A common complaint of couples in long term relationships is a decline in sexual desire. Many may think that men do most of the complaining, however research suggests that the stress of a long-term relationship can have a dampening effect on either partner…which has little to do with aging!
I have found in my work with couples that the resentment, criticism and impatience that couples show about many issues in their life often cover the rejection and shame associated with the belief that they are no longer sexually desired. I often hear:
- “She never makes an advance – It seems she feels obligated.”
- “For over a year he’s just not interested. How is that supposed to make someone feel?
Couple therapists have long maintained that a couple’s sexual problems are actually a reflection of problems in other areas but the reverse is also true!
A few findings about sexual desire are:
Generally men have more sexual desire than women both in frequency and intensity.
- Women actually vary more as a group and even individually in sexual desire as a function of monthly cycles, hormones, and life roles.
- There is more connection for men in thinking about sex and being sexually aroused. Men take their cues from their bodies.
Sexual desire is tied to physical arousal in men but for women other factors such as context, beliefs, attitudes, feeling desired and accepted are more important.
- For most women sexual desire does not happen before sexual arousal. Many women enter into sex feeling neutral and it is the sexual experience that stirs the sexual desire.
- A caring relationship is not the only thing needed for a woman to feel desire –women want to feel that their men desire them….she wants to know he thinks she is Hot! This is not necessarily because of low self esteem or poor body image.
Often lack of desire in men is an avoidance of failed performance- even if it happened just once. It’s not about living up to Her expectations – but His!
- One very important thing that makes women feel desired is being the “chosen one.” When being courted a woman’s sexual desire is raised by the thought “He is choosing me from among others.” Once married, women often interpret sexual advances as a wish for sex – not as a signal of her unique desirability. Sometimes a few personal words can make a big difference. Ie. “I get so turned on when I see you in that dress-I’d love to take it off you later.” VS “Could I get some later on?”
- Some insight for men is to consider how NOT to communicate ‘You are the one’ to their partner of 4 or 40 years – Going on about an attractive stranger or actress definitely does not make a woman feel desirable.
- A woman’s vision of herself as sexy and desirable is as important as her partner’s vision of her but that alone can not carry the day without some confirmation from him.
Recommended reading on this topic is Esther Perel’s groundbreaking book “Mating in Captivity.”