Sexual desire can be more of a response than a drive
We’ve been married for 10 years and I find that I sometimes have sex with my husband without exactly being in the mood. It’s not always a problem because it regularly leads to satisfying sex once we get going. However, there are occasions when I am really just going through the motions. My husband can tell and it affects his self-esteem. Surely it would be worse for him if I said that I just wasn’t in the mood?
>> You clearly enjoy sex some of the time, so what is different about the other times? Is it that he initiates sex when you are feeling tired, stressed or irritated? Are you premenstrual, or having a period? Or does your husband, like so many, rush to penetration before your arousal has time to build?
Identify what feels wrong when you zone out and you can focus on finding a solution. Share what you learn. Your husband will be relieved that you are not ignoring the issue and you can then work out the way forward. If the cause is stress or tiredness for example, schedule sex for when you are most relaxed. If the issue relates to hormonal change, warn him when you are approaching the end of your cycle. And if you simply need longer to warm up, suggest a greater emphasis on foreplay, or agree that you must always come first.
Libido ebbs and flows and it is rare for both partners to want exactly the same amount of sex at exactly the same time, so all couples have to work out ways to accommodate each other’s needs.
When one partner is less interested in sex it can be problematic because their lack of desire determines the level of sexual frequen- cy in the relationship. This can be very difficult to resolve if the less interested partner is never willing to accommodate their partner’s needs. If the more interested partner is rebuffed often enough, they may stop trying, but in some couples, the issue is not mismatched desire, but the fact that the lower libido partner doesn’t experience feelings of arousal until sexual activity has started.
Dr Rosemary Basson of the University of British Columbia Sexual Medicine Program proposed the idea of “responsive sexual desire” in 2001. Having observed countless couples in committed relationships, she concluded that for women, sexual desire is not a “drive” but a “response” that has to be “triggered” by seduction, touching, cuddling and kissing.
Basson’s model of responsive desire emphasises the fact that getting in the mood for sex is not always a simple process. It relies on emotional intimacy just as much as it relies on desire. It also accommodates the fact that for women, arousal can be a slow burn.
More recently, Basson has argued that this model applies equally well to men, even if it contradicts the stereotype of the male libido as an untameable beast. Fortunately, the same strategies work in reverse and a woman who wants sex can increase the chance of getting it if she makes gentle emotional, physical and sexual overtures.
Finally, although orgasm is not the be all and end all, if you don’t always have one and your husband always does, it can act as a disincentive. The orgasm gap between men and women closes as couples get to know each other more intimately, but it remains at a 3:1 male to female ratio if sex is restricted to penetration. If your husband is not a generous and adventurous lover and you are not routinely satisfied, it would explain why you lose interest.
This is something a lot of women feel bashful about raising with their partners, especially if they feel self-conscious about the length of time it takes them to achieve orgasm, but any man worth his salt should be willing to put in a bit of extra effort.
ebbs and flows and it is rare for both partners to want exactly the same amount of sex at exactly the same time