Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it. But what if you’re not doing it - because your partner’s not interested?
Wanting a sexual relationship and being rejected by your partner is hurtful and humiliating for anyone, but it can be especially devastating for women, because we’re all led to believe that men are constantly thinking about sex, have an insatiable libido and will jump at any opportunity to have it...
Where is the lust?
For years women have been the butt of ‘Not tonight dear, I’m washing my hair’ jokes. While men are portrayed as being permanently ‘up for it’, women are accused of using any excuse to get out of sex. But if US author Michele Weiner Davis is right, we’re blaming the lack of libido on the wrong, er, sex.
Her new book, The Sex-Starved Wife, suggests the real reason many couples don’t have sex is a decline in male desire, not female. Research by the Australian Study of Health and Relationships adds strength to the claim, with almost a quarter of men questioned saying they’d experienced a lack of interest in sex. But what is behind this troubling new trend?
A Sydney-based Sex Therapist and author of Sex Secrets For Busy People, Jacqueline Hellyer (www.jacquelinehellyer.com
) has counselled many couples affected by this problem, and the most common cause is stress.
“Life is becoming increasingly chaotic, and worries about work and finances can sap away desire,”
Men, who traditionally see themselves as ‘provider’ for their family, can be more affected.
One woman who can relate to that is Kerry, 32. “Michael (40) was my neighbour when we got together, and we’d constantly be knocking on each other’s door for a quickie,” she says.
“Then we bought a house together and had children, and our sex life was history. I still wanted it, but Michael, who’s self-employed, was working long hours to provide for his family, and sex simply slipped off his ‘To Do’ list.”
Another common theme for couples with this problem can be the man’s bottled-up anger and resentment, says Paula Hall, a counselor and author of Improving Relationships for Dummies.
“Sex is connected to everything,” Paula tells the Daily Mail. “If he’s angry or resentful about something – maybe you don’t give him enough attention, or he thinks you nag him, or don’t appreciate his work, or a hundred other reasons – his desire closes down, or he withholds sex as a way to express anger.”
From here it can become a vicious cycle – the more he avoids it, the more he doesn’t want it anymore. Then as an effect, she becomes hurt and resentful, and the relationship continues to go downhill.
“Fix your relationship and watch the sex improve”, says Paula.
Keeping the spark alive
It’s a fact that when a relationship progresses through the years that your perception of each other and your relationship will change.
Many people complain about “doing everything together” and “feeling more like brother and sister than lovers”, this can cause a problem because often the libido is stirred by mystery and excitement which understandably fades over time, especially if you live in each other’s pockets.
It doesn’t mean the love has gone, but it can mean that the couple gradually stop seeing each other in a sexual way.
To counteract the predictability, and in turn, potential lack of lust in a long-term relationship, here are a few easy things you can try; take an active role in maintaining a fair amount of individualism - perhaps join a club on your own or socialize separately from time to time, continue to make an effort both with your appearance and with your communication with your partner – be mindful of your body language and seize attention with a sexy text or choice of film.
Paula Hall says “It’s important to remember that many long-term couples go on having great, rewarding sex throughout their lives.”
The age of equality
Another problem is the emasculation of men, says Jacqueline. “It’s a controversial idea in today’s world of equal rights, but I think somewhere along the way we’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to equality.
Women are becoming more masculine, while men are bombarded with images of the ‘New Age Man’. Both have their pluses and I’m not saying women should be all weak and pathetic while men go all macho, but I do think it’s affecting people’s sex lives.
I’ve had several female clients say to me, ‘He’s just not a man any more, especially not in the bedroom’. But how can they expect that when they’re always telling him to be in touch with his ‘feminine’ side? Talk about confusing!”
So are women expecting too much? Possibly, says Maggie Hamilton, Australian author of What Men Don’t Talk About ((www.maggiehamilton.org
“Women tend to have a mental checklist of 40 things they want in a partner. But it’s only ever going to leave you feeling disappointed.
Besides, that checklist obscures the things you could enjoy about him. He might not buy you roses every week, but he’ll gladly fix anything you ask him to. The ‘ideal’ man doesn’t exist outside a marketed image.”
That image can lead to another reason for a decline in desire - performance anxiety.
“There is tremendous pressure on men to ‘perform’ in the bedroom,” says Maggie. “They feel they need a sexual repertoire, and this takes away the emotional side of sex.”
“It becomes an act rather than a true expression of the natural self,” agrees Jacqueline. “When that happens both parties often lose interest as they’re too worried about whether they’re doing everything right, instead of just going with the flow.”
And the flow could be the key if your man’s gone off sex.
“What I tell most of my clients to do first is relax,” says Jacqueline. “Chill out and spend quality time with your partner. Turn off the TV and really talk to each other - and not just about family issues.
Make the effort too. People often work at other areas of life, but somehow expect sex to happen spontaneously. Have a bath together, walk the dog together, give each other a foot massage. This will help you learn to enjoy each other’s company, which is a step towards desire.”
This worked for Kerry. “I pencilled in a ‘date’ night every week and tried to recreate when we first met. I banned all talk of the kids and work, and we got to know each other again. It made us realise why we fell in love in the first place, and our dates soon ended up in the bedroom.”
Setting aside one ‘nookie night’ a week is a great idea, says Jacqueline, as is being vocal about what you need in bed. But listen too - and be prepared to wait if your partner’s not ready to talk yet.
“Sometimes women just need to be quiet,” says Maggie. “We often talk so much our men stop trying. One man told me his partner took away his ability to respond because she never paused for breath.
Or we put them on the spot by demanding to know what’s wrong. If they’re not ready to speak they’ll simply withdraw.”
Instead, give him opportunities to talk if he wants to. “If you know he’s struggling at work, start a conversation about the bad day you’ve had. This might be all he needs to open up,” says Maggie.
And remember your man has feelings too. “Some of the things I’ve heard women say to their partner in my sessions are astonishing,” says Jacqueline. “I’m not surprised they’re not having sex if they talk to him like that.” You wouldn’t talk to your girlfriends in that manner, so don’t do it to your man.
Birds of a feather
It’s important to remember men are more like us than we think. “Many women have a rather disparaging opinion of men these days,” says Jacqueline. “We assume all they do is think about sex.
We need to move away from the myth of the ever-turned-on male and realise most men don’t just want sex to get their rocks off - they can masterbate for that. They see sex as part of a bigger picture of love and intimacy.”
“My research made me realise men and women are alike in ways we don’t imagine are possible,” adds Maggie. “They want love, tenderness and acceptance just like we do. Their head and heart affect their desire, just like ours do.”
So ditch those stereotypical views of what men are like and find out what your man is like. You might be surprised.
Have you experienced loss of male libido in a relationship? How did you deal with it? Please comment below.
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