It's that time of the week again and I have read another interesting book "Where is my libido?" by Dr Rosie King. Men and women everywhere will have thought this at some point, menopause, ageing, new baby, work,fatigue, illness, pain, life stressors....all of these things can impact on our libido, desire, sex drive, whatever you like to call it.
Often when a change in libido is first noticed, it may have actually been going on for a while, but we have thought it was going to get better and it just...didn't. Maybe we don't want sex as much as we used to, maybe my partner wants it more than I do, or maybe I want it but not with my partner. Lack of desire can be something that is life long, maybe something new, or may only occur in certain situations.
You can assess your sexual desire by asking a few questions of yourself:
Have I ever felt strong sexual desire? (maybe this is lifelong)
Have I lost desire to be sexual with my partner but still feel inclined to masturbate or feel attraction to others? (this is situational)
Have I lost the desire to masturbate as well as engage in sexual activity with any partner? (this is general)
Do I have low desire but once we get started I can get aroused and enjoy sexual activity? ( there are different types of arousal cycle, for many there is desire that leads to arousal but for some there needs to be arousal before desire kicks in)
There can be both a biological urge to have sex (LUST) and a psychological dimension (SEXUAL MOTIVATION), libido is a mix of both that leads to the willingness to have sex. It is important to understand that to increase the willingness to have sex,it is not just about feeling horny, it is often, for many women, the motivation that is more important. So what motivates us to have sex, Dr Rosie King lists the following:
A belief that is is good for our relationship, goodwill towards our partner (caring for them), the rewards of a pleasurable experience,to show love and affection, to give and receive pleasure, intimacy, closeness, comfort, security, reducing tension (in self and relationship), or simply because it is good.
What others can you think of?
By exploring your reasons for having sex (other than lust) you can start to see that you may have several that have nothing to do with a physical release or 'getting off'. There are many other reasons that we can have sex and as previously stated, often once we get started desire or lust can appear.
It is also important to look at what inhibits us from having desire, there can be physical, emotional, relationship, sexual or lifestyle inhibitors and Rosie lists many in her book. She also looks at what things can enhance our desire: feeling good about yourself and your relationship, being rested, healthy and fit, feeling emotionally balanced, relaxed and happy, feeling attractive and being attracted to others, having the right environment and enjoying the sex you have and feeling sexually satisfied. The journey to having desire will include decreasing the inhibitors and increasing the enhancers.
One of the key ingredients in having desire towards your partner is Goodwill in your relationship. What is that you ask? Rosie explains it as " a friendly disposition of kindness and compassion between you and your partner, it makes you wish the best for each other and motivates you to work to bring about your partner's happiness. When you have goodwill you are happy to oblige each other, to give aid, support and encouragement.....it is essential for negotiating a compromise between your needs for sex and your partner's when you have a desire discrepancy".
So how do we increase goodwill? Appreciation helps to build goodwill while resentment will diminish it, and communicating your love effectively (talk each other's love languages) will enable you to show each other your goodwill. Dr John Gottman, also has some tips: focus on each other's positive qualities, accept each other as you are, be tolerant and let go of minor irritations(choose your battles), take advice from each other, resolve conflicts willingly and in a healthy way, love generously and cherish each other.
If you find that the sexual dance between you and your partner has become one of a pursuer ( the person who wants sex more) and a distancer (the person who wants sex less) there are 8 steps to change this into a mutual dance towards pleasure:
1. See the pattern you have both become entrenched in (awareness)
2. Do not assign blame (self responsibility)
3. Stand in each other's shoes (empathise)
4. Do not judge each other (acceptance)
5. Generate goodwill (you now know what that is and how to do it)
6.Do not engage in mercy sex or become emotionally withdrawn (explore your emotions when denied and do not have sex that may bring regrets....negotiate what works for you both)
7. Disarm the cycle (recognise your own behaviour and stop)
8. You both must be willing and able to change (this dance takes two, dancing in rhythm with each other)
So now you have worked all this out, it is time to negotiate and make having sex easier. Next time your partner asks for sex maybe consider "Why not" (you have now worked out all the reasons why you have sex, so why not), cultivate positive thoughts about sex (think of all the nice things about it), have decision-driven sex ( make a time and place,it removes some of the inhibitors and increases the anticipation), be truly consensual, maybe engage in outercourse (foreplay with no demands for penetration), negotiate what activities you will engage in (I don't feel like this tonight but we could do that), "good enough sex" ( maybe not earth shattering, mind blowing sex but an enjoyable encounter for all involved), or the 'sex hierarchy".
What is the Sex Hierarchy? It is a negotiation that involves 4 choices when one partner declines sex:
*no sex for either partner (when one declines the initiator decides that they can wait)
*they stimulate themselves (self stimulation for the person who initiated)
* you stimulate them (the decliner assists in the stimulation of the initiator)
*negotiated sexual activity (maybe a quickie instead of a lengthy session, a mutually agreeable compromise)
So as you can see there was lots of interesting information and suggestions in Dr Rosie King's book, if this has peaked your interest I suggest you get a copy and explore further.
A lack of libido does not necessarily mean the end of desire, passion and intimacy in your relationship, it can be worked on to the benefit of the relationship and all involved.
Richelle has had a passion for sexuality and sexual health since 2001. She has worked in the field since 2006, providing sexuality education in schools, and adult education in the topics of diverse sexualities and gender identities, LGBT health issues, sexual health and LGBT relationships.
This is a space for me to share with you my journey as a Sexologist, the things I learn and the people I meet and what I think and feel along the way.