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    Libido Mismatch / Sexless Marriage

    When couples are struggling with libido differences – many common sense approaches offered by a variety of “pop psychology” sources do more damage in the long run. Here are the top 5 that can damage your relationship and why.

    1 – Just do it – Whether the advice is to have sex 30 times in 30 days, or agreements that the low interest partner will just “agree” to have sex at some frequency, this is the number one approach that damages relationships. Why? Because it approaches sex like a chore, a biological release, and teaches couples to separate their feelings from the act of sex. This typically leads to pressure, resentment, and feeling like a burden rather than passion.

    2 – Hoop jumping – this is often an agreement on just the high interest partner’s side, but it seems to make sense when all the reasons for not having sex have to do with being tired and too much to do. Often this advice comes from therapist or doctors trying to get the high interest partner to be “good enough” to make the low interest partner want to have sex with them.  This can be getting them to do more housework, make more money, be more sexually proficient in bed, or more “romantic”.  This seems reasonable, but this often leads to angry resentment on the part of the high interest partner when rejection still comes or sex feels like pity or like an obligation (very un-sexy). Getting more chores done, or being more romantic are not the issue.

    3 – Schedules – Very similar to “Just do it” this arrangement makes sex “time based” rather than feelings based. Inevitably life comes along with sicknesses, child events, or social opportunities that ruin plans. Not to mention – when sex was passionate, was it because it was Friday or because you were longing for your partner? Passion is about feeling chosen and wanted, and this focus on the “on days” doesn’t relieve the pressure – in fact it turns it up so high that it can cause significant sexual dysfunction.

    4 – Spicing it up – The assumption here is that if it isn’t interesting, you have to add some toys, a new location, or porn, or even another partner to the mix to make it “new” again. This often increases expectations, increases insecurities, and increases pressure/self awareness that inhibit sexual behavior. If your sex life is in the doldrums between times of being “pretty good” and you just want to kick start it back, this might work.  For most folks who are chronically feeling ignored or pressured for sex – this very likely won’t work.

    5 – Affairs / Open relationships – there are situations where this can work; however, not nearly as often as this seemingly elegant solution promises. The risks are high and the outcomes are nearly always messy and very hard to predict. Open relationships (and/or other forms of ethical non monogamy) may work for some but even then – they typically only work when the  relationship is already very strong, sexually satisfying and with very good communication to talk through the hard conversations about what each partner needs, their boundaries, and expectations. Even then most ENM relationships are not having sex any more regularly than monogamous relationships. People often quickly find that what is attractive is the sense of feelling chosen and desired, not the actual sexual behavior itself.

    So what are the things that work? Inviting your partner to sex therapy can be a start. Getting a plan tailored to your specific situation, mental health needs, histories and communication styles is critical.  One size fits all books only serve to make people feel inadequate/pressured or create entitlement/resentment.  Assessment and guidance from a therapist that has clinically focused on sex more than a typical marital therapist is important. Be very skeptical if any doctor, therapist, or book recommends the previous “solutions” as the easy answer to all your sexual conflicts.

    If you or your partner struggles with any of the following – set up an appointment today.

    – mismatched libido,
    – feeling like your sex life is “a chore”
    – feeling your partner is just “giving in” rather than “wanting” sex
    – feeling like initiating sex creates anxiety about rejection
    – feeling like your partner hyperfocuses on your behavior to initiate sex
    – causing arguments before bed or getting drunk before bed to avoid sex
    – or you’ve tried some of the above (or all!) without good results