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  • Writer's pictureDagmara Svetcov LMFT CST

Ebbs and Flows of Libido or "Mismatched" Sexual Desire

Updated: Feb 27, 2019

Q: “My partner wants to have sex a few times a week. I’m not as keen on it as I used to be. This worries me. Is it normal?”

A: Yes, it is. Discrepant or "mismatched" sex drives in partners are a fact of life and the most common concern that brings couples into sex therapy.

Libido, or sexual desire, is an interest in and a drive to pursue and engage in a sexual activity. It is an aspect of human sexuality and its degree varies across individuals (regardless of gender), fluctuates within one individual over their lifespan, and depends of situational context. This means that each person has characteristic, innate (i.e., hard-wired), stable capacity for certain level of desire AND that level can be influenced by a number of variables (internal and external). It is important to remember that discrepant sexual desire between partners does not have to constitute deficient desire in either partner.

Generally, people tend to become concerned about their diminished sex drive at one point in their lives or another.  They worry when they notice, or someone "helpfully" points it out to them, that their interest in sexual activity has decreased, that their sexual or erotic thoughts and fantasies have been lacking, that they have not been initiating sexual activity for a while, or that they have not been responsive to their partner’s initiating attempts. Their level of distress is typically proportionate to the amount of conflict their decreased libido causes in their relationship.

I conceptualize the majority of sexual concerns as symptoms of one’s non-sexual internal struggles, relational challenges or situational factors that play out on the stage of sexuality. Decreased appetite for sex can be a symptom of one or more of such challenges and when those issues can be successfully addressed, previous or more desirable level of sex drive can often be restored.

These are the most common reasons for a person’s diminished sexual desire:

  • Relationship conflict and problems

  • Stress

  • Life events

  • Poor sleep, diet and exercise and lifestyle habits

  • Medical conditions

  • Pain

  • Mental health problems

  • Hormonal disorders

  • Side effects of medication (especially psychotropic medication for depression and anxiety and opioids)

  • Poor body image

  • Negative or false ideas about sex(uality) and unreasonable expectations of oneself or the partner

  • History of sexual trauma

  • Fears of intimacy

  • Other sexual difficulties in oneself or partner

Whether on your own or with guidance and support of a sex therapist, it takes effort and commitment to your relationship to resolve the issues that contribute to suppression of your libido.

Learn more about Restoring Your Sexual Desire.

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