No other sexual complaint for couples is more pervasive then that of libido disparity. I’ve heard from hundreds of frustrated and desperate women and men trapped in undersexed relationships. It’s one thing to have the sexual connection drift away by mutual consent. It’s quite another to have one partner unilaterally dissolve the sexual connection leaving the other partner bewildered and disoriented.
Often a partner will refuse to talk about why the sex has taken a nosedive. I understand not knowing what to say when things go south, or not knowing how to say what may be on your mind. But to clam up all together, that’s just unfair.
Sexuality is both a personal expression and a means of bonding with another. Sexual wellbeing in a relationship is more than simply getting off. It means taking responsibility for one’s eroticism as an integral part of relationship. The confusion, unhappiness and anxiety that result when there’s a breakdown of this can spill over and contaminate other areas of the relationship.
When I encounter this predicament in my counseling practice, I always build in some individual time with each partner even though the couple is there for “couples counseling.” I often get a much better sense of what’s causing the problem in these private sessions. It’s easier for the individual to talk to me privately than to be open, honest and forthcoming about his/her feelings with his/her partner sitting right there.
Some people don’t know how to express themselves without hurting the feelings of the other. Or an individual may not know why things are different than they once were. Often there are lifestyle issues at play — family concerns, work concerns, lack of sleep, drugs and alcohol consumption, etc. Sometimes medical and psychological issues are impacting on a person’s libido — weight gain, birth control, other pharmaceutical drugs, diabetes and depression to mention a few. But more frequently than not, the explanation is the partnered sex has become stale, rote and boring.
Whatever the cause of the imbalance, it needs to be addressed as a couple. Once the couple has identified the problem the next step is learning how to talk about it in an effective yet non-threatening way. This can be tricky, to say the least. But it is still so much easier than trying to avoid the issue all together.
When the couple is ready to break open this discussion, I encourage them to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. I ask them to identify how they feel and own their feelings. “I feel confused. I feel frustrated. I feel that our relationship is in jeopardy.” Avoid statements like; “you make me feel…” Active listening is as important as being honest with one’s feelings.
The couple moves on to identify concrete steps they can take together to address the problem. Making a mutually agreed upon plan of action and sticking to it is essential.
Problems do not go away simply by ignoring them. Disappointments will become resentments and resentments will inevitably lead to acting-out and that will surly fuck things up royally.