Lack of desire is one of the most common complaints I hear from women. While menopausal women tend to be the most frequent complainers, women’s lack of desire is not just about hormonal changes. This is not to say that hormones can’t play havoc with your desire. They absolutely can. But so can stress, lack of sleep, starting a new job, being a caregiver for a family member and feeling emotionally disconnected from your partner..just to name a few.
You see your desire is multi-faceted and complex, just like you, and it’s often hard to pinpoint exactly why your desire is waning. I often spend weeks with clients working through what’s blocking their desire. Sometimes it’s patently obvious–you’re in a toxic relationship–but most of the time we need to do some digging.
Some of the most common reasons that you may be struggling with your desire include body image issues, not enough self care, not allowing enough sensual pleasure in your life, not being able to ask for what you want and need, feeling distant from your partner, shame, not having your emotional needs met during sex, or an unbalanced power dynamic.
Recently, I’ve also had to look at what’s been going on with my own desire, eight months into a new relationship. One thing I’ve noticed in this relationship, compared to previous ones, is that I don’t think about sex very often. I don’t feel particularly horny around my partner or turned on when we’re just hanging out.
I don’t know if this change is due to hormones (sex in my 50’s vs 60’s) or a different relationship dynamic in that I’m dating a man who is utterly available and devoted to me (rather than ones who were either emotionally unavailable or were also in other relationships).
Even though I’m struggling with wanting to have sex, that does not mean that my sex life is dead. Quite to the contrary. I’m having some of the best sex and orgasms of my life. Here’s the reason why and it applies to you as well.
My “responsive desire” is alive and well. You see, there are two different types of desire and they work completely differently.
Spontaneous desire literally just appears out of no where. It might be instigated by seeing a sexy person or having a sexy thought and then your body responds and wants sex. Spontaneous desire occurs in 70% of men and only 15% of women, according to researcher and author Emily Nagoski in her critically acclaimed book, Come as You Are.
Chances are you’ve experienced spontaneous desire in the past, most likely during late adolescence and early adulthood as well as during new relationship energy stages. This is often what I hear couples describe as “the good old days” of their sex life, when passion ruled and you f***d like rabbits.
For many women, it is responsive desire that is more easily accessible. In responsive desire your body responds to pleasure and sensations that is happening. Your partner touches you, or whispers something sexy in your ear and that begins your arousal process, which leads to the desire to have sex.
It is also true that women’s hormones play a big role in our sexual desire. Younger women with high levels of estrogen tend to be able to access spontaneous desire more easily. You might also notice that you feel more desire during peak hormonal levels of your cycle when ovulation occurs. The decrease in estrogen for peri and menopausal women may also negatively impact spontaneous desire.
It’s important to realize that it’s totally normal to have responsive desire. In fact, this is a good thing and you should be celebrating it rather than feeling like there’s something wrong with you because you don’t want to have sex.
The struggle in relationships happen when you have a partner who has more spontaneous desire and feels rejected or not desired if you never initiate sex. This is the situation that many couples in long term heterosexual relationships face.
There are several ways to deal with this so that your sex life is not adversely affected:
- Communicate with your partner about the type of desire that is typical for you and help them understand the difference between responsive and spontaneous desire. Emphasize that both are normal and that just because you don’t think about sex that often, doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy it when it happens.
- Put a regular sex date on the calendar. This lets your partner see that your sex life is a priority. It also gives you time to get psyched up for sex, to take a hot bath or shower, or do whatever will help get you in the mood. Also it provides opportunity for foreplay to start well before the date, which will help get your head in the game.
- Make an effort to initiate sex with your partner once a month. Remind yourself that even if you’re not feeling it, you know that your body will respond to touch, sexy words etc. It’s important for your partner to feel desired by you and there’s no better way than by initiating sex or suggesting it in a sexy way.
- Explore all the different ways in which your partner can begin to turn you on either with touch or words or maybe just by creating the right mood with candles, music etc. Share this information with your partner and encourage them to mix it up some because boredom is a real issue, especially for women.
While this may not work all of the time, the Nike tagline comes to mind…”Just Do It”.