I have been married for just over eight years. When I was first with my husband I used to want him just by looking at him. Now, I can hardly muster the energy to think of making love with him. Maybe I just don’t want to have him see me naked because of the weight that I haven’t lost after our child was born. But it’s more than that, too. I just don’t feel that sexual spark when we are together. I don’t want to lose him, what can I do?
Libido is the sexual marker for wellness. The question of libido is a complicated one, yet often is framed in a simple black and white of “do you have any libido?” Our drive to be sexual is impacted by a complex interaction between our physical health, mental health, emotional connection and our own individual tendency/preferences about our sexuality.
The range of physical health problems that impact libido comprise a long list. Chronic illness and diseases like high-blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes, to name just a few, often contribute to low libido. Also, a wide range of prescription drugs, including anti-depressants, blood pressure drugs and even antihistimines can take a toll on your sex drive. Yet more often than serious illness, many people as they age do not maintain the eating, exercise and sleep habits that keep us well. Over 55 percent of women are overweight to some degree in this country.
Our hormones are the cocktail that drives our passion in life. Normal life events like pregnancy, nursing and peri-menopausal to menopausal shifts can make big impacts on the libido mechanism. Although low libido is common to most women (over 40 percent) at some point in their lives, ongoing and persistent lack of sex drive may well respond to hormonal treatments. Hormones are an interesting and vital part of what it takes for both sexual and overall wellness. Hormones are worthy of you and your doctor’s attention.
For many women, the libido function is deeply tied to their psychological and emotional life. The brain is the sexiest organ in the body; the arousal function starts there, so if you are plagued with emotional issues like low self-esteem, poor body image, depression, anxiety or even constant stress, it is not surprising that you can’t find your libido. These issues are just as legitimate as any biological ones and, for many women, more tenacious.
Mental and emotional struggles often get wrapped up and manifest in ongoing relationship issues. Many couples are challenged with communication problems and ongoing conflict. Issues of commitment and infidelity can be deal breakers. Not feeling connected to your partner is enough for many women to have no access to their libido. The link between feeling bad about yourself and then feeling bad about your partner is a bit of a chicken and egg problem– hard to know which one initiates the other. The important thing is to stop the cycle. Usually that begins with self love.
Certainly not the only reason, but a great one to inspire a fresh look at your lifestyle habits is that the healthier and happier you are, the more room you give your libido to wake up. It is amazing how changing small daily habits can turn our health around quickly. Include exercise and choose fresh and whole foods every day. Learn to meditate or take short walks and learn to shut off the chatter in your mind. Turn off the gadgets and television and cultivate the art of conversation. Sleep when you are tired.
Learning how to communicate is the currency of your relationships’ capacity for intimacy: physically, emotionally and mentally. Prioritize shared enjoyment and learn to fight fair when conflicts arise. Schedule time to connect physically. Intimacy can be as non-threatening as mutual back rubs, but what is important is to rebuild your capacity to have physical conversations. Go slowly and consider this a practice of discovering the sensual aspects of sharing a life with someone.
A great resource on your journey is Reclaiming Desire by Marianne Brandon, PHD and Andrew Goldstein, MD. I like this book because it doesn’t pathologize the issue of libido but offers a wide range of holistic solutions to address it. I spoke with Marianne recently on her radio show and was excited to find this resource that provides so many reasonable and doable solutions for women.
I congratulate you for wanting to deal with this issue in your life. As challenging as it may be to find the mix of solutions that works for you and your partner, I guarantee that the effort will pay you back, both in the increased connection you build in your relationship but also, and more importantly, in the confidence you gain from finding your center.