When it comes to desire, the partner who is least interested in sex is the one who holds the most power in the couple's sex life. If you are a low-desire partner, this may come as a shock to you, because of the powerless feeling you experience over your own levels of desire. Most people with low-desire WANT TO DESIRE THEIR MATE. Therefore, it is important to recognize that if you are in a mixed-desire relationship, it is likely that you are frustrated, hurt and feeling powerless.
Sex: Part III
The most common issues with sex and relationships are: reduced desire, sexual arousal issues (lubrication for women, erectile issues for men), orgasm difficulties (from too soon to not at all), and pain (clinically referred to as vaginismus). For the purposes of this article, I am going to focus only on the issue of reduced or lacking desire.
In the most literal sense, there is nothing harmful or dangerous about having low-desire. Low desire is simply a minimal or non-existent interest in sexual activity with oneself or another. The worrisome part is the secondary effects of low-desire. If neither you, nor your partner has concerns about your sex life or the amount and quality of your sex, then your levels of desire are not an issue.
Low desire becomes an issue when it starts to negatively affect your relationship, or your feelings about yourself. You'll know it's an issue if you are reading this to find a way to "fix" yourself. You'll know it's an issue if your partner has printed this article and placed it on your pillow tonight. You'll know it's an issue if you find yourself thinking, "Something isn't the same." Or "Something doesn't feel right." When your low-desire results in relationship discord or conflict, it is a signal that it is time to identify and address the issues!
As discussed in the second of this three-part series on SEX, there are fundamental differences in our sex drives which are largely accounted for by our biology (and more specifically, but not exclusively, by our levels of testosterone). However, there are additional variables which influence our levels of desire as well.
Here's a sampling of some common reasons you might lose interest in sex with your partner, with some strategies for addressing the issues.
- Built up resentment toward partner. Most (but not all) people do not want to have sex with someone at whom they are mad. Talk about your resentments, clear the air, deal with the real issues so you can resume a satisfying sex life.
- Not enjoying the sex when you do have it. If having sex feels about as good as cleaning out the garage, then unless you love to clean out the garage you are not likely to feel real eager to have sex. What we like does not automatically translate into what our partner likes. Most people approach having sex from the perspective of what he or she likes to experience. If you are not vocal about what feels good and what doesn't, your partner is likely to believe that when you have sex it is good for you - even if it isn't, UNLESS you teach him or her what you do like. TIP: focus on what you DO like, rather than criticizing what you don't like.
- Feeling a lack of voice regarding your sex life. If you don't have a voice in your sex life it's because you aren't speaking up about what you want, when you want it, and how you want it. Sex is a form of communication that relies heavily on our bodies to do the work, but that does not mean we are not allowed to also use our voice: speak up!
- Feeling more like a parent than a partner. A very common dynamic in relationships is for one person to feel like they are "the responsible one," who is remembering to pay bills, change the furnace filter, clean the house, cook the meals, etc... and this leads to one partner feeling more like a parent and the other a child. The parentified partner in this scenario often has difficulty feeling desirous. Talk about the real issues. Change the dynamics to allow room for two adults in your relationship.
- Difficulty decoding feelings of desire. Women in particular are not always aware when what they are feeling is desire. Sometimes there is a feeling of want that may lead her to the refrigerator before the bedroom. Spend time becoming conscious about your body, the sensual pleasures around you, notice how it does feel when you are consciously aroused. Pay more attention to yourself and your body.
- Decreased attraction to partner. This is a tough one because it is possible to continue to love your partner AND to feel less turned on by them. However, as is the case with many of the above issues, it is important to begin talking about the issues. If you do not feel as attracted to your partner as you used to, talk about that and how you feel. The focus needs to be on your feelings, not your partner's attractiveness. Open a dialogue so your partner knows what he or she is dealing with.
- Unaddressed childhood trauma. To be sexual is to be vulnerable. If you have been wounded either emotionally, or physically, in your childhood it can feel too dangerous to be THAT vulnerable again. Deal with the childhood trauma.
- Depression. One of the cardinal features of depression is loss of interest in usually enjoyable activities. Depression robs us of motivation, energy, concentration, and interest in all things - so if you are depressed you are more likely to use your energy to shower than you are to have sex. Deal with the depression.
- Body Image issues. Because your body is typically instrumental to sex, if you do not feel good about your body, it is more difficult to feel good about sex. Weight, scars, aging, and other body issues can distract you from your own pleasure. Talk with your partner about your issues so that your partner knows your issues with sex are about you, and not about him or her. Then begin to work together on loving your body - flaws and all.
- Medication side-effects. You will have to weigh the pros and cons of your medications. Sometimes it is helpful to simply acknowledge and recognize that medications are contributing to your low drive, and that it is not a relationship issue. Med's that tend to affect sex drive include: cholesterol reducers, anti-psychotics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, antihypertensives, and pain killers. You know it's the meds if the changes occur only under the influence of the medications (not before or after).
- Difficulties regulating hormones, or hormonal imbalances. You can check your hormone levels and address this issue with medicine - consult a physician if you suspect your hormones are not level.
- Aging. Our bodies change with age. Men and women do tend to have some reduction in desire, though the frequency may decrease, the good news is that reportedly the pleasure sometimes increases.
And remember, if all else fails, wear socks to bed.