One of the things that often happens for couples in marriages as well as in casual sex or friends with benefits arrangements is a day or season comes when one partner experiences low sexual desire and is not interested in sex.
I’ve learned from my clients that this challenge strikes people of all sexual orientations: heterosexual couples, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people and queer, polyamorous and kinky people too.
In long term relationships and marriages there can be additional challenges to keep the sexual spark alive over time. Creativity, curiosity, and playfulness can help.
Couples who do the emotional work that healthy relationships require to keep from accumulating “emotional baggage” often have a better chance of keeping sex thriving. Past hurts and difficulties if not resolved together can do a lot cause loss of interest in sex.
Even so, some couples still struggle with low libido.
There are many reasons this can happen, some biological, some stress related and others simply life getting in the way.
The impact of shame on low libido
Regardless of the cause, a common thread across all these situations is shame.
Shame is a feeling based on the belief, often unconscious, that something is wrong with me.
On one level, unpleasant feelings may be due to something one did or did not do. Technically that’s guilt – remorse – not shame. Whether it’s accurate or false guilt the emotions can be powerful.
Deeper however than guilt is shame, the belief that there is something wrong about oneself as a person that causes the problem.
The person with low libido may feel it’s their fault. They may know that it’s not and still struggle with feeling like it is. Usually they do want to please their partner, but it’s just too much work to have sex when you’re not into it.
The partner can also feel shame. They may feel they could have, should have or ought to do something different, more or better to keep their partner turned on.
Also, shame can come up if a couple has not had sex for a long time for reasons other than low libido.
Shame makes it harder to talk about the issue. One or both partners may resist having sex again even though they also want it. Human nature is quirky and fascinating like that.
Helpful responses to a low sex drive
While it’s possible that everyone involved did something to contribute to the problem, those things are usually not intentional, so blaming yourself or anyone else is not a helpful trail to go down. It will just make the problem harder to overcome
There are often things worth pursuing to address low sexual desire. It’s always good to talk with your doctor as there may be hormonal issues or medication side effects causing or contributing to the problem.
Intentional touch and sensual massage for low sexual desire
One of the most potent medicines if you find yourself in a relationship affected by low sexual desire is the use of intentional touch and sensual massage.
I often hear from clients in relationships that they’ve stopped having sex. One or the other may be experiencing low libido. Or the complexities of jobs and life and children may be getting in the way.
I’m often told the couple still enjoys cuddling while watching TV or movies together. They may spoon in bed, too.
It might only take 3 minutes
What if you created some intentional time for sensual touch?
Whether it’s 3 minutes or 3 hours, turn off the internet, the phone and make this time for you.
It only takes 3 minutes to brush your teeth. Surely you can fit in 3 minutes twice a week for some intentional touch.
Take some time to ask each other how would you like to be touched?
If you’re not up to getting naked together, that’s OK. This works with clothes on, too.
Find some touch that feels good
The goal here is to feel good, not to perform, orgasm or have intercourse.
You might like to take turns, but you don’t even have to do that. You might give touch this time and receive a few days from now. Or if your partner is skeptical, you could just offer them 3 minutes of touch.
If you only have 3 minutes, feeling good might mean nothing more than a long, slow gourmet hug. If you have more time together it might be some kind of massage. That could be a foot rub, a shoulder or back rub. It might or might not include some erotic massage, hands to genitals.
No pressure, just curiosity and undistracted attention
The key is to ask what would feel good for you? No pressure to do anything more or different than feels good. No pressure for it to be sexual, either. Unless and until everyone wants that.
At the least, this will help meet some of your touch needs. It will give you each an opportunity to check in with your body and to notice what do you want?
By giving each other the gift of full, undistracted attention to the body you can also nurture your relationship.
Massage and nourishing touch can open doors in your relationship
It’s likely, too, that if you share touch intentionally, without distraction, at least once a week, it will open the doors of communication.
It will become easier to talk about how you feel and what you might want in the erotic realm. Before you write that off as impossible, I encourage you to experiment.
Massage can help open the door to ask for more and give you space to do that in a way that’s comfortable, not scary as just having “a talk” might.
Intercourse isn’t everything. There are many ways to express pleasure and share erotic energy.
Depending on the nature of things, the partner with low sexual desire might even find that massage is a good warm up or foreplay and gets them in the mood for something sexy, even if it’s not intercourse.
It doesn’t have to be massage. It could just be a gourmet hug that lasts at least 3 minutes. Just be together and breathe together.
For one of my clients it was just taking an extra minute each morning to linger at the door as they said goodbye for the day. A long pause of at least one minute while holding hands and making eye contact.
This simple intentional action triggered a domino effect series of conversations, actions and discoveries that led this couple to being able to resume enjoying sex together.
Try it. You might be surprised.
Carve out between 3 minutes and 3 hours of undistracted time at least once a week.
Turn off the phone, internet, TV and other distractions. Give each other your full attention.
Share touch with intention. Take note of what happens.