Dealing with reduced sexual desire in couples

One essential bonding element between couples is their initial mutual physical attraction to one another. The uniqueness of their matched draw signifies to many pairs that they have been intended to be coupled and that their meeting was enabled by divine intervention. When the magic of this utopia dwindles with time, some pairs feel disappointed and disillusioned and may attribute this loss to each other as they grieve for the loss of their initial ecstasy. How can pairs manage these changes more healthily?

Prior to the age of mating, boys and young men play sports together and bond with other males on their team. Girls and young women find their social support through activities with other females. Thus, the experience of uniquely bonding with a member of the other gender is new to both males and females, as are their ways of connecting. Boys connect more commonly through group activities, while girls may choose their “best friend” and spend time chatting and sharing thoughts and feelings with each other.

In “Understanding the Lack of Sexual Desire in Your Marriage” Dr. Suzanne Phillips states, “Generally men have more sexual desire than women both in frequency and intensity. Whereas sexual desire is more tied to physical arousal in men, for women it is a function of many other factors including context, beliefs, attitudes, feeling desired, feeling accepted and open communication in a relationship.”

The need for increased verbal interaction with a mate is more commonly highlighted by women in couple therapy. Some men may not identify it as a plea for deeper emotional connection and may attribute it to the woman’s lower level of desire that may seem to be a form of rejection which can be both puzzling and hurtful to the man.

Regrettably, many pairs abstain from discussing this with each other because they assume that they “know” why the mate is less intimate and feel hurt and rejected by the sheer assumptions about the other’s motives. That is sad and compromises the couple’s physical and emotional intimacy.

Similarly, pairs may have diverging attitudes about seeking a third party’s assistance. When emotional, intellectual and practical disagreements occur, most couples either negotiate and compromise on their own or seek an expert to help them understand the issue better and resolve their differences. When the issue relates to their physical intimacy, it is regarded as a private matter and may be embarrassing for some to explore it even with a qualified third party. This is a regrettable attitude that may deprive the couple of the physical and emotional intimacy they both deserve to have.

To deal with varied sexual desire:

  • Understand that this occurrence is commonly not about the reduction of love or physical desire for each other.
  • Consider talking about it with each other openly and kindly.
  • Consult a therapist if you want to be helped in understanding and resolving your differences.
  • Accept that you deserve to continue to enjoy each other intellectually, emotionally and physically for life.


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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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