Sexual desire is a vibrant and beautiful element of of our humanity, an essential thread in the tapestry of human relationships and intimacy. And yet, at one point or another, most of us will experience times in life and relationships when this beautiful and essential element of our well-being diminishes, and we’re left wondering, “What happened?” Rest assured, if you’re dealing with this dilemma, you are not alone, and there is SO much hope.
Low sexual desire, also referred to as low libido, is super common for people of all genders and ages. It can be triggered by multiple life factors from stress, body image, a history of sexual abuse or trauma, pain during sex, changes in attraction, a buildup of relationship resentment, a lack of awareness around one’s deepest/hottest sexual desires, and more. The good news is, low sexual desire is not a permanent problem and there are definitely solutions for re-awakening your erotic energy and hunger for sexual pleasure and connection.
In this blog post, we’ll explore common causes for low sexual desire and offer insights and strategies for inviting your desire to come alive again. If you’re wanting to embark on a journey of self-discovery and connection to address low desire and develop a healthier, more fulfilling sex life, keep reading.
Understanding Low Sexual Desire
Despite cultural messaging that often implies there’s something bad or shameful about sex (*shakes fist in the air*), sexual desire is a healthy and fundamental aspect of who we are. While fluctuations in desire are completely common, when low sexual desire becomes persistent to the point that we’re feeling unfulfilled emotionally, sexually, and in our relationships, it’s worth exploring what some possible causes and solutions might be, because let’s be clear: wanting and having great sexual experiences is a beautiful part of life we all deserve to experience, whether we’re partnered or riding solo.
Understanding the underlying causes of low sexual desire is the first step toward tackling the problem. You may relate to one or several of the following possible triggers for low desire:
The demands of daily life, work, and relationships can be highly energy-depleting and mind-consuming. Many of us were taught that sex is unimportant or trivial in comparison to other life priorities. In addition, other life priorities can be so all-consuming and draining that switching gears and relaxing into sexy time can feel downright impossible. An important perspective-shift is realizing that, in reality, great sex can sometimes be the very revitalizing energy we need in order to be effective in other life areas. Think about it: Don’t we all show up a little better when we’re well-fucked and dripping with pleasure? Too much life stress is a killer. We must find solutions for reducing/managing stress, and sex is top-shelf medicine for that.
- Body Image:
We’re all inundated with messaging about how bodies “should” look, and it’s nearly impossible not to be affected by the differences between how we look and the unrealistic (read: completely fake/fabricated) beauty standards portrayed to us. Of course it’s hard to get in the mood for sex if we’re not feeling like we look the part. Feeling negative about the way our bodies (and genitals) look lowers our confidence and limits our ability to lean into sexual opportunities. It’s nearly impossible to show up authentically and relax into receiving pleasure if we’re stuck in our heads and full of fear that somehow our bodies might be judged as not good enough.
- History of Sexual Abuse/Trauma:
Those of us who have a history of sexual abuse or trauma can have a tendency to avoid sex (sometimes subconsciously) in an attempt to avoid triggering/painful memories or flashbacks. It is also possible that these experiences have taught you to disassociate during sex, which certainly reduces sexual pleasure (because you aren’t really mentally there to experience it). No matter how much healing work you’ve done, be gentle and patient with yourself. It takes time to reclaim your body and find out what is hot in sex for you. In many cases, your desires are even shaped by your trauma, which for a lot of people, can lead to feelings of shame and discomfort. Know that your history does affect you, and that there is nothing shameful about what you need and want now. Our sexual experiences now have a beautiful way of providing safe, consensual experiences that help us work through the pain of the past. The work we have to do now is to release shame and self-judgment and begin to express and explore our true desires.
If you’ve been in relationship with your partner for a while, it may very well be that there’s been some not-entirely-resolved tension/conflict in the relationship. If you’ve gotten into patterns of unresolved frustration, possibly letting things slide or sweeping them under the rug to avoid conflict, and emotional connection is beginning to fade (or is entirely absent), it makes sense that sexy time isn’t top-of-mind. Conflict, tension, and resentment build-up in relationships is extremely common – and resolvable! In order for sexual desire to rise, it’s important to learn intentional communication skills and heal rifts in the relationship, no matter how small or insignificant (or inconvenient) they may seem. Too many relationships fail due to lack of skill, NOT lack of love.
- Lack of Communication Skills:
If there is fear, hesitancy, or unwillingness in your relationship to openly discuss desires and needs, intimacy is impossible. Often, low sexual desire is dampened by a lack of healthy and ongoing communication, which can leave all parties feeling unseen, unheard, and unmet. Sexual desire requires mutual vulnerability, which only feels safe if everyone is communicating and clear. Unfortunately, most of us believe that we are communicating perfectly, while our partners are the problem. What we need to learn is that relational communication is a skill most of us aren’t taught, and without education and practice, none of us are doing a great job of it. The question is: Are you willing to step off the current path and learn and practice something new together?
Sometimes, low sexual desire arises because of a loss of attraction for your partner, or perhaps because there wasn’t much attraction there to begin with. This might seem like a hard problem to solve if the physical attraction is lacking, but sometimes attraction can grow through some artful seduction skills. There’s that word again: skills. The art of seduction is a skill that can be learned and practiced, and any person of any physical design can be hot and sexy.
- Unexpressed sexual needs/desires/fantasies:
In the beginning of relationships, it can be a lot easier to feel sexually met, because the newness of the connection keeps sex hot and fiery and full of titillating uncertainty. However, as newness fades, your core desires and hottest sexual fantasies (the ones you defaulted to before you even knew your partner) rise back to the surface, and your partner might not have any idea what those are for you (nor you theirs). Many women especially entertain this fantasy that their partners should simply “know” what they want without having to express, explain, or ask for it, and then, assume the relationship and sex are just a bad fit if those things don’t happen. But both partners are responsible for being curious and intentional about knowing and understanding their lovers’ hottest sexual desires and to working together toward meeting those in a way that feels good and safe for all parties.
- Painful sex:
For many people suffering from various health issues and concerns, sex is downright painful, which understandably leads to low desire. However, there is a wealth of opportunity to redefine what sex looks like for you and cultivate an amazing and fulfilling sex life.
- Hormonal Imbalances/Medications:
Hormonal fluctuations (e.g. resulting from menopause or low testosterone) and certain medicines can affect libido.
- Chronic Illness
Conditions like diabetes and chronic pain can lower physical well-being and, as a result, sexual desire.
- Lack of Exercise:
Physical fitness and sexual health are closely intertwined. A sedentary lifestyle can play a big part in low sexual desire. Doing more of any physical activity you enjoy is a great start.
- Poor nutrition:
A diet that’s missing essential nutrients will seriously impact energy, mood, and overall health – which all affect sexual desire and function.
- Substance Abuse:
Excessive alcohol and drug use can have derogatory impacts on overall health, sexual desire, and sexual function.
You may recognize some or all of these issues as factors that might play a role in your low sexual desire, which is a great first step in exploring possible solutions. If you’re experiencing any of these, please know that you’re not alone. While every person’s needs and solutions are unique, here are a few steps you can take to start down the path toward revitalizing your sex life.
Steps Toward Reigniting Your Desire
- Identify Possible Causes: The possible causes above or a mix of them may be contributing to your low sexual desire. Which ones resonate with you? Take a moment to jot down some thoughts on the ones that feel relevant and how they apply to your life. Reflection and self awareness are paramount.
- Reclaim Your Erotic Nature: We are erotic beings, and despite messaging many of us have received throughout our entire lives that our sexual desires are shameful, harmful, dirty, or bad, the reality is that our sexuality is a core part of our healthy, wonderful, human lives and deserves to be prioritized, celebrated, and enjoyed. Reclaim your erotic nature as a proud part of you. Find ways to add pleasure of all kinds to your life and take time to truly feel what pleasure feels like in your body. Practice skills like breathwork and mindfulness that help you learn how to stay present in your body and with your pleasure, connecting you to your vibrant and erotic life force energy as you move through your entire life. Reach out to a sex and intimacy coach (me!) to learn and practice all kinds of beautiful tools to help with this.
- Prioritize Self Care: Make changes to your life that reflect how important you know you are. Moving your body more, eating foods that nourish you and promote health, intentionally managing and recovering from life stress, dedicating yourself to the quality sleep your body needs to thrive, and being mindful about the kinds and quantities of substances you use are all great ways to love on you. Sex is off the table if you feel like crap.
- Communicate: Pause to sit down with your partner to address the elephant in the room. Let your partner know, in your own words, “I know that my sexual desire has been low for some time now, and I know it affects our connection and our relationship. I just want you to know that I love you and deeply desire to stay connected and intimate with you, even though I’m not sure what all the solutions are yet. If this is important to you too, I’d really like to work together on addressing some of the things that might be lowering my desire and experimenting on ways to reignite it. How do you feel about that?” Work on really listening and empathizing with each other first, before any attempt at problem-solving. Consider talking through some of this with a coach or therapist. (I will absolutely role-play this conversation with you.)
- Experiment: Have conversations with your partner about the kinds of sexual fantasies that have always gotten you going, while staying open and curious and agreeing not to judge or shame each other. Explore what new things you might like to try, and agree in advance to give each other guidance and redirection along the way to help each other learn. If this feels scary, the reality is that the key to arousal often happens long before you even get to the more explicit aspects of sex, even before foreplay. There is such a thing as emotional foreplay, which happens in normal daily life in the ways you consider each other. But also, a gentle touch, a longing gaze, and a small smile can all be highly arousing when delivered skillfully. Try things out. Tell each other what works and what doesn’t. (We can also practice these things!)
- Work with a Professional: None of this comes naturally, so if any of it feels challenging, good! It is challenging. Whether you work with someone one-on-one or you and your partner decide to work with someone together, there is NO BETTER solution for low desire than having a third, objective party, who is on your side and equipped with all the tools you want to learn, team up with you to get through this. Your relationship and love life are arguably the MOST influential aspects of your life and how you feel living it. If you’d hire a plumber to fix the plumbing or a roofer to fix the roof, it makes sense that you might work with a coach to reignite the passion in your oh-so-important relationship.
Conclusion: Reigniting the Flame of Desire
Remember: the ebb and flow of desire in your life and relationships is normal and understandable. Addressing low sexual desire can take time and patience, so be gentle with yourself and don’t let occasional setbacks discourage you. You deserve to experience the profound joy and ecstasy available to you through your erotic life.
I hope this post has helped you explore possible life and relationship factors contributing to your low desire and renewed your faith and hope for the future. If you’re feeling inspired and want to dive deep into some of the solutions mentioned here and more, I’d love to work with you: