By Christine Murray, PhD, LPC, LMFT, Director of the Healthy Relationships Initiative
Our Healthy Relationships Initiative (HRI) team is excited to partner with Triad Moms on Main on this blog series. In this series, we offer general guidance to relationship or family questions submitted by TMoM community members. If you’ve got a question to ask, please share it anonymously on the form HERE.
I need advice on my marriage. I have no interest in sex anymore, and I feel awful about it. It’s like a chore to me. We’ve tried date nights and vacations without the kids, but the desire is still not there. Is there any hope? ~ Lack of Desire in Winston Salem
Dear Lack of Desire:
Yes, there is hope! Assuming you’re interested in growing your desire for sex and intimacy in your marriage, there are other steps you can take. Know that it’s common for individuals and couples to go through phases of highs and lows in their desire and connection. Consider the following action plan during your current low point:
First, rule out any possible physical causes for your lower desire by scheduling an appointment with your doctor. There are some physical and mental health conditions—as well as possible medication side effects—that can influence sexual desire, so a medical checkup should be a first step.
Whether or not a medical checkup reveals any health conditions that are influencing your level of sexual desire, an important next step is to take some time for self-reflection. This may be through journaling on your own, talking with an individual counselor, or even having conversations with a close friend or your spouse, depending on your comfort level. Here are some questions to guide your self-reflection and uncover possible clues to increasing your desire:
- When did you start to lose interest in sex? Were there any major changes or life events that happened around that time?
- When is the last time that you did feel desire? What was happening at that time?
- How would you describe the overall quality of your marriage? (Note: You can find a number of tools in our Healthy Relationships Initiative Toolkit for Couples to help you consider how well your marriage is functioning in several different aspects of your relationship.)
- Why do you wish you had more interest in sex? (Examples: I want to feel closer to my husband. I miss the physical experience of sex. I feel pressured by my husband. I feel like that’s how a “good wife” would feel.)
- What would sex and intimacy ideally look like to you at this point in your life? (Hint: Think beyond just sex to other forms of closeness, like holding hands.)
- What are the barriers you’re currently facing that keep you from having your ideal level of sexual desire and intimacy right now? (Examples: I’m too busy. I’m too tired. It’s hard to have privacy from my kids.)
With the insights you’ve gained through the self-reflection process, assuming you feel safe to do so*, it’s time to talk further with your spouse. If you’re concerned about having these conversations on your own, consider reaching out to a marriage counselor or certified sex therapist for additional support. Together with your spouse, work toward building a plan for steps you could try that are connected to what you learned through your self-reflection. For example, if you identified a barrier to sexual desire is an overly busy schedule and feeling tired all the time, consider if there are any ways you can scale back your commitments to make more time for yourself and your relationship. As another example, if you identified that a lack of emotional closeness with your spouse is behind your feelings of low sexual desire, focus on ways to build a deeper sense of safety and emotional connection in your marriage.
Finally, maintain realistic expectations as you work through your steps toward building your sexual desire and intimacy in your relationship. Keep in mind that there’s a range of what is normal in terms of sexual desire and sexual activity within couples’ relationships. Focus on what works for you and your spouse at this current stage of your life. As best you can, avoid comparing your normal to your friends’ relationships, stereotypes about what a marriage “should” look like, and even what used to be normal for you and your spouse earlier in your marriage. Have patience, as it may take some time to find the right path to take, and keep hope alive that a more fulfilling sexual relationship—and a stronger marriage overall—is possible.
*Note: If you have concerns about the safety of your relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to speak with a trained advocate who can help you think through your situation and connect you with local resources for people experiencing abusive relationships, if applicable.
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