From "Dead Bedroom" to Dating Pool: Partner Editorial by Shanna Wilder M.A., LPC-S, CHST

May 16, 2024

Dating after the end of a long-term relationship? Sure, many people find themselves here. But what if you’re wading back into the dating pool after a “dead bedroom” relationship? A “dead bedroom” is where partners have a long period of little to no sex and it’s a special circumstance that can create a completely different set of challenges in returning to dating. If this is you, your head may be filled with questions about dating in the aftermath. Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

First, let’s talk frankly about what happened to you. You started your relationship with much more sexual compatibility than where it ended, whether you were the one whose sex drive died or not. So there’s a feeling of unfairness, of a bait-and-switch that happened. Maybe it was a combination of actions from each of you that created the DB like a bad downward spiral. Or maybe it was one partner completely diverting their sexual energy away from you entirely, like into porn. And if you tried to talk about this with friends, or look stuff up on the Internet, you might still be struggling with feelings of guilt, shame, and a blow to your confidence. 

This is where, as a therapist, I’m going to make my plug for therapy. Talking to a neutral, confidential person to help you understand the impact this has had on you will help you rebuild your confidence, understand what if anything you contributed to the problem, and identify potential triggers that a new partner might see as “projected baggage” and become a stumbling block in a new relationship. What you’ve been through was very difficult and painful, and you can’t just erase the damage it’s caused by having a lot more sex with a new person (or two).

Speaking of which, you might find yourself going through a bit of a sex spree after leaving your DB. It can be refreshing to rediscover that you’re attractive and good in bed again, but you’ll want to keep your head about you when it comes to evaluating whether or not someone is a good match for you. It can be easy to confuse the intensity of emotion with the intimacy of emotion and might lead to some rash choices.

So now when you’re looking at an opportunity with someone new, you might want to dig into your sexual compatibility and “make sure” you won’t get fooled again. This is a tricky thing because, remember, you HAD compatibility at the beginning of the last one and if someone had asked you both back then, you probably would never have thought you’d end up in a DB. Also, many people feel that stating up front that “sexual compatibility is a must” is a turn-off. 

I’m not saying that you can’t discuss what you’ve been through, and what you don’t want to go through again. But it needs to happen at a point where you’ve already established a good deal of trust with a person, so you know they will be sensitive to your issue. It’s not a dating profile or first-date fodder. And when it comes down to it, you can discuss it all you like, and it still won’t guarantee you won’t end up in a DB again.

So here’s the secret- you both need to have the skills to keep you out of a DB. You need to have worked on your communication skills and what if anything you contributed to the DB in the past. As for your new partner, they also need to be able to communicate about sex and emotions, they need to understand their sexuality, and demonstrate the skill of returning to an openness to being sexual even after a short period of not having it. It’s not about never having a gap, it’s about acknowledging it and turning towards each other again after a gap. 


Shanna Wilder, M.A., LPC-S, CHST is a Sex Therapist and Coach with 20+ years of experience helping couples and individuals be happier and healthier, in and out of the bedroom. You can learn more about her work at

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