“My wife of 10 years has lost complete interest in having sex. She would be fine never doing it again. She does have sex with me once a month or so because she feels bad for me. This is very frustrating. We have no physical chemistry anymore and she doesn’t put any effort into sex. This has been going on years. She is not interested in trying to fix this because she thinks it can’t be fixed.
“She would be fine never doing it again.” – this is one of the most common things we hear when couples meet with us for a sex therapy or relationship counseling session.
Low sexual desire and mismatched sexual desire, as described here, is probably one of the most common things that a sex therapist sees. A lot of couples who come in don’t really know differences between male and female sexual arousal and response.
They assume that the way ‘my’ sexual desire arises is the same or should be the same as my partners and that is not the case because of a variety of factors. The most notable factors include hormonal differences and cultural socialization differences between men and women. There are many differences between male and female arousal and response.
When a couple comes in with this problem we want to look at what is the cause. Is there low sexual desire? The man describes his wife as having a low sexual desire but sometimes it could be different expectations and needs around sex.
There is a funny scene from the film Annie Hall where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton are talking to their separate therapists and both therapists ask them, ‘how often do you have sex?’
Woody Allen says, “Never, 3 times a week.”
Diane Keaton says, “Always, 3 times a week.”
Understanding Sexual Desires
So the first thing we do is look at what both people are experiencing. Sometimes it is the case that a woman has low sexual desire and sometimes it’s a difference in expectations or a mismatched desire.
Another thing we have found is that men come in and if a man doesn’t have other ways to express emotion, feel love, a be loved, they tend to want all their relational needs met through the act of sexual intercourse. A lot of times we try and bridge the ways men can build love and connect to their partner so they can experience it in other ways. These other ways also can increase female sexual desire.
Second, if a woman does have low sexual desire, we look at what is causing that. We use the sexual desire self-test, based on the work of Marianne Brandon, Ph.D. and Andrew Goldstein, MD. The test looks at all of the things that contribute to low sexual desire in women.
It could be anything from hormones or physical health to mental health or more. If you look at our website section on low sexual desire you will see there are many things that contribute to a woman’s lack of sexual desire.
Whereas for men, men tend to feel desire and arousal through something they see, think about, or the sensation of touch.
When heterosexual couples understand those two types of sexual arousal and responses are different, and repair any contributing factors to the desire issues, then they can learn to cultivate a desire in the relationship so it can be mutually satisfying to both people.