Take the Stress Out of Sex
Most people would agree that their libido increases or decreases based on the receptiveness and overall emotional availability of their partner. In other words, a lack of interest from one person in a relationship can cause a lack of interest for both partners. And one of the most frequent libido-limiters is everyday stress.
If you want to approach your partner to talk about low libido or how stress is affecting your relationship, be sure to avoid placing any blame on either party, because blame only adds to stress and subconsciously associates your partner as one of the inducers of stress. Try to see obstacles as challenges you face together rather than trying to have one person be right and the other wrong.
Always look for ways to support the needs of both of you, and consider the following ways to bring new energy and communication into your relationship.
If you don’t spend enough time with your partner, exercising as a couple might be the answer. When you exercise together, you curb stress, open communication and boost your self-esteem, which can increase your libido. Generally, physical activity can help improve intimacy due to a combination of the element of touch and the emotional component of working together to achieve a goal.
While physical activity can include practically anything, try some of the more common ways couples exercise together:
- Take evening walks to allow for more freeform communication while also getting those endorphins moving.
- Try early-morning yoga to bring calmness, creativity and positivity into your life—a great way to start the day.
- Take up a new sport together—something you enjoy doing as a couple, like doubles tennis, or together as individuals, such as biking or snowboarding.
- Join a running group, ski club, masters swim team or other club where you meet new people through sport or exercise. The new energy and friendships will bring new life to your relationship.
It's difficult to feel intimate if you don’t feel confident about yourself. Taking more time for self-care can help boost your confidence while also demonstrating your love for your partner.
Learn about eating healthier with your partner. Try new recipes, watch cooking shows and make plenty of time for preparing meals together.
Another great strategy is to make it a priority to get adequate sleep and coordinate your sleep schedule with your partner’s. That way, you’re each going to be as rested as the other, and you’ll always be together in bed at the same time—very calming and very cozy.
Also, instead of piling on one more task to get done at the end of the day, focus on going to bed earlier and getting up later. Think about banning phones and other computer devices from the bedroom. The goal is to be more rested, and perhaps the time in bed will occasionally lead to more than just sleep.
Kick harmful habits like smoking and excess drinking. These actions not only put your health at risk, they can also suppress your sex drive. As well as in the bedroom, cut down on the use of electronic devices in general—that will lead to fewer distractions and more genuine communication.
Take a vacation. Without the stress of work and family demands, sex can be much closer to the top of the mind.
If a hectic schedule is causing stress and low libido, consider making plans for intimacy or sexual experimentation. While a sex schedule may seem like the opposite of what many of us think of as romance, sometimes the anticipation of the appointment will create a new kind of excitement, especially if you add other elements of surprise to the night, such as making dinner or a favorite drink or dessert. This will give you that welcome element of surprise even if the sex is actually scheduled.
Enjoy other pleasures
Intimacy comes in many forms, and all of them are powerful stress relievers. By focusing on affection, not just sex, you can eliminate stressful expectations and learn to enjoy other pleasures as a couple:
- Hold hands and hug more. Hugging releases the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin, and skin-to-skin contact helps build trust and comfort. In addition, such contact promotes physiological effects on heart rate and stress hormones.
- Learn massage techniques together and practice on each other.
- Dance together, whether in your own living room, at a club or perhaps at dance lessons.
Think about the kinds of small touches and meaningful glances you share when a relationship is new and try to rekindle that spark without any added pressure from expectations of sex.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
If it seems like there’s never a good time to talk about your sex life, you’re not alone. Many of us have anxiety about this issue, but you can set the stage to make it easier:
- Wait until your partner is relaxed and not busy before you announce that you want to discuss your sex life.
- Choose a neutral place to talk—not in your bedroom, and perhaps away from home. Choose somewhere that makes you both comfortable.
- Do some breathing exercises before you talk. When you feel stressed, it’s easy to get defensive.
- Be open and share your expectations, fears, desires and concerns, and allow your partner ample time and space to do the same.
- Use open-ended questions to allow the conversation to go where it needs to go.
- Use active listening skills when your partner shares, and repeat their words to make it clear you really understood what they wanted to tell you.
- Be ready to stop if the conversation gets too emotional. If you can’t find a way to get back to each other’s comfort zone, this could be a sign that it would be best to get help from a therapist to help you work through this particular issue.
- Some people find that watching adult films or reading adult literature together, sometimes even in a humorous way, can help reduce the “taboo” or anxiety around the issue of your own sex life. Many couples also find this useful to understand each other’s interests in this department and better understand each other’s insecurities to help each other build trust and make each other feel more confident.
Talk with a therapist
If you and your partner are having difficulty talking about sex, you might want to seek a therapist for one of the following types of sessions:
- Individual therapy allows you to work independently with a therapist to explore what’s behind your stress, and define and meet your goals for better managing it.
- Couples therapy teaches you how to have open communication, recognize and resolve conflicts, and better understand each other’s needs, backgrounds and expectations.
- Sex therapy is focused specifically on sexual issues and is offered in both individual and partner sessions. Your therapist might give you assignments as a couple that you then try at home.
Talking with a therapist or relationship counselor can help you develop more effective relationship skills and work through deeper issues. Taking the stress out of sex is the first step to a healthier, more fulfilling sex life.