As Jeff and Liz (not actual names) settled into the couch to start their first sex therapy session, I could tell that they would rather be anywhere but here. I couldn’t blame them for feeling this way. What couple wants to have issues with sex and then have to talk to a stranger about it? I began the session asking them “What brings you in today?” Jeff looked at Liz, as she began to tell me that she feels bad because she doesn’t want sex as much as he does. She stated, “My low libido and lack of desire is driving Jeff crazy.”
I thanked Liz for her honesty and began a thorough assessment of the couple. We explored their background, sexual history, relationship timeline, and developed goals to work on through counselling. After dating for the past four years, Liz and Jeff thought they had made it through the difficult times. Through our work together Liz shared with me that she often had sex even though she didn’t have a desire to. Liz didn’t want to disappoint Jeff by turning him down for sex. After doing this for a long time, she realised that she couldn’t continue because she was beginning to feel resentment towards him. Jeff couldn’t understand why she didn’t desire sex as much as he did. His ideal frequency was 3-4 times per week, and hers was 3-4 times per month.
Jeff was deflated and disappointed, stating that he didn’t know how to fix the situation. Liz shared that she has been experiencing a high level of stress with work demands and caring for her terminally ill father over the past year. She explained that she had zero time for herself or to go to the gym. It was before this increase in stress when Liz noticed that her sex drive began to decrease. Once the stressful situations surfaced, she felt like she lost her desire. Liz shared with Jeff that this is why she views sex as a chore and she just does it to make him happy. Jeff couldn’t understand why she didn’t tell him earlier. Liz let him know that she had too much stress and didn’t want to add more to it by having to argue about sex.
Through continued counselling, Liz and Jeff were able to realise that they had neglected the intimacy in their relationship over the past year. They had allowed work demands, family, and other stressors to take priority over their relationship. Jeff and Liz committed to following recommendations through counselling and homework to reprioritise their relationship.
I have found that the best improvements a couple can make is outside the therapy office. It is in these real-life situations that couples can practice what they have learned during a session. Every individual and couple that I work with receive homework after every session. Here is the homework that I assigned Jeff and Liz which helped them redefine as well as improve their intimacy. These tips assisted Liz in increasing her low libido and sex drive.
Get a medical checkup
Liz had been busy for so long that she neglected her annual checkup with her doctor. A medical checkup allowed her to discuss concerns and ensure that she was functioning at her best.
Start having weekly dates
Jeff couldn’t remember the last time he asked Liz out on a date. Regardless of how long a couple has been together, it’s important to keep a dating ritual. Jeff and Liz always went to the same places. They needed to change it up, go to a new restaurant, a picnic in the park, or bike ride. Jeff was in charge of planning these activities and found ways to bring fun back into their relationship. Liz liked that Jeff was putting in extra effort for their dates. She appreciated this effort, which led her to be more attracted to Jeff.
Increase communication with intimacy questions
Like many couples who have been together for a long time, Liz and Jeff had a routine. They both were able to admit that they were bored in certain aspects of their relationship. I provided them with a list of 100 intimacy questions that they could use as a game over several weeks to reconnect. This led to more in-depth conversations about intimacy, their relationship, and their desires.
Take a break from sex
It may seem silly to take sex off the table as an option when you are trying to re-establish it in a relationship. However, asking the couple to take a break from sex removed the pressure and gave them the opportunity to reconnect in non-sexual ways. This helped Jeff and Liz increase their intimacy when sex was reintroduced.
Get back to your individual interest
Due to Liz’s hectic schedule and pressures she lost touch with having her individual life. She wasn’t spending time with friends and she had neglected her hobbies. When Liz started prioritizing her interest and spending time on things she enjoyed, she found herself feeling rejuvenated. This increased her happiness which helped improve her intimacy with Jeff.
Find a better balance between work, relationship, and individual interests
Liz was able to identify that she needed to improve her stress management techniques. She started going to the gym regularly, asked for help from family to assist in caring for her dad, and meditated daily. These things helped her find balance in her life. She discovered that by reconnecting with herself, she was able to be a better partner to Jeff. The growth that Liz made increased her self-esteem, confidence, and attraction to her partner.
These techniques allowed the couple to work on Liz’s libido issues as a team and improve their sex life. Jeff stopped blaming Liz. He became an active participant in the treatment process, and he reaped the benefits as their relationship improved. Liz’s self-confidence grew as she gained a better balance of her life. She made the needed changes which motivated Jeff to change so that they both took responsibility to increase their intimacy.
Jeff and Liz’s struggle is very common especially in long term relationships. If you find yourself in a similar situation, there is action and help to improve the issues you are facing.
Have you struggled with low libido? Does your partner blame you for the intimacy issues in your relationship? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!