Though it would be amazing to always be in ‘the mood’, there are a number of different factors that can affect your sex drive. The most commonly spoken about culprits for low sex drive are stress, fatigue, and birth control. However, being in a long-term relationship can also have an effect on your desire.
The desire for sex is based on complex interactions between a number of aspects affecting intimacy, for instance, physical and emotional well-being, events and experiences, beliefs, lifestyle, etc. If you’re experiencing a problem in any of these areas, it can have an effect on your desire for sex.
Women’s sexual desires naturally fluctuate over the years, with highs and lows commonly coinciding with the beginning or end of a relationship or with major life changes, such as pregnancy, menopause, illness, or even the end of a relationship.
According to sex educator and psychologist Emily Nagoski, having a ‘low’ sex drive is totally normal.
There are two types of desire. The one that you feel before initiating sex, commonly experienced at the beginning of a relationship, and the one that comes after your partner has started putting the moves on is called responsive desire.
Sexual desire doesn’t just happen. In fact, Nagoski argues in her book “Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life.”, that we’d all have a better sex life if we moved past the standard narrative that sexual desire is just supposed to happen, no effort required. She also argues that it is likely that we view this spontaneous sexual style as standard because it’s how most men experience desire.
Female sexual desire is more complicated. For starters, vaginal arousal doesn’t always correspond with mental desire. A woman can be aroused without mentally enjoying the moment.
The important thing for sexual wellbeing is not how much you want sex but how much you enjoy the sex you are having.
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Here are some tips she shares in her book:
Stop thinking of it as a drive
“You might be bored without sex, but you’ll survive without it. Viewing sex as a drive, like hunger, fosters men’s sense of sexual entitlement — since they’re the ones with more spontaneous desires — and makes women with responsive desire seem abnormal” – Nagoski
She wants people to view sex as more of an “incentive motivation system.” The Incentive Theory of Motivation proposes that some behaviors are encouraged by outside incentives instead of internal drives.
Learn what your desire triggers are
If you experience desire spontaneously, then sex is your goal. But if you’re more of a responsive type, then desire itself can be the destination. And getting there can be fun.
Tell your partner what you want. This can lead to more sexual satisfaction simply because your needs are being met. If you don’t know what you need, discover your body with your partner. Curiosity is motivating for humans, so become inquisitive about your turn-ons.
Dr. Laurie Mintz’s, “Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters – And How to Get It,” offers instructions on finding the spots you and your partner might be missing.
Most importantly, try to relax. If you’re anxious, depressed, or chronically stressed, you’re less interested in trying new things and more interested in simply being in a comfortable, familiar environment, Nagoski writes. And if you’re addressing your mental health with medication, but it’s decreasing your libido, try exercising to give your arousal a boost.
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Change your context
If your desire drops every now and then, your context and mental state — not your hormones — are most likely the culprits.
If you’re in a long-term relationship, you might need to create some space between you and your partner in order to create some novelty. Consider spending a couple of nights a week doing separate activities and when together, explore new environments and scenarios to keep learning new things about each other.
Nagoski also suggests getting your heart rate up, like going for a run or on a roller coaster, as it helps the body experience a general state of arousal that you can transfer to your partner.
Exercising, in general, has been shown to improve physiological sexual health in women. Getting in shape also offers the added benefit of a more positive body image, which can also increase sexual satisfaction.
You’re fine the way you are
Now – this is an important stat – Only about 15% of women experience spontaneous desire. Most of us experience some mix of responsive and spontaneous.
In fact, you’re more likely to experience spontaneous desire when single or for someone that is not your long-term partner.
So, if you enjoy sex in general, don’t worry too much if your unprompted desire goes missing for a while.