Understanding Obstacles to Sexual Desire

Is low sexual desire hurting your relationship?

Human beings are sexual beings, and for many couples, sex is one of the most powerful expressions of their love—a connecting force experienced through the giving and receiving of sensual pleasure. Sex is clearly an important part of a marriage or romantic relationship. Yet despite the powerful gifts that sex can bring a couple, the pathway to sexual intimacy isn’t always straightforward.

Sexual desire isn’t a given; and it certainly isn’t a constant in the lives of a good percentage of the couples I work with in counseling. Frequently a person’s ability (and willingness) to feel sexual and want sex will fluctuate depending upon the circumstances of his/her life and relationship.

Obstacles to Sexual Desire: Why Understanding Is Key

“He’s just not into me anymore, and that fact hurts so much I can’t even begin to describe it.” ~Heather, describing her husband’s lack of sexual desire

After about eight years of marriage Heather started to worry that her husband Tomas was having an affair, despite his repeated denials. Her “evidence” was his lack of interest in her, and since sex is a powerful way for Heather to connect with Tomas, this loss was a significant one. When questioned, Tomas acknowledged that he “wasn’t feeling sexual,” but he couldn’t explain what had changed for him. His lack of an explanation did little to comfort Heather. She felt undesirable, and, as a result, started to feel an emotional distance growing between her and her husband.

Since Tomas went from feeling sexual throughout his marriage to rarely feeling in the mood to be intimate, he agreed to go for a physical exam (something he hadn’t done in over three years). After a thorough medical checkup, it was discovered that Tomas’s testosterone level was well below normal levels. His medical doctor wondered if this accounted for Tomas’s increased lethargy and low mood for the last year or so.

Based upon these findings, Tomas began taking testosterone injections, and after a month, both his sex drive and mood improved. Heather was elated, stating, “I got my husband back!” She also expressed greater empathy toward his lack of sexual desire and now realized it had nothing to do with her.

Understanding the different factors that can negatively impact your libido (and your spouse’s/partner’s libido) can help give perspective and avoid unnecessary conflicts about sex. This was certainly the case for Heather and Tomas. It should be noted, however, that not all low sexual desire issues can be explained by a simple blood test and “cured” with hormone therapy.

Biological and Physical Health-Related Issues

What follows is a list of issues that might affect libido. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that your medical doctor is the best person to turn to if you believe you are suffering from a medical ailment.

  • Hormonal changes associated with pre-menopause and menopause (it is estimated that one in four pre-menopausal women and one in three menopausal women struggle with low sexual desire);
  • Low levels of testosterone (high testosterone levels are associated with heightened sexual desire in both men and women);
  • Fatigue (caused by stress, a medical condition [for example, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome], or insomnia);
  • Medical issues (such as diabetes, chronic pain, endometriosis);
  • Side effects of medications (for instance, anti-depressant medication and high blood pressure medication).

Psychological and Relationship Issues

Similarly, here are some psychological/emotional issues that might be adversely impacting your sex life. (If you have questions or concerns about your psychological well-being, be sure to seek help from a mental health professional.)

  • Mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety;
  • Emotional conflicts over sexuality that stem from deep-seated, negative attitudes about sex;
  • History of poor communication and conflict that adversely impacts your desire to be sexually intimate with your spouse/partner;
  • Unresolved anger or resentment toward your partner—it is difficult to feel both desirous and angry toward the same person;
  • Sexual performance anxieties (for example, worrying about getting or maintaining an erection; pressuring yourself to turn on your husband/wife or partner);
  • History of sexual trauma (unresolved trauma issues may be triggered during sex);
  • Stress (the stresses of contemporary life can easily dampen your interest in sex).

While there may be other factors not listed above that can negatively impact your desire to be physically intimate with your partner, this is a good starting point to help you gain greater control over your sex life. Remember, information is key when it comes to creating a healthy relationship inside and outside of the bedroom.

(Featured [top] image Separated Couple on Sofa” by Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)