We often have people come to Sex Life Therapy concerned about low sexual desire or a loss of sexual desire. This includes couples who have mismatched desires. Low sexual desire or loss of desire is thought to be a “problem” that needs to be solved with the individual or the relationship. However low desire does not mean you are broken or need to be fixed. In fact, low desire is not static, and is influenced by several factors that I discuss below.
To begin with we need to explore the outside messaging that affects how we view our own sex lives and desire. We live in society which promotes the importance of being sexual. Our media is swamped with messages about having sex and being a good sexual partner. I frequently read headlines about getting more sex; getting the sex you want; how to be better at sex; have more sex. All these messages create a belief that a healthy sexuality is a high sexuality. However, just because we see it frequently does not mean that this is healthy messaging.
Sexual desire or sexual libido can be considered as the same phenomena. Our desire for sex play, or our libido, can be thought of as the psychological arousal as opposed to physical arousal. Psychological and physical arousal work together , in different ways for different people. Sexual libido is not easily defined or identified. Today we are only discussing Our libido is influenced by many different things. Our mood – how we feel; our levels of happiness; depression; anxiety; stress. Our resilience and sense of wellness also play a major role. Our presence or focus in the moment, or where are minds are will influence our desire for being sexual. It really is quite variable from day-to-day and from person-to-person.
Some people have low desire and others have high desires. I present the challenge – why do we see low desire as a problem and not the high desire? The “issue” is not the level of libido: it is how the relationship negotiates the difference in desire. Mixed desire relationships, where one partner has a high desire and the other a low desire is common; more common than matched desire relationships. How sex is negotiated in a relationship is important for all partners.
All People are sexual. Just some are more sexual than others. Our sexual scripts and maps – how we think about, and create our sexuality, is informed from different experiences and events in our life. How our parents performed intimacy is one of the earliest influencers on our sexual desire; our engagement with intimacy with others. For example, witnessing parents, who hug, kiss and hold hands will inform how a person engages and performs sexually. Early messages about sex and sexuality also inform our desire, as does our sexual experiences.
But in the Beginning … … …
People sometimes report the sex play at the beginning of their relationship was more frequent and more exciting compared to their current sex play This is possibly true as the beginning of the relationship is not a good gauge for how sex will be throughout the relationship. At the beginning of a relationship partners are in limerence or the honey-moon phase. During this stage, partners are often focused on each other to the exclusion of other distractions. There is space and time for our partner/s and for connecting. During limerence our minds flood with happy hormones – serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin – all helpful in being sexual and playful.
Listening to Understand
Listening and being responsive to our partner/s is important. Learning to listen to understand and build rapport in our relationship is a tool we can use to develop a better understanding of each other. When we listen to understand we are actively listening to what our partner is stating. Active listening requires the listener to demonstrate they have heard and understood what is being said – Try putting into your own words what your partner has said after they have said it to demonstrate active listening and that you are listening to understand.
Make time for sex play
We receive messages from society about sex being organic and just somehow happens. I ask people to consider the routines of their lives to challenge this message. Our routines consist of many things such as: when we get out of bed; when we shower, have breakfast, start work, finish work, have lunch, have an evening meal – life is a series of routines. We then expect sex to just somehow fit in among these routines. Making time for sex does not mean sex play will be inorganic and unnatural. We need to have space for sex; to be ready and present for sex play. Making space may be as simple as agreeing with our partner/s that Thursday evening after dinner is our time (dedicated to sex play).
Negotiate Sex Play
We all have different ideas about what is sex play and how to do sex play. What a person likes sexually varies like sexual desire – each person is different informed by many different factors. Be clear about what you wish to do when engaging with your partner/s sexually. Listen to understand what they like to do. Be prepared to try different activities once in a while.
Good Enough Sex
Good enough sex is good enough. Sure, it is great to great sex – once in a while. We don’t need great sex every time. Good enough sex is just that, sex that is good enough. Life is busy; people are busy; great sex takes time and space – something people do not have available at their disposable. The idea of having great sex is another message we receive through various media channels. Good enough sex can be satisfying, enjoyable and refreshing.
If your relationship experiences mis-matched libidos, or you have a different desire to your partner our team of professional therapists are able to assist you. A low sexual desire is not a problem or issue to be fixed. Working with a sex and relationship therapist can assist you negotiate a healthy and happy sex life.
If you wish to learn more about sexual desire you can hear Catriona Boffard from Asking for a Friend interview Dr Christopher on What you Should Really Know About Sexual Desire
A healthy life includes healthy relationships and a healthy sex life.
Dr Christopher Fox is a Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist at Sex Life Therapy in Melbourne. He has clinics in Collingwood and Frankston. He provides eTherapy using secured platforms.
Find out more about Relationship Therapy at Sex Life Therapy.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this document should be read as general in nature and is only to provide an overview of the subject matter covered. Please see a an appropriate practitioner if you have any concerns.