Tag Archives: low sexual desire

Where Did Your Sexual Interest Go?

It’s a story I’ve heard plenty: Couple gets married, and after a short or long while, sexual interest for one or both spouses wanes.

What happened? Isn’t sex supposed to be wonderful and worth getting excited about? How can the shine wear off so quickly or so well?

As I’ve been perusing research articles I hung on to, with every intention of reading well before now, I came across an interesting study reported in the British Medical Journal. Conducted by the British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles team, 6,669 women and 4,839 men aged between 16 and 74 with at least one sexual partner in the past year reported their level of sexual interest and factors that affected their desire.

First off, a few caveats:

  • They’re British. You live where you live. Culture can affect our perspectives.
  • Some surveyed were married, some weren’t.
  • Some had a single partner, some didn’t.
  • The researchers spell behavior with a u, so what do they know? Just kidding!

Even so, the results align with a lot of what my readers and Facebook group participants have said, as well as other research in this area. Since it might hit you right where you’re struggling with sexual interest, let’s take a look at what the survey showed.

Most men and women are interested in sex.

Contrary to the oft-perpetuated line that husbands always want sex and wives don’t, this survey showed that a strong majority of both genders desire sex. Only 34% of women and 15% of men reported lacking interest in sex.

Now that does show that a higher percentage of women lack interest than men, but 15% of disinterested men is higher than many think and 66% of women (or 2/3) are on board with getting busy. It’s just not accurate to say that all men want sex all the time and women are the holdouts.

It's just not accurate to say that all men want sex all the time and women are the holdouts. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

These 4 factors lower interest for both men and women.

Researchers asked survey participants: “In the last year, have you experienced any of the following for a period of ≥3 months?” after which appeared a list of difficulties including “Lacked interest in having sex.” Among those who reported lack of interest, four factors were linked to this difficulty:

  • Poor mental and physical health
  • Having an STI in the last year
  • Ever experiencing sex against your will
  • Not feeling emotionally close to partner during sex

One can easily imagine why these factors would dampen a spouse’s desire to engage sexually.

For instance, when someone reports lack of drive, the first thing I typically recommend is visiting the doctor to make sure your physical health is not an impediment to sexual activity and enjoyment. Likewise, if you’re experiencing depression or stress, those can absolutely affect your desire.

Sexually transmitted infections can interfere with physical intimacy, not only in the usual way of making a couple take a break while things clear up. But STIs also increase worry and stress about flare-ups and giving the infection to your spouse.

Sexual assault is a heartbreaking experience, and its survivors can struggle with the trauma for years afterward. If you were molested, assaulted, or raped, please acknowledge the gravity of that event and seek trauma counseling. It’s important that you see someone trained and experienced in treating sexual trauma, so that they can provide quality assistance. If the rape occurred within your marriage, get help now.

As for emotional closeness, no one wants to be used. If you don’t feel that you’re valued beyond your body parts—even if it’s just during sex itself—then why would you want to keep going? As I’ve pointed out before, quite frankly you can get pleasure and sexual release on your own. But God designed sex to intimately connect husband and wife. (See What Are the Real Purposes of Sex?)

Intimacy Revealed Ad

These 3 factors lower interest only for women.

The study identified three factors linked to lack of interest in women only. And before you read on, I don’t like that the first one doesn’t impact sexual interest for men too. It honestly feeds into the “men are pigs” line that I’ve vehemently opposed for years! But results are results. And those three factors are:

  • Three or more partners in the past year
  • Children under 5 years old in the household
  • Not sharing the same sexual likes and dislikes as partner

So why does interest in sex lessen for women with multiple partners but not for men? The standard answer you might hear in the world is that men evolved to spread their seed to as many child-bearers as possible, while women evolved to attach themselves to a single man who would provide for her family. So multiple partners causes dissatisfaction for women but satisfaction for men. Or as I call that theory: blah blah blah.

Sorry, but I find that explanation uncompelling and inconsistent with God’s design for sex in marriage with a single man and a single woman. That’s what He created (see Genesis 1-2). But then what’s an alternative reason for this data?

I sense the issue is two-fold. First, women produce oxytocin during sex within the first sexual encounter with a man; however, men don’t get as big a wash of oxytocin unless/until they’re in a committed relationship. Look, even Sex and the City (a show I watched for like 10 minutes before I concluded it was preposterous) admits that while these women tried to “have sex like a man,” they couldn’t help but want more. Now, of course men want more too! But I’m just talking biology so far.

Second, men tend to compartmentalize better than women do. There’s a reason why Bill and Pam Farrell’s book title resonates with so many of us: Men are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. Mark Gungor refers to these typical differences as men’s boxes and women’s ball of wire. But essentially men can have sex, drop that experience in a mental box, and move on in a way that women usually can’t.

Did God make it that way so men could have many sexual partners? Of course not. There are many benefits to having different yet complementary systems where one of you has a more pinpoint focus and the other takes in and processes more stimuli. Moreover, God clearly says, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Men are expected to leave and cleave!

Regardless, “three or more partners in the past year” should not be a situation in anyone’s marriage. If that factor is present, your problem is not a lack of interest in sex but not living according to God’s plan for your life.

As for the next factor, all of you moms nodded when you read “children under 5 years old in the household,” because while young kids can be absolutely delightful, they are also distracting, demanding, and exhausting. Those issues don’t tend affect men as much for various reasons—including the physical demands of pregnancy, childbirth recovery, and nursing; the percentage of moms who stay home with kids; division of labor within households; and women’s multi-tasking minds that make it hard to shut off the mom-ear and focus on lovemaking.

The third factor—not sharing the same sexual likes and dislikes as partner—is interesting. I have theories on that one, including:

Of course, it could be a combination of two or more of those. But from the comments and messages I’ve received, wives often feel obligated or pressured to do sexual activities they don’t want to do. Sometimes it’s the wives who need to learn more about God’s list of a-okays, and sometimes it’s the husbands who need to ask about and respect their wives’ wishes.

You can increase your sexual interest.

With few exceptions, your interest in sexual intimacy can increase by addressing or managing the factors mentioned here. Interestingly enough, while wives reported less interest in sex overall, they also reported being distressed about it. Plenty of spouses who don’t desire sex as much they used to, or as much as their partner does, want to want sex.

Plenty of spouses who don't desire sex as much they used to, or as much as their partner does, want to want sex. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

If you’re among those who has less interest in sex than you’d like, ask what your obstacles are. What needs your attention, and how can you take that first step?

If you’re married to someone whose interest has waned, or never been there, consider what your spouse’s obstacles are. How can you support them in addressing those issues?

And one last great finding I want to share: “Those who found it always easy to talk about sex with their partner were less likely to report lacking interest. This was true for men as well as women.” Yep, communication matters.

That’s why I wrote Pillow Talk, a book you should totally pick up and share with your spouse. It’s not just conversation starters, but so much more. It’s a discussion guide for you and your beloved to talk about the challenges to your sex life and the pursuit of deeper intimacy. (You can find a sample chapter here.)

Ad for Pillow Talk: 40 Conversations About Sex for Married Couples

Resources: BMJ – What factors are associated with reporting lacking interest in sex and how do these vary by gender? Findings from the third British national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles; downloadble PDF of study; The Hippocratic Post – Why we lose interest in sex

Sex Tonight? What Does Your Magic 8-Ball Say?

Magic 8-BallWhen I was growing up, there was a toy that many of us played with called a Magic 8-Ball. Manufactured by Mattel, it looked like a pool table 8-ball but had an icosahedral (20-sided) die inside. When you asked a question and then shook the ball, one side of the die would show up through a window to give you an answer.

I never had one myself, but I played with others’ magic 8-balls. It was fun to ask random questions and then see such answers as: “Without a doubt”; “Cannot predict now”; and “Don’t count on it.” It was all a game, of course.

But I was thinking about how we often have a set of ready answers when it comes to having sex in marriage. It’s like we have our own internal magic 8-balls and whenever our husband asks, “Do you want to have sex?” we shake up the ball and spit out one of the preprinted replies.

The original possibilities for the magic 8-balls included 10 positive responses, five wishy-washy, and five ain’t-happening:

● It is certain
● It is decidedly so
● Without a doubt
● Yes definitely
● You may rely on it
● As I see it, yes
● Most likely
● Outlook good
● Yes
● Signs point to yes
● Reply hazy try again
● Ask again later
● Better not tell you now
● Cannot predict now
● Concentrate and ask again
● Don’t count on it
● My reply is no
● My sources say no
● Outlook not so good
● Very doubtful

Those aren’t terrible odds. If your hubby approached you to make love, it might be a nice deal if half the time he got a positive response, one-quarter of the time he got what amounts to “you can talk me into it,” and only one-quarter of the time was a no. Of course, it would be even better if the nos were fewer and the yeses or maybes higher, but for some marriages and some seasons in marriage, a 75% success rate of experiencing sexual intimacy when a higher-drive spouse initiates is a decent result.

But you know what? I bet a lot of us wives have an internal magic 8-ball stacked with negative responses. Maybe half of the time, your set-point is no. Or maybe it’s just a whole lot of maybes — with your willingness contingent on all of your to-dos getting done and the stars aligning just so.

And yes, I know, it could be you with the higher desire and your husband whose magic 8-ball could use a substantial adjustment.

Refusal of sexual intimacy isn’t a game to the one who’s asking. If the higher-drive spouse wants to make love, it’s usually not about physical release or recreational enjoyment. As I’ve often said, if it was just about the orgasm, they could get that done without you. Rather, the desire to make love, and the rejection felt when the nos pile up, run much deeper.

Maybe like me, you toyed with a magic 8-ball when you were young. You asked questions like, “Will we have a pop quiz tomorrow?” “Am I smarter than my sister?” or “Am I getting the gift I want for Christmas?” The results you got were interesting or even funny, but they didn’t really matter. However, perhaps you also asked relational questions like “Will I get invited to prom?” or “Does the guy I have a crush on like me?” Remember how you felt when the negative answer kept coming up over and over? Even though we knew it was a toy — just a silly way to pass the time — we longed for a positive answer and felt a sense of disappointment when it didn’t happen.

Now imagine that’s real. Your husband approaches you for sex, you shake up your magic 8-ball, and a negative answer spits out time and time again. What kind of disappointment does he feel?

I recently shared one of my archived posts, Be His “Sure Thing”, on social media and received several positive comments and shares. Because I think this is one of those game-changing ideas in marriage, that saying yes to sexual intimacy should be the response that our spouse most hears. As I said in that post:

There is a deep warmth that comes from knowing that your spouse is your “sure thing” — the one who will talk with you when you need conversation, who will embrace you when you need to be held, who will make love when you need to feel that one-flesh physical connection.

In marriage, we’re supposed to be there for our spouses in all those ways that make us feel loved. Your way might involve more affection or conversation, but his way might focus on mutual sexual pleasure. Or vice versa. And that’s a completely legitimate way to express love in marriage. It’s God-made and Heaven-endorsed.

I’m not saying you can never say no. I think that’s a legitimate answer when circumstances force sexual intimacy to take a temporary backseat to other needs in your lives. (Although I highly recommend rain check sex.) But how’s your internal magic 8-ball? How many of your possible answers are positive? Do you need to rewrite a few?

Q&A with J: “I Can’t Really Seem to Get Into Sex”

Today’s question is from a wife who’s struggling with her pleasure in the marriage bed:

Hi, I’m hoping you can give me some advice. My husband and I have been happily married for 11 years…I love him more than ever…the problem is I can’t really seem to get into sex. I know it’s important and we usually have sex twice a week but I don’t seemed to get turned on through it. I do orgasm most of the time but I just want to desire sex…I want to really want sex!!! I want to have the wet “horny” feeling but only very occasionally does happen. We do have 4 kids aged from 3-9 years so I don’t know if that has anything to do with it. I’m kinda hoping one day this stage will pass and I’ll all of a sudden be back into sex? Anyway, any advice would be great!

Blog title + couple's feet in bed pointed away from each other

First off, yes, I think four children ages 3 to 9 years has something to do with it. Lots of wives report a decrease in their libido while their children are young, because that’s when we’re exhausted, distracted, and stressed. If you think that’s contributing, then check out my suggestions in When My Sex Life Sucked – Part 2.

But the libido and pleasure issues may run deeper, as they sometimes do for wives. I’ve talked recently about how in 15-30% of marriages wives are estimated to be the higher-drive spouse, but that still means that in 70-85% of marriages, he wants sex more than she does.

And many women have been sold the idea that they’re supposed to want sex like their husbands — with a burning need or intense desire to be experience sexual pleasure. They think the proper order of things is desire, arousal, sex, and then orgasm. But you know what? That’s not what the research shows. Rather, female sexual desire seems to kick in for many after the decision to engage and getting aroused.

Yet what concerns me is that you say, “we usually have sex twice a week but I don’t seemed to get turned on through it.” Yeah, your body should be more responsive to sexual sensations. That’s how God intended it to work.

So while I don’t want you to sweat not having that “horny” feeling before you start having sex, I do think you need to look into why you’re not enjoying the experience.

And for that, I’m actually going to turn you over to three trusted sources. Because while I’ve definitely addressed this topic (for instance, herehere, and here), these three ladies have gone above and beyond in reaching out to lower-desire wives. I believe they can help you get on track.

OysterBed7. Bonny Burns maintains the OysterBed7 blog where she says, “I blend science, scripture and stories of my own life to encourage and empower the low sex drive wife and her marriage. You write what you know and I know about low sex drive.”

Her honest, gentle approach is also biblically and practically based. While I suggest reading her blog, and listening to her on our joint podcast, Sex Chat for Christian Wives, she has a specific resource you might want to check out: Unlock Your Libido: 52-Week Sex Drive Transformation.

The Forgiven Wife. Chris Taylor defines the mission of her blog as: “to encourage Christian wives as they work to grow in their approach to sexual intimacy in their marriages. After 20 years of restricting the sex life in my marriage, I have learned to dance with desire and enjoy the full intimacy that comes with passionate and joyful sex with my husband.”

I know you’re not restricting sex in your marriage, but Chris delves into reasons why a wife would feel disengaged in the bedroom and unable to experience full pleasure, and then she addresses them with practical suggestions. You can also hear Chris on our podcast.

Boost Your Libido Course. Sheila Gregoire recently launched a new product, and I had the pleasure of checking it out fully. Her Boost Your Libido course not only deals with a wife’s sex drive, but her pleasure in the bedroom. This course has 10 modules with videos of Sheila explaining the main points in a wife-to-wife chat format, along with a fact sheet, worksheet, brainstorming exercise, and additional resources.

Sheila deals with such issues as “What Is Libido?”, “Making Hormones Your Friend,” and yes, “When It Doesn’t Feel Good.” I’ve really enjoyed Sheila’s blog and resources over the years, but I found this course in particular to be a great approach for working through the issues of low libido and enjoyment of sexual intimacy.

You can view the videos in the privacy of your home, or perhaps with a friend or two so that you can discuss and support one another. (However, you should each pay for your own course, for ethical reasons and to get the additional materials you need to make progress.) She suggests taking your time through the homework, but it’s not hard to complete. You can easily see the big picture and how progress will be made by working on these modules.

And you know what? It’s $39. I know that’s more than a book, but $39 is a pair of shoes, one piano lesson for your child, a meal for two at a sit-down restaurant, and just 1/15th of an iPhone. Seriously, a total bargain. For more info, click on the pic below.

Let me assure you that I rarely do affiliate links. While looking into advertising some on my blog, I’ve been so reluctant to do so because I’m not willing to just throw products at my audience that I don’t entirely believe in. If I outright suggest something, I’ve viewed the entire resource myself and believe it’s a good deal for my audience.

So, while I write some about low libido, I know that it’s not my niche like it is for these three women I’ve mentioned. And I trust them to give you good advice. I encourage you to check out their resources.

Q&A with J: When Sex Does Nothing for You

Welcome back to Q&A with J. This reader’s email was longer and included some details, but I suspect several wives will relate to this wife’s feelings about sex in her marriage.

“The thought of having sex does nothing for me. It’s only when we start or get into it when I actually am ok with it or enjoy it. But up until then, it just feels like a chore…

“I just don’t know what to do. Even if I get close to being turned on or pursuing sex, I am so easily discouraged–a child who wakes up, a negative thought, a small tiny miscommunication. Why am I so sensitive to this? Why can’t I just open up and be free and realize that it’s good and almost always enjoyable? Sometimes I will think about it during the day and in a moment of being turned on I think, ‘Ok, let’s do it tonight!’ But then the night comes, he comes home, kids go to bed, and it’s the last thing I want to do or think about.

“Is something wrong with me?”

As to whether there’s something wrong with this wife, the answer is maybe. But I think there’s a lot right with this wife. She clearly wants the best for her marriage and wants to show love to her husband, but this issue is causing difficulty and heartache.

Following are a few things I want to point out.

When Sex Does Nothing for You

See your doctor and explain your issues. Have your hormones, thyroid, etc. checked. If you’ve been on oral contraception, that can negatively affect your libido too. Just check everything out and see if there could be a physical component here. If there is, deal with it!

(Looking back at my no-sex-drive years, I now believe that I was dealing with low-level depression, and addressing that issue would have helped my libido.)

Your sexual past could also be a factor. Some wives can hold memories or resentments or bad teaching in our minds that then come out in unexpected ways — sometimes even years after. If you believe your history could play a part in this, you need to bring that subconscious to the forefront and tackle it head-on.

That could be simply by sorting through your feelings and thoughts on your own, seeing a counselor, working through a Christian intimacy book, studying the Word of God on the subject of sex, speaking with a mentor,…

What will work for you depends on your personality, resources, etc. Although really a combination of these would be best.

You don’t have to crave it beforehand to enjoy sex in the moment. You say, “The thought of having sex does nothing for me. It’s only when we start or get into it when I actually am ok with it or enjoy it.” That’s not so unusual. Too often, society and the media portray women’s and men’s sex drives the same; however, men have a tendency to become aroused and then engage in sexual activity, whereas women are more likely to choose to engage in sexual activity and then become aroused.

Once you recognize that, you can make that mental shift to: Okay, I don’t feel like having sex right now, but I’m going to set other things aside, get involved with my husband, and the intimate feelings will follow.

Figure out what makes sex not a chore for you. It sounds like sexual intimacy is a chore because it’s one more thing you’re expected to do. On a practical level, you need to figure out how to set your sex life up for success. That is, ask yourself what you need to be able to focus and enjoy sexual intimacy with your husband.

Do you need to take a few moments after he suggests sex to have a hot bubble bath, put on something that makes you feel beautiful, and light candles around the bedroom? Do you need to schedule sex one or two days a week, so you can mentally have time to prepare knowing it’s coming up? Do you need the grandparents to take the kids out for a night so you can have the place to yourselves (if properly motivated, perhaps he can make that happen)?

Sure, you can’t have a full-scale production every single time, but start thinking about what conditions make lovemaking more enjoyable for you and see where you can make them happen. Then you can approach sex not as something you must do, but something you look forward to doing.

You can also check out these posts on lower libido wives: For Wives: When You Don’t Desire Sex and More on Low Sex Drive Wives.

Preparing Yourself for Sex

You are planning or he is hoping to have sex soon. But right now, you’re in that take-or-leave-it mood. Or maybe even a leave-it-or-leave-it mood. *sigh*

If you waited to be perfectly “in the mood” every single time to have sex, some of your marriages wouldn’t experience another sexual encounter until Labor Day. Some of you would get lucky this weekend, but you are supposed to be having sex tonight.

Lightning bolt

The lightning bolt of lovemaking?
Photo from Microsoft Clip Art

Thankfully, it’s not about being in the mood, as if you stand around and suddenly get hit by the lightning bolt of lovemaking. You can create some electricity yourself. You can get in the mood. So wives, here are some tips on how to prepare yourself for sex. You can try one or more and see what works for you.

(Not to leave you out, husbands, but I don’t know how you prepare, other than your wife walking through the room naked.)

Build anticipation. We tend to enjoy what we anticipate. Got a vacation coming up? A birthday? A massage? We think ahead about what that will be like and plan how much we will enjoy its arrival. Try doing the same thing with sexual intimacy in your marriage. Think ahead about when you’ll make love later.

If you’re planning a night of hot-and-heavy, let the images of that come to mind throughout the day. Think about the attractiveness of your husband, the way you felt the last time he kissed you or when you last climaxed, the joy of becoming physically one flesh, and the gift that God has given us of sex in marriage. Pray that your evening will go well, and that you’ll both find pleasure and connection with one another. Let the anticipation build, and your body may respond by feeling more ready when the moment arrives.

Remove distraction. One of the greatest difficulties for wives is distraction. Female brains are typically able to juggle more balls than a Las Vegas act. We have so much else going on in our lives and around our houses that asking us to focus on sex is like asking that juggler to toss a single ball. We get antsy.

But you won’t be able to relax and enjoy the pleasure of sex with your husband unless you focus. Do your best to remove distractions. This can include getting the kids to bed early, straightening up the bedroom, putting away your to-do list–whatever you need to do to put down those balls and get into The Act.

Prepare location. Atmosphere matters. We instinctively know this when we enter restaurants and get an immediate feel for the food based on the surroundings. Likewise, we can create a mood by preparing the location of our lovemaking. That might mean taking the time to refurbish your bedroom to make it a pleasant place, adding ambiance enhancers like candlelight and music, or creating an inviting space for the two of you to feel as randy as a pair of mating-season rabbits. It could even be a simple as getting the Legos and the Barbies out of your bedroom.

Consider what environment would evoke your romantic and sexy side. Then make the effort to have your bedroom reflect that environment.

Bedroom photo

Photo from Matemwe Retreat, Zanzibar, Africa…where I now want to go

Awaken sensation. We have five senses — sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. Sexual intimacy is particularly focused on sight and touch but can involve all five senses. To get in the mood, try to awaken those senses. You can light a scented candle and inhale deeply; turn on a sexual intimacy playlist and close your eyes to listen; take a bubble bath and feel the hot water and foam stroke your skin; replace your regular sheets with satin ones; bring chocolate-covered strawberries or champagne into the bedroom.

Think of things that are not specifically sexual, but rather sensual. Find ways to awaken your senses, so that you’ll be ready when your senses are engaged in lovemaking.

Ask for affection. Wives often need more affectionate foreplay before feeling ready to make love. Let’s be honest here, ladies: Holding off a horny husband from going straight to the erogenous zones can be like defending your kingdom with a Nerf sword. At some point, you want to yell, “Hey! Hold hands first, handle hooha later!”

Yet, one of the sexiest things evah is your husband stroking you gently with his broad, manly hands. Or that soft-lipped, melting-into-each-other kiss that lingers until the tingle runs all the way down to your pinkie toe. Ask for the affection you need. Explain that you might get in the mood if you could spend some time touching, kissing, snuggling, or getting a massage. Ten to fifteen minutes of that, and you might find yourself very eager to make love when you didn’t think you were in the mood before.

Use communication. Here are two things you should remember: Most husbands love to turn us wives on, and most husbands cannot read their wives’ minds.

So tell him what feels good. You can use words, moans, shrieks, whatever, but communicate clearly what you enjoy in the bedroom. It can feel awkward at first to say things like, “Over here is better” or “I love it when you ___,” but the initial discomfort passes and most spouses are receptive to positively-phrased suggestions.

Pay attention. Whatever preparation you’ve done before, you still need to pay attention to what’s happening in the moment. Once you come together with your husband, think about what’s happening to your body and to his body. You can open your eyes and watch your bodies melding or gaze at his facial expressions. Or you can close your eyes and focus on the nerves of your skin as they awaken with the touch of your husband. Hone in on your erogenous zones and focus your mental energy on their arousal.

If your mind wanders, just bring it back to the moment at hand. You might need to do this a few times before your mind is fully engaged. But do your best to give that time of sexual intimacy your full, undivided attention.

Using these tips to prepare yourself for sex, you might find yourself more in the mood for lovemaking than you originally felt. Hopefully, you can get turned on as you progress into this sexual encounter with your husband. And if you want tips on how to reach orgasm, you can check out that post HERE.