AT ODDS There can be many reasons why sex diminishes within a relationship.
Is it true that men are always ready for sex? That they would never refuse? And that women are more likely to have a headache, need to wash their hair or be too tired when sex is proposed?
Why is it that sex in a relationship seems to diminish as time goes by? Is it simply a question of a diminishing sexual desire that is expected with age? Or is there more to it?
In a relationship, if there is inconsistency in how you are both approaching your sex life – one seems to want it more, or at different times, or not at all – then it is well worth looking at what could be causing this discrepancy to see if it could be changed or improved. Many of these points are more applicable to heterosexual relationships, though certainly not all.
Differences in arousal are often rooted in the sex of the partner. Men can often feel desire first and then get aroused, while women often don’t feel desire until they’re already aroused, and so foreplay is key.
Furthermore, tradition would discourage women from making the first move when it comes to sex, though this is changing. More women now report feeling more confident in making the first move.
The rat race of modern life can leave us tired, time poor and too anxious to even consider sex as a possibility. ‘Running and racing around’ does not promote the relaxed, calm atmosphere that is needed to turn on sexual desire. Taking time out to relax can help.
Sometimes the signals can be misinterpreted. People often have predetermined ideas about their partner’s sexual desire. For example, women tend to overestimate their male partner’s libidos, whereas men tend to underestimate the sexual interests of women. This means that the signals, especially the more subtle ones, are often missed or misunderstood.
Then there’s the biology. Due to men’s higher levels of testosterone they can have more spontaneous sex drives while women can tend to have more responsive ones. This means that men’s desire can be more hormone driven, while women’s desire can be triggered more by a desirable cue, such as a sensual touch. For both partners to be at similar levels of arousal, it’s so important for couples to engage in foreplay.
Parents may not want to initiate sex with their partners because they’re too exhausted to even think about it. Some studies show that one of the most common causes of lower female libido is sheer exhaustion, with women still taking on more of the traditional parenting duties.
Mothers, especially those with younger families, can become tired of their bodies being constantly touched. Little hands on her body all the time can leave her wanting to be left alone and to feel like her body is her own for some small part of the day. Often the only time sex is possible is when the kids are sound asleep in bed, but this is also the only alone time available for a mother where she is not needed or being touched.
The impact of Covid-19 is especially relevant at the moment. We are mostly spending all day, every day with our families. It can be difficult to get alone time. Petty arguments, small grievances etcetera can be more prevalent at this time. And sleep patterns may be changed, meaning that coordinating to make time for sex at night has become harder to achieve.
This is just a small list of the reasons as to why sex may not be happening. There are more than I have scope to cover here. But I hope this gives some insight into understanding why it can be very difficult to maintain a healthy sexual relationship. It is important to think about your own sexual desire, how you can nurture it and how you can try to coordinate better with your partner so that you both have a more satisfying sexual relationship.
Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo. More information about Jannah can be found at www.jannahwalshe.ie.