Cast your mind back to when you were in your teens (assuming you're not still a teenager!). Plenty of things made you feel anxious - right? And it's a fair bet that worrying about sex was one of them. It's a common experience for adolescents to wonder whether they're "normal" when it comes to their sex drive. Today, to make it even more difficult for young people already having a tough time, we have social media. Plenty of older people are relieved that they didn't have that sort of pressure when they were growing up. For some people, anxiety over their libido continues later in life. For others, it emerges when they find it is changing. If you can relate to either of these, be reassured that you are not alone.
If we're fortunate, we may have had an understanding teacher, parent or care-giver when we were younger who explained that we are unique and so is our libido. They may have reassured us that despite our belief that everyone else we knew was making the most of their hyperactive sex drive, the only bit that was "hyper" were the stories they were telling. The truth is, when it comes to sexual desire, everyone is different, and judging ourselves by other people's lives, often by telling ourselves stories that aren't even true, just creates stress for ourselves.
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We can grow into confident beings, and yet still have anxiety over our sexuality. This may reach crisis point in a relationship when one partner has a stronger sex drive than the other, or when one partner finds their sexual desire is changing. This doesn't necessarily mean decreasing, either. Sometimes desire can increase for all kinds of reasons, most frequently because one partner gains more confidence than they had at the start of the relationship. Despite the stereotypes, an increase or decrease in sexual desire can happen to both men and women. Menopause, far from reducing desire in some women, makes them feel sexier. However, what happens when one partner appears to lose interest?
It's understandable that we're usually at our sexiest at the start of a relationship. Hormones are fizzing, love is in the air and new lovers can't see enough of each other. Inevitably, most relationships can't sustain this level as real life takes over. However, there's no reason it can't be rediscovered from time to time! Complete lack of interest, however, can be linked to all kinds of other issues, from illness to stress over financial worries.
Underlying health conditions and certain medications can reduce libido, and so it's a good idea to have a general health check if there's a sudden reduction in desire. Remember that sex is about intimacy, but all intimacy is not about sex. Demonstrating loving kindness, hugging and praising one's partner are all ways of maintaining intimacy through difficult times. Keep communicating and show understanding. Even if it's genuinely a matter of different libidos, making a regular date night works for many couples.
Once you have verified that lack of libido is not due to any underlying health issues, depression or anxiety, what’s left? Very often it’s simply that in a world of so many other priorities, we don’t prioritise our sex lives. It’s too easy to view regular love-making as simply another item on our check list. When it does finally make it to the top of the list, it can become perfunctory and mechanical.
If two people in a relationship are already feeling their sexual desires are different, the guilt cycle keeps on going. One can feel guilt over being too demanding while the other feels guilty over always saying “not now”. Date nights are an excellent way to break this cycle of guilt and frustration. How can that be? Because date nights are not just about making time for sex, but about making one another feel special.
Just as you both need some “me” time to pursue your own interests or simply refresh yourselves, your relationship needs dedicated time in order to be revitalised and restored. Here’s the fun part though. Many psychology experts don’t simply talk about sexual intimacy. They talk about emotional intimacy, a key part of the pleasure that a regular date night can bring.
Let your imagination take you on the perfect date. It needn’t be the cliché of dining by candlelight, either. Perhaps it’s a walk in the rain sharing an umbrella while you talk about things you haven’t discussed in ages. Perhaps it’s a trip to the park, or an hour or two floating lazily in a rowing boat, quite simply the best way to get away from everyday life for a while. Exercise is excellent for getting the blood and endorphins going too. Wherever you start your date, you should both feel special. By focussing on emotions and pleasure, rather than sexuality, it’s easier to relax and get into the flow.
Are you looking forward to your date now? If the answer is yes, and you find that in fact you’re starting to anticipate sexual intimacy as a pleasurable part of the evening, make sure that you create every opportunity for this to happen in comfort by making your bedroom is as enticing as possible. Bedrooms should be the most intimate spaces in our lives, the place where we feel totally relaxed.
Lighting, colours and fabrics all make a difference to our mood. Clutter and chaos are passion killers. Who can feel sexy when they’re thinking about the pile of ironing on the chair in the corner of the room? If you have only one room in which you feel totally relaxed and at ease, make it the bedroom. Knowing you'll be in your happiest space at the end of the evening means you’ll soon find you get into the habit of looking forward to your date night!
Millions of people furloughed for months are now being recalled to work. Others, who have been working from home throughout the lockdown, are returning to the office. And some jobs have simply disappeared: many people are facing redundancy and will soon have to cope with job hunting. Going back to work after an unprecedented length of time at home is quite a challenge.
Sexual desire is a complex interaction of hormones, emotions and well-being. When your partner is not as interested in sex as you are, it’s rarely a rejection of you as a person. So it’s essential to be as empathetic as you can regarding your differing libidos.
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