Why Do Some Women Have a Low Sex Drive?
References Dr. Ruth Morehouse in “Why You Don’t Want To Have Sex” from Oprah Magazine July-August 2010 and “Passionate Marriage” by Dr. David Schnarch
Women often bear the brunt of the details of managing the household and daily family life. When they feel like they can’t catch up, they often become stressed and overwhelmed, leading to a sense of depletion and exhaustion that can carry over into their sex lives and lead to a low sex drive.
Sex can start to seem like one more chore to add to the to-do list. How could her husband possibly expect more out of her than she’s already doing?
The lack of sexual desire sometimes leads to a feeling of guilt or shame. Why wouldn’t you want to have sex? You must be dysfunctional in some way, right? That’s probably not the case at all.
If there’s no underlying physical problem, take time to explore the reasons for your low sex drive, and realize that they are legitimate issues that deserve to be addressed, not glossed over.
In fact, sex therapist Dr. David Schnarch says that being honest about your lack of desire shows good judgment: “Healthy people don’t want sex when it’s not worth wanting.” (127)
Reasons for a Low Sex Drive in Women
Clinical psychologist Ruth Morehouse has identified several reasons why women often experience a decline in sexual desire as they get older. Her husband’s book Passionate Marriage builds upon this information with suggestions for how to address these issues.
1. The Effect of Stress on Sexual Desire
The process of pregnancy, childbirth, infant care, and possibly breastfeeding can make a woman feel that her body doesn’t belong to her anymore. Sex can start to seem like one more physical demand placed on an already depleted body. Saying no to sex can be one of the only ways a woman regains a sense of physical autonomy in the midst of the demands of motherhood.
This perspective unfortunately assumes that sex is something the wife does for the husband, instead of being a time of mutual enjoyment. This mindset often develops due to one partner having a higher sex drive than the other; in this case, the husband has a higher drive than the wife, although the reverse is frequently true as well.
When the higher drive partner initiates frequently, the lower drive spouse may begin to feel pressured. Consider how you can take some of the pressure off and rekindle a feeling of romance and mutual desire.
Here are some ideas:
- Request that your spouse take a break from initiating for a brief period of time to give you some space.
- Schedule some time away for just the two of you to spend alone together.
- Put sex on the calendar. This doesn’t have to be unromantic; it can give the higher drive spouse reassurance, while removing the pressure on the lower drive spouse. This also has the benefit of giving a wife time to prepare mentally and emotionally. Taking time to de-stress and invest in self-care beforehand can increase a wife’s sexual desire when sex is on the agenda.
2. Marriage as a Low Priority
It’s one thing to say your marriage is a priority, but it’s important to take practical steps to keep it that way. This involves altering your view of sex, trying to see it not as an act of service or a task on the checklist, but as a way to connect and build intimacy in your marriage.
Take time to actually think about sex during the day, and consider the physical benefits—a release of tension being one of them. Sex can de-stress you once you get over the initial mental barrier.
Acute stressors in life can result in marriage being deprioritized, but this will only result in more problems. It’s important to work on marriage problems as they arise in order to reduce their negative impact on the relationship, including the sexual relationship.
“Clearly, emotional issues have a direct physiological impact on sexual functioning. Generally, the more unresolved issues that intrude during sex, the further away you are from your sexual potential, because these issues limit your sexual preferences and pleasure: you can relax, focus, and enhance the physical stimulation you’re receiving only when it fits your dynamics.” (86)
3. Dissatisfaction in the Sexual Relationship
If sex has become monotonous and routine, this may impact your level of desire. Over the years, it’s easy to slip into a familiar pattern, but this can start to seem rote and impersonal.
A wife may feel taken for granted instead of cherished. She might want to ask for a different approach, but doesn’t know how to without making it sound like her husband is inadequate.
The early stages of a relationship are usually full of intense connection and physical attraction, and when this naturally fades, sex can start to seem like a letdown.
It’s important to stoke the fires of intimacy and passion once the honeymoon phase has passed. The sexual relationship within marriage needs a solid foundation built on a holistic relational approach.
Physical attraction can’t be the basis for everything; the emotional connection needs to be cultivated and maintained as an integral aspect of sex.
“As you age, feelings and thoughts must replace biological drive and sensory awareness as the major determinants of your sexuality. Exploring your sexual potential isn’t just easier to do; it’s a necessity if you want to keep sex a vital part of your life as you get older.” (89)
Years into a marriage, many couples have figured out what works for them in order for each partner to feel satisfied, but it’s important not to allow the relationship to settle into a rut. You can’t expect to have an intimate bond if you treat your spouse like a checklist.
Schnarch emphasizes the need to seek beauty not in the act of sex itself, but in the person that you’re with. “There’s no beauty in sex–the beauty is in people. You can’t save the beauty in sex, you have to put it in.” (75)
The book of Song of Solomon illustrates this excellently. Sex isn’t the point; the lover and beloved are the focus. Physical satisfaction isn’t an end in itself, but the result of pursuing and enjoying the other person.
4. Insecurities and Stagnancy in the Sexual Relationship
Perhaps you haven’t considered the role insecurity might play even in a seasoned relationship. You can take responsibility for your own satisfaction by realizing it’s up to you to improve your sex life. Simply going through the motions prevents you from being fully present. This contributes to ongoing stagnancy.
Morehouse describes women who have dissatisfying sexual relationships due to feelings of insecurity in their overall relationship. They’re uncomfortable with disturbing the status quo. The sex is fine, it’s acceptable, so why rock the boat?
What if this makes things worse instead of better? What if you feel embarrassed by asking your spouse to change the familiar routine?
But if you’re so worried about creating problems that you never speak up, this actually leads to other issues. Sex may feel boring and unsatisfying, leading to a lack of desire, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Even though you’re not doing anything to improve your sex life, you might begin to resent your spouse for not making it better.
It’s important to own the fact that if you want your sex life to be more satisfying, you have to be willing to acknowledge your lack of desire and initiate change.
In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul describes the battle between his indwelling sin and his desire to live in obedience to God’s commands. He knew God’s will, but he still sinned.
In the same way, knowledge and action can remain polarized in marriage as a spouse knows they’re struggling with the current state of things, but doesn’t move forward to change them.
Begin a conversation with your spouse about trying something new in your sexual relationship. Think of it as exploring a new facet of your favorite hobby. Any favorite activity needs a change in routine once in awhile for it to remain enjoyable. Doing the same exact thing every time is more like an assembly line than a gratifying sexual experience.
When to Seek Counseling
Genesis 2:24 emphasizes the high value of the marriage covenant, which creates a new union that supersedes one’s family of origin. If your marriage is last on the list of priorities in a busy life, becoming “one flesh” in all areas will be very difficult.
Christian counseling San Diego can provide a safe, mature environment for you and your spouse to work on your intimate difficulties and develop a deeper understanding and bond.
“I’m with you,” courtesy of Brooke Cagle, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Beach Day,” courtesy of Carly Rae Hobbins, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Thinking,” courtesy of Jaelynn Castillo, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bedtime,” courtesy of Annie Spratt, unsplash.com, CC0 License