Everyone goes through a dry spell, but if your desire to have sex is slim to none, there could be emotional and physical causes to blame. Though many pop culture references diminish the act, getting in the mood is more dynamic than a few smooches and a candlelight dinner for most people. Not only do our physical bodies need the right hormonal balance to enjoy and be ready for intercourse, but our minds also need to be in the right place, too. If you are struggling to lean into intimacy, try not to worry — and instead, take action. Experts explain low sex drive, while common, can be addressed and overcome with the right steps. Here, a guide to exploring this issue and most importantly, rebuilding a fulfilling sex life again:
You are not having good sex
For some women, it is not that they do not want sex, but rather, they do not want the sex they are having. All too often, couples looking for a root cause via physical limitations, but in reality, the first question we should ask ourselves is: ‘Do I like the sex we are having?’ As Robert Kandell, gender dynamics and interpersonal relationship coach and speaker, explains, the most important part of our body to turn on to have great sex is our brain. Part of our brain is the amygdala, which is also known as our vigilance center. Kandell explains its main function is to avoid dangerous situations, but it also plays a part in our sexuality, too. “If a couple is consistently having mediocre sex, then one partner’s brain might be firing messages saying, ‘protect yourself from another disappointing experience,’” he continues. This means we basically condition our minds to believe sex will be bad before we have it, so we are not in the mood to go for it.
You are not getting enough sleep
Perhaps you are a new parent and sleeping for more than three hours at a time is unrealistic. Or, you landed a big client that is seemingly just as demanding as a newborn. Maybe you have been traveling non-stop, and you always feel jet-lagged. Whatever the cause for not getting enough shut-eye, lack of sleep can majorly impact our sex drive, according to Coleen Singer, a sex expert at Sssh.com. A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found the more women sleep, the higher their levels of sexual desire and arousal are the next day she explains. “Just one more hour of sleep was linked to a 14 percent increase in the odds a woman would engage in sexual activity with a partner,” Singer adds.
Janette Nesheiwat, M.D., says like anything that requires energy, exhaustion can deplete our mood. After all, the mere thought of going to the gym after a night of tossing and turning sounds tiring — so a vivacious sexual romp feels out of the question. On those days when you are feeling depleted, try simply cuddling with your partner, rather than getting frisky. This will bring you closer and engage your hormones, building connection and closeness. And hey, you may even sleep easier, and thus be more flirtatious the next day.
You may have a hormonal imbalance
Throughout our lives, both women and men may experience a hiccup in their hormones that leads to disinterest in sex. As Myles Spar, M.D., chief medical officer at Vault Health explains, one in four men past the age of 30 suffer from low testosterone. Often abbreviated to ‘low T,’ Spar says this can manifest into a low libido, moodiness, loss of muscle and fatigue. The good news is treating this imbalance isn’t too complicated, and can be targeted with testosterone replacement or medications that stimulate the body’s production of testosterone.
For women, the hormonal culprit behind a slipping sex drive is estrogen. Jaime Seeman, M.D., a board-certified OB/GYN, explains that nearly 43 percent of women experience sexual problems including low sex drive and that females need adequate estrogen for sexual function. “Estrogen contributes to sensitivity, elasticity, secretions and pH of the vagina, supported by the vaginal microbiome,” she explains. If you are worried about your levels, seek the expertise of your OB/GYN, who can recommend treatments and vitamins that could make a difference in your performance and mood.
You feel disconnected from your partner
According to Tracy Bagatelle-Black, associate marriage and family therapist, sex drive is closely connected to intimacy and closeness within a relationship, and more importantly, they are dependent on one another. If we are not communicating what is working for us and what is majorly hitting the mark, sex will not be something we look forward to or desire because it is not an enjoyable experience. “Good communication is at the root of good sex. If you have good communication with your partner, you can then tell them what you prefer in bed to ensure that you have great sex,” she continues. “When there is good communication, that is not usually a problem. Both parties can talk about what they like in bed, discuss fantasies and experiment with new things.”
It can also be helpful to explore your wants and needs by practicing solo. Masturbating can inform your trigger points and zones of pleasure, which you can illustrate or demonstrate to your partner. This hands-on (literally) play is important, but Kandell also says it can be helpful to think about conversations you are having that are making you feel disconnected from your partner.
As he explains, many people require a level of emotional intimacy to enjoy sex and can be easily distracted by the disconnection. Snide comments, arguments and disagreements can linger in our subconscious and cause us to pull away, whether we realize it or not. Kandell suggests telling your partner when something feels off, wrong or if you are hurt. Though it seems like a no-brainer, all too often, we harbor feelings for too long, resulting in lasting damage.
You are stressed
You know what it feels like to be stressed: racing heart, clenching fists, angry brow. But do you know what is happening inside your body? Singer explains our body reacts to anxiety by releasing adrenaline and cortisol. When we have ongoing or chronic symptoms of stress, cortisol can interfere with your body’s hormone levels and result in low libido. “The arteries can also narrow and restrict blood flow in response to stress, which can also lead to erectile dysfunction in men. Stress can also reduce your libido by distracting you and taking your mind off sexual desire,” she explains.
Before you head into the bedroom to spend quality time with your one-and-only, find ways to decompress first. This may be via a meditation app, exercise or even a few minutes of phone-free rest. When you are in a healthier headspace, you are more prepared to perform and more likely to enjoy yourself. As an added bonus, sex has been shown to lower stress levels, so if you can get yourself in the mood, your body will thank you.
You are not getting enough foreplay
If you have been in a monogamous relationship for a handful of months or years, you probably know all of their pleasure zones. You likely know exactly how to get them excited, bring them to climax and how to cuddle them afterward. While this is a perk of a relationship, it can also be a hindrance to foreplay. And we do not just mean the appetizers before the main dish here. Bagatelle-Black says foreplay can be defined as every positive thing you do for your other half: nice, thoughtful gestures in and out of the bedroom, text check-ins and messages of love and affection. “When we feel good about our partners and our relationship, we are more likely to increase our desire for the partner,” she shares.
Sexual foreplay is also part of this and having an open, accepting conversation about what you need, specifically, before intercourse is recommended. “One person’s not enough foreplay is another person’s too much. There is no one set amount,” Bagatelle-Black says. “You can do it in the form of playful texts or use fun toys from the local sex shop. I have seen foreplay dice, card games, and other items in the stores. Mix it up to avoid boredom in the bedroom. Long-term relationships sometimes need to shake things up a bit.”
You are not making sex a priority
The couples with the sexiest healthy lives actually plan their romps. Yep, you read that right: it is smarter to put sex on your calendar than not to. As Bagatelle-Black explains, all too often, sex is only a priority for the person with the higher drive. And while no pairs will be evenly matched 100 percent of the time, learning how to prioritize intimate connection will strengthen your bond and result in more sex.
So how can it move up on your overflowing list? Love and intimacy expert Coltrane Lord suggests subscribing to the old adage: ‘If you do not use it, you lose it.’ “Our bodies crave connection, and when our bodies are denied its natural need for touch, we create energetic boundaries of protection from perceived abandonment and rejection. It becomes that much harder to open up the intimate channels, simply because the communication lines are down,” she says. Even if you are starting from zero, schedule one romp per week for the next month — and make no excuses. You do not want it to become a perpetual routine that you can’t get out of.
You are on medication that decreases libido
One reason that many people suffer from less libido is found in the medicine cabinet. As Nesheiwat explains, many prescriptions interfere with the natural production of hormones in our bodies. These often include various antidepressants and heart/blood pressure medications, as well as the birth control pill. “Many people can adjust and overcome these side effects, which can happen with new medications, but for those that are being affected within their lives and relationships, you have to act,” she explains. “With medicine, sometimes it is trial and error until you find what works best for you.”
Another place to seek more information is in your zinc levels since Seeman says the birth control pill contributes to nutrient depletion in your body. “Zinc deficiency can cause a reduction in testosterone and vaginal dryness. It can raise sex hormone-binding globulin, which further reduces circulating free testosterone in the bloodstream. It can also suppress ovulation, which is when women would naturally see a rise in testosterone,” she explains. If you are worried about this, talk with your doctor ASAP to figure out an alternative option.
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