Intimate love — 26 February 2006
How to deal with loss of sexual interest (Part 2)

In addition to medical reasons, life stages and emotional causes for lowered libido, the most common reason for sexual disinterest is a relationship difficulty. Mates who feel distanced from each other are less inclined to be intimate.

Some of the most common sources of alienation in relationships are feelings of loss of acceptance, respect, safety and love. Personal approval and emotional connection are basic minimum criteria for sexual readiness and interest between loving partners.

It is true that some people can be sexual solely for physical release. In those circumstances, love is not a prerequisite. Unfortunately, some pairs are composed of one person who may misread the sexual interest as a sign of emotional and relationship commitment, while the other may exclusively desire only the momentary satisfaction.

Loving committed partners often gauge the well being of their union by the frequency and quality of their intimacy. When a reduced interest occurs it is wise to explore the emotional components of the change. The loss of sexual desire is commonly the physical manifestation of reduced trust, safety, acceptance and emotional closeness.

Most partners, if asked, are quite clear about their hurt feelings that cause them to physically withdraw from their mates. When, for example, men feel criticized or women are not listened to- their intimacy suffers. Just as reassurance, appreciation, admiration and support flame the passion, criticism extinguishes it. As attentiveness, empathy and validation affirm one’s worth and breeds closeness, disregard promotes isolation and distancing.

Regrettably, some couples do not ask each other what enhances and reduces their sexual desire. Others dismiss the connection between conduct outside the bedroom and the reactions in it. They prefer to deal only with issues that are associated with their sexual habits.

It is true that the lackluster nature of some couples’ sexual relationship produces monotony, boredom and apathy. The same old routine in their sexual life becomes repetitive rather than stimulating and re-sparking the desire. Any thrilling and pleasurable experience heightens the interest and reinforces the desire to repeat the joy. Investing no creative energy into a couple’s sexual exchanges reduces the appeal and may lead to decreasing the frequency of the activity.

Yet, even the willingness to stay creative about the passion must entail safety and closeness. Both mates need to feel physically and emotionally safe in order to be motivated to spend energy for heightened pleasure.

Some mates feel physically unsafe when their stated discomforts or desires are not heeded. Others feel unsafe because their appearance or sexual competence is judged. The insecurity about not meeting with a partner’s approval is sufficient to inhibit one’s sexual interest.

Some people feel hesitant to enter into intimate connection based on past experience when their request to stop was not honored. When fear becomes associated with any activity, the mind’s protective mechanism guards against the potential hurt by reducing the sexual interest.

Emotional safety is created when one is respected and valued. Criticism, disapproval, disrespect of the person creates lack of safety that carries over to decreasing sexual readiness. Women feel more secure engaging in sexual activity with men who manifest not only physical desire for them but respect for their being as well. Without loving regard – sex may feel degrading. Men seek approval and appreciation as well, which empowers them to perform sexually with ease and enthusiasm.

Being affectionate, friendly and emotionally intimate outside the bedroom is a wonderful aphrodisiac for both men and women. Being helped, approved of, supported and liked adds a measure of passion to anyone’s love life. Feeling accepted, valued and desired provides the safety most people need to become sexually aroused and enthusiastic about their physical intimacy.

To maintain a sexually charged connection both partners need to feel safe, valued and loved.

• Find out what your partner needs to feel more intimate with you and provide those needs.

• Be respectful, accepting, helpful, trustworthy and present to your mate. A safe relationship promotes intimate sexuality.
• Invest creative energy in creating your love life to keep the spark alive.
• Respect the rule that any shared physical exchange that is not acceptable or enjoyable to both – must be avoided.
• Sexual pleasures must be negotiated, not dictated.

• Fear, mistrust, criticism and past negative experiences hinder physical desire.
• Passion in the bedroom is enhanced by passion for the person outside the bedroom.
• Loss of intimacy that is caused by relationship issues is almost always restorable with good communication, understanding, support and love.

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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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