Relationships are a trade off. Sure, we get to have someone we care about whose company we enjoy, but we also make a barter of sorts. When we’re dating someone – or married, as the case may be – we trade some of the more exhausting aspects of coupledom in exchange for the obvious perks (read: regular access to sex).

We tolerate listening to someone else vent about their day when all we want to do is unwind from our own, we spend time dealing with family drama that isn’t from our blood relatives, and we generally consider someone else’s feelings at every turn – or at least we’re supposed to. But it’s OK, because we get companionship and support in return. And did I mention sex? Right – that’s the undisputed high point (and if my parents are reading, kindly cover your ears and stop from this point on). Sorry, mom and dad.

But what do you do if you’re in a relationship where having sex has become a thing of  the past? An artifact of courtship days long gone, if you will? Do you lay down the law and demand it like a foot-stamping child mid-tantrum? Avoid the giant, 1000 lb chaste elephant in the room? Or do you run for the potentially sex-filled hills and never look back?

I can’t tell you which choice is the best for you, but I can say this: That nonsense has to stop – now. Why any person in his or her right mind would ever tolerate this lopsided setup is beyond me. Whether you’re married, have kids or are just dating and the sex well is already running dry (think I’m lying? you’d be surprised how many people fit this bill), sexually-sparse relationships are more common than people realize.

It is maddening, it’s depressingly sad, but most importantly it’s indicative of a larger problem in your relationship. And if you don’t confront it head on, you’re headed for one of three scenarios: infidelity, an obsession with porn that may eventually border on clinical, or the resignation that comes with having dust form on your…equipment.

Anyone running to sign up for any of these? Didn’t think so. (Except maybe the porn one – I get it).

So what’s a guy to do? Or a woman, if you fit the bill…although I’ve yet to come across a woman whose man isn’t an eager and willing participant in bed. First, you need to determine if your own sexual habits fall on the woefully deficient side of the spectrum. Then you need to address it. And then you need to do everything in your power to find a happy medium with your significant other to satisfy both parties. First things first, though – the sex depraved part: does it apply to you?

I’d say anyone who either A) has sex less than three times per week or B) can’t remember the last time because it’s been weeks or (gasp!) months fits the bill. Again, I can’t wrap my head around this, but in my informal and highly unscientific surveying of my readership and numerous conversations with friends, this is what I’m finding to be increasingly true.

If I was an even bigger smart ass than I already am, I could’ve titled this post, “Congratulations on your marriage – hope you didn’t like having sex.” Or maybe, “Congratulations on having kids – guess you’re never getting laid again.” They both would’ve been accurate for a portion (not all!) of the population – if in poor taste, of course.

It’s not a blanket truth of course, but for those to whom this applies they’re pretty vocal in their discontent. Specifically, with regards to men who complain that their sex life has flat-lined since becoming a parent, I say this to you: Duh, of course things have dropped off. Your libido would suffer too if you spent your days having conversations about breast pumps and your child’s poo habits. Motherhood is a messy business – give her a minute to adjust.

In arguably the least shocking revelation ever, not only are you blindingly tired from chasing after your children, but you’re also not feeling particularly sexy in most instances. Many women consider it a good day if they’re able to take a shower or brush their hair, so worrying about tempting their man sexually often becomes less important than other things…like cleaning the baby puke perpetually running down their backs. Being a mom is one of the lesser glamorous (on a daily basis, at least) things women encounter – at least until they find their stride and settle into a comfortable routine. So while she’s figuring it out, kindly bear with her, guys. It’s only fair and it’s only temporary, she’ll find her way back to her old, put together self. If you love her, you’ll be patient.

But, don’t get it twisted – my loyalty isn’t one-sided. In fact, I’d say that there’s a finite window on how long you can starve your man sexually post-baby, and if it exceeds a few months (bearing in mind that six weeks of that is doctor mandated), you fellows have a right to be frustrated. And don’t even get me started on couples who sleep with their children in their bed – no wonder your sex life is waning! Fidgety toddlers wearing Underoos is a mood killer, to say the least. It’s cute to cuddle with the kiddos, but there’s a time and a place – and it shouldn’t begin until the wee hours of morning, in my opinion.

If I could say one thing to the women reading this it’s that yes, juggling your family, household and often a career makes you pretty much Superwoman – you deserve all the praise in the world. But don’t forget that at the most primal, fundamental levels your husband (or baby daddy, whatever) is still – and most importantly – a man. That means his sexual side should never be ignored, lest he look for other outlets to express it.

Am I saying, “keep your man happy so he doesn’t cheat on you?” It’s more complicated than that, no one should ever get a free pass or excuse to shirk their relationship commitment because of a dry spell. Especially if you’re married to or have kids with someone, it’s not as simple as just giving up when things are less than favorable. But maybe, on some level, I am saying this outright: You can’t deny a man sex, it will end badly. This should come to the surprise of exactly no one.

But while we’re at it, where’s the women’s libido in all of this? It consistently blows my mind when I encounter women who view sex as a chore or an obligation. Whether you’re simply married with no children (in which case you have no excuse, let’s be honest here) or just dating someone but still not feeling particularly frisky – if you don’t feel compelled to put the Do Not Disturb sign on the bedroom door from time to time (figuratively, of course) then something is amiss.

Far be it from me to call anyone abnormal, but there’s something fundamentally unsettling when women say they’re not particularly sexual. That should be a strong part of your identity – of anyone’s identity – but if it isn’t, it doesn’t mean that it can’t become that way. Maybe it just means that it hasn’t been tapped into fully or properly until now, but there’s always hope. If your woman hasn’t expressed a huge interest in having sex, or if you’re always the one initiating things, this begs a conversation. You need to find out why.

Whether you flat out ask her what she enjoys (then do it more often), or ask if there are things she hasn’t tried but wants to (and do them more often), you need to talk it out. Or if the biggest impediment is fatigue, change the time of day you try to cozy up to her. If it’s a confidence issue find ways to help her bolster it and feel less self-conscious, etc. But again, please talk it out. If she feels like things have gotten too routine then find a way to spice things up and be more spontaneous behind closed doors – or, hell, out in public. Whatever floats your boat. If she feels like things are low in the…pleasure department, figure out what will correct that for her -  and have a good time in the process. If you weren’t having any fun in bed you wouldn’t be readily signing up for it either, would you? (Who am I kidding, of course you guys would).

If you take nothing else away from this discussion hear this: Don’t ignore a sexually sparse relationship. You will come to resent her, men, and it will be your relationship’s undoing over time. And ladies: for the love of God (OK fine, maybe I should leave God out of this, I doubt he’d appreciate the reference), don’t let the pilot light go out. There’s nothing sadder than women who view sex as a chore. Find a way for both of you to enjoy it equally, and don’t ever give up on keeping sex appeal in your relationship. If you care about the person you’re with – whether you’re a man or a woman – don’t accept the death of your sex life, fight for it. Remember – we shouldn’t lay down and take it…but maybe start by just laying down.THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID

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