Sex in the Time of COVID: What's "Normal"?
During times of stress, Brian and I have always turned to sex. Our work days are a total mess? Let's bang one out and we'll feel better. Spent the day fighting with each other? Touch me, and it will all melt away. We are lucky in that our love language is the same: We both show our love and best receive love via touch. So during times like our current situation, one in which our world feels uncertain in just about every way, we find solace in our intimate time together.
We've also had MANY listeners reach out during this time asking questions about sex during COVID. One such question, which we have permission to share, I found very thought-provoking. The listener wrote, "I find myself basically throwing myself at my husband, with little to no reciprocation. As a lifestyle couple with a very healthy sex life, this has never been the case for me. Based on your knowledge and from speaking to others, is this normal?"
Now, of course, my first inclination was to write back that cliche response: "There is no normal when it comes to sex. What you guys experience is your personal normal, and it's completely fine and healthy as long as you are honestly communicating about it rather than being resentful toward each other." But as I found myself typing those words out, I realized I too was curious what was "normal" during this time, especially for lifestylers who typically skew the "Average Number of Times Per Week" statistic by having far more sex than the average couple. I took to Instagram to ask, "Are you having more or less sex now (during the COVID craziness) compared to before it all started?"
The results were a little surpising to me, in all honesty. I would have expected the numbers to be closer to 50-50, potentially even skewing toward more responders saying they are having more sex now. Why? Well, for us, free time is a true commodity. We typically work 50 hour work weeks, spend 20 plus hours per week on FPS-related items, and still need to find time to adult (grocery shop, clean the house, etc.) So I would have assumed that with more folks staying home and not working as much during this time, they would utilize those additional hours in a sexy way.
I had this exact conversation with one of the Instagram responders. Their response was too good not to share: "I know you guys aren't parents, so this might shock you, but having 3 children up your ass ALL DAY LONG is not exactly conducive to creating a sexy environment." So true. For parents whose kids are now either out of school altogether or are completing their classes digitally, being home with them creates additional stress that can hinder desire to connect sexually with a partner.
In addition, several of the parents who chatted with me about this issue remarked that they are struggling finding a schedule and sticking to it with their children. In other words, they used to put the kids to bed at 8 pm and would spend the next two hours connecting with each other. Now, with many children not needing to get up early for school, there feels like less of a need to adhere to a strict bedtime, meaning parents are less likely to have ample alone time in the evenings.
But what about people with no kids? Surely ALL of us are having more sex during this time, right? After all, we have the house to ourselves and nowhere else to go. Based on countless articles I have delved into the last few days, I am willing to bet seriously that stress is impacting both the quality and frequency of sex for many. According to an article titled "The Stress-Sex Connection" from Psychology Today (here), stress is a top reason for many performance issues in the bedroom, including erectile dysfuction for men and an inability to self-lubricate for women. It makes perfect sense, then, why couples would steer away from naughty time when they are under immense stress. And I can't think of a more collectively stressful situation than the one we are currently experiencing.
The responses provided on Instragram, the research done on the connections between sex drive and stress, as well as my own personal experiences during this time tell me that what I originally typed out to the listener asking about if her dynamic with her husband was normal right now was absolutely correct. Cliche or not, there is no normal when it comes to sex. Never has that been more true during this time, when couples will likely see a shift in their priorities and personal responses to the situations experienced.
So....what to do about it if you are experiencing a shift in sex drive with your partner...
#1: Talk about it! Words left unsaid, especially about sex, have a way of festering and causing resentment. Don't let that happen. Be vulnerable enough to talk to your partner about your concerns, sexual needs, etc. If you are on the receiving end of a conversation about sex during this time, be open rather than defensive.
#2: Create schedules. This has been a huge help for me during this time, both for sexual reasons as well as for completely vanilla reasons. Feeling productive keeps energy levels up and encourages activity (like sex) rather than mindless lounging.
#3: Cut your partner some slack. This is a really difficult time for all, and our responses to it will vary greatly. If your partner is less sexually motivated during this time, act with empathy. This will pass, and you will have the opportunity to return to your own personal form of "normal."