One of my most commonly said phrases in sessions is “that makes sense you don’t want sex.” It makes sense to not feel like sex during/after long periods of stress, to not feel like sex when you have a bad body day, when you feel disconnected from your partner, when you don’t feel comfortable, when you don’t have time for yourself, when you’re working 40+ hours a week, when your mental health is in the shitter, when you’re not getting adequate sleep and more. It makes sense and it is only an issue insofar as you define and decide it is one.
With the rise of therapy-speak, we're so quick to diagnose and label ourselves, and that layered with a collectively poor sex education and a lack of positive conversations and role models for sexuality, we blame ourselves for not wanting sex. Somehow along the way, we internalise that it's our fault or that it means something is wrong with our partner or the relationship and that it can't be fixed. We think our libido is some uncontrollable drive that should just spontaneously switch on and off, but the reality is that desire is a practice we need to nurture. Particularly in long-term relationships, it requires effort and intentionality because at the end of the day, it is an incentive reward system.
A common non-sexual analogy I use in session is: if you were hanging out with a friend, you didn't have fun because you were in your head or they didn't care for what you wanted and only did what they wanted, they never checked in with you or that each time, you know the script to a T of what they were going to do, how it's going to go and how it's going to end, you wouldn't be feeling super inclined to hang out with that friend often. The same applies to sex. Why would you want to do something you don't enjoy? Why would you then blame yourself for not wanting to do said thing?
So before you judge yourself for having ‘low’ desire, ask yourself:
Do you enjoy the sex that you’re having?
Are your expectations bound up in frequency over quality?
Are these expectations yours or your partner’s?
Are these expectations realistic?
How do you like to receive touch or be seduced? Are you getting it?
Is your partner easy to talk to about sex? Are you?
Do you feel confident or like you have a voice during sex?
How often are you spending quality time with your partner?
How much time do you spend on other forms of intimacy?
How often are you spending quality time with yourself?
How often do you create space to intentionally relax?
How often are you spontaneous?
How often do you tune into your needs?
How often do you listen to your body?
How often do you let your mind wander?
There's so many more questions we can ask and explore about the quality of your sexual experience but you get the gist. As the great Peggy Kleinpatz once said, "sometimes low desire is evidence of good judgment." So before slapping a label on yourself, thinking that you’re broken or resorting to quick fixes like medications, ask yourself a few of these questions and weigh up what can and can’t change as well as the life that you want for yourself. While we can’t all dismantle capitalism or systemic oppression, we do have some degree of control over how we show up for ourselves and our relationships. See what that does for your sexual desire.