Low sexual desire or low interest in sex is one of the most common relationship problems reported to physicians and couple’s therapists alike. Physical problems notwithstanding, there are several reasons why couples are having little to no sex—and many are beyond their awareness.
Usually, one partner (the desirous partner) blames the other (the non-desirous partner) for the problem, and the latter has no idea why the problem exists. It is not unusual to see sexless, married couples in their 20s and 30s, or older couples who have not had sex in 10 to 15 years. The following are some of the reasons for this trend:
Some partners use a lack of interest in sex as a weapon against a partner that they are angry with. While more women employ this tactic, men do as well. Many non-desirous individuals are aware that they are angry, but fail to connect their anger to their low sexual interest; others aren’t aware of their anger. The first line of treatment is to uncover the anger; the second is to connect it to the partner’s low sex drive.
There are many people who have married or formed relationships with little to no physical attraction for their respective partners. Some have done so out of obligation, others out of security, and some to survive.
For some, sex was always a problem, no matter who they were with. These individuals may have tricked themselves and their counterparts into thinking that their desire for sex would eventually come, but it usually never does under these circumstances.
Some partners feel that they deserve to have sex whenever they want it—whether or not it is convenient or pleasurable for their partner. In contrast, some partners feel they can withhold sex whenever they please. Relationships are about compromise, and these attitudes do not work in the context of teamwork, which successful relationships require.
4. Power and Control
Oftentimes, the partner who is indifferent towards sex holds the power in the relationship. They can then use sex as a weapon to get their way in other contexts, such as who makes major decisions in the relationship. Anxiety that is related to prior abandonment or loss might be behind this need for control, and if so, these partners will be less likely to negotiate compromise without insight.
5. Sadomasochistic Dynamic
There exists a more insidious dynamic that is usually well beyond either mate’s level of awareness. Some partners subconsciously know how important sex is to their mates and yet take a chance on withholding it. Withholding may, in turn, spark a sadistic response from the desirous partner, sich as cheating or divorce, which the withholder experiences as masochistic. Both partners need to be made aware of their S&M dynamic to stop it from painfully repeating itself.
6. Unresolved Past Relationships
Some people have never gotten over “the one that got away.” And they may not be able to fully commit themselves to their new partner in both body and mind. Conventional thinking is that time would heal the love wound, but they are not allowing it to happen. These individuals must first grieve their loss and then determine whether their current relationship has enough merit to stand on its own.
I am sure there are other reasons behind a lack of sexual interest in relationships, but I will leave those for further discussion. I have tried to stay away from the most obvious ones, such as those caused by physical problems or those easily accessible to our awareness.
I encourage my students to consider connecting sexual symptoms to non-sexual issues and vice versa whenever relationship or sexual problems present themselves. The general public might want to consider this as well.
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