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10 reasons why we lose our desire

Love and desire are related, but they can also be in conflict. Here are 10 reasons why women lose sexual interest and some thoughts from Esther Perel on what you can do to change the situation…

by Psychologies

1. Being in a long-term, committed relationship

Clinical psychologist Marta Meana says women lose interest in sex because of their feelings of responsibility and caretaking in a committed relationship, and the routine and obligation of sex. Giving herself permission to stop worrying, thinking about the kids or her physical appearance – that is what is most difficult for a woman to do in order to even enjoy those kisses and caresses. She often will need her partner to help give her permission to stop worrying and let go. Any way that alleviates her burdens and feelings of responsibility can be helpful in reigniting her sexual desire.

2. Forgetting about foreplay

Foreplay can be more enjoyable that the actual act of sex itself. The idea of the prelude before the real thing is the real thing for many women. Kissing, stroking, caressing and teasing are often what can pleasure women most. A common complaint that I hear from many women is that their men only touch them or kiss them with an end goal in mind – penetration. These women think: ‘The whole day can go by and I don’t get a kiss, but when he’s horny, he gets all gushy.’ Women need affection to be continuous; for her, foreplay starts at the end of the previous orgasm.

3. Believing orgasm equals satisfaction

People think that sex is satisfying when you both climax or when there is some other measurable result. But pleasure and connection extend vastly beyond sexual performance. What does sex mean for you? From my experience, women will think sex is great because they felt lustful and wanted it, not because of the outcome. Many women are reluctant to engage sexually because they assume they will have to commit to the entire act. You may enjoy fondling and kissing, but you don’t want to build up all the energy and arousal necessary to reach orgasm. For some men, there is a direct route between kissing and orgasm, but women can mistakenly assume that men always want the whole act, when they would be happy just to connect as well. This is the blurry part; men can mean what they say at the start but, if they get excited, they don’t understand why it should stop.

4. Acting the dutiful wife or girlfriend

So many women tell me: ‘I’m having sex because I’m supposed to. I want to do it for my husband. I know he needs it.’ So, while they become good and dutiful, they also lose the knowledge of themselves that is the key to desire. They’re so busy making sure that they’re being good partners that they no longer know what they want. When they think about sex, they think about the sex he wants. There is no blame involved here; it’s not because the man is doing something wrong. It’s wonderful when men still desire their wives and girlfriends, and the day they stop desiring them is the day that we should be really worried.

5. Misunderstanding women's sexuality

Women’s sexual desire is subjective and diffuse. The genital- and orgasm-focused approach to sexis a rather male approach. For a woman, it’s more often than not what happens between her ears that charms her, rather than what happens between her legs. Feeling seduced, pursued, complimented, charmed, cherished and made to feel beautiful are her biggest turn-ons. Keep in mind that although women experience their desire as more fragile and can feel that they may lose it more easily, they can also easily reconnect with their desire, since it is fluid and responsive to circumstance (for example, weather, time of day and mood).

6. Getting confused by women's contradictions

Just because she enjoyed sex last night doesn’t mean she wants it again today. Why is it no problem for her to want ice cream yesterday, and want some again today, whereas with sex, it’s different? Or she says: ‘I want you to hear me when I say no, but I also don’t want you to give up too soon, because if I don’t respond immediately and you give up, then you obviously weren’t that into it in the first place.’ On the other hand, ‘if you push too much, you’re not respecting my boundaries’. And there’s also, ‘I don’t feel like it but maybe you can make me feel like it. Make me want to say yes, without being a predator.’

7. There's a physical issue

Could there be a hormone deficiency? If you’re menopausal, that will certainly make a difference. Too often the reason is a thyroid deficiency, which can have a major influence. An endocrinological check-up could be useful. 

8. Sexual boredom

Men often remain more easily attracted to their wives. What they want most is for her to want sex as much as them. But because women lose their appetite  more easily, they need the food to be far more appetising in order to be interested. In order for her to want sex, it needs to be sex worth wanting, says psychologist David Schnarch. Often, it is that she’s not interested in the sex that she can have. If she’s interested in the sex, she’s more likely to escape the limits; the routines, and the endless list of ‘shoulds’.

9. The paradox of security and desire

Women see themselves as a mother, a wife and a caretaker. None of these roles are associated with feeling sexy. If you can leave the domestic and enter into the erotic, that’s a step in the right direction. There are centuries of history conspiring to desexualise wives and mothers. Many women (and men) hold this legacy internally.

10. Not being aroused

Nothing turns a man on more than a woman who’s turned on. And nothing turns a woman on more than to be the turn-on. He can be ready for sex but if she’s disconnected from herself, it’ll do nothing for her. A man can tell a woman she’s gorgeous, but because women see men’s sexuality as less discriminate (‘he just wants sex and I happen to be here’), she doesn’t believe him. She rates her own self-appraisal more than anything he can tell her. Sexologist Rosemary Basson says there are three motivations that drive women to sex: arousal, desire and willingness. Women can be physically excited and physiologically aroused, but not experience desire. They can act turned on, but the mental and emotional experiences are missing. At other times, they can have desire, but are not yet physically aroused; they like the idea of sex, but they’re not feeling it in their body yet. Willingness is the ability to remain ready and curious to see what will happen if she lets herself go with the flow. She may not yet be in the mood, but she’s open to seeing if the mood will come.

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Photograph: Istock

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