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January 28, 2008

I Swore Off Sex for a Month

When I told my boyfriend I wanted to give up sex for 30 days, he hooted with laughter. But the process was anything but funny.

fully dressed man and woman lying in bed together

Photo Credit: Margo Silver

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"So when you say 'no sex' for 30 days, what does that mean, exactly?"

I'm on the phone with Ian Kerner, Ph.D., author of Sex Detox, which suggests stepping away from the hot stuff for a month to revive a sex life that's grown yawn-inducing or otherwise "toxic."

I wouldn't call the sex I have with my boyfriend, Fred, "toxic": We've had a healthy amount with lots of texture (from start-the-week-off-right sex to the Wednesday-night reconnectors to a few all-day Saturday sessions). But after a year-and-a-half, even a good thing can feel routine. Why not try something that promises to make sex better — even if it means not having it at all?

In his nearly 10 years of counseling bedroom-challenged couples, Kerner has found that taking sex off the table helps couples focus on aspects of the relationship they never paid attention to before. "Most things that happen — or don't happen — during sex have nothing to do with sex," he says.

I mention the detox to Fred. He wipes the tear from his right eye after 90 seconds of hooting laughter and says there's no way I can go a month without sex. I guess I always have been the randier of the two of us, partly because I use sex as a security blanket — to confirm that I'm attractive and loved. Secretly, I wonder, too, if I can go without.

DAY 1: Instead of sex, I get to do homework?
I think about what 30 days of no sex will do to us. Will Fred start looking at other women? Will we get bored? We've gone 30 days without sex before — we were in a long-distance relationship at one time, after all. But then we couldn't have sex. Now, I'm choosing not to.

Along with saying no to sex, the detox requires you to do homework every day: Quizzes that get at how affectionate your family was and writing exercises that force you to think back on your first sexual experiences.

I take a multiple-choice test designed to diagnose the toxicity of your sexual relationship, including questions about what you suspect your partner would think about your fantasies. Fred knows mine — intimately — so I assume we'll ace this. The healthiest couples score 60 to 75. I tally mine — 59. Huh. We have decent sex. We communicate about it. How is that a 59?

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