When I was young, I devoured the entire reproduction shelf in the children’s department at the library. My body was changing, and I wanted to know everything about those changes—and about sex.
It’s more than a little ironic that a lack of information contributed to the sex issues I had for years.
Even when I wasn’t dealing with my baggage or responding to hurt that grew from our relationship, I was confused about what seemed to be my lack of sexual desire. So was my husband. “Do you want to have sex?” he would ask. “No, not really,” I would say. “What do I have to do to help you want sex?” he wondered. My “I don’t know” frustrated and confused both of us.
He was always interested in sex and quickly became ready—and once we got started, he was very focused and undistracted. Why wasn’t I? What’s wrong with me? I wondered.
As I read blogs and discussion forums and participate in conversations, it becomes increasingly apparent to me that men’s sexual desire and women’s sexual desire are vastly different. This is a generalization and isn’t the case in all marriages, but it is true for many couples.
Rather than perusing the shelves in the children’s department, these days I’ve been digging into research studies. I’ve been trying to better understand the differences between men’s and women’s sexual experiences.
Most recently I’ve been delving into what we know about how women experience sexual desire. A number of factors can affect women’s desire for sexual activity—either positively or negatively.
This may seem quite complicated if you’re trying to find one sure path to desire for sexual activity. However, this is good news! The fact that there are many influences gives us quite a few things to try when we want to work on our sexual desire and responsiveness.
Six influences in particular have emerged in my recent reading.* All of them suggest some things we can do to help our desire for sex.
It’s no surprise that fatigue plays a huge role in whether or not women are interested in sex. There are a couple ways you can address this.
- Reduce the drains on your energy. Look at the busy-ness in your life. Have you built in the time you need to replenish yourself? Are you getting enough sleep? Do you say “yes” only to things you know you have time for?
- Increase your energy resources. Exercise regularly. Eat foods that are good energy sources.
Being fatigued can diminish your desire—but having energy can actually increase it. If fatigue puts a damper on your sexual desire, tackle it both by reducing energy drains and increasing the energy available to you.
Big Guy has always told me he finds me sexy—but I needed to feel sexy for myself. If feeling unsexy gets in the way of your wanting to be sexual, it’s time to do some things that help you feel attractive and sexy.
- Give yourself (or get) a pedicure.
- Put makeup on.
- When you’re around the house, wear clothing that’s a bit form-fitting or shows some cleavage.
- Do what makes you feel happy and sexy: wear those awesome earrings, put on an ankle bracelet, or get the cute clothes rather than something that is more age-appropriate.
Your Husband’s Attention
A husband’s relationship efforts in non-sexual ways can make a big impact on our desire. Consistent effort on his part to do things that show you romance and love contribute to your overall feelings about him and about the relationship—and these feelings can help your desire.
While this isn’t under your control, you can make a point to notice what your husband does to show you love and to invest in your relationship. Does he do something to show that he is thinking about your throughout the day? Does he do things that shows he values you and your marriage?
If so, remind yourself to think about this several times throughout the day. Warming your heart might help stoke some other fires as well.
If your husband isn’t doing these kinds of things, talk with him. It may be that he is doing things that you haven’t been aware of. (I have found this to be the case many times in my own marriage.) Or, perhaps he just doesn’t know what you would like. If you’d like him to send you “thinking of you” texts during the day, tell him. If you would appreciate flowers sometimes, let him know. I’m not talking about being demanding or entitled, and I also don’t mean that sex should be contingent on these things. This is about being authentic about what helps you feel valued and loved.
My husband used to do so much more than I realized—and when I would see it, I often dismissed it as just an attempt to get sex. Instead, I have decided to simply appreciate those things as his expressions of love for me—which is, after all, why he is really doing them.
Conversations in which we share emotions or reveal things that others don’t know can help us feel closer to our husbands—and when we feel closer, it is easier to want to feel really, really, really close physically, if you know what I mean.
While you can’t make your husband open up to you, what you can do is make sure he has the opportunity to do so. Do you spend enough time with him that he has an opportunity to share things with you? Make a grocery store outing into a date. Take a walk around the block while holding hands. Try A Year of Questions for You & Your Spouse at Lori’s download page at The Generous Wife.
Big Guy and I used to sit out on our deck together every evening after we put the kids to bed. In the midst of the many years where our marriage wasn’t so good, that brief time in our marriage was a bright spot. Many evenings on the deck ended with us heading into the bedroom to further deepen the emotional connection we’d begun.
Let All Your Senses Help You
Some research has suggested that accessing at least one or two of your five senses can help sexual desire. If there is something that you consistently associate with sex, experiencing that sensation can help you access that desire more easily.
Try some of these ideas:
Sight—Use special lighting (such as a red light bulb) or sexy red boxers for your husband.
Sound—Try a white noise machine or music (go to Bonny’s OysterBed7 and do a search for music—you’ll find lots of ideas!).
Taste—Have a beverage or snack that you enjoy together only when you’re about to have sex or have just had sex.
Touch—The feeling of a silky negligee or a furry boa can enhance your desire.
Smell—Scented candles or essential oils—especially ones that you use only for some lovin’—can get your mind thinking sexually without you being fully being aware of it.
God gave you all those wonderful senses. Let them guide you toward sexual desire.
Spend time every day reminiscing about positive sexual encounters you’ve had with your husband. The desire and love you have for him will stay fresh in your mind—and you may find that your body gets engaged a bit, too.
If the main thing in the way of desire is that your sexual desire doesn’t work like your husband’s, try some of the strategies above.
Be intentional about these things on a regular and frequent basis. You just may nurture your sexual desire in ways that will make you very, very happy.
*Basson, R. (2002). Women’s sexual desire—disordered or misunderstood? Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 28, 17-28.
*Goldhammer, D., & McCabe, M. (2011). A qualititative exploration of the meaning and experience of sexual desire among partnered women. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 20 (1-2), 19-29.
*Brotto., L., Heiman, J., & Tolman, D. (2009). Narratives of desire in mid-age women with and without arousal difficulties. Journal of Sex Research, 46 (5), 387-398.
Image credit | C. Taylor