Last updated: Mar 02, 2016

Sure, sex is all around us—in music, movies, the news, and even neighborhood drugstores (mine displays an array of inviting products right up front). Youd think wed all be having it, all the time. Were not. In fact, in a recent study nearly 20 percent of American couples reveal that they hadnt had any sex at all in the past month. A month off doesnt mean youre sex-starved (in clinical terms, that would be six months), but its certainly not a great way to keep a relationship strong. Physical intimacy, as we all know, is an important and necessary part of bonding. So, whats going on here?

To find out, I turned to Celeste and Rob, who have been married nine years, are working parents of a 4-year-old, and admit that sometimes they are just too pooped to pop. They let me take a peek into their bedroom and offer some tips on revving things up.

1. The issue: More snoozing than smooching
Like many couples, Celeste and Rob have intense, mismatched schedules, which means they dont connect much on week-nights. “During the week my husband and I scarcely see each other. I leave really early for work, before hes even up. Then Robs not home evenings until late, sometimes 9 p.m., just when Im getting ready to pack it in,” Celeste says.

The Rx: Weeknight sex
Its nice to have something to look forward to during the week, and sex is a great way to relieve stress and reconnect. To make it fun, take turns thinking of special treats for that night—food, a sexy video, massage oil, whatever inspires you.

Sex-o-meter: Yes, yes, yes!
When I checked back with Rob and Celeste, Thursday nights had become fun and sexy. Rob cut his lunch hour short so he could come home earlier. And Celeste got in the mood by indulging in a leisurely bath. He arrived with surprise treats, from sumptuous finger foods to sexy videos. Over time, Celeste started taking the lead—setting the stage, wearing something sensual, selecting a sex toy.

2. The issue: Not loving the love handles
Like many couples, Celeste and Rob have watched their bodies mature over nine years of marriage in ways that are not so sexy. Celeste points out, “Its hard to love your body and even harder to have sex if you arent feeling sexy. I know that I dont want to have sex on days when I feel fat or just down about myself.”

The Rx: Get fit for great sex
Studies show that people get a nice sex-life boost from losing 5 to 10 pounds. Plus, exercising increases energy, sex-hormone levels, and confidence about sex appeal. Feeling that you look good has a lot to do with how much fun youre going to have in bed.

Sex-o-meter: Feeling frisky
Celeste goes to the gym during her lunch hour now. And Rob started a before-work routine. The first time they took a run together, they returned very much in the mood, which led to a memorable post-run romp.

3. The issue: Too much coitus interruptus
Lets face it, kids can be sex killers. Blame it on lack of sleep, changing diapers, and all the other challenges of raising young children. Rob and Celeste have a 4-year-old who typically sleeps through the night. But, Rob says, “sometimes, even I get dis-tracted during lovemaking knowing that Celeste is on the alert for him.”

The Rx: Make a love nest
On the occasional child-free night (give grandma a call), you can create a boudoir atmosphere right in your own home—or in the backyard or on the balcony (if its private). Push two couches together or make a plush floor area of velvet throws and pillows.

Sex-o-meter: Sheer bliss
Rob and Celeste were amazed at how much a simple change of venue in their very own home could boost their sexual excitement. Following my suggestion, they pushed their living room–sectional pieces together, creating a love-nest atmosphere that led to the best sexual experience Rob and Celeste had had in months.

4. The issue: The myth of spontaneous eruption
Sad but true: After the early years of a relationship, youre not so likely to be spontaneous or adventuresome. And all that scheduling to have sex can make it seem rote, Rob and Celeste admit. “Compared with the early days, weve become very proficient,” Celeste says. “But I miss the spontaneous surprises and intensity.”

The Rx: Spice-it-up box
A fun way to add spontaneity is to use a suggestion box. Both partners can write down sexual things theyd like to do and stick them into the box. Then on sex night, they can pick a sexy suggestion from the box.

Sex-o-meter: Off the charts!
Celeste and Rob loved the box. “It gave us a safe place to ask each other for things without being embarrassed,” Celeste says. “This seriously made our lives a little more spontaneous and enjoyable.” Rob adds, “I often find myself writing down things at work and placing them in my pocket. My biggest fear is that Ill forget to put my idea in the box and the dry cleaner will find it and look at me differently every time I pick up my clothes!”

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Linda De Villers, PhD, is a certified sex therapist based in California and author of Love Skills.