Sexual Desire

Sexual desire is the fuel that fires sexual passion. Sexual desire is often highest at the begining of a relationship. Sex therapists call this period limerance; remember when you coudn't keep your hands off your partner and you thought that everything about them was fabulous. Fun wasn't it!

Whilst limerance feels wonderful it generally only lasts 6-18 months, longer for some. As limerance fades over time, so does the intensity of sexual desire and infatuation with your partner. This does not mean that you stop wanting to be sexual with your partner or that sexual satisfaction diminishes. Rather the frequency of sexual activity reduces and activities other than sex assume greater priority.

A reduction in frequency of sex is not necessarily bad. It means that we are not so preoccupied with our relationship and have time for other things in our lives, like a career, children, education, friends, family etc.

A reduction in desire for sexual activity within long-term relationships is a normal experience. It is common for couples to go periods without sex. Sexual desire will fluctuate depending on life events such as stress/worry, pregnancy, child birth, todlers, death of a loved one, moving house, changing jobs, relationship conflict, illness, pain, injury, medications, sexual dysfunction, menopause, fatigue, insomnia, sexual coercion and drug use. The Sex in Australia Survey (2002) found that 25% of Australians have not had sex in the last 4 weeks, and that 24.9% of men and 54.8% of women had lack of interest in sex for at least one month over the last year.

Some people have expectations about how frequently they should be having sex. They are distressed when sex declines believing this indicates a problem in the relationship. Some peope take it personally thinking that they are no longer attractive, their partner is having an affair, or perhaps their partner is gay. Others are disappointed by their declining interets in sex and fail to settle into a sexual style that is not dependent on the hormonal rush of the new relationship. These people sometimes think they have fallen out of love with their partner.

Reduced sexual desire becomes a problem when one partner wants it more than the other and conflict arises from this discrepancy. The higher desire partner may feel rejected and unloved, whilst the lower desire partner feels pressured and guilty.  To start to address this problem you may want to consider:

  • It is normal for sexual desire to fluctuate in long-term romantic relationships.

  • Blaming each other causes conflict & further reduces desire for sex.  

  • Counting the number of times you have sex is unhelpful.

  • Your partner is your friend. work on a solution together.

  • Lower desire partner. Sex is more than a physical release and selfish pleasure. Your partner wants sex with you to bond, to show love and to give and recieve affection. Humans need to be touched.  If you don't want to have sexual intercourse, say so nicely. Don't reject your partner with a harsh "No". Give them a hug, kiss or hand job as an alternative to sexual intercourse. After all, you are missing out on affection and soothing by avoiding physical touch.  You might want to say to your parner something like: 

"I am avoiding you because every time we touch, I think you want sex. Can we have some time where we just kiss each other or go out together without having to have intercourse?"

  • Higher desire partner. Stop pressuring for sex. It further inhibits your partner's sexual desire for sex and makes sex feel like another chore to do at the end of a long list. When s/he finally gives in, it is due to a build-up of guilt and a sense of relief that s/he won't have to do it again for a while. Your pressure and the resulting guilt diminish pleasure for you both. Furthermore it entrenches your partner's low desire for sex with you. Tell your partner what you feels like when s/he says no.  You might want to say to your parner something like:

 "I really miss having sex with you, but I am scared to ask because I think you will say "No" and I feel terrible. Is there anything that is stoping you or is there a way I could help so that we could get some time together?"