Working mums are having less sex because they’re tired at the end of the day. The idea of a nice hot bath is more appealing than the effort of making love. However, in the same way that we may not look forward to going to the gym, but once we’ve been to the gym we feel good, that can happen when we make love. We may not feel like it in advance but afterwards we may feel closer to a partner and more loved by our partner.
You may want less sex because you are deeply fulfilled in your work. You may be feeling stressed at all the demands placed on you by a full working life and the family. You may feel shy about your children being aware of your sexual activity. Remember, it’s generally considered a good thing for the children to be vaguely aware that their parents have an active sexual life. Some couples like to put a sign on the door that says “do not disturb”, and at least have some private adult time (a hug and a cuddle) even if it’s not sexy time.
There are two types of desire: spontaneous and responsive. Spontaneous desire is when you randomly feel turned on – when you’re walking down the street, for instance. Responsive desire is when you only feel horny if something triggers it – someone on TV, a picture of a flower that looks erotic, your partner bringing you a present.
If you have responsive desire, you need an external trigger. Some people, as they age, move from spontaneous to responsive. This may mean that where once they were the instigator of sex in the relationship, they no longer are. And if both partners are responsive, no one will instigate it, so you need to plan more.
Feeling pressured and needed by your partner is often not an appropriate stimulus. Feeling desired, truly wanted is more likely to be a turn on.
For responsive couples, it might help to assign Saturday night (for example) as ‘sex night’. This way, you know when it’s going to happen so you can get warmed up and ready. Once you start, you’ll enjoy it but you just need to be more prepared. But remember to have fun, to go on dates.
In an ongoing relationship, if the difference in sexual desire begins to show, with one partner wanting more sex one partner wanting less, the ‘keen’ partner should ensure that they remove any blocks. Paying particular attention to their personal hygiene is important, helping with tasks that the reluctant partner might want doing before they can enjoy sex, deeply listening and connecting earlier in the day (early evening if you’re going to make love when you go to bed), and paying attention to pleasure in the bedroom, not just for yourself but also for your partner.
There are a few people who have a very active sex life, but the majority of people do not. So if you think you are having less sex than everyone else, you may be surprised. There is no magic formula for how often we should be having sex. Lucky couples will both want a similar amount of sex, and then it isn’t a problem. If they both want sex three times a day, or three times a year, that’s fine because they share the same level of sexual desire. Sadly, usually this is not the case.
Even people who generally have a lower sexual drive will find times when their libido picks up. Our sex drive fluctuates with the time of the month, the time of the year, and is affected by what else is happening in our life.
One piece of advice I offer as a couple therapist, is to continue to cuddle and be affectionate even when you’re not having sex. Sometimes, if the ‘reluctant partner’ feels pressured for sex, they stop reaching out and fear that their wish for a cuddle will be misinterpreted. They worry that their partner, who has been starved of sexual contact, will think the cuddle means sex. But the downside is that both of you will miss out on cuddles too. Talking together and clarifying this, so that cuddles continue even if sex is reduced, helps the affection to remain, until your sexual appetite comes back.
If you find that you are arguing about your different levels of desire, or that you are having arguments about other things, seemingly unrelated, but possibly caused by one person’s resentment of the lack of sex, then it might be worth seeking help from a psychosexual therapist. But for most people remember that sex lives fluctuate, energy levels vary, and it’s perfectly normal to have spaces and gaps when you are not having a lot of sex. The longest gap I come across so far was 28 years. And they’re back having a sex life now. Maybe that will give you hope.