How To Recover Your Arousal After A Rough Patch

Going through a rough patch with your partner can be a debilitating emotional experience — prolonged fighting and bitterness can make you feel more like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh than a functioning adult. And while rough patches can affect all areas of your life, they can be a total sex drive killer. Angry sex can sometimes be hot, but who wants to make love to someone they're pissed at for throwing a temper tantrum over the recycling?

"Not only can fights and overall stress affect arousal, but it can kill the connection and intimacy in a relationship altogether," says Kailen Rosenberg, a certified love, life, and relationship coach, as well as matchmaker and founder of The Lodge Social Club. "If experienced too often, [fighting] can destroy the true relationship and any opportunity for emotional trust for good."

Let's be clear: In long-term relationships, fights and rough patches are normal. Taking two complicated humans and trying to fit them together to form a relationship puzzle is one of the most difficult tasks on the planet, and any rom-com depictions of perfection are bullshit. However, constant bickering over small things — like clashing schedules, how to celebrate a holiday, or household chores — on a regular basis can be bad for your relationship. "When two people bicker, just the term alone shows the anxiety and the competitive need to be 'right,' which is problematic and dulling to anyone's sex life," Rosenberg says.

(Of course, these types of fights alone don't constitute emotional abuse, but you can take a look at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence's one-sheet overview if you think you might be experiencing any of the warning signs.)

The good news is, if it's just a rough patch, there are ways to push past the conflict and get back to a loving relationship. Ahead, we spoke to experts to get tips on how to regain intimacy and boost arousal after a rough patch.

While we're arguably more in control of and confident about our sexuality than ever, there's still so much we don't know about female arousal. So this month, we're exploring everything you want and need to know about how women get turned on now. Check out more here.

Taking space can help reignite arousal.

According to Rosenberg, if you need to take a breather from talking things out, feel free. If you're the type who wants to make everything okay right away and can't stand distance, but your partner is asking for space, the best thing to do is give it to them.

When it comes to having sex, you or your partner might need some time to recover from a fight or a period of fighting before having sex again, and that must be respected. "There should never be any physical or sexual engagement if both partners are not on the same page," Rosenberg says. "Emotionally respecting each other's space and where they are at is key."

She adds: "Anything opposite of that would be considered a form of emotional abuse."

That said, while it's okay to take some space, try to limit the time you keep your partner at an emotional distance to days, rather than weeks, says Barbara Greenberg, PhD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in family and relationship issues. You and your partner have to talk about your relationship eventually, but taking some initial space can help you regain your arousal.

"After giving yourself time time to destress, you could begin missing your partner," Rosenberg says. "It is at this stage that you both have the ability to be there and 'show up' at the same time for one another; it is in this space that great intimacy and great sex is available to happen."
Do something nice for your partner — (even if it's small) to help regain desire.

Perhaps you or your partner have been working such long hours that you haven't seen each other for an extended period of time in weeks or months, and the distance and bitterness finally leads to an explosive fight. During the aforementioned cooling off period, Dr. Greenberg suggests engaging in what psychologists call "opposite action." Instead of taking out your anger on one another or crawling into your shell like a turtle and totally shutting down, perform an act of kindness for your partner — even if it's as simple as bringing them a cup of coffee in the morning.

Not only will this help you begin to like one another again, it will set the stage for productive communication, which is part of the healing process. Rosenberg says that small acts of kindness can help you both let your guards down and rediscover your "desire to get down and dirty and have fun."
Talk about what was good about your relationship before the rough patch started.

After a difficult period in a relationship, it can become easy to get stuck in the dreary moment and forget why you got together — and why you were attracted to one another — in the first place.

"Before anyone can focus on a great sex life, or a way to reestablish any form of true sexual arousal, all underlining issues that create stress and conflict must be dealt with and set on a path to healing," Rosenberg says.

Meaning: You have to make 100% sure you've talked everything out. In addition to discussing the problems you're having, Rosenberg suggests mentally going back in time to when you first got together, "when each of you felt the most connection, arousal, and play." Talking about such intimate moments can help you both see each other for the people you fell in love with, rather than the source of stress and fighting. Not only can that help heal your relationship, it can reignite desire.
Remember that forgiveness is sexy.

Forgiveness isn't a natural occurrence — it's an action that requires a decision, Rosenberg says.

According to Greenberg, you need to first decide whether or not the source of the rough patch is a deal breaker, or if you'd rather let it go for the sake of the relationship."We all make mistakes and push buttons," Dr. Greenberg says. "Forgiveness makes life so much more pleasant and allows you to feel those good and juicy emotions again. Live by the mantra 'let it go,' as long as it doesn't involve violence [or other forms of abuse]."

Hanging on to negative emotions once things are supposed to be resolved can stifle your relationship in and out of the bedroom — it's those so-called "juicy emotions" that allow you and your partner to bond and learn from the experience, Rosenberg says, which can definitely boost your sex life.

While having sex right after a fight can be tempting, a quick warning on make-up sex: It's not a Band-Aid. In fact, skipping the steps that involve communication and forgiveness and diving straight into bed with one another after a fight could create a vicious cycle of shoving serious issues below the surface (that will emerge big time later).
Try something sexually spontaneous.

Once you're on good terms again, Rosenberg suggests adding spice to your typical sex routine to get arousal back on track. "Once you and your partner have had the chance to show up in your relationship with emotional intelligence, a newfound awareness, and some healing has happened, this is a great time to do something a little spontaneous that is sure to lead you to a healthy sexual routine," she says.

Need ideas? Try erotic massage, switching up your usual sex positions, or role-playing.
Skip quickies in lieu of longer, more sensual sex.

Once you've recovered from a rough patch, make sex a priority by blocking off time for a longer-than-usual sex session. Taking the time to plan an at-home date night is a great way to get your sex life on track. Rosenberg recommends launching into a new intimacy routine by setting up a warm bubble bath with aromatic scents, mood music, candles, and a bottle of your partner's favorite wine. (And if that's not your thing, here are more ways to make sex more of a drawn-out event.)
If you've done all of the emotional work, know that sex itself can help you regain arousal.

You should of course never do anything you don't want to do when it comes to sex, but if you want to want to have sex with your partner again, you might benefit from simply giving it a try (and again, stopping at any point if you're uncomfortable or not into it). Start slow and keep checking in with your partner about how you're both feeling.

"There is tremendous power in touch and physically intimacy," Dr. Greenberg says. The brain releases oxytocin during sex, producing feelings of intimacy, which could help you rebuild lost connection during a rough patch."

That said, Dr. Greenberg adds that oxytocin isn't a "fix-all miracle chemical" — it works with other neurotransmitters (like dopamine) to help you bond with your partner, and you have to put in work along with your neurotransmitters.

"That means continued communication, acts of kindness, and yes, making sweet consensual love with your partner to help prevent future fights," she says.