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In my sex therapy practice, low sexual desire is one of the most frequent complaints I hear from women. While some ladies have sex drives that are naturally on the smaller side, a lot of my female clients come in to see me because they think that their current levels of desire are the result of external factors. They have a sense that something is getting in the way of connecting with their authentic levels of desire.
Most of us know the usual suspects behind decreased libido -- stress, exhaustion, sexual trauma, shame. It’s clear that those factors negatively impact our sex drives. But there are also a number of other potential causes of a shrinking sex drive. Read on for some of these lesser-known dynamics, as well as tips for minimizing their impact.
1. The sex you’re having isn’t very good.
I can’t tell you how many women I’ve seen who beat themselves up for having a low sex drive, when the reality is that they’re just having crappy sex. If your sex life is boring, predictable, unpleasurable, or painful, OF COURSE you’re going to start desiring sex less and less. I know this might seem obvious on paper, but there are a staggering number of women who don’t make that connection in practice.
The sex drive solution: First, stop feeling like there’s something wrong with you. Recognize that your body is responding in a way that makes a lot of sense. Start trying to identify what is and isn’t working for you. Then, have some honest conversations with your partner, and brainstorm ways you might be able to work towards improving your sex life together.
2. You’re not comfortable with the fact that you want it more than your partner.
Over the last few years, I’ve seen increasing numbers of women who have stronger sex drives than their male partners. Our culture is saturated with stereotypes of perpetually horny men, and doesn’t leave any space for the lady to be the more libidinous member of a relationship. Many of my female clients report feeling self-conscious, ashamed, and even unfeminine if they want sex more often than their boyfriends and husbands. I’ve seen a lot of women suppressing their sex drives in an attempt to avoid these feelings.
The sex drive solution: Honor your natural levels of desire. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s a process worth starting. Talk to your partner about the particular dynamics that come up in your relationship. I’ve helped couples have some pretty interesting discussions about masculinity and femininity in regards to sex drives. Practicing healthy initiation and rejection can be helpful too.
3. You’re losing it because you’re not using it.
Going through a dry spell, whether you’re in a relationship or single, can decrease your sex drive. You tend to forget how enjoyable sex can be when you’re not having it regularly. In turn, you start to desire sex less often. The old “use it or lose it” adage is surprisingly apt.
The sex drive solution: Make more time and space for pleasure, whether with a partner or on your own. If you don’t feel like having sex in a particular moment, see if you’re interested in a different sort of sexual contact, like making out or manually or orally pleasuring your partner. If you’re single, give yourself luxuriously long blocks of time to masturbate. You can also focus on bringing your body pleasure when you’re not horny. Practice tuning in to your senses throughout the day. Touch or massage your own body, take long baths, or give your hips an extra swivel as you walk.
4. You don’t build up any anticipation.
This tends to happen most frequently in long-term relationships, but even single ladies can suffer from sexual predictability (like masturbating the exact same way every time). We get used to sexual routines, and often don’t realize how negatively they can impact our sex drives. If you start learning to expect sex in the same ways, you’re just not going to want it as much.
The sex drive solution: There are lots of fun ways you can add more suspense and surprise to your sex life. Try different masturbation techniques, or draw out your orgasm for as long as possible. Take certain acts off the table for periods of time; for example, no p-in-v sex for a week or two. Grope your partner when sex isn’t a possibility. Send teasing messages to each other throughout the day, detailing what you want to do to each other when you get home. Wear smoking-hot lingerie under your work clothes. Think about sex during the more mundane parts of your afternoon.
5. You hate your body.
Most women know that having a poor body image sucks, but not all women understand that disliking your body can decrease your sexual desire. If you’re not comfortable in your own skin, there’s less of a drive to get naked. Feeling detached from your body makes you less likely to crave all of the thrilling physical sensations that sex can induce.
The sex drive solution: Developing a better relationship with your body is something that takes time, but it’s definitely a goal worth working toward. Sometimes my clients feel more open to improving their body confidence once they’ve realized how deeply it impacts their sexual desire. One of the best things you can do is engage in pleasurable activities for your body. The more focused you are on how good your body is capable of feeling, the harder it is to nitpick your physical flaws.
6. You’re being lazy.
Let’s face it -- most of us are lazy mofos! We can find it hard to get motivated for even the most enjoyable activities. I’ve turned down plenty of enticing friend date invitations because sitting on my ass watching marathons of horrible CW TV shows sounded better (translation: easier). You may find yourself closing off to sexual opportunities simply because the effort involved (“I’d have to take a shower first” or “Ugh, I’d have to get out of all of these clothes”) seems like too much work.
The sex drive solution: Remind yourself in the moment how much you enjoy sex, and how much better, happier or more energetic you usually feel after a roll in the hay. Sometimes naming the decision that’s in front of you can be motivating, for example, “I can sit here refreshing Facebook or I can get up and connect with my man/woman.” Quick tip -- not leaving sex until the end of the night helps too.
It can be scary to notice your sex drive shrinking, but don’t let that fear prevent you from taking action. Once you honestly examine the state of your libido, you can start identifying creative ways to get it back on track.