‘ My boyfriend has lost his libido’
Dear Roe, I’m in a relationship of just over three years and we have what would be considered a sexless relationship – we are intimate less than once a month. I know he has stress from work, and I understand that. The thing that upsets me is that he’s been taking pills for hair loss, and I’m quite sure that’s affecting his libido. He refuses to discuss it and seems content to continue living this way. I can’t. At this point, any affection would be nice. I don’t want to leave him but I’m very close to calling it off. I need to feel desired and loved. He says he loves me but will not budge on this. Believe me, I’ve tried. It’s like talking to a stone wall.
One thing that immediately strikes me is that a relationship where you have sex once a month is not sexless. You’re not having as much sex as you’d like, but that’s different. There are many people who write into me after not being touched for years who would love to have sex once a month, or even less.
I understand that you’re not happy or feeling loved or fulfilled, and that is important and not sustainable for a healthy relationship, and needs to be addressed. But I fear your dissatisfaction is hindering your ability to see the entire situation clearly. Because you’re not just minimising the sex you are having, you’re also minimising some very big reasons that are contributing to the lack of intimacy in your relationship.
For example, you say that you’re sure your partner is taking pills for hair loss, and that’s affecting his libido. They might be, and this is a conversation he needs to have with his doctor. To the best of my knowledge, there is only one medicine licensed to treat male- pattern baldness in Ireland, which is a lotion. So it could be that the pills he’s taking have not been prescribed, or have been recommended because his hair loss has a different cause, like alopecia or stress. It’s worth you talking to him about the medication he is taking, and making sure it is safe and the best option for him, health- wise.
But the pills are not the only issue here – nor is their effect on your sex life the most pressing issue with them.
It’s important to acknowledge the effect hair loss is having on your partner, not just your sex life. Whatever the cause of his hair loss, it is obviously worrying him and affecting his confidence.
Feeling out of control of your body and not feeling attractive can be a truly unnerving and anxiety- filled experience for people. It’s important to talk about this experience with him, both to acknowledge his feelings and to explore whether this stress and self- image problem could also be contributing to his emotional and physical withdrawal from you.
By focusing solely on the pills he is taking and blaming them for the lack of regular sex in your life, you’re overlooking both the complexity of your partner’s experience of hair loss, and the other concerning issues that could well be contributing to the drop in his libido.
You mention that your partner experiences stress at work. Stress can be a huge factor in affecting people’s sex drive, so it would be worth speaking about this too, to see if your partner needs any extra emotional support, or if he has considered taking any measures to try tackle his stress levels, such as exercise, therapy, perhaps he needs to discuss anti- anxiety medication with his GP, or just indulging in some relaxing self- care.
You also mention that there’s a lack of any affection in your relationship. That is not just a symptom of a diminished sex drive, but a breakdown in communication and connection between both of you, and of course that could also be impacting your sex life.
You and your partner need to focus on improving your verbal and emotional communication, and building that back up to a level where both of you feel heard and understood and appreciated. This needs to be the priority so that any future discussion you have about your sex life happens on a solid foundation of trust, care and empathy.
When someone is stressed or anxious or feeling disconnected from their partner, focusing on a low libido instead of addressing the root cause won’t help – in fact, it will often just result in more anxiety as sex itself becomes a source of conflict and pressure.
So start by expressing to your partner that you are feeling disconnected, and would like to rectify that.
Tell him that you are feeling neglected and unloved and that this is no longer a sustainable way of living for you. But initially, try to focus on the non- sexual ways your partner could make you feel seen and wanted. This could include spending quality time together, having more in- depth conversations about your lives and emotions, and being physically affectionate. Ask him what would make him feel more appreciated and connected. Then ask him how he feels about the amount of sex you’re having, to make sure that he is actively interested in having more sex in the future, and if he has any thoughts on how to deal with this.
Hopefully you get to a place where you’re emotionally and sexually satisfied. But that will only happen if you focus on improving your relationship as a whole, not just your sex life. Don’t ignore the woods because of some pill- shaped trees.
You’re overlooking both complexity of your partner’s experience of hair loss, and the other concerning issues that could well be contributing to the drop in his libido
■ “I need to feel desired and loved.”