Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Why Doesn't My Partner Want to Have Sex With Me? (Part 1)

"After being married for nine years and having two kids, sex with my husband is the last thing on my mind. I get up at 5 am, shower and get dressed, get the kids up and dressed for school, work 9 hours, come home, make dinner, feed kids, get their bags and clothes ready for tomorrow, help my husband with baths, put the kids to bed, and by then it's 9 pm and I'm exhausted. I'd much rather lay my head down and rest than think about sex."

Photo from FreeDigitalPhotos.net "Thinking Heart" by Idea go

This story is one I hear often from parents, both male and female. But then I also hear from parents who say this:

"When we first got together we had sex often, more than twice a week. Now 10 years later I can't get my spouse to look at me, nevermind initiate sex."

As a female, as a Mom, I can't speak for both men and women on this issue. But I can tell you what I have heard from women about why sex is the last thing on their minds. The two reasons usually fall into two categories: "It's not you, it's me" and "What have you done for me lately" (sang to the tune of the song). Today we'll look at the first reason, and on Thursday we'll look at the second.

It's not you, it's me

Reasons that fit into this category include hormones, stress, lack of sleep, and body unhappiness.

As men and women age, their level of testosterone changes. For men it slowly decreases, while for women it slowly increases. As testosterone changes, estrogen, the more female of the hormones, changes as well. As testosterone goes down, estrogen increases to balance it out, and for women it's the opposite. So as we age we find men less interested in sex and women may be more so. Biology is so helpful in our relationships...

If our partner is experiencing stress from work, bills, and multiple other things, sex drive is going to decrease as well. I think of stress like a virus to the computer of the brain. It takes up all this energy and all these mental processes, and thus we're less likely to think about others if we feel as if we're trying to "keep our head above water." Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities can fit here as well. Getting organized can help sometimes but if money is a stressor it can be especially difficult to feel in control of the organization of that.

New parents especially are all about the lack of sleep. Newborns keep weird hours, and parents who are used to sleeping at night and sometimes getting 8 hours or more can find themselves exhausted by 11 a.m. Parents of older kids may be getting woken up for the bathroom, teething pain, illness, and a plethora of other reasons. Sleep, as you probably know, is a requirement to keep our bodies going. If we're not getting any (sleep that is), then many other parts of the brain (including the parts that relate to interest in intimacy) all but disappear. Sleep becomes the only thing we think about. When will we get it next, how much of it, and will it be interrupted. Just like stress, it takes over the brain functioning.

Body Unhappiness
I call this category body unhappiness because it can have multiple parts to it. If you're partner is sick, they're going to be less likely to initiate intimacy. If your partner has chronic pain they're going to have good days and bad days, and it can be pretty obvious that on the bad days they're not interested in naked time. Some women while they're menstruating are "just not into you" as well.

What can we do if our partner is experiencing biological reasons for lack of sexual interest? If the cause is biology, some folks choose to make an appointment with their Primary Care Physician to talk about testosterone therapy. If stress is a cause, decreasing the stress can increase sex drive and interest. What can you do to help your partner decrease their stress? Offer to relieve some of the burden if you can and do so consistently (not just for one day). Let your partner sleep when you can if sleep is an issue. The more energized they feel, the more excited they'll be about physical activity. If any sort of body unhappiness is the cause, the best idea is to wait it out and let your partner feel better.

Photo from FreeDigitalPhotos.net "Thinking Heart" by Idea go