocin (aka the happiness hormone) they release. So even if it’s just a quickie every now and then, making a little more time for sex could actually decrease your stress levels (and therefore lead to a healthier sex life – it’s a win-win!).

3. Libido changes

Libido changes are another common complaint, with 28% of people blaming a shift in their sex drive for a lack of bedroom action. It’s totally normal for your libido to change over time, so don’t panic if this is the case for you.

It could be down to your hormones fluctuating, your mental health dipping, or even a new medication. If you are worried, talk to your doctor about what the problem could be and how you can go about fixing it.

4. Different sex drives

When one person has a higher sex drive than the other in a relationship, it can be tricky to find a good middle ground that keeps everyone satisfied. One in five people we surveyed (20%) admitted to dealing with this issue – which isn’t a shock considering sex drives do commonly differ from person to person.

There are a lot of ways to deal with this, including introducing sex toys or taking your toys to the next level by having some fun with handcuffs or anal beads to spice things up, but the most helpful of all is to simply talk to your partner and come up with a solution that makes you both happy. Communication really is key, folks!

Elisabeth Neumann, Head of User Research at Lovehoney, has some tips to help:

“Research has shown that it’s easier for people to talk about their own sexual needs and behaviours by not talking about them as our own bodies but as tools like sex toys. Some people find it easier to say “Sure, I use the Womanizer too” instead of claiming “I masturbate”. In the same way, you might suggest your partner try something new.

“Be clear about what you aren’t happy about and try to talk in ‘I-messages’ with your partner. Examples might be: “I would like to be intimate more often with you”, “I am missing focus on my pleasure when we have sex”, or simply ‘A friend has recommended this clitoral vibrator, I thought we might try it together’.”

5. Low or no intimacy

Some couples use sex as a way to boost their intimacy outside the bedroom. For others, a lack of intimacy in their relationship is what kills their sex lives in the first place.

Just under one in five (19%) of us say that not having sex is thanks to intimacy slowing down (or stopping) in our relationships. If this is the case, then re-establishing a sense of intimacy and closeness with your partner should help turn the heat back up in the bedroom too.

Elisabeth adds: “Over time, couples tend to develop a shared script, which is their usual way of having sex and sharing intimacy. In heterosexual couples, this script usually includes penetration. Breaking this script and intentionally searching for new ways of intimacy together is a big chance to regain excitement, break the routine, and reconnect with each other.

“Bodies are a big playground, and I recommend exploring intimacy without the goal of penetration or an orgasm. You may be surprised by what you learn about yourself and your relationship on the way! Engaging in a variety of sexual activities can help prevent monotony and boredom and also forces you to enhance your communication and check-in with each other to give feedback.”

Why women aren’t having sex

When looking at women specifically, tiredness (50%), libido changes (32%) and life stress (29%) are also the main culprits for not having sex. However, the next most common reason among the ladies is having children, with one in five women (20%) listing this as a reason for their dry spell.

There are a few different reasons why having children could put a damper on things in the bedroom (and if you’ve ever tried to find time for sex while also being responsible for a mini human, you’ll understand). While it might sound less sexy, scheduling sex around childcare needs could be a big help.

19% of women also listed personal insecurities, sex not being a priority, arguments, and a lack of intimacy as reasons for not having sex.

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Why men aren’t having sex

When it comes to the guys, tiredness (39%), life stress (28%) and libido changes (23%) are once again the most common reasons for a dry sex life. However, having children is a much less common reason than it is for women (15%), with far more men blaming differing sex drives (22%) and feeling stressed about work (21%) for their depleting sex lives.

Men are also less likely to let personal insecurities stop them from having sex, with only 13% giving this as a reason.

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Why different star signs aren’t having sex

Tiredness really is the biggest enemy to our sex lives, ranking as the most common reason for not having sex among every single star sign. Capricorns are the most likely of all to struggle with this (50%), while Geminis are the least (40%). Hardworking Capricorns have a tendency to push themselves a little too hard sometimes, which might explain why they’re more prone to feeling tired.

Most signs also blame stress and libido changes as the next most common reasons, but there are a few exceptions. Geminis (22%) and Sagittarians (26%) are more likely to list intimacy issues as a leading factor, while Taureans (20%) and Libras (23%) struggle most with differing sex drives. For Taureans, personal insecurities are also tied as a top reason (20%) – possibly as a result of their shy and reserved nature.

Why it’s important to have a healthy sex life

Elisabeth Neumann, Head of User Research at Lovehoney, explains why sex is so important for relationships – no matter how long you’ve been with a partner.

“Sex is a platform of communication and connection and helps to build up intimacy with a partner. While not all people desire to have sex in their relationships, which is totally valid, those who do wish for an active sex life should nourish it during their lifetime.

“Sex isn’t something that’s reserved for young people or fresh relationships. It can be an important tool to reconnect with a partner and build a strong foundation for a relationship. Also, it contributes to personal well-being and mental health. Regular sexual activity has a positive impact on our health – it boosts the immune system, life satisfaction, and prevents cardiovascular diseases.

“That being said, sex is only important for relationships if both partners have a desire for sex. Especially in long-term relationships, at some point there is a disbalance of libido and sexual desire. Partners should communicate openly about their desires, wishes and boundaries, to build up empathy for each other's needs.”

How to keep your sex life exciting

When you’ve been with someone for a long time, it can be hard to keep the spark alive in the bedroom – especially when you’re dealing with problems like tiredness, stress and deflated libidos.

But don’t lose hope! There are plenty of ways you can get your sex life back on track. We spoke to Elisabeth to share five tips for putting the excitement back into sex.

Schedule time for intimate pleasure

“In long-term relationships, the tasks and responsibilities of everyday life may take over. It may feel weird in the beginning, but try to schedule intimacy time in your calendars, just as you schedule hobbies or friends.

“Making time for each other (consider even shutting your phones off) is a useful trick to bring back the excitement. Change the expectation that scheduled intimacy time needs to lead to penetration and you have the perfect setting to explore each other without pressure.”

Give yourself a sexy make-over

“You can buy lingerie or a sexy outfit for yourself to enjoy the pleasure of feeling sexy – the self-esteem boost will increase the excitement and adventure in your relationship.

Or share the joy of your new lingerie with your partner for an extra sexy surprise. You can make it even more exciting by sharing a seductive photo in your new lingerie before you meet!”

Try something new

“Sex education for adults is growing. Many educational workshops for couples are available today, both online and offline. You can try beginners' classes for almost anything: Tantra, sensual massage, kink…

“If you feel shy, an online workshop might be a good start – but you could also consider going to a venue to meet new people.”

Introduce sex toys

“The world of sex toys is constantly developing, and there are many products out there that might be fun and interesting for you. For example, the c-shaped We-Vibe enhances penetration, and is even wearable for outdoor play as a kink introduction.”

Be vulnerable with each other

“Research shows that the more secure we feel with a partner, the more the eroticism declines in a partnership. Find activities with your partner that allow both of you to be vulnerable, and to share emotions or sides of you that your partner might not have seen before.”

Methodology and sources:

All data was taken from a survey of 2,126 adults (18+) in the UK who have had sex, carried out in April-May 2023.

Expert commentary provided by:

Elisabeth Neumann, Head of User Research at Lovehoney

Lovehoney

Written by Lovehoney. For collaborative posts between Lovehoney team members and guest authors
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Originally published on 18 Jul 2023. Updated on 18 Jul 2023
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