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Sex and Relationship Therapy

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Sexual Desire: Its Complexities And Practical Interventions

Factors Influencing Sexual Desire

Social Discourse

Social Discourses

Age, education level, and socio-economic status can influence attitudes and expectations towards sex as well as the level of stress and exhaustion. Societal discourses regarding sex and love can influence sexual desire greatly.

Physiology and sexuality

Physiology

Hormonal changes that occur in menopause and pregnancy, gut/brain connection, and illness that leads to fatigue and discomfort. 

Relationship factors and sexuality

Psychology

Depression, Anxiety, Trauma

relational factors influencing sexuality

Relational

Length of the relationship, relationship satisfaction, intimacy levels, relational conflict, betrayal

Sexual

Sexual

Sexual history, current sexual activity, and overall sexual health and sexual compatibility

Types of Sexual Desire

Spontaneous Sexual Desie

Spontaneous sexual desire appears naturally and without specific triggers. It’s often experienced in the early stages of relationships or suddenly at any time, reflecting an innate urge for sexual activity. This type of desire doesn’t rely on external stimuli and can be likened to a spontaneous craving.

Responsive Sexual Desie

Responsive sexual desire, in contrast, emerges in response to specific stimuli or emotional closeness. It’s common in long-term relationships, where trust and emotional bonds have been established. This desire grows from intimacy, touch, or other forms of connection, and might not be present until the situation becomes sexually or emotionally stimulating.

Many women are thought to experience responsive sexual desire, which develops in reaction to intimacy or sexual cues within a relationship context. While this pattern is common, it’s important to remember that individual experiences with desire can vary widely, and both responsive and spontaneous desires are normal and can be experienced by anyone, regardless of gender.

Low Libido

Studies show that 29% of people have low sexual desire and 12% have Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (absence of sexual desire). Age, health, feelings, relationships, and sexual experiences are some of the factors that are thought to be contributors.  It’s important to look at sexual desire as something affected by many parts of life, not just the body. Understanding that sexual desire changes and grows in relationships helps us care for it better, focusing on feelings, working together, and different ways people express desire.

How To Increase Libido

Case Example

This case delves into the nuanced dynamics of a male-identified individual experiencing a lack of sexual desire, distinguishing it from the more commonly discussed scenarios involving female-identified persons. The couple in question shares a deep connection and considers themselves a unified team, with all aspects of their relationship flourishing, except for their sexual intimacy. The female partner suspects her husband may be asexual due to his disinterest in sexual activities, which has understandably led to her frustration.

Upon further exploration, it was revealed that the female partner had endured sexual abuse, experiencing significant trauma. This history has shaped her relationship with sex, where she sought validation and control through sexual prowess, viewing it as a domain of competence and self-worth. Entering into the only healthy relationship she’s recognized, her partner’s lack of sexual interest has heightened her distress.

Addressing her past traumas became a pivotal aspect of therapy, linking her present anxiety to previous experiences and reframing her understanding of self-worth beyond sexual validation. Additionally, her critical perspective on her partner’s sexual performance contributed to his feelings of inadequacy, exacerbating the issue. His hesitation and perceived clumsiness in sexual encounters were further amplified by her detailed criticisms and the pressure to meet her sexual expectations.

The therapeutic process illuminated the importance of dismantling the perceived hierarchy within their sexual relationship, promoting a mutual understanding that one’s sexual approach is not superior to the other’s. This recognition helped in recalibrating their interaction, where her overwhelming energy and space-taking behavior were balanced with his need to assert his presence and desires more confidently.

A breakthrough moment occurred when the female partner acknowledged the impact of her commanding tone on her husband, leading to a deeper understanding of the power dynamics at play. The therapy sessions encouraged a more equitable energy exchange, fostering a space where both partners could express and validate each other’s feelings without judgment or defensiveness.

The progress they made was evident in the transformation of their sexual relationship and the dismantling of hierarchical structures that previously marred their intimacy. This case underscores the complex interplay of past traumas, communication styles, and power dynamics in addressing sexual desire discrepancies within a relationship, highlighting the role of therapy in navigating these challenges towards a healthier, more fulfilling partnership.

FAQ

Many women enjoy sex, particularly when the concept of sex is broadened to encompass a range of intimate activities, from flirting to more physical interactions. A woman’s interest in sex often grows when she feels rested, experiences low conflict and stress in her life, feels excited, and knows she is cared for and supported.

The question of why sexual desire is often higher in youth ties back to hormonal surges that can overshadow insecurities or physical discomforts. Additionally, the novelty and excitement from new relationships, frequent partner changes, and less frequent encounters contribute to heightened desire. Younger individuals typically face fewer life pressures, such as cohabitation, work stress, or parenting responsibilities, which can otherwise dampen sexual desire. Ultimately, sexual desire peaks at an age where one feels secure, harmonious, excited, and fulfilled, suggesting that emotional and situational factors play a significant role.

Sexual desire and arousal differ significantly; desire is a mental interest in sex, while arousal is the body’s physical reaction to sexual stimuli. It’s crucial to recognize that physical signs of arousal do not necessarily indicate a genuine desire for sex. This distinction is particularly important in understanding that someone’s body might react to touch without it meaning they consent to or desire that interaction.

If your body is undergoing change of any kind, your sexual desire is up for grabs because for many people their sexual desire is affected by changes in their environment and in their bodies.  The more important issue is that we have to begin to understand this as normal and okay.  Instead we feel slighted and angry because things have changed.

Yes, but find a therapist that is an expert in couple’s therapeutic techniques as well as sexuality.

Flibanserin, or Addyi, aims to boost sexual desire in premenopausal women by altering brain chemistry. It’s specifically designed for premenopausal women and has notable side effects like dizziness and nausea. The effectiveness of this medication is debated, particularly considering its modest benefits. Critically, it’s argued that focusing on medication might overlook the broader relational or societal influences on women’s sexual desire, potentially reinforcing stigmas around sexual health issues by framing them as individual problems rather than broader concerns that might not always require medical intervention.

Check out The 11 Myths About Sexual Desire but the answer is yes and no.

Yes, many men’s libido is affected by contextual factors such as stress and conflict.  Also, feeling incompetent sexually seems to be a major cause of low sexual desire in men.  

Yes for some people, but it doesn’t need to stop there.  Sexual desire is affected by many things but that doesn’t mean you won’t ever want sex again.  What’s important is to talk about it and understand what your desire needs to open up.