Should You Go On A "Sex Fast"? A Therapist Weighs In

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
Say a word like "cleanse" or "fast," and our eyebrows immediately go up. No solid food? Forget it. But when Brooklyn Nine-Nine Actor / Old Spice rep / former NFL player Terry Crews appeared on HuffPost Live to extol the virtues of the 90-day "sex fast" he underwent with his wife, Rebecca King-Crews, our interest was piqued. "90 days, no sex — all relationship, all talk, all cuddle," Crews said. "I found that at the end of that 90 days… I knew who she was, and it wasn’t about 'Let’s go out because I know I'm going to get some sex later.' It was like, 'Let’s go [out] because I want to talk to you. I want to know you.'" If that's not heartwarming, we don't know what is. But should you try this technique at home?

The single person who swears off sex and/or dating in order to focus on other priorities is a common character in our cultural consciousness. But intentionally reducing the amount of sex in a committed partnership seems counterintuitive; doesn't that often happen on its own? (Indeed, a recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior indicates that sexual satisfaction peaks one year into a relationship and then begins a "steady decline.")

There are, however, compelling reasons to take a break from sex in a relationship. "Going on a sex fast is like hitting the reset button on your sex life," San-Francisco-based sex therapist Vanessa Marin says. "For one, it's a big tease. Not being able to get what you want will make you desire your partner so much more" — an especially welcome effect if your sex has become routine.

"It's also a reminder that there are a lot of other amazing ways to be intimate with your partner," Marin continues. "If you're not allowed to resort to your old standbys, you start recognizing the intensity that can be present in even the smallest kiss or touch." Taking intercourse out of your lineup can reacquaint you with the awesome power of other forms of play (depending on the terms of your sex fast) and take the focus off of achieving orgasm or bringing your partner to orgasm, thus alleviating performance anxiety. And, with the time you would be spending on sex, you can think and talk about what you'd like to try when you have it again — and break out of the well-worn sequence of positions to which many long-term couples default.
So, if you're tempted to try a sex fast with your partner, how long should it last? "I frequently recommend 'sex fasts' for my clients," Marin says, "though I've never advocated for going nearly as long as Terry Crews and his wife did! 90 days takes some serious willpower." She prescribes an easy formula for picking the duration of your fast: "Take the amount of time that usually passes before you and your partner have sex, and triple it. So if you usually have sex once a week, try to go for three weeks without sex."
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The critical difference between a sex fast and regular ol' bed death is intention: When a couple's sex life grinds to a halt, a communication breakdown is often the culprit. A sex fast, on the other hand, is a pre-planned, shared adventure — one with "talks and cuddles," according to Crews, plus the promise of both increased intimacy and even more exciting playtime at the end. Who knew that not having sex could be so sexy?