The Frisky Feminist

The Case of the Vanishing Sex Drive

Q: I’ve been married for about a year now. I have always considered myself to be a fairly frisky person. I enjoy sex. I could easily have sex every day for months on end. But for some reason, about 3 months after moving in together, my libido has gone from overdrive to next-to-nothing. I don’t know why! My husband isn’t bad in bed, and we’ve both fooled around before finding each other, so one would assume that we both have a general idea of how to navigate the bedroom. But my sex drive has vanished.

Unfortunately, his hasn’t. He still wants to have sex at least every other day, if not every day. And the worst part is he gets grumpy if his needs aren’t met. I don’t think it’s intentional, but I notice a distinct change in his demeanor if we haven’t had sex in a while. I’ve told him that I’m not avoiding sex with him on purpose, but I don’t know what else I can do about it! I know that sex isn’t everything, and we do have a strong bond outside of the bedroom, but I’m afraid it’s putting additional strain on our relationship.

Any ideas on how to give a jump-start to a stalled libido?

A: Even though you only directly asked about how to give your sex drive a boost, we see two issues in your question and hope it’s okay if we address them both because we think they’re likely related.

Lots of different things can affect a person’s libido; we’re going to list a bunch of different possibilities, some of which you’ve probably already considered and some of which will likely not be relevant at all, but maybe something will jump out at you as possibly being a factor. Any medication you’re on, be it hormonal birth control, antidepressants, or even drugs that help treat diabetes, can affect your interest in sex and how easily you get aroused. For that matter, psychological health issues like depression can seriously affect your libido too, and even seemingly unrelated health issues like an over- or under-active thyroid can potentially affect the libido because it affects the balance of hormones in your body. Are you comfortable with and confident about whatever birth control method(s) you may be using? If you aren’t interested in getting pregnant right now (or ever), that could certainly be distracting. Also, stress can really do a number on your sex drive, and even positive changes in your life like getting married and moving in with your partner can be a source of stress, as can more obvious things like a busy schedule at work or school, money troubles, family drama, etc.

You mentioned that things began to change a few months after the two of you moved in together, which is perfectly normal – you get to know a person in a different way when you live together (anyone who’s gone from friends to roommates with someone and met an entirely different side of the person can attest to that), even if you spent a lot of time together and stayed over at each other’s places before. It’s difficult to find any reliable articles on the matter, as most of what we found was full of mansplaining (and Godsplaining), but it makes sense to us – when you’re living together and the possibility of having as much sex as often as you want is right there, you may not feel the same sense of urgency that you did before. Now that the two of us live together, we don’t feel the urge to have sex every time we’re in the same room like we did when we lived two hours apart and only got to see each other every other weekend. Sex is now something to be balanced with everything else going on in our lives – other things sometimes have to take precedence even if we both want it, purely as a matter of practicality.

It sounds like you’ve been trying to make sure he understands that the decrease in your sex drive doesn’t have to do with your feelings towards him, and that’s definitely good. He may still take it personally, though, and while it’s not okay for him to make you feel bad about it, we can also understand how he might feel a bit hurt even if he believes you and knows logically that you still love and are attracted to him. Are the two of you very affectionate in non-sexual ways? If not, figuring out how to show each other how much you care for one another might make both of you feel good – snuggling, massages, cooking for each other, compliments, leaving mushy notes for the other person to find.

Now, even though it’s understandable why your husband’s feelings are a little hurt, it’s not okay for him to treat you differently because you don’t want to have sex as often, which leads us to our next idea. We wonder if your partner’s reaction and attitude towards the change in your sex drive may be contributing to you not feeling as horny as you used to. Whether or not he is pressuring you or intending to pressure you in any way, if you know he gets grumpy and upset when you haven’t had sex in a while, it would be understandable if that felt like a kind of pressure to you; we’d imagine that very few people feel consistently raring to go when they’re aware that it’s expected of them. That can make sex feel more like a duty or a requirement than something fun that you do out of love or horniness or interest.

Also, and this may be reading too much into your choice of words, but we thought it was interesting that you described your husband as “not bad in bed” as opposed to “is good in bed” or “rocks my socks off on a regular basis.” Do you feel (physically and emotionally) satisfied with the sex you have? Do you feel like he’s invested in and respects your desires and needs? Do you communicate well together about what works for you and what doesn’t? If your answer to any of those questions is “no,” that could be why your libido has tapered off – from our experience, it’s much easier to regularly want to have sex with someone who wants to please you and who makes your desires a priority than it is with someone who doesn’t, even if sex with that person is still pleasant enough and even if they aren’t being selfish or disrespectful.

It can be easy to get into a pattern, especially when you live with someone, and (if you’re a couple made up of a man and a woman) to think about sex as meaning PIV (penis in vagina). But let’s say you’re both really tired one night but also feeling a little horny – you could snuggle and masturbate together, maybe watching some porn if you both enjoy it or maybe just talking dirty to each other or talking about some of your fantasies. That’s having sex. Or if your husband is especially fond of oral sex and you’re feeling kind of in the mood, indulge in some of that for a while and then return the favor if you’re feeling interested – that’s having sex too. Expanding how you think of sex gives you a ton of options to choose from – you may find that you’re more frequently in the mood for one kind of sex or another but not necessarily PIV. Shit, the two of you could even just make out for a while with no expectation that things must progress any further; focusing on the moment and the sensations may remind you how much fun sex can be and make you interested in more, or you might have a great time kissing and cuddling and leave it at that.

Now, to the question that you actually asked us – how to rev up your sex drive. What makes you feel sexy? If you don’t know, what do you think might? It doesn’t even have to relate to sex at all; Paperispatient is an ardent Zumba devotee and she loves it because it makes her feel good about her body, which in turn makes her feel more confident and positive about herself, which helps foster her friskiness. It may seem counterintuitive, but if you aren’t doing it on a regular basis, you may find that masturbation helps you stay in touch with your body and your sexuality in ways that could make you feel more receptive to sex with your partner. If you enjoy it, a good collection of erotic stories or a few Tumblrs full of sexy pictures (or even something more explicit) may help you keep your sexuality a more active part of your consciousness.


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By paperispatient

I recently earned my MA in women’s studies. I enjoy reading, working out, playing Scrabble, watching cheesy movies, and cooking yummy vegetarian meals with my partner and Frisky Feminist co-author, Future Mr. paperispatient.

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