Health and Sexuality: a waning interest in intimacy
Updated: Jun 30, 2021
As a sex therapist, people sometimes email and call me to ask if I can answer a "quick question" for them. Human sexuality is complicated, and a "quick question" generally has a convoluted answer. However, sometimes I am able to provide a general answer or offer a starting place for those seeking answers. I picked this question from a poll’s result where I asked my students, friends and family about "quick questions" they would like answered by a sex therapist. If you would like to submit yours, use our "Contact us" form at the top of this page.
INTEREST IN SEX IS GOING, GOING, GONE...
"I am a 40-year-old woman, married 18 years, with twins, age 15, and a 12-year-old. I am a stay-at-home mom. I spend a lot of time driving the kids to their activities every day. My husband continues to be very interested in having sex, but I couldn't care less. I'm nowhere near menopause, but I think my hormones are off or something. I have no awareness of desire anymore. What's happening to me? I still love him very much."
This is a complaint I hear from a lot from women. A recent study published by the National Institutes of Health found that the prevalence of sexual dysfunction among all women is estimated to be between 25 and 63 percent. Those figures are even higher for postmenopausal women, at 68 to 86.5 percent. Also, sexual dysfunction is more common in women (43 percent) than in men (31 percent). Further, the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors found that between 26 and 48 percent of women over 40 reported a lack of interest in sex.
To answer your question, you could be experiencing a lack of desire for many reasons. Part of the sex therapy process would be to uncover these reasons and develop ways to increase your desire. Being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job and exhausting. Are you getting enough sleep? Lack of sleep can lead to reduced testosterone levels, which may contribute to a low libido or feelings of fatigue. Was your libido always low, or has it declined over the course of your marriage? It is not uncommon for a person's sex drive to change over time. Fluctuations in libido often coincide with stress levels, major changes in your life or your relationship, or hormonal changes. How is your relationship with your husband? Does he make you feel guilty for not having sex? Does he help out enough with the kids and around the house? If you are harboring anxious feelings about needing to have sex, or feeling resentment toward your husband for not helping enough with the kids or house, the last thing you will want to do with him is to be intimate.
Sex therapists use a process called sensate focus with couples experiencing situations similar to yours. Through sensate focus, couples are given a series of homework assignments geared toward rebuilding intimacy and trust in a relationship in an environment with reduced pressure and anxiety. The exercises begin with nonsexual massages and gradually work up to sexual touching and intercourse.
The fact that you love your husband is not indicative of how much sexual desire you should have for him. However, loving your husband is a great foundation and will help resolve this issue with more ease.
Dr. Katie Schubert has master's and doctorate degrees in sociology and gender studies from the University of Florida and a master's degree in clinical mental health counseling from Adams State University in Colorado. She is a certified sex therapist, providing therapy to individuals, couples and families on issues related to sexuality, sex and gender in St. Petersburg. To reach out to Katie directly email her at Katie@Cypresswellnesscenter.com