In the frenzied pace of living most of us find the frequency of sex dwindles once we are married, have children and have been together longer than 2 years. Usually limerence (where lovemaking with any new partner is at its peak) fades after 18 months, 2 years if you’re lucky.
We’ve all heard that men always want sex and yes, many men do have a high, robust drive – recent research indicates that 44% or more of men have experienced interest in sex daily (or more) over the past six months. However, not all men are the sexual aggressor and initiator.
Sometimes women want sex and their hubbies/partners don’t! Preliminary findings from my research supports earlier overseas studies that approximately 15% of men have “lower” desire - defined as interest in sex once a month or less.
These figures suggest that in every 6-7 couples, the woman is likely to have a greater desire, assuming she wants sex more frequently than once a month. So why is it that we don’t hear more about those women struggling to get their hubbies or partners interested in sex?
Unfortunately the media perpetuates the stereotypical male macho image and the myth that all men want sex 24/7. Men may feel emasculated, confused and withdrawn, whereas women feel frustrated and confused because of the perceived norm that men always want sex.
Women are confronted with a kaleidoscope of conflicting thoughts. Confusion, sadness, rejection, helplessness, suspicion and resentment are just some of the feelings women may express.
Humiliated and angry, women are demanding answers. They feel betrayed, let down, embarrassed, unloved and trapped. Anguish, isolation, bewilderment and resentment are just some of the feelings women experience when their partners no longer want sex.
A number of women have been quietly fuming, simmering and wondering what’s wrong with them or what’s wrong with their marriage/relationship – too embarrassed or ashamed to fess up that they want sex more frequently than their partner, or preferably at least once a week.
I vividly recall a couple I saw a few years ago. He at 42 would have been more than happy with sex every couple of months or so. She ideally wanted sex at least once a week and was somewhat alarmed that he had apparently lost his ‘mojo’. Interestingly there were no young children competing for their time – it was just the way he was and she was – more on this later.
I remember another young couple in their late 30s – intelligent, striving doctors, he a specialist, and she a part-time GP and busy mum of 2 young toddlers. Their weekends were consumed with ferrying the children around to parties, attending family commitments and other social engagements with very little time, if any allocated for them as a couple. The idea of scheduling sex was abhorrent to her and she felt indignant that her husband was not ardently pursuing her or initiating sex.
Another unmarried, young couple were perplexed as to why she had a seemingly much higher drive and need for physical intimacy which, because it was not met tended to trigger conflict and subsequent alienation.
For some women it can be a scary, soul-destroying journey. Worse still, and without even realising it, their desperate attempts to create intimacy can backfire and escalate conflict even further. Unfortunately distress can trigger a vicious behavioural and reactive cycle. As a woman becomes more demanding the situation becomes exacerbated and her mate quickly retreats.
Women can become consumed with disbelief and despair, which often results in relationship distress. They do not usually get exposed to rejection in the same way that men do. Instead they are conditioned to believe that once a relationship or marriage is established, men will always be keen.
Desire discrepancy is the most common sexual issue that confronts couples at varying stages of their relationship. Often it can be managed successfully but for many, resentment can build and by the time help is sought the damage is too great to undo.
When a woman pursues her husband or partner for sex, it is not always the sex per se that she craves. More than anything she probably wants affection, reassurance and to be told that she is loved. His apparent rejection will only fuel feelings of self-doubt, fear and anger. Some women fret that he may be having an affair, becoming gay or not interested because of her body image.
When physical intimacy declines so too, does emotional intimacy so the first step towards reconnecting couples is to rebuild their emotional intimacy and restore their emotional bank. This of course is much easier said than done because many of us have to unlearn certain patterns of behaviour and reactions. Most of us do not fully listen to one another and couples need to be re-taught how to communicate effectively and with validation and empathy. Sometimes the process of therapy from an independent third party is the biggest investment you will ever make.
Sexual desire and libido can come and go at different life stages for women AND men. There are a number of biological, psychological, cultural factors that affect sexual motivation and drive for both men and women.
However the biggest killer and dampener on sexual desire is fatigue and stress. Busy couples sometimes negotiate me-time, but rarely manage couple-time as well. It becomes crucial to plan and schedule time together, even if not for lovemaking.
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