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If you’ve noticed a recent decrease in sex drive or frequency of sex in your relationship or marriage, you are far from alone. Many people are experiencing a lack of sexual desire due to the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, many of my clients with varying baseline sex drives are reporting lower overall interest in sex and/or less frequent sexual encounters with their partners.
Since sexuality has a huge psychological component to it, stress can have a major impact on drive and desire. The routine disruptions, major life changes, exhaustion, and moral fatigue that the coronavirus outbreak brings to daily life is leaving little time and energy for sex. While it makes sense that sex is not necessarily the first thing on your mind with everything else happening around you, know that you can take action to keep your sex life healthy during these challenging times.
Here are five tips for maintaining a healthy and thriving sex life during times of stress:
Your capacity for sexual feelings is complicated, and it is influenced by psychological, hormonal, social, relational, and cultural factors. Your libido is affected by all sorts of things, including age, stress, mental health issues, relationship issues, medications, physical health, etc.
Accepting that your sex drive may fluctuate is important so you don’t jump to conclusions and create more stress. Of course, if you are worried about a chronic health condition that may be causing a low libido, you should absolutely speak to a doctor. But generally speaking, your sex drive will not always be the same. If you get anxious about any changes or view them as permanent, you may make things feel worse.
Instead of over-analyzing, obsessing, or projecting, remind yourself that fluctuations are natural, and decreases in desire are often correlated with stress. Managing your stress is very beneficial.
Kissing, cuddling, and other signs of affection can be very relaxing and helpful to our bodies, especially during times of stress.
For example, a backrub or massage from your partner may help release any tension or stress and increase feelings of relaxation. Holding hands while watching TV can help you stay physically connected. These small gestures may also help set the mood for sex, but be careful about your expectations.
Instead enjoy other forms of physical intimacy and be open to these acts leading to something more. If you put too much pressure on physical touch leading to actual intercourse, you may be unintentionally creating another barrier.
Sex is often considered an uncomfortable topic even between couples in close relationships and marriages. In fact, many couples struggle to discuss their sex lives in open, productive ways because one or both partners feel embarrassed, ashamed or uncomfortable.
Not being direct about your sexual needs, fears, and feelings often perpetuates a cycle of dissatisfaction and avoidance. That’s why it is essential to learn to feel comfortable expressing yourself and talking about sex safely and openly. When discussing any sexual issues, needs, and desires (or lack of), be gentle and patient toward your partner. If your anxiety or stress level is lowering your sex drive, be honest so your partner doesn’t make assumptions or take your lack of interest personally.
Also, communicate about styles, preferences, fantasies, and sexual initiation to enhance your sexual relationship and ensure you are on the same page.
If you are used to having a higher sex drive and you are waiting for it to come back full force before initiating anything sexual, you may want to change your approach. Because you can’t control your desire or sex drive, and you are bound to feel frustrated if you try, the healthier strategy may be initiating sex or responding to your partner’s advances even if you don’t feel completely turned on.
You may be surprised by your level of arousal once you get things going despite initially not feeling much desire or motivation to be sexual during particularly stressful times. Bonus: Did you know trying a new activity together can increase feelings of arousal?
Emotional intimacy leads to better sex, so it’s important to concentrate on keeping your emotional connection alive regardless of the stress you feel.
As stated above, it’s natural for your sex drive to fluctuate. Intense periods of stress or anxiety may affect your sex drive. These changes may cause you to question how you feel about your partner or stir up unpleasant emotions, potentially leaving you feeling more distant and less connected.
It’s important to differentiate between relationship issues and external factors that may be contributing to your low sex drive. For example, is there an underlying issue in your relationship that needs to be addressed or is an outside stressor, such as financial instability due to COVID-19, interfering with desire? Reflect on your situation so you can understand what’s really going on.
Be careful not to blame your partner for your sex life feeling off course if you identify outside stressors as the biggest obstacles. Find ways to stay emotionally connected and intimate with your partner while you handle whatever is getting in the way sexually. This is essential because feeling emotionally disconnected can also get in the way of a healthy sex life.
Managing the stress in your lives so it doesn’t interfere with your sex life takes work. Discuss your fears and anxieties, support each other emotionally, continue to build trust, and spend quality time together.
Again, it’s completely natural to experience highs and lows when it comes to sex. During anxiety-provoking times, you are allowed to feel off or not in the mood.
However, do your best to stay emotionally, physically, and sexually intimate with your partner and discuss anything that’s interfering with your connection. Practice patience in the meantime, and don’t jump to conclusions if it takes some time and effort to get back in the groove again.
Note: This article is geared toward couples who generally have a healthy sex life, but may be experiencing changes in frequency, drive, or desire due to external stressors such as the coronavirus outbreak.
If you are experiencing long-standing sexual issues or dissatisfaction in your relationship or marriage, it is important to be proactive and seek professional support from an experienced sex therapist or couples therapist.
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