Why are women opting out of the bedroom? A psychologist and author clues us in.
Is sex the last thing on your mind as you crawl into bed exhausted at the end of a long day? Would you rather curl up with a good book or television show than garner the energy for a romp in bed? Do you laugh with recognition when I tell you the name of my new book, A Tired Woman's Guide to Passionate Sex? You aren't alone.
Surveys report that between 20 and 52 percent of women say their sex drive isn't what it used to be. The most comprehensive survey conducted to date found that 33 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 59 were suffering from lost sexual desire. Another study found that one third of 50 to 70 year-old partnered women had little or no sex drive. That means that one of every three women you know no longer feels as interested in sex as she used to feel! And, while resentments in marriage, poor body image, lost attraction, and underlying medical reasons can cause a woman to lose her libido, the #1 culprit women blame is being too tired for sex.
Stress is a driving force behind feeling too exhausted for sex. Serious stressors, such as losing one's job or having an ill spouse, certainly affect sex drive. However, more ordinary stress also diminishes libido, as aptly illustrated by the common experience of vacation sex. Without to-do lists and the pressures of daily life, tired women often report that their sex drive returns—only to go into hibernation again upon coming home.
Stress interferes with your sex drive in psychological and physiological ways. When stressed, you are going to be distracted and unable to relax and focus on sex. And, even if you do have sex in this unfocused condition, it is likely to be sex in which your mind is elsewhere. A wandering mind is sure to result in you having less than satisfactory sex, an experience which itself further decreases drive. Stress also contributes to insomnia and lack of sleep dampens your mood.
Stress releases a hormone that helps zap libido, called cortisol. As cortisol increases, testosterone, which is responsible for much of our sex drive, decreases. The fact that men have about ten times more testosterone than women helps explain why women's sex drives are more affected by stress than men's. Thinking of sex drive as a tank of gas, stress-induced cortisol may take a women's testosterone reserve to empty, yet only decrease a man's tank to half full. Testosterone is also at its lowest at night. Between exhaustion and decreased testosterone, bedtime is not the ideal time for many women to have sex!
Finding better times to have sex is one of the strategies offered in A Tired Woman's Guide for Passionate Sex. This book tells the story of my own (and many of my friends and clients) lost and thankfully regained libido, and provides a six-step program for regaining passion. The program is called "Five T's and a Bit of Spice." The Five T's are: Thoughts, Talk, Time, Touch, and Trysts. The spices are ideas to jazz up your sex life, such as toys and erotic movies. A Talk strategy includes erasing the question "Do you want to have sex?" from your vocabulary and starting all sentences about sex with the word "I". A Time strategy includes revving up your sex drive with exercise, and focusing on your body sensations as you do. One of the many Touch strategies is exchanging sexually provocative touches with your partner, especially at times when sex is out of the question. Another is to allow a sexual encounter to get you in the mood for sex, instead of being stuck on the notion that you have to feel horny before having sex. More detailed strategies from the Thought and Tryst steps of the program will be the focus of two additional guest columns. I hope they will help bring you a step closer to uttering the new sentence, "I have lots of energy for sex!"
Written by Laurie B. Mintz, Ph.D. for More.com.
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