A common issue I see is low or absent sex drive in women who report previously having a high(er) sex drive. These women usually, but not always, have been with the same partner for years. Their emotional reactions to the phenomena run the gamut. Some of these women are distressed by its decline/disappearance while some women are ambivalent while even others are relieved. Remember, sex is never one-size-fits-all and if I’ve taught you anything, dear reader, it’s that there’s always good reasons why she feels the way she does.
So I ask questions and learn about her sexual history. Was there a time when she had a high(er) libido? Was it with her current partner/relationship? When did it start to decline and what was going on in her life? What has she (or they) tried to increase her sex drive? Were those attempts successful? Why or why not? Why is she seeking treatment now for this issue? What are her partner’s thoughts and feelings about (A) her lower libido and (B) her seeking help for it? Are there any drawbacks to having an increased sex drive? And so on.
It’s incredible what these questions uncover. For example, maybe her sex drive changed after the birth of their first child when life, and her priorities, went a new direction and not to mention she felt fatigue like she never had before. Maybe after baby and baby weight she did not like her body and felt deeply insecure and judgmental about being sexual with it. Maybe her sex drive took a nosedive after her alcoholic mother was diagnosed with cancer and their historically tumultuous mother-daughter relationship became even more draining when she began to take care of her mother. Maybe her libido went underground as a result of growing resentments she had towards her partner. Or maybe she’s just plain bored and unsatisfied with the sex she and her partner do have but doesn’t want to tell her partner her truth for fear of hurting their feelings.
We examine these life and relationship issues and their impact on her libido but there’s a powerful detail in all this that gets easily missed. Often what is revealed is that at some point, she decided to sacrifice her right to sexual pleasure. She traded it in for something else she deemed more valuable: sleep, time with the children, advancing at work, completing household chores, or preferred emotional states like not feeling bad about her relationship, not feeling bad about her partner, or not feeling bad about herself. This usually seems like a worthwhile trade-off for a period of time until it doesn’t and the consequences become big…and she finds her way to my office.
Ladies, you must stop doing this! Sexual pleasure is not something to be bartered. When you make your sexual pleasure optional and unimportant you make sex optional and unimportant. You have a right to sexual pleasure so honor it. Pursue it. You have unique anatomy that allows you immense pleasure. Even the World Association of Sexual Health’s Declaration of Sexual Rights has stated we have a right to sexual pleasure. It’s #7 if you’re curious.
I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and AASECT Certified Sex Therapist located in Sonoma county, California.