A decrease in sex drive doesn’t always mean your relationship is dead.
In long-term relationships, it’s common for the sexual spark to diminish somewhat as the years tick on. Sometimes, it’s not just the spark that goes – it’s the desire to have sex altogether. But what to do if you and your other half suddenly find yourself with conflicting libidos?
To get the facts on changing sex drives, we spoke to Vanessa Marin, sex therapist and author of Rediscovering Desire: Getting Your Sex Drive Back With The Five Foundations Model. She told us that firstly, it’s important to understand that the relationship is not doomed just because the two of you are having less sex. It can be an indication that something somewhere isn’t right, but it’s not always an insurmountable problem.
“Most people believe you’re supposed to feel unwavering desire for your partner throughout the entire length of your relationship. People will often get fearful, or even end relationships, because they notice their sex drives start to wane,” says Vanessa. “It’s completely normal for your sex drive to change throughout the course of a relationship. Our sex drives are very sensitive, and can get affected by a number of different factors.”
Vanessa has identified five major things that can impact your libido:
Physical: Stress, depression, lack of sleep, or hormonal issues.
Mental: Negative beliefs about sex, sexual hangups, and mental distractions.
Emotional: Self-esteem, body image, and the impacts of past sexual experiences.
Relational: The general health of your relationship with your partner, and the dynamics at play.
Sensual: The quality of the sex itself, and how much you enjoy it.
“If your sex drive feels lower than it has been in the past, or lower than you would like it to be, you have to take a good look at these Five Foundations and see where you can make changes in your life to support your sex drive flourishing,” advises Vanessa.
So that’s your long term plan for reclaiming some of your lost mojo. But what to do in the meantime? If you’re the partner with the lower sex drive, you might sometimes ‘go along with it’ when your SO initiates sex, even if you weren’t too excited about it to begin with. But is that helpful or harmful? It can be either – it just depends on how well you know yourself and your sex drive.
“Some people have Responsive sex drives, which means that they don’t feel the mental desire for sex until they’re already being physical,” Vanessa explains. “You might start making out with your partner when you weren’t particularly in the mood, and ten minutes later find yourself starting to get into it.” If this sounds like you, ‘going along with it’ might just be a nice idea. Of course, if you don’t feel happy about taking things further, you have every right to let them know that. “You should never pressure yourself into doing something with your body that you don’t want to do,” Vanessa reminds us.
If you’re the one with the higher sex drive, constantly initiating or being turned down might leave you feeling a little frustrated or worse, unwanted by the one you love. In this case, you have to understand that your partner is turning down sex, not you personally. Saying no doesn’t mean they’re not attracted to you, or that they don’t care about your needs.
Whichever side of the fence you’re on, you and your partner will need to work together to find a compromise. As Vanessa says, having to work on your sex life is not a sign that your relationship is broken, or that you are incompatible on some level. Many couples find that scheduling ‘sex appointments’ helps them get in the mood – this may sound less romantic than spontaneous sex, but Vanessa encourages us to look at it a little differently.
“If your best friend’s birthday party is coming up, you put it in your calendar and make sure to protect that time. You don’t leave it to chance, hoping that you won’t book any other social engagements for that same time. We schedule the things that are important to us. Why should sex be any different? Scheduling sex means that you value your sex life, and you’re willing to make sure you create the time and space for that with your partner.”