Your Low Sex Drive Might Be Something Else
by Karen Washington, LMFT
Maybe it’s a weekday evening, or even a weekend night after date night, and you see that look on your partner’s face – the one that tells you they really want sex. All hints and indications point to this night leading up to them wanting sex. Except, you really aren’t thinking about (or you weren’t until two seconds ago). You’re not really turned on, and you aren’t a light switch that can turn on at the drop of a dime. Why don’t they see that?!
Think you have low-to-no sex drive? Or maybe is it possible that you are more of a responsive sexual person?
What’s the difference?
Low-to-no-sex drive is pretty much how it sounds: there is a lack of motivation to participate in sex play. However, some people do not lack sexual motivation but are more responsive in their desire – which people often confuse the two. Responsive desire means that they need external stimulation in order to feel sexually motivated. A person with responsive desire will not often be inspired to spontaneously initiate sex but may respond when stimulation is presented to them. He or she is not always like this, as motivation and desire ebb and flow over time. Think of it like preheating an oven before you attempt to bake something, versus zapping it in the microwave.
The opposite is a person with spontaneous desire. Spontaneous desire is what it sounds like – sexual motivation can occur spontaneously for a person with little or no stimulation needed (i.e., the microwave). People with spontaneous desire can be mistaken for those with high sexual motivation, even though they are quite different.
Media and society portray spontaneous desire as normal, and people buy into it as how things “should” or are “supposed” to be. However, it’s really just another sexual myth that does not hold true for everyone. Yet, the idea that spontaneous arousal and sex is the standard can cause significant conflict within relationships. People do not typically end up in a relationship with a person matching their desire. In my work as a sex therapist, I see a lot of couples fight about this until they are able to understand the differences in responsive and spontaneous desires. From there, they are able to communicate about it in a way that can lead to much higher sexual satisfaction. If that is your experience, feel free to reach out. It is not the end of a relationship or mean that you aren’t compatible; it just means you need a little assistance communicating about the situation and finding ways to happily both get what you need. I can be reached at 312. 971.6846.
Karen Washington, LMFT
Join Karen Washington, LMFT, in an interactive class discussing the aspects of sex no one ever told you about. She will cover a range of topics, including foreplay, orgasm, fake news, and other questions you may have but never asked.
I am beginning to notice a chief complaint amongst both men and women is performance anxiety. Yes, you read that right… men AND women. Someone gets too worked up, someone has one bad experience due to too much alcohol or trying something new too quickly – anxiety. The anxiety then snowballs downhill like a caricature and now sex becomes a bad, even dreaded, experience. All it really takes is one experience perceived as bad, and that mistaken perception can bleed into subsequent endeavors. The anxiety looms larger than life, and the person suffering becomes avoidant.
I know it sounds like a cliché, but it is all in his/her head. Literally.
So, what can you do? Well, I will offer a few suggestions used with clients that can assist with performance anxiety.
- Visualize your success. People who visualize their successful endeavors first tend to be able to carry out said endeavor. You actually have to believe you can to be able to do.
- Believe in catastrophizing. Imagine the absolute worst case scenario in your mind for the next time you attempt sex. Worst possibility – sex doesn’t happen, right? Ok, that sucks. However, is it the end of the world? Can you and your partner do other things that will be enjoyable and pleasurable to you both? Yes. Sex doesn’t have to end with penetration and ejaculation. Be creative! Think outside the box.
- Get zen. How do you manage other stressful situations in your life? Do you head into a presentation completely unprepared and a ball of nerves? I don’t. When I am getting ready for something stressful, I subscribe to whatever behavior helps me manage that anxiety. Try music, meditation, or any other behavior that helps prepare you for sex without added to your stress.
- Have fun. Don’t focus so much on the end game. Sounds like what you might tell a kid, right? It’s not about the winning/losing, but about the game and sportsmanship…. Well, why do we lose that when we get older? If sexual activity were to cease being a race to the finish line, then maybe we could just focus on experiencing the pleasure of participating. Enjoy the in between by extending foreplay, or removing orgasm off the table for the night completely.
- Laugh. Taking oneself too seriously just leads to disaster. I’ve also written how important it is for couples to be able to laugh during sex. Things will happen that are not according to plan. Is one minor thing going to really ruin a whole night of sex for you two (excluding pain, etc, that prevents performance)? Make laughter part of the experience. Tickle each other – it actually helps lower defenses and laughing will release those feel good chemicals that will put you in a better frame of mind for sex. Plus, it’s kind of hard to be freaking out and worrying about what’s about to happen if you’re too busy laughing.
Post by Karen Washington, AMFT. Check out Karen’s bio for more information and how to contact her.