This is the next instalment of Ask Lust. From sexual health, to porn, to kinks, to filmmaking; you ask, we answer. To get involved, email us at email@example.com.
Dear Ask Lust,
I’m in a long term happy relationship with two kids. On the surface everything is great, but since having kids my libido has pretty much vanished. We used to have a fun and exciting sex life but now that feels like a distant memory. I’ve tried everything but nothing is working. Do you have any advice?
– Libido-less Lucy
Dear Libido-less Lucy,
In long-term relationships, most couples find that their sexual desire for one another dwindles over time. Of course, loss of sexual desire can be indicative of deeper relationship problems, but many things can affect libido such as stress, tiredness, illness, medication, drugs and alcohol, hormones and ageing, and it can be particularly hard to stay physically close to your partner despite stresses of a long term relationship and parenthood.
First things first, start with a conversation together about what is happening. Clear communication is key and you should try to speak about this as a joint problem, not something that only one of you is suffering through. This way you’ll be able to see how you are each affected by this situation in different ways.
“Talk about your sex life! If you have noticed a change in libido and frequency of sex in your relationship, talk about it with your partner”, Avril says. “I find that discussions about sex are most successful outside of the bedroom where there is less pressure. You may be surprised about the topics that may arise - which may include fantasies, kinks, toys or lingerie. Have fun with it!”
Try asking yourself and your partner some questions about what turns you on and makes you feel sexy, you will have lots of history to draw on from the past. Talk about it!
Although this situation is taking a toll on your relationship, it’s super important to take the time to nurture your individual physical and emotional needs to give you the bandwidth to nurture the needs of you and your partner together.
“One of the greatest tools for getting back your libido in a long-term relationship is reprioritizing your individuality”, Avril states. “Fire needs air to burn, just as desire needs space to reignite. Picking up personal activities that allow you to get back some sense of independence can increase one's self esteem, which has a positive effect on one's libido”
Sometimes if your libido has decreased you avoid affectionate touch out of fear that it will lead to sex, or lead your partner to think it’s leading to sex… However, affectionate touch is very important in a relationship and allows you to feel close to your partner.
Speak to your partner and tell them that if you are being affectionate it is not because you’re leading up to sex. This will give you space to engage in touch without the pressure of intercourse. You could also come to an agreement together that sex is completely off the table for X amount of time and then just focus on affection - kisses, hugs, cuddles - knowing that it’s not going anywhere else. Rediscover each other slowly.
Avril says, “One thing I suggest to parents who are struggling with their libido is to "maintenance sex". It might not sound like the sexiest tip in the world, but scheduling in sex with your partner allows you to explore your sensual side once again. Many couples find the hardest part about being sexual again is "starting back up", so agreeing on a day and time prioritizes intimacy in the relationship, especially if you spend the majority of your time busy parenting.”
Think of building good sexual habits just like you would develop good eating or exercising habits, get it in the schedule and stick to it. Once you start, you may find it gets easier and more frequent.
I know that for many parents, finding the time and money to go to a therapist can be challenging, but if it’s a viable option for you, remember that there is no shame in getting professional help to work through this and find your way back to each other.
You can also check out these other resources for more help and advice:
Tedx Talk: The Sex-Starved Marriage by Michele Weiner-Davis
Podcast: Two Years Without Sex by Motherhood Sessions
Podcast: Where Should We Begin? series by Ester Perel
I hope that some of these suggestions help you on your journey.
Illustration by Visual-ess:
Visual-ess is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator and has had her work published in books and showcased by companies such as Universal, Austin Reed and Long Tall Sally. She particularly enjoys illustration as she’s able to utilise a wide range of bright colours, shades, and tones, combined with a dash of playful humour, as a way of channelling various emotions and to express real-life experiences.