Sex is difficult to talk about. Especially when we’re running on empty, trying to keep up with life’s demands, our sex life may hit the backburner. You might not be feeling like yourself or you miss your partner but feel uncertain about how to pursue them. These feelings of uncertainty, unfamiliarity, or even nothingness toward sex might worry you or your partner. Instead of talking about it, we hope the situation fixes itself or we schedule the talk for “later.”
Studies show sex generally takes a dive in long-term relationships because it starts in overdrive. Sexual energy feels exciting and novel as you begin to explore physical intimacy with someone for the first time; that novelty feeling may begin to wear off as we continue to evolve or when life gets a little more complicated with increased stress levels, having children, body image, or, you know, a totally unexpected global pandemic. When we’re under chronic or significant stress, our body releases cortisol, a hormone that sparks our fight or flight response. Making sex, which was once a fun or pleasurable activity for individuals and couples, now feels like a chore. As you’re trying to conceive or perhaps struggling with infertility, sex may become a reminder of challenges with conceiving.
While undergoing fertility treatment, vagina-bodied folks may take hormones or medications with common side effects of fatigue or low libido. Due to injection sites, we might experience discomfort or soreness. Treatment procedures involved with pursuing pregnancy may feel invasive and ignite or perpetuate negative feelings toward our bodies, impacting self-esteem, sexual arousal, or overall desire. Infertility in penis-bodied people is often caused by testicular or ejaculatory dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, and/or genetic disorders. They might experience pain with these medical concerns, resulting in decreased sexual activity or decreased interest in sexual activity. It’s important to identify that infertility is not only a cisgender heterosexual clinical concern. Transgender and gender non-conforming folks face unique challenges when undergoing infertility treatment. There is an emotional and physical cost if or when a trans woman needs to masturbate to provide a semen sample, or a trans man needing to take hormones in preparation for an egg retrieval. These costs alone may result in low libidos and sexual desire.
Couples, new parents and parents-to-be are often experiencing significant impacts in basic needs such as sleep, hygiene, food and water intake due to these life challenges. With one single disruption to our basic needs, it may severely impact our libido. Vaginal births, cesareans, breastfeeding, injections; we go through physical and emotional trauma in order to be nurturing homes for our children. Through becoming parents, our bodies that were once our own might start to feel clinical or sterile. Our libido fluctuates with our body’s hormones, and pregnancy and childbirth significantly impacts your body and the way you perceive stimulation; this may lead to overstimulation of touch and sound, furthering avoidance of sex. As you become curious to reintroduce sex into your life, or simply looking to enjoy it more, you may consider seeing therapist, either individually or with your partner.
As a couples and family therapist, I want to remind you these feelings are absolutely normal. I specialize in skills-building, communication, and reconnection of emotional and physical intimacy between partners. Everything is about sex, except sex itself. This makes communication, openness, and honesty everything when it comes to sex. In our space, we approach sex through a nonjudgmental lens. Leaving expectations behind, we start to replace them with goals; expectations often leave room for disappointment, while goals create room for celebration. Redefining the meaning of sex and intimacy creates an open-minded and curious mindset, allowing us to date our partners again. Sex is consensual, sexy, fun and when we’re not feeling sexy and fun, sex starts to feel like a faraway goal. You deserve to have fun again; schedule an appointment with me today.