Articles on Relationships and Sex

Don't feel like sex but want to want to feel like sex?

 

Are you someone who doesn't feel like sex very often or doesn't really care if you ever have sex again?  This doesn't have to be a concern unless you want to feel like sex and it is causing problems in your relationship.  You may be avoiding sex because you are fearful of it not going well or you have had traumatic sexual experiences in the past.  If you are angry with your partner or having other difficulties in your relationship then this could be contributing to the problem and you may benefit from some couple therapy.  On the other hand if you are happy in your relationship but don't want sex and your partner does, then this blog is for you.  Having a stressful job, young children, being a carer for elderly parents or other relatives may be grinding you down.  If you feel exhausted and anxious you are not likely to feel like sex.  You won't have the mental space or energy so realistic lifestyle changes need to be considered.  Remember that a discrepancy of desire in couples is very common and completely normal.  

If sex is painful then you won't feel like sex either and you need to seek medical advice.  If you have been examined and the pain is difficult to control, as in some skin conditions for example lichens sclerosis, then seeing a psychosexual therapist can be helpful in managing any pain.  If your partner is unwell or terminally ill you may find it difficult to feel sexual about them or fearful.  It is important to talk to them about your fears.  When life feels fragile sex can be very life affirming and helpful.  Terminally ill people can want sex and sometimes want it more than at any other times in their lives.

If you really want to 'want' to have sex I think of it in terms of needing to send your brain to the sex gym.  In order to get physically fit we might join a gym or start swimming or other forms of exercise.  We can see changes in our fitness level in a relatively short time.   Sending your brain to the sex gym involves getting yourself to think about sex.  It could be helpful to read some sexual fantasy material or a sexy novel.  For some people it can helpful to look at sexual images.  Increasing confidence by losing weight if you have weight concerns, self care in the way of clothing, hygiene and hair upkeep can also help.  If you feel unattractive you probably won't feel like being sexual.  

The other major factor that is often missing and necessary for a lot of people is context.  What might you be doing to put yourself off sex?  For example, you head for bed feeling like you might be up for sex if your partner shows interest.   Then you think "I will just check my emails before I get into bed".  Sound familiar? There is an email from the boss about the report due on his/her desk tomorrow morning!  You can say goodbye to any interest in sex.  Checking facebook or other social media can distract you or upset you, even listening to the news, especially recently.  The other thing people do before bed, often unconsciously, is pick a fight with their partner. This can be a very effective way of avoiding sex.  I ask my clients to leave all screens outside the bedroom overnight.  As you can imagine there is often resistance but on the whole once they get used to it they find a real improvement in sexual relations and they sleep better.  Context is about creating the mood and reducing sexual inhibitors which vary from person to person.  If you know you are someone who is not going to be able to relax if your mother in law is sleeping in the room next door then either decide, with your partner, that you wont attempt sex when staying with your in laws or change your room arrangements.  Of course it isn't always that simple or practical but if you can identify your inhibitors you can begin to think about solutions.

The common discourse is that women want romance.  They want to feel close and intimate with their partners and then they might begin to feel sexual towards them.  The sexual feeling comes out of feeling close to their partners.  Men feel spontaneously sexual or instantly respond to a variety of stimuli and then after sex they feel close to their partners.  The myth is that men are ready for sex 24/7 like some sort of machine.  In my experience as a therapist I meet a lot of men who want to feel close before they want sex.  They feel anxious and angry that the media and tradition expect them to 'perform' and to be ready at any time.  In fact men and women often want to become familiar again with their partners if they haven't seen them all day or all week.  They want time for conversations, a good meal, a walk in the park or sitting with them while they have a bath.  Coming up behind a partner, having not seen them for a while, grabbing their breasts or genitals is not going to work.  That is not to say there aren't couples, especially at the beginning of relationships, who won't want to rip each others clothes off at first sight.  In general and in long term relationships people want context.  Think about what context you might need and start a conversation with your partner about how you can both improve on this.  What do you need him or her to do?  Is it that you want the TV turned off and them to ask you how your day has gone?  Would you like foreplay to be longer?  Would you like some seductive hints that sex might in the offing via text or telephone?  Might you like them to dress up for you, have them undress you or you undress them, or get involved in role play?  Would you like them to make a gesture like emptying the bin or the dishwasher?  I am not thinking in terms of huge or costly gestures but small ways of showing consideration and affection.  This could also be verbal affirmations.  Tell your partner how you feel about them and what you like about their body.  Don't assume you know what they like in bed and don't assume they know what you like.  Communication is key and couples often find it very difficult to have frank and honest conversations about sex.  

A relationship/psychosexual therapist can offer encouragement and support with this problem.  They can also draw your attention to behaviours and thinking that you may not be aware of and that are getting in the way of feeling sexual.  If you don't want to give up on sex, don't.   Once you are enjoying sex again your interest will probably increase.  You can't always wait for motivation.  Sometimes you need to take action first and motivation will follow.  You may also be someone who has 'responsive' as opposed to 'spontaneous' desire and this is normal but it helps if partners understand the difference. Emily Nagoksi in the book mentioned below talks about 'arousal non concordance' and the difference between genital response and mental experience, the feeling of being 'turned on'.  I recommend you read her book.  It is very informative and written with humour and helpful case studies.

If you are avoiding sex because you are anxious or fearful it is important to seek help and explore the anxiety.  Anxiety impedes sexual function and avoiding intimacy is not the solution. By seeking help you address your difficulties and can move towards a resolution and stop denying yourself the pleasures of intimacy and sexual well being.

 

Two books that women may find helpful with this issue are;

Come As You Are by Emily Nagoksi

and

A Tired Woman's Guid to Passionate Sex by Laure B. Mintz