Libido...Sex Drive...Sexual Desire!

Call it what you want. But where has it gone? From clinical experience, I’ve found that clients in committed, long-term relationships often present in my counselling room with complaints relating to reduced, low or non-existent sexual desire. And it is not uncommon that clients present after years of conflict regarding one partner’s sexual desire and/or availability.

But before we get started it is important to understand exactly what Sex Therapists are talking about when we refer to “sexual desire”.  To keep it plain and simple sexual desire can be understood in a couple of ways. The first and most common understanding suggests that sexual desire is an innate biological drive that motivates individuals to seek out sexual stimuli or activity.

Many of can relate to this of course; it’s those times when you say to yourself “I just want sex!” The second interpretation sees sexual desire as an external force that manifests in the potential partner rather than from an internal need within the desiring self. In my own experience with clients, I’ve found that people can show both innate and external desire and this can occur interchangeably within their relationships.

So why do people struggle with sexual desire? What are the causes? It is important to acknowledge that there can be multiple physical, medical, psychological, emotional and social factors contributing to this phenomenon.

You may have heard friends, family, colleagues or even strangers talking about why their mojo just won’t show. These may have been factors such as long working days, exhaustion, children, lack of privacy in the family home, relationship problems such as anger at the other partner, or a significant life event, communication problems, substance abuse, anxiety and depression, illness, certain medications, prior sexual abuse, gynaecological problems or even a primary medical problem such as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD). And while this seems like a long list, it is by no means exhaustive. Unresolved problems relating to sexual desire can prove catastrophic to both the sexual and non-sexual relationship in long-term relationships. In a situation where people might be feeling strain in their relationship, this may be a good time to see a health practitioner that can assist and offer support.

Sex therapists use a number of techniques that can be used to address sexual desire issues. General education about the anatomy and physiology of the body and sexual techniques can be very helpful when people have limited or no knowledge about. We also give our clients sensual touch homework exercises involving touching, caressing and non-coital massage. Who would have thought homework could be so much fun? The aim of the game is to help couples recapture their sexual intimacy and work towards rebuilding that physical connection that may have been neglected due to any problems that may have arisen in the relationship. Communication! Communication! Communication! You guessed it, being able to communicate and negotiate our needs and wants, both sexually and more generally within the context of the relationship is also important as an influencing factor in upping “that thang.”

It is important to remember that working with sexual issues also involves working with relationships. Sexual and relationship issues can exist on their own. However, relationship problems can cause sexual problems and sexual problems can cause relationship problems and is not always easy to know the links between relationship and sexual problems.

The information discussed in this article offers some brief information and a few simple suggestions about how I work with low sexual desire.  But one size does not fit all and each individual and/or couple will no doubt benefit from an individualised and client centered consultation with a qualified and experienced Sex Therapist and/or Relationship Counsellor.