It’s something that you can work on — and through — together.
Sexual desire ebbs and flows. It’s totally normal for you to not be in the mood today but want to jump your partner tomorrow, or for your partner to want it on the daily while you prefer more of a weekly get-down. But what if you feel like you and your partner have completely mismatched libidos and that it’s impacting the quality of your relationship?
In a recent survey of 1,686 sexually active women ages 25 to 49*, 27% of respondents said their partners just didn’t understand why they weren’t regularly in the mood for sex.
For those with a male partner, some of this may come down to hormones, particularly testosterone, which in men is thought to regulate their sex drive. “Men have more testosterone, so they may be confused and wonder, ‘How can you not want sex? Isn’t that just a natural drive?’” says somatic psychologist and certified sex therapist Holly Richmond, Ph.D.
But no matter what sex your partner is, there are ways to navigate this situation so you feel better understood and less anguished about your level of sexual interest. Try the expert advice below and find what works for you.
Talk about it
We know: easier said than done. Talking about sex with your partner puts you in a super vulnerable place. However, it also means working on this together — and potentially even becoming closer.
“Be as honest and candid as possible,” recommends Karen Stewart, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who specializes in sex and couples therapy. “Women lose sexual desire for all sorts of reasons.” These could include changes in your body, depression or anxiety, the death of a loved one, losing your job, or having a baby.
Whatever your case, talk to your partner about your reasons and let them know you don’t want this to be the status quo, that you are going to work on this, and that you want them to be involved.
Consider how your partner feels
If the person you love and have sex with on the regular suddenly told you that their sex drive was MIA, your first reaction might be, “What did I do? Or not do?” Your partner probably feels exactly the same way. “They may immediately think it’s about them,” Stewart says. “They may wonder, ‘Are you not attracted to me anymore? Am I not doing the right thing?’”
If it’s not about them, say so. Explain what is going on and that you want to work through this as a team. If your partner is a guy, you could compare your situation to erectile dysfunction (ED), something most young men know about even if they’re not part of the estimated 30%who experience it, suggests Richmond. A man’s ED has nothing to do with his partner — there are physiological and psychological causes. The same could be happening for you.
If, however, your partner plays a role in your decreased desire, you should also think about speaking up about that. For example, maybe you fight often, and you hate how that makes you feel. Or perhaps you love them, but you feel like roommates rather than spouses.
Give some thought to therapy
If talking with your partner doesn’t get you on the road to improvement, you may want to see a therapist, either with your partner or alone, Stewart says. “If a couple weeks or months go by and this impacts other areas of your lives, and you’re fighting all the time, see someone,” she says. “It’s better to catch any resentment early than to try to recover from it.”
Additionally, solo sessions can help you identify the underlying causes of your low libido and find ways to resolve those issues. According to a 2018 paper in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, research suggests that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) reduces the severity of symptoms and may improve sexual satisfaction in women with low desire.
Figure out what you think is sexy
According to Richmond, women’s desire is a balance of accelerators and brakes. If your libido is super low, something has your brake pedal slammed to the floor. You need to identify your accelerators, or what turns you on. This could be a massage from your partner, watching porn, or reading erotica.
Another option: Simply try something new on date night, like a street art tour, a pottery class or that new Korean restaurant, rather than your usual dinner and a movie ritual. “Novelty goes a long way to rekindling the erotic,” Richmond says. “It sparks desire, curiosity, and all those things that make us feel alive.” Therapy can also help you figure out what accelerators will get you going, she adds.
Do everything but have sex
“Women are often craving physical connection and intimate interaction as opposed to intercourse,” Stewart says. So make a no-sex rule. Instead, for 10 to 20 minutes, simply gaze into each others’ eyes (sounds cheesy, but trust the experts!) or kiss and make out without having sex or even touching each others’ genitals.
Whatever you do, keep all devices off and out of the room so that you have zero distractions. When there’s no pressure to have sex, you’ll be more interested in doing these activities. Plus, you’ll both feel connected.
Ask your doctor about other options
If your sex drive has continuously stayed flat for six months and this lack of desire causes distress, you may have a condition known as hyposexual desire disorder (HSDD), which affects about 10 percent of women.
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and what you can do about them. Beyond therapy to address any thoughts, behaviors, and relationship issues that interfere with your libido, treatment may include medication that’s been found to help increase desire.