Lack of libido is not just a female issue, says our in-house therapist Ms X – and doing nothing is only going to make the problem worse.
Dear Ms X,
My boyfriend and I have been together for two years now and we’ve stopped having sex as much as we used to – I’m talking maybe three times a month.
My libido is quite high (I guess?) and I try to initiate sex with him but I’m getting tired of being turned down. It makes me feel desperate. I am a 23 year old woman and he is 26.
I want to talk to him about it so that we can figure out what’s going on but I’m not sure how to broach the subject without making him feel uncomfortable about his sex drive, and I certainly don’t want to make him feel sexually inadequate. I try to start the conversation about this with him but actually can’t think of the words to use.
The rest of relationship is good, we don’t fight very often but when we do fight it usually gets resolved by lots and lots of talking and trying to figure out how to move forward. We’re both pretty rational and don’t hurl insults at one another, but sex is something that has been a recurring theme in these disagreements. I feel like he doesn’t take a lot of responsibility for his part in our crumbling sex life.
We don’t live together and we see each other like 4-5 times a week depending on how busy we both are.
Culturally we are still incredibly clumsy with how we talk about women’s sexuality.
Have you noticed that there is even a word for middle aged women who want sex? Cougars. Yep, we needed a word. Men didn’t need a word to describe them but women apparently do. And it really pisses me off.
Anyway, I’’ll shut up and concentrate on you now.
Okay. This isn’t uncommon in real life but I know it feels like it is. What we tend to hear about or see portrayed in various ways in popular culture is males wanting more sex than females. That can make the female with a higher libido feel like crap, because it seems like you don’t exist other than as some caricature. But you do. And wanting sex is perfectly fine.
So I hear about this being an issue from both clients and women friends of all ages. When there is a mismatch in libidos and there is little or no acknowledgement, one person can feel rejected and that’s where you seem to be at.
So, firstly, if you want to stay in relationship with this guy then there has to be a conversation between the two of you about this issue. Sex is a major part of our relationships and it can take as much work as the other parts to get right.
Or maybe, if this really has him spooked, you could write it down for him and then he can have some alone time with a letter or an email from you where he isn’t confronted by you being right up in his face. Sometimes when we start things or open a discussion in writing it can feel more rational and reasonable and we are less defensive.
And I mean letters and emails, by the way, Caller, not text. Don’t be texting this type of stuff because that is a recipe for misinterpretation and a cellphone-centered crisis.
So if you did write to him you could try something like this:
I love you and I like you. The problem I have is that you don’t want sex with me as much as I would like to have sex with you. It’s really simple.
I have tried to talk to you about this before but you change the subject or avoid the discussion so I feel like this is the only option available to me.
I am wondering why you have a lower libido than you used to and I want us to be able to talk about that. At the moment I end up feeling rejected by you and I know that in the long term that won’t work.
I have done some reading and I know that people can have lower libidos if they are stressed or have health issues. Or sometimes they are in perfect health physically and mentally but from what I read those relationships only work if the couple acknowledge the issue and work out compromises.
So I need us to talk. If this isn’t a health or emotional issue then I need to know how we could change this situation. I get that libidos can fluctuate for a whole lot of reasons but I want to try and understand what might be going on for you that has affected yours.
And I need us to talk about this so that I don’t feel like a creep who is pressuring you to have sex with me or like I am going to be rejected whenever I try to be intimate.
I know it might feel uncomfortable to talk about so I thought this might be a way for you to get some thoughts together before we do talk about it. We seem to solve our other issues when we talk about them so I feel like we should at least try with this.
From your Girlfriend.
I hate to put the burden on you caller because it sounds like you have tried and he is heading you off at the pass when you try to bring it up, but it does sound like you will have to be the one to raise this if you want to stay with him.
I found a really good article that outlines some of the emotional and physical reasons that libidos can lower and it might be useful for your boyfriend to read. Actually I advise you to read it as well because it also discusses how there are many ways of being intimate beyond what is commonly referred to as PIV (penis in vagina) sex and it could be useful if and when your boyfriend is ready to have the sex talk.
I hope this gives you some kind of starting point for a discussion or conversation, but if he can’t talk about this issue or minimises your needs then you need to prioritise yourself. That might mean breaking up and if you do want to review the relationship, his lack of interest in talking about the sex issue would be an A1 reason.
You are young and healthy and you obviously care about this guy enough to write a letter asking for advice. I hope he demonstrates the same amount of attention and concern toward you when you bring this up.
Got a question for Ms. X? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, ideally including key information such as your age and gender.
All messages will be kept in the strictest confidence and your name will not be published. If you wish to remain completely anonymous, consider using a free remailer service like Send Email.
Need help now?
Lifeline 0800 543 354
Youthline 0800 376 633
OUTline (LGBT helpline) 0800 688 5463
Subscribe to The Bulletin to get all the day’s key news stories in five minutes – delivered every weekday at 7.30am.