Try as we might to compartmentalize sex — to say stuff like “what happens in the bedroom stays in the bedroom” — the truth is that our sex lives are part of our whole lives. Whatever is happening in our life will have some impact on our sex life and more broadly on our sexuality. And that includes moving in with a new partner.
It is not at all uncommon for there to be some kind of disruption in your sex life after you move in together.
In some cases, there may be an immediate increase in sex after moving in. There are all these new rooms to have sex in. If you moved from a roommate situation to being on your own, you may have more privacy now than you did before. If you weren’t living together before, there’s also the novelty of access to your sexual partner at different times of day. But even that uptick doesn’t always happen. Moving is stressful, and the new rooms may not feel so sexy if all you want is to get rid of boxes or finally finish painting the bathroom.
But sex after you move in together doesn’t just magically disappear, and even if it’s predictable, it isn’t inevitable. Here are some of the common reasons why your sex life may be hurting after a move, and what you can do to turn things around.
Your relationship is changing. Moving in together is movement on many levels. It may not mean the same thing to you as it does to your partner, and it might mean something completely different to your family and friends, but it means something.
It’s a step forward, or a deeper commitment, or a further entangling of finances, friends, and more. If you pretend it isn’t, or don’t ever have a conversation, not just about what it “means” but about how you each feel about it, you’re inviting an elephant in the room, and in your new place where are you going to put it?
Pressure about what it all “means.” You may both feel pressure to define what your new living arrangement means. And if you’ve already defined it, you may now feel pressure to live up to your best intentions. In any case, it’s a new situation and the desire for things to work out is high, which brings with it… more pressure. Expectations can not only impact libido (worry is not a great aphrodisiac) but it can also impact your sexual response — how easily you get turned on, how relaxed you are, your ability to orgasm.
The dark side of familiarity. Now that you’re living together, in each other’s space every day, it’s inevitable that you are going to establish more familiarity and a greater kind of physical intimacy. That might mean leaving the bathroom door open while using it, or coming across each other’s toenail clippings, fungal medication, or used tampons. This is the stuff of life, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, nor does it have to get in the way of sexual desire or activity. But there’s a period of adjustment where the knowledge of these intimate details can feel like a curtain has been lifted and things that you thought were magical and sexy seem not so sexy anymore.
Taking their presence for granted. Now that you live together, you may feel like there’s no need to schedule a fun date, or to make sure there’s time for a quickie before dinner. It’s so much easier to take someone for granted when they are there all or most of the time. And while it might work for someone who eroticizes neglect, for most of us, feeling desired is synonymous with feeling attended to and valued. Being taken for granted is not an invitation for sex.
A little thing called your past. Moving in can bring up all sorts of things from your past. It can bring up your feelings about commitment, how you saw commitment work out in your family, or how it worked out with previous attempts to live with a romantic partner. Our histories travel with us, and at significant moments, they come flooding into our minds and our hearts. This may be completely unexpected. And it may not be until you actually move in that your history around relationships, commitment, monogamy, money, space, and more begins to enter your psyche.
Sheer exhaustion. This may be a simple one but it isn’t to be overlooked. Moving is horrible. You aren’t eating right or regularly, your sleep routine is disrupted, you are physically exhausted, and you’re trying to maintain your regular life and work while doing this major thing. All of this can lead to being tired and irritable, neither of which usually leads to a lot of sexual desire or good sex.
What You Can Do
Talk about it, even the hard stuff. Moving in together is set up to be an exciting event, and you may feel as if talking about your fears or concerns is the wrong thing to do. Timing is important. Maybe don’t bring up your fear that you’re turning into your parents the day of the move, or your first night in bed. But it can feel like there’s never a right time to talk about sexual concerns, so you’ll have to make time at some point. Another reason to talk about your experience of the move is to avoid misunderstanding. If you are silent and worried about one thing, your partner may interpret your silence as being about something else — something bigger. We are all capable of making up way worse stuff in our heads than what is usually happening in the world, so getting it out, while it may be awkward or painful at first, is almost always preferable.
Take time for yourself at home. Living together does not mean you now have to do everything together. Every relationship will have its own balance, but knowing how to be alone when you’re both in the apartment is crucial. Just as important is maintaining a life outside of the apartment with your own friends and family. Nesting can feel great for a while, but expecting one relationship to meet all our needs is unrealistic, and neglecting other relationships paradoxically puts pressure on your primary relationship in a way that can cause strain.
The sex date. Some people hate the idea of scheduling sex. And some people don’t need to do it. But I haven’t met anyone who didn’t have to do it at one time or another to get through a rough patch of neglect. If you’ve stopped having sex, or you’re not having it as much as you’d like, you may have to start to carve out time when you aren’t both too exhausted, too busy, or too distracted to initiate and enjoy sex. When you live together, it can be so easy to be busy right up to the point where you want to go to sleep. Living together is different from just dating, and it requires a different kind of attention to your sexual interactions.
Pay attention to sex. If you have stopped having sex, take some time to figure out what exactly is going on. Do you not want to have sex with your partner anymore? Is the desire gone? Or do you want to have sex but you don’t want to be the one to initiate? Are there feelings left over from the move that are making it hard for you to want to give your partner pleasure, or give them the satisfaction of pleasing you? Do you remember how you used to look at your partner with desire? Is there something about that frame of desire that you can try and bring into your daily awareness? Now that you live together, you actually have much more opportunity to look. Try to sexualize something new about your partner.
Don’t stop masturbating! If you masturbated regularly before you moved in together, don’t think that you should stop now that you’re living together. What little research we have on this tells us that people in relationships continue to masturbate, and there’s every reason to believe that this is a good thing. If you aren’t masturbating because you don’t feel like you have the personal, private space, then that’s an issue worth talking about (whether or not you disclose that you want the space for masturbation).
Give it time, but don’t neglect things for too long. There will be an adjustment period when you move in together, and you may not need to start talking about all your fears right away. You may want to give yourself some time to settle in and see how it feels once things are unpacked and a routine is in place. But don’t wait so long that a bad routine has taken root and you’re bitter or angry about the situation. Talking it out with a friend, family member, or counselor may help you figure out when it’s time to start talking and when it’s time to give yourself and your partner a break.