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Learn to lust again: Reviving sex-drive for women

Many women experience a decrease in or absence of sexual desire at some point in their lives. The reasons why are vast and complex. Aside from possible physical causes, contributors can include socialization, sex drive differences, balancing multiple roles and psychological causes.  Women are raised to focus on being desirable rather than on their own desire. In many cultures, women are encouraged to prioritize their physical appearance so as to be attractive to potential mates. It is far less common for women to be taught to tune into their sexual desire; women are often labeled as “sluts” if they veer too far from expected gender norms around sexuality and sexual expression. Another possible contributor to decreased sexual desire is being in a relationship with a partner whose sex drive is higher. There is debate around whether men have higher sex drives than women (in different-sex relationships). However, regardless of who wants sex more, men might initiate more often, leaving little room for women to tune into and explore their desire. For example, if your partner is constantly hounding you for sex, you probably don’t get the chance to have your own desire build up and expressed. Women are also likely to feel drained by their everyday responsibilities; balancing their relationship(s), career, children, hobbies, etc. Oftentimes women’s’ plates are so full that there is no room for sexual desire. We can also imagine that if a woman is having a tough time emotionally, sex may fall to the bottom of the priority list. Depression, anxiety, stress and past sexual trauma can all get in the way of sexual desire.

Women can regain or heighten sexual desire, especially if they can identify the cause(s). Sometimes making small changes in everyday life has a direct impact on desire. For example, decreasing the use of substances (cigarettes, drugs and alcohol), prioritizing and scheduling time for intimacy, focusing on fitness and working on improving communication within the couple.

Here are a few things to consider in an effort to increase sexual desire:

  1. Reconnect with your body: When women experience low desire, they can develop negative thoughts and feelings about their bodies. For example, they have thoughts such as – I am fat, my breasts are too small, my thighs shouldn’t touch, etc. If you feel poorly about your body, chances are you are not motivated to share it with your partner. You might try examining your body in a non-sexual way; stand in front of a mirror and simply observe. You want to look at yourself without feeling stressed or anxious and practice not judging. When critical thoughts arise, bring yourself back to simply observing. The idea is that you want to move away from negative thoughts and feelings to a neutral, eventually positive stance. When you feel good about your body, you are more likely to feel desirable, aroused and want to engage sexually.
  1. Communicate with your partner: Low sexual desire can cause tension in relationships. Keeping what you’re going through to yourself can create a wall between you and your partner(s) and lead to misunderstandings and conflict. One can imagine that conflict can lead to an even further decrease in desire. Choosing to communicate openly and honestly about your low desire can lead to a sense of emotional closeness, which can transfer to an increased desire for sexual intimacy. Emotional closeness can also move the focus from sex to nurturing other aspects of the relationships (e.g., recreational intimacy, physical intimacy, spiritual intimacy and intellectual intimacy), enriching and strengthening the relationship overall.
  1. Challenge negative thinking: Sometimes women experiencing low desire fall into a trap of unhelpful thoughts (e.g., I’m not in the mood so I can’t be intimate, I must be unattractive to my partner when I’m so stressed out). By learning to think more positively, women might notice improvements in self-esteem and arousal. A key component of good sex is a positive state of mind; if you feel good about yourself and sex brings about positive thoughts, then you’re more likely to want to have it!
  1. Incorporate touching: Often when women are struggling with desire they cease all forms of intimacy, including physical touch. Touching your partner and being touched can bring about a sense of closeness during challenging times. It also allows your brain to re-connect with touch in a positive way. You’re reminded that not all touch has to be sexual, thus decreasing all-or-nothing thinking. Sometimes holding hands or hugging can feel as intimate as intercourse. Getting used to touching again can eventually lead to increased arousal and increased comfort with sexual touching.
  1. Add couple time to your calendar: Too often couples forget to prioritize their relationship. By scheduling quality time together, you are giving your relationship the opportunities it needs to flourish. Do something enjoyable together; try a new activity or simply decide to have breakfast together. By spending time together, you will increase your chances of feeling close to one another. You can even schedule time for sex, which allows you to get into a proper state of mind (think- happy, sexy thoughts instead of being caught off guard in the middle of feeling stressed out or tired).
  1. Get creative: If you and your partner have fallen into the same old sexual routine, consider changing things up. Have sex in a different room than usual, go to a sex shop together, watch erotica, talk about things you have always wanted to try, share fantasies. Sometimes novelty can re-ignite feelings of desire.
  1. Try mindfulness: In short, make an effort to be present in the moment, nonjudgmentally. This can start with simple moments of physical affection: really look at your partner, take in each other’s smell, touch each other’s skin and hair, taste each other’s lips. Let any negative thoughts pass through you and refocus on experiencing your partner and the intimate moment. You can also do this while having sex; see our blog on enhancing sex with mindfulness.

Low desire can be a challenge but it can also be an opportunity to work on improving how you feel about yourself as well as a chance to reconnect with your partner(s) and strengthen your relationship(s).  If you recognize that you are struggling with desire and would like to further explore ways to improve arousal, give us a call at 514-223-5327 and we will be pleased to assist you.

Written by Andrea Guschlbauer, PhD.


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