When people seek help with low sexual drive within sex therapy sessions they very rarely are truly concerned with low sexual desire itself.
That is, it’s not the amount of sex that they are referring to, but the meaning that they make of the turn that their sex life has taken.
Common concerns about sex drive
“There’s something wrong with me”
“Relationships need sex to survive, perhaps we are not right for each other at all”
“They will have an affair if they are not getting what they need from me”
When we really break it down we discover what matters more to the people who consult us than the amount of sex they are having is the reason that sex has become much less frequent, the conflict or resentment it has caused, or their fears of what might happen if it’s not resolved.
How common is it?
We know from the recent NATSAL data (National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle www.natsal.ac.uk ) that 1 in 4 respondents in their large UK population sample reported not having the same level of interest in sex as their partner.
*please note the attire of the stick people does not, of course, indicate gender identity 🙂
25% of us.
So, you could say it’s quite normal for discrepancies in desire to show themselves in relationships, and therefore it’s not surprising that for some of these couples this discrepancy might be named by one or both of them as a problem.
“The amount of sex Sam and I have has gone down over the years, almost to the point of never having any. It’s a problem for both of us- I think we both live in fear of a sexless marriage- we joked about this when we first got together, but the truth is sex takes a low priority most of the time, apart from when we argue. We’ve got to the stage now that initiating sex feels so unusual and awkward, we avoid talking about it when we can, but when we do we get trapped in a cycle of blame and resentment.”
Understanding the reasons behind our concerns about our experiences of sexual desire is crucial, as it highlights our deepest fears. These fears can sometimes paralyse us from taking useful action, or keep negative communication cycles going, but understanding why we’re concerned is just one small part of the whole picture.
Sexual desire is both complex, and reassuringly simple, once we understand that everything that we are told about desire by the media and modern society is not backed up scientifically from the learnings of sexual medicine.
The three-times-a-week myth
One example is frequency of sex. In the consulting room most people, when asked, will say that they feel they should be having sex a couple of times a week. Where do they get this idea from? It’s certainly not based on scientific enquiry; the data from large scale UK and American studies tells us that around once a week is much more likely (oh, and incidentally, the frequency we all have sex is declining over the decades, possibly as we spend so much time in bed with Facebook, rather than each other).
Yet the three-times-a-week myth prevails. A whole host of people feeling they are failing to meet the standards set by their peers* and judging their relationship negatively as a consequence, even before you get started on ideas around what constitutes low sexual desire.
*just in case you are worrying that even once a week sounds an impossible task, the key message is there is no norm, any amount is OK, quality is better than quantity, the point is if we set the bar too high we are constantly falling short of our own unrealistically high standards!
What can I do about it?
In our online sexual desire workshops, we cover everything there is to know about the science of desire so that you can take apart everything you thought was the case and put it all back together in a manageable, practical and achievable guide to keeping desire alive in a series of fortnightly sessions.
Each session guides you, step by step, through what we as experts in sexual functioning know to be the case with desire. We leave you with exercises to reflect on in between sessions to gradually build up this picture for yourself; about your own relationship with desire; about the key influences on your sex life at the moment; how the ‘dance’ of sex with your partner sometimes doesn’t go as planned and perhaps most importantly, how you can make the changes that you want and learn to re-evaluate the rest.
Come and join us and let’s start a digital sexual revolution from the comfort of our sofas.
Dr Karen Gurney, Clinical Psychologist & Psychosexologist -The Havelock Clinic
Details of our next Women’s Sexual Desire workshop