How To Keep A Relationship Alive When Your Sexual Desire Is Waning

Leigh Norén, MSc
5 min readDec 10, 2019


It’s all about your intimacy inventory.

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

A lot of us struggle with relationships — especially the romantic kind. With so many things to do in a day and only so many hours to do them in, it’s not uncommon to feel the flame of desire start to wane among the loads of laundry and the countless emails to answer. It can leave you wondering how to keep a relationship alive in this day and age.

I’m not going to lie. It can be tricky. Especially seeing as the concept of a monogamous relationship usually means we can do and experience pretty much anything with anyone, so long as sex is kept within our twosome.

But it definitely is possible to sustain a great relationship, despite the monogamous constraints.

This is how to keep a relationship alive, despite your, or your partner’s, lackluster libido.

Create An Intimacy Inventory

Intimacy is often thought of as sexual and physical. We tend to place an emphasis on these obvious kinds of intimacy — perhaps due to the rules of monogamy, or the way popular culture describes and portrays intimacy as passionate and carnal.

But physical and sexual intimacy are in fact just two aspects of this multi-faceted phenomenon.

In fact, according to researcher and therapist Stephen T. Fife, there are 17(!) kinds of intimacy that can be sustained within a romantic relationship. Fife pairs sexual and physical intimacy, meaning there are 16 other ways of you and your partner connecting and feeling close if you’re just not into sex at the moment.

One way of cultivating intimacy is doing what I like to call, an intimacy inventory. This is how to keep a relationship alive despite there being no sexual sparks.

An intimacy inventory consists of four key steps and is explained in further detail in my free Guide for Intimacy. A quick run-through of how to do an inventory can, however, be found below.

1. Start by going through the different aspects of intimacy and see which ones you relate to the most.

For some, most of these intimacy aspects may be shared in a relationship. For others, you might only feel you share one or two keys forms of intimacy. Regardless of the number, the important thing here is to first ascertain which ones you believe you share in your relationship.

Seven of Fife’s 17 aspects of intimacy, are:

Humour intimacy

You connect by laughing together. You’ve got inside jokes and make each other laugh. You enjoy the fun side of life together.

Service Intimacy

You share the experience of giving to/assisting others. You get closer to each other when you jointly share the joy that comes from giving to/sharing with other people.

Parental Intimacy

You share the responsibility of bringing up your children; meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. This includes you working together when it comes to teaching and upbringing, and that you love and worry about the well-being of your children.

Friendship intimacy

You feel close and care for each other as friends.

Creative Intimacy

Closeness comes from creating things together. You share intimacy by being creative together.

Crisis Intimacy

You get close to each other by dealing with problems and pain together. You stand united in the face of tragedy. You deal with adversity together, whether it’s about family, illness, aging, unemployment.

Communication Intimacy

You bond with each other through conversation. The communication channels are open. You listen to your partner and appreciate your partner’s ideas. You’re loving, considerate, respectful, giving, honest, and open in the way you communicate.

2. Decide which aspects of intimacy are strengths

Looking at the above-mentioned kinds of intimacy, make a note of any and all forms that you feel are strengths in your relationship. Keep in mind that these are only seven intimacy aspects of 17.

When deciding which strengths you as a couple possess — try and think of examples of times when you’ve felt them at their strongest. What comes to mind? How does the memory make you feel? Do you notice a particular sensation somewhere in your body?

3. Decide which aspects of intimacy are weaknesses

Shining a light on both strengths and weaknesses is important if you want to know how to keep a relationship alive. By further cultivating and drawing on your strengths at the same time as you work on your weaknesses, you’ll feel closer to one another, and more intimate.

Make a mental note of any and all of the above-mentioned aspects of intimacy you believe you and your partner could stand to work on together. If this makes you feel discouraged about your relationship, try and remind yourself that all relationships experience their bad moments — no matter how solid and healthy they are at their core.

Even for couples who have a great sex life or a fantastic relationship — there are always things that can be improved upon, always things to make better.

4. Make shared goals

By now your intimacy inventory should consist of both strengths and weaknesses in your relationship. The last step of this exercise is to share your intimacy inventory with your partner and together create goals towards increased intimacy.

This is important for several reasons:

  • We know that planning for the future and creating goals that we then see to are fulfilled, is an important part of sustaining a relationship in the long run. It also helps to create shared meaning among us and saves the relationship from going stale and boring — thus feeling more alive!
  • If you and your partner don’t communicate about your strengths and areas you’d like to improve, you run the risk of growing apart. A relationship needs to be tended to for it to grow. Just like a plant needs water to grow, a relationship needs to be fed too.
  • By talking about and agreeing upon what you’d like to work on you’ll be “watering” your relationship. By communicating about your strengths, you’ll be reinforcing your partnership and committing yet again to staying together. This is truly how to keep a relationship alive.

If you’d like to know more about the 17 different aspects of intimacy and how they can be used to keep your relationship alive, download my free Guide For Intimacy. It contains several exercises that can be done individually and together and will help you cultivate intimacy and feel closer towards your partner — with or without sex.

Originally published at on December 10, 2019.



Leigh Norén, MSc

Sex therapist and writer with a Master of Science in Sexology. Offers free online resources and sex coaching.