I have realized that one of the hardest topics to discuss in life is sex; and you know what happens, relationships/marriages break and people hurt and die slowly.
A few weeks ago, at a bridal shower, I asked the ladies present about how often they thought about sex. One lady answered, “I think of sex as often as I think about the economy of Papua New Guinea. I mean, it is almost never; and if I do, they are actually negative thoughts”. Jackie added “there are a number of times that I even look up and while he’s busy, I find myself asking….you mean this house has always had a ceiling?” This led to a hearty laugh but by the end of the day, we had ascertained that a number of women present did not actually think about sex or want it at all – not even during honeymoon.
One lady who has been married for over twenty years listened to all these young ladies’ stories attentively with a smile on her face and later decided to conclude the many testimonies with her own testimony. “Three years into my marriage, just the thought of meeting my husband in an environment conducive for intimacy spoilt my whole day/week. I started applying for jobs out of town, I convinced him to take up jobs out of town but none of us succeeded.” “And what happened next?” I asked. “I started keeping late nights from home, staying late “at work”, the bar became an excuse, I was always willing to travel for work even when I didn’t have to, and found many other reasons – all in the name of not meeting my husband in bed……”. She went on to tell us that there was no strain on their relationship, she loved this man but just did not want sex.
Have you found yourself in a similar situation? This is typical Low sex desire, also known as low libido!! Sexual desire in simple terms is an interest in sex or desire to be sexual. It is modeled by many situations. Our biological drive, our upbringing, beliefs and expectations which are all shaped by culture, religion, and these days technology and media, all influence our personal attitudes towards sex. The more positive one’s attitudes are about sex, the greater is the desire to be sexual.
Our motivation to have sex also influences our sexual desire – with whom, when, where, how? Emotional and interpersonal factors are the most important motivators for sex.
Generally speaking, a caring, affectionate relationship is often required for most women to experience desire. Our African culture and peer pressure conforms men with low sex desire to be silent while women with low libido endure emotionally and sometimes physically painful sexual encounters.
In marriage, sex is a conjugal right. Divorce buster, Weiner-Davis alleges that one out of every three couples has a sexual desire gap – one spouse wants sex more than the other. This is one of the commonest marriage problems than we can ever imagine.
Low sex desire has been mostly associated with women and unfortunately is found amongst all age groups. Research shows that 30% of women experience no sex drive at all and some women may experience it at different times in their life. Low sex desire is rare in men and even those with erection problems do have a normal sex drive even though generally, the loss of sex drive in men diminishes with age.
Low sex desire should however be differentiated from loss of interest in sex with a particular individual (usually a spouse). This undoubtedly is a leading cause of distress and consequently an important cause of breakdown in relationships, infidelity and disharmony in many families.
With increased urbanization, many want to climb the corporate ladder and one cannot be blamed for this, because it is all in a quest to ‘make ends meet’. This leads to a development of unhealthy lifestyles (from the house, to the car, to the office, to the car, to the bar, to the car and back to the house). This routine could eventually lead to weight gain and other chronic diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. These diseases are known to increase the fat deposits in the arteries leading to impotence, and low libido in the long run. Most of the times, obese people are known to have less confidence and hate their bodies due to the societal negative perceptions. This, along with the associated illnesses is also an impediment to high sex drive.
For many women, emotional closeness is an essential prelude to sexual intimacy. Decreased interest in sex is often a result of ongoing issues, such as lack of connection with a partner, unresolved conflicts or fights, poor communication of sexual needs and preferences, infidelity or breach of trust.
Alcohol and other drugs like marijuana, opium, heroine, and ecstasy are a cause of many life problems including sex and poverty. Anecdotal evidence in countries like Uganda reveals an increasing trend of low libido in both males and females in the urban centers which are predominantly occupied by the middle class.
An underlying sexual problem or inability to orgasm can hinder a desire for sex. Issues I have previously tackled, such as painful sex, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation could all lead to low sex desire.
Many medications including some used to treat depression, epilepsy (fits), and high blood pressure are libido killers. These drugs have an effect on normal functioning of the brain consequently affecting the message transmission related to sex.
Changes in ones’ hormone levels may alter your desire for sex. During menopause, hormones responsible for sex drive and womanhood decrease sharply. Although many women continue to have satisfying sex during menopause and beyond, some women experience a lagging libido during these hormonal changes.
Having a baby is a life changing event for the mother and the relationship. Hormone changes during pregnancy, just after having a baby and during breast-feeding coupled with changes in body shape and the increased tiredness can also hinder sex drive.
Mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, stress, such as financial stress or work stress, poor body image and low self-esteem can also lead to low sex desire.
Management of low sex drive
Healthy eating and increasing physical exercises have been documented to increase libido. The loss of fat is known to free up testosterone which is an important contributor to libido. Physical exercises promote circulation to the genitals which can be helpful. Reducing the amount of alcohol taken on a daily basis has been documented to improve the sex drive.
Stress reduction and sessions with a sex therapist may help to understand the underlying causes of low sex drive. These sessions may also enhance better communication and constructive confrontation of the challenges affecting couples’ sex lives.
In some relationships, sexual encounter has been reduced to once a month or three to four times a year. While low frequency in itself does not signify an underlying problem of low libido, it is sometimes an indicator for further interaction with a doctor, sex therapist or counselor.
Sexual satisfaction is as important for your life as job satisfaction. Be mindful of your partner’s feelings and live a fulfilling sex life.
Dr. Phionah Atuhebwe can be reached on: [email protected]