Is Your Libido Lagging?

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Nine tips to lift your sex life from Patricia Love, author of The Truth About Love: The Highs, the Lows, and How You Can Make It Last Forever.

Since Nature selects for diversity, it is likely that at some point — or at every point — you and your partner will experience a difference in your desire for sex. This is a normal occurrence and is best addressed with acceptance and personal commitment. For now, I’d like to give some general direction for getting out of any sexual slump you may be experiencing due to the Post-Rapture Stage. First, and foremost:

Ask not only what is best for you, but also what is best for the relationship. This is a recommendation you are going to hear. Periodically, and especially during difficult times, ask yourself, “What is best for the relationship?” This suggestion is especially relevant to sex. Given the fact that there will always be differences between any two people, keeping the health and welfare of the relationship in mind is essential. A loving heart challenges us to ask not only, “What do I want?” but “What is best for us?” Doing the right thing isn’t always what comes to mind when you’re in a relationship low spot, but looking at the big picture will likely give you the best perspective for making important decisions. (You probably don’t enjoy paying your monthly bills, but thinking of what is best in the long run lets you see it’s best for your credit rating and your peace of mind.) When you are striving for a satisfying sex life, you’ve got to keep sight of your ultimate goal — not just what you may be inclined to do at that moment.

Be a consumer activist for your sexual health. Sex is not just good for your relationship; it’s good for you. The rhythmic activity stimulates the heart and increases blood flow throughout your body, fostering greater strength, flexibility, and stamina. It also sends the message to your brain “I am young and alive!” Loving sexual contact can elevate your mood by producing endorphins. It reduces tension and makes your body more relaxed. You also feel more connected to your partner if you share the joy of sex. Here’s how it works. The hormone that triggers orgasm is oxytocin. You may have heard this familiar neurotransmitter referred to as the “snuggle chemical” because it is released when a mother breast-feeds, causing her to bond to the infant. It has the same effect on two people when they have sex. The release of oxytocin at the point of orgasm causes you to bond with your partner. This experience can be so powerful it can move you to tears.

Do what it takes to maintain a positive attitude about sex. Given the fact that the brain is the greatest sex organ, your attitude about sex is important and will affect your entire relationship. How you feel about yourself, your lovemaking, and your partner all have an impact on you as a lover. So first, think about what you need to do to feel good about yourself. You not only deserve this personally, but it is the surest way to make an overall improvement in your relationship. Second, ask yourself: “What do I need to do to feel better about my partner?” Improving your attitude can improve his/her behavior. And finally, check out what it is that would make you feel better about your lovemaking. What do you need to do to be a better lover? Improvement is contagious. Your excitement can expose you both to the love bug.

Make sex a priority. Once you have determined that sex is important to you and your relationship, put it at the top of your priority list. Make time for sex play. Create private moments for sex. Advocate for your sexual needs. Let your partner know how important making love is to you. Even though you might not need foreplay to become sexually aroused, this may not be true for your partner. Pay attention to creating a romantic atmosphere for sexual excitement.

Understand that low desire is often not a reflection of your relationship. Low desire can be the result of any number of causes, and most are not a commentary on the relationship. The most common cause of reduced sexual desire is hormone level. Just knowing that your lack of desire is connected to your physiology can take away the shame and blame that often accompanies lower libido. It is also important to look at other possible causes. For example, we know that many antidepressants lower sexual desire and responsiveness. Some antiulcer drugs interfere with testosterone and cause libido and erection difficulties. Prostate shrinkers lower the level of testosterone in some men. Some forms of birth control pills can lower sexual desire. Antihistamines can constrict arteries and block the flow to erections and lubrication. Sleeping pills can interfere with deep sleep in which sexually rejuvenating nocturnal erections occur.

Sometimes, the problem isn’t with a single medication but an interaction between two or more medications taken in combination. Alcohol, drugs, and smoking can inhibit your sexual pleasure and performance. Low sexual desire can also be an early symptom of disease, such as diabetes or arteriosclerosis. As always, communication with your doctor is important in finding a solution. Ninety-nine percent of all sexual problems are treatable.

Understand that high sex drive can be normal for women as well as men. If you have never had a high sex drive, it is easy to misunderstand the needs of your high-T partner, or to overlook the fact that daily desire for sex is not uncommon for him or her. This doesn’t mean that the two of you will be sexual every day, but the desire may still be there. This is normal and natural for someone with a high level of testosterone. Without this recognition, there may be a tendency to pass judgment or disapprove of a perfectly normal characteristic. Understanding and respect can go a long way toward creating happiness with your high-T partner.

Accept the sexual differences between you and your partner. A major characteristic of happy couples is they see lovemaking as an expression of intimacy, and they don’t take the difference in their needs or desires personally. True love requires two mature people who can relate to one another, even when needs differ from their own. For example, a low-desire person may need a lot of loving contact to motivate him/her to put forth the effort it takes to be sexual. This is not the experience of a high-desire person, who does not have to work at getting aroused. A high-desire person can have sex when angry, tired, suffering from a headache, or having a bad hair day. This is not the case for the low-desire person. Keep in mind, each partner has a different set of needs. Consequently, it is important to be able to get out of your own frame of reference for a period of time. Accept these differences and work with them.

Communicate your sexual needs. If frequent sex is important to you, communicate this fact honestly and directly to your partner. You might be surprised at how many individuals have never been forthcoming with this information. Frequently, when I work with couples I have to say, “Tell your partner how important sex is to you.” It’s easy for your partner to ignore your needs if you haven’t been clear and direct. Likewise, if you need a certain type of foreplay to be aroused, it is your responsibility to negotiate for this. It is especially important if your needs have changed. A significant percentage of the couples I see are stuck in a low spot in their sexual relationship because they need to do something different. They have difficulty knowing what they want and asking for it. It’s important for the two of you to work together as a team around the issue of changing sexual needs because if you stay together long enough, you will need different sexual stimulation. Now’s the time to start communicating more clearly.

Be willing to give and receive sex as a gift. Loving sex is good for you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Regardless of this fact, if neither of you is interested in being sexual and you’re not having sex, there is no problem. But if one of you is interested, then to be satisfied you both need to be involved. Many times, I have seen couples come in for help with an unspoken and unworkable contract that goes something like this: “I expect you to be monogamous, but don’t expect me to meet your sexual needs.” This is not a satisfying setup.

So, what should be done if one wants sex and the other doesn’t? First, ask the basic question: “What is best for the relationship?” Second, think of sex as an investment in the relationship. A gift to your partner may need to be the motivation for the person who infrequently experiences sexual desire.

Dr. Patricia Love, author of The Truth About Love: The Highs, the Lows, and How You Can Make It Last Forever (Copyright © 2001 by Patricia Love), is a family and marriage therapist and relationship consultant, and the coauthor of The Emotional Incest Syndrome and Hot Monogamy.


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