When you first met, the sex was spectacular. In those early days, you gave each other pleasure in a way that only a strong and loving couple can. And almost always, you climaxed.

Fast forward a year - or several years - and your relationship is even stronger, your couple connection even more loving. You’ve been through a lot together, and come out the other side. So what on earth happened to the orgasms?

We’re not talking here about never having climaxed, or never having climaxed with your beloved. We’re talking about the gradual, often unnoticeable shift from ‘almost always’ to ‘almost never’. On one level, you tell yourself this doesn’t matter; the issue surely isn’t going to rock the boat of two committed partners who share a home, a family and a life. And yet… and yet… you wouldn’t mind solving the mystery of that missing orgasm.

Is it physical? 

One key avenue of ‘investigation’ should be physical. Especially if climaxing has become suddenly difficult, it’s possible that some sudden physical shift has either drained your desire for climax or sabotaged your capacity.

The day-to-day issues may be those work-life balance cliches:  stress, exhaustion, energy depletion. Add in a physiological hand grenade exploding into your life - pregnancy, childbirth, the menopause, illness, medical treatment, prescription drugs - and your body may put climax right to the bottom of the agenda.

Your first step here should be to start taking health and fitness seriously, catching up on sleep, taking more exercise, reducing your workload.

If a month of such self-care makes no difference whatsoever, take yourself off to your doctor. Yes, it may be hugely embarrassing to admit the reason for your appointment, but any GP worth the name should take this symptom seriously as a flag to physical problems, especially if you’ve recently been diagnosed with conditions such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis or started a new medication (anti-depressants are particularly implicated). 

Is it emotional? 

Given a clean bill of health, where should your ‘investigations’ lead you next? While male physiology is more primed to simply step over emotions and head straight for sexual release, female arousal simply doesn’t work that way. We need to feel safe and secure - recent studies suggest that climax is for women closely tied in with a part of the brain that registers anxiety, so if that part is on full danger alert we simply can’t get there.

Why might your emotions be on such a danger alert? We’re not talking here about sexual inhibition or phobia, which will dramatically undermine orgasmic capability from the get-go. A gradual loss of climax is more likely to be down to an equally gradual loss of self-esteem in general.

So did your recent setback at work sap your confidence? Have those extra years or extra pounds drained you of your initial sexual sassiness? If so, the cause may be a low-level anxiety that kicks in at your most vulnerable times, meaning that even when desire is rampant the ability to tip into climax is compromised.

To add complication to problem, you may well also be suffering from what in a man is termed ‘performance anxiety’. A single failure to deliver (in his case erection, in yours orgasm) may mean that next time you’re faced with the same demand, your very worry that you won’t be able to deliver means you don’t deliver. One absent orgasm lays the foundations for the next absent one - and so on to extinction.

The solution here is to gain self-esteem, gain confidence, and you will break the vicious spiral. Do everything you can to lower your anxiety level and you will increase your ability to reach your peak.

Is it down to technique? 

What you and your beloved did with each other at the start of your relationship gave you so many wonderful climaxes. So it seems illogical that, years on, the same actions are less effective. Surely couples gain sexual knowledge and expertise over time?

Not necessarily. Even when - perhaps particularly when - we care for each other outside the bedroom, sexual technique can start to suffer from mutual complicity. We may feel we don’t need to spend time on foreplay - with the result that we are not quite ready for orgasm when our partner is good to go. We may accommodate to our partner’s ways because we love him (or her) - and so cease to ask for what we need in order to climax.

We may - almost certainly will - reduce our repertoire of ways to arouse and be aroused. And, we will almost certainly fail to implement any changes in that repertoire to accommodate any bodily shifts such as our genitals changing shape after childbirth or our sensitivity diminishing after the menopause. In short,  what brought us to climax when we met our beloved may simply not be what works for us now.

It’s vital, in solving this part of the mystery, to continually explore. Alone. With our partner. Discovering if the old ways still work. Trying new ways to see if they work. Adding in lubrication or the extra stimulation of a vibrator. I also often advise a four-part check list both for when you are self-pleasuring and with a partner. Are you getting what you need in terms of: the Position of your body; the Pressure of touch; the Pace of action; the rhythm of Pulse (pauses left between stimulation). Adjust those four Ps so they are right for you, and you are much more likely to reach your goal.

Is it about your relationship?

The possible cause most likely to have you questioning deeply is the partnership itself. Is a lack of orgasm actually a sign of a hidden lack of commitment - even if on a conscious level you feel 100% positive about your beloved? It’s certainly true that a strained relationship, one where trust is lost, one fraught with irritation or frustration, doesn’t lend itself to the same sexual prowess that you had in the early days of ‘in love’.

But a failing climax doesn’t always mean a failing relationship; sometimes it means the opposite. Partners who are strongly bonded - couples who are clearly each other’s best friends - can sometimes tip over into a relationship that is more sibling than lover. And then, some primal instinct may kick in to make you feel merely comfortable with each other, and never passionate. If so, then even if you succeed in getting the erotic flames fanned, they may just die away when approaching that most intimate moment, your climax.

The answer here involves first courageous honesty. Are you hitting difficulties; is there a lack of goodwill built up over the years, or some festering resentment around a single past betrayal? Alternatively, are you so entwined in each other’s lives that you feel more like brother and sister than erotic partners?

What’s the answer?

Physiology? Emotion? Technique? Partnership? In the end, as with any enigma, the causes of the missing orgasm are likely to be many and mixed.

So to track down the culprit you will almost always need a little help. From your partner whose care and love should motivate them to want to help you solve this puzzle. From your physician, who can tell you if there is a medical underpinning to your issue. And - here, of course, we come to the commercial break - from a therapist skilled in working with you to unravel the orgasmic conundrum.

The good news is that, very often, unravelling is eminently possible. With the correct guidance, it’s hugely likely that you can reclaim your ability to climax even if it seems long gone. Perhaps by feeling better about yourself or your relationship, perhaps by updating your needs and techniques, you can rediscover fulfilment.

In short, don’t give up hope. The mystery of the missing orgasm is eminently solvable. 

Susan Quilliam, relationship coach. Susan’s new book How to Choose a Partner, is published in January 2016 by PanMacmillan as part of the School of Life series of publications.