Let's Talk About Sex….

Not Feeling Sexy?   Have you lost your libido?  This is a common problem.  I like to conceptualize it in three domains: Physical, Cognitive, and Emotional.  I explain each below.   

Physical

Is sex uncomfortable for you?  If you are peri-menopausal or post-menopausal, you may be experiencing vaginal dryness or less “pliability” that can make penetration painful.  The good news is that your gynecologist can help!  There are lots of options from topical estrogen to coconut oil.  Many people feel embarrassed discussing their sex lives with a doctor, but the truth is, it’s not anything new or unusual for your provider to hear.   If you are a mom of young children, you may have discomfort from lingering childbirth related issues.  Again, check in with your Obstetrician to make sure there isn’t any damage that may be making intercourse painful.  A pelvic floor Physical Therapist can help immensely as well.  Some women actually have muscle spasms in their pelvic region which may be causing problems.

     Are you tired?   No, this is not a rhetorical question, but it may seem so because pretty much everyone I talk to is tired. Sex takes a lot of energy and it’s reasonable to not want to participate if you’re exhausted.  However, much like the gym, sometimes it’s worth pushing yourself because it feels good afterwards.  If you don’t have young children in the home, try for a morning or afternoon rendezvous. If you have young kids, see about shipping them off to a relative for a weekend.  Do you have any friends that would do a “kid -exchange” if you don’t have family that can watch them?   You would take their kids for a weekend and then, at a later date, they take your kids so each couple gets a kid-free weekend.

     Are you on an antidepressant or anti -anxiety medication?  They can have sexual side effects.  Talk to your provider about some strategies to manage this.  I commonly prescribe a low dose of Wellbutrin or recommend the herb Maca Root to combat sexual side effects of SSRIs and SNRIs

Emotional

     In order to connect sexually, people need to feel valued, seen, and appreciated.   Whether it’s a one -night stand or a 50 -year marriage, good sex requires both people to be truly present and experiencing each other.   Do you feel like a housekeeper?  A nanny?  Are you and your significant other like ships passing in the night, relieving each other of kid duty but not spending any quality time together?  It may be that your spouse does appreciate you, but he is in survival mode and is reacting to the immediate needs of the kids and home with no bandwidth left to think about you.  He isn’t able to “see” you for anything beyond a partner in managing the chaos of a young family.  Regardless, reconnecting is key.    For many couple’s, arranging a “date night” feels arduous, plus it can be expensive by the time you pay for a babysitter and the date activity.  You can create a date night experience at home.  Do you ever just spend the evening on the sofa together talking or doing a puzzle or playing cards?   Anything that is a shared experience that doesn’t involve the banal details of the house or kids can foster connection.   I actually am all for talking about the kids if it’s in the flavor of reveling in how amazing the experience of parenting is.  That is the ultimate shared experience.  The danger, is slipping into discussing who will take them to dance class or chaperone the school trip.  That’s not sexy. 

Are your needs being met?  If your partner is not helping at all with the kids or home, then of course it’s hard to feel romantic towards him.  Do you have transition time from your mom role to wife role?   If you don’t, it’s time to start thinking about how you can do that.  Perhaps, he can bathe the kids and put them to bed while you read quietly in your room.   Sometimes, a shower or doing yoga is helpful.  Having some type of transitional routine will help with your sleep in general so its worth cultivating whether you have young kids or not. 

Cognitive

     How we think about an activity colors how we feel about it.  What were your first sexual experiences like?  What were they like with your current partner?  How were you taught about sex?  How were you taught about your body?  Unfortunately, many people receive very limited information about their anatomy and even less information about how to communicate with a sexual partner.  It can feel awkward to ask for what you want.  Especially, because in American society women are conditioned to be passive about sex.  For example, all of the discussions about consent talk about feeling empowered to say no, however, women also need to know its ok to assert their sexual proclivities.    

     A therapist can help you explore these issues, make sure they are comfortable talking about sex.  There are also many books on the topic.  The Guide to Getting it On: Unzipped is a great primer.

Sex is an important part of a relationship.  All couples experience variations in desire and frequency.  If you’re in a rut, I encourage you to explore the cause.  Sometimes, a little re-tooling can go a long way to bring erotic pleasure back into your life.

Photo by Michael Prewett on Unsplash

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