Is Lockdown Affecting Your Libido?

If your sex drive is all over the place after a year of staying home, you're not alone.

If we were to take a moment and list out all of the things that have taken a hit over the last year, frankly, we’d be here all day. From our finances to our social lives, nothing has been left untouched by the pandemic, but one thing on that lengthy list that no one seems to be talking about is our sex lives. Going from hot to cold in the space of a day or two, our libidos have taken a serious beating over the space of the last 12 months.

For many people, going celibate involuntarily has been a reality, whether you’re single and consider having an active sex life too risky, or have a partner that you live separately from and therefore can’t be intimate with while restrictions are at their highest, we salute you, brave soldiers. But then, there are the people who live with their partners, who have the option of infinite intimacy, with just one thing standing in their way, a sex drive that’s constantly in flux. 

Back in the first few months of the pandemic, making banana bread wasn’t the only thing we were getting busy with. We’re surprised that a national condom shortage wasn’t reported on the news, although the number of baby announcement posts on Instagram in the last year probably explains that one. That’s right – most people living in couples back in March and April of 2020 were mad for it, becoming closer to their partners than they ever have been before, something 31-year-old Grainne* can attest to. “I’m lucky that I live with my boyfriend, and we’re also really fortunate that we’ve both been able to keep our jobs through the pandemic, working from home since late March,” Grainne explains.

Couple having sex on the floor

“Being honest, I’ve actually never felt closer to my boyfriend, and our sex life had never been better,” she continued. Attributing her boost in sex drive to boredom and a need for human touch, Grainne says that being intimate with her boyfriend was a coping mechanism for what was happening all around her, “Every time I looked at my phone or turned on the TV it was constant bad news, so I think myself and Damien really clung to each other for support and normality. We moved in together just a month before the virus hit, so it felt like us against the world and we wanted to just constantly be close with one another.”

This response is totally normal, assures relationship and sex expert Jen Kaarlo, “The spring lockdown was a first for many” she begins. “I know couples who really amped up their intimacy this past year and I think that is in part, learning to appreciate each other. It’s a fair assumption that many didn’t anticipate restrictions would last for as long as they have, so there was this initial desire to take advantage of the time together as it was expected lockdown would last a few weeks or months. Practical things such as not having to commute and be in the office five days a week took the pressure off people. For the first time in their relationship, they had more hours at their disposal and could dedicate time to their partner.”

With the highs come the lows, however, and as the pandemic set in as our ‘new normal’ (sorry, had to be said) many people admit that their low libidos became the norm in their bedrooms too. “The general panic and despair have shredded my libido” as one Twitter user put it, a testament that Grainne soon became familiar with. As the reality of what was happening in the world set in for Grainne and her boyfriend, Damien, she says that the intimate side of their relationship soon stopped too, “As time went on and I realised that this was going to go on for much longer than just the two weeks we were initially told about, I completely lost my sex drive,” she begins.

“I was constantly stressed and missed my family with all my heart, so the last thing I wanted to do was feel sexy and be close with my partner. At first being together constantly was the thing that drew us together, it made us both feel safe and calm. But as it continued it was the thing that made us drift, sexually. I have a great relationship with Damien, but being together 24/7 made it impossible to be intimate, there was no longing or excitement between us, we were living in each other’s pockets and as things went on we began to feel more like friends or siblings rather than a couple.” 

Again, Jen says that this sudden drop in libido is normal, and in fact, a natural response to the turbulent time we’re enduring. “It’s completely natural for a drop in libido during the best of times, let alone when combating all the repercussions of the pandemic. From job loss to home-schooling, and a million of other concerns in between, we’re currently living in a world of uncertainty and that’s a heavy weight on the mind and one’s sex drive.”

What I want to know is, is there a way to make our sex drives plateau? Of course, I know that it’s near impossible to get our hormones and moods to do exactly what we want them to, but is there a way that we can inject some fun back into our relationships despite the uncertainty playing out around us? Resulting in a healthy sex life, whatever the definition of that is for you. Jen Kaarlo says that with a little effort, that is achievable. “If days are getting the better of you and your partner – it’s so normal to be exhausted at the end of the day, but it’s also important to make time for one another” she says.

There are multiple ways we can do this, Jen says, firstly, it’s important to look at how you treat the bedroom you share. A recent study by Essential Living found that painting your bedroom in colours proven to counteract negativity, such as pistachio and lavender can improve your relationship both inside and outside the bedroom. Jen agrees with that sentiment, and believes that couples should work towards making their bedroom a sanctuary, “I’m convinced screens (television, phone, or otherwise) can be a real intimacy squasher. I like to suggest keeping the bedrooms a screen-free zone to allow for more opportunities for intimacy.”

Making your bedroom a place of intimacy is one thing, but finding the time to actually be intimate is another, so for that reason, Jen says that penciling in some one on one time with your partner is the best way to reignite the spark in your relationship – and no, it doesn’t always have to involve sex, “Even if it’s just for an hour (and I know those are hard to come by) pencil in time to connect with your partner. Perhaps it’s making a meal, soaking in the tub, playing a game together which is even more fun if you’re naked,” she says.

Easy to lose track of time, Jen recommends setting an alarm to do this, it could be when you both finish up work for the day, or after you’ve put the kids to bed, but setting aside that time, no matter how short, is vital for a happy and healthy relationship “It can be all too easy to get consumed with all the new demands we’re experiencing in our lives, but that makes it that much more important to find ways to inject a little joy back into your sexual escapades.” So go on, inject a little bit of joy into your sex life this evening, your mood (and partner) will thank you for it.