6 Reasons You’re Not in the Mood for Sex—and How to Deal with Each One
DEAR DR. JENN,
My sex drive is much lower than my boyfriend's. It's not that I'm not attracted to him, I just don't feel like doing it as often. How do I increase my sex drive? —Not in the mood
DEAR NOT IN THE MOOD,
This is one of the most common issues I hear couples in longterm relationships struggle with. Once you get past the tear-each-other’s-clothes-off, do-it-every-day honeymoon phase and real life settles in, most couples see a dip in desire on one or both partners’ parts. The bad news: Part of a longterm relationship is accepting that the honeymoon phase is in fact a phase. The good news: there is a lot you can do to turn libido issues around. After decades of clinical experience, here is what I have found to be most effective:
1. Go to the doctor
You always want to rule out medical problems first. Get a physical and have your hormone levels checked. Many women think that hormonal issues only set in during menopause. That is not the case. Hormones can wreak havoc on your mood, skin, fertility, and libido in your 20s or earlier. Changes in cortisol, testosterone, or estrogen; thyroid problems; and issues like PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Ovarian Syndrome) and PMS can have a profound impact on desire. Pregnancy, breast feeding, child birth (see my article about sex after baby), and menopause can also change how frisky we feel in the bedroom. Figure out if one of these is at play.
2. Look at your meds
What medications are you taking? Birth control pills, antidepressants, antihistamines, blood pressure medication, hair growth medication, medical marijuana, anti-seizure drugs, opioid painkillers, beta blockers, benzodiazepines, and cholesterol-lowering medications like statins and fibrates can all reduce libido. Consult your physician before stopping any medications that you think might be responsible for the dip in your sex drive. But sometimes a simple change in dose or medication can solve the problem. And remember—just because you experience side effects from one birth control pill doesn’t mean you will with another.
3. Go back to basics.
When I asked Sally, a working mom of four, what she did to get ready for dates when she and her husband first met, she gave me a long list: She got her nails done, got a bikini wax, shaved her legs, wore sexy bras and panties, and picked out flattering outfits. She would fantasize about their last sexual encounter and anticipate their next one. She would get excited thinking about new sexual position she wanted to try with him. Her prep alone turned her on.
When I asked her how much of that she was currently doing, she honestly responded, “None.” All that just didn’t seem as important to Sally anymore. She was wearing sweats to bed and hadn’t primped in months. Sure, her husband was keen to have sex with her. But his desire wasn’t the issue—this was turning her off. Not only do you feel your best when you look your best. there’s also anticipation and excitement involved in deeming an event special—special enough to get dressed up (or down) for.
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4. Get yourself in the mood.
Read sexy books, take time to fantasize, and watch movies or porn that gets you hot for sex. The romance novel genre is a $1.5 billion-a-year business (with 91 percent of purchases made by women) for a reason. A study came out recently that reported that erotic novel readers have sex 74 percent more frequently and are more satisfied with sex than their non-erotica reading counterparts.
A few years ago I got a call on my radio show from a woman who just wasn’t feeling much desire. She would get into bed next to her husband and feel as though her sexual light switch had been turned off. I gave her an assignment: Read one story a night from Nancy Friday’s collections of women’s sexual fantasies. She agreed and promised to call me back in a week to let me know how the experiment was going. On schedule, she reported that she was so turned on that she was waking her husband up in the middle of the night to have sex.
5. Stop Spectatoring.
Spectatoring is a term coined by the legendary sex researchers Masters and Johnson. It’s the process of being overly aware of yourself or your partner during sex. This usually manifests as distracting thoughts, self-consciousness, or critical internal dialogue instead of focusing on your own and your partner’s sensations. Spectatoring takes you out of the sexual experience and creates anxiety, fear, and sexual dysfunction. And all of those things are libido killers. Research shows that women who engage in spectator sex are less satisfied, have fewer real orgasms, and fake more orgasms.
In order to break the habit, practice mindfulness. This means quieting the destructive and distracting voices in your head and being totally in the moment. Completely immerse yourself in the feelings and sensations. Pay attention to what gives you pleasure or arouses you the most. Focus on what it feels like to be in your body, not what it looks like to look at your body. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Worrying about your body tanks your sexual desire.
6. Have sex.
Have it with your partner. Have it with yourself. I know, when you’re not feeling it, the last thing you want to do is have sex. But here’s the thing: Sex begets sex. The more you have, the more you want. Both men and women have testosterone in their bodies, and when you don’t have sex for a while, your testosterone levels drop. Since testosterone is a big contributor to sex drive, that means your libido drops too. Set a sex goal for yourself. Try making a commitment to have sex twice a week (at least once with your partner, as opposed to solo) for a month and see how you feel.
We all feel a bit can't-be-arsed about sex sometimes but putting in the effort to fan our flames of desire is worth it, both for you and your SO. Sex is a bonding experience and part of the glue that holds a relationship together. Plus, you know, it's fun.
In Hump Day, where award-winning psychotherapist and TV host Dr. Jenn Mann answers your sexiest questions—unjudged and unfiltered. Email us anonymously at HumpDay@instyle.com.