Do you live life on autopilot- rushing around, always crazy busy, and rarely stopping to breathe?
Is sex the last thing you need to tick off on an already long to-do list at the end of each day?
Do you end up exhausted, flopping into bed and trying to get yourself psyched up for one last task just before you go to sleep?
Do you feel exhausted, irritable, empty?
Do you dream of your bed to sleep in rather than associate it with sex?
Do you dread going to bed, get into bed before/after your partner, because you are trying to avoid being intimate because of the time/effort it takes?
Do you feel annoyed if/when your partner tries to initiate?
Would you rather watch your favourite TV show than have sex?
Do your levels of desire increase again when you go on holiday?
If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, it might be that time and priorities around sex are shutting down your desire.
Sex and time is one of the most interesting categories on here- it’s not an issue we often consider may be impacting on how much we want sex, but the availability and perception of time (and how much of a priority you place on making love) is crucial to desire.
We believe there are four main things to look out for when it comes to time and desire. Below we’ll walk you through them, and provide some tools and resources to help you on your journey to resolve any issues…
P.S. Often tackling time and priorities around sex last is the best way forwards because it is so tied up with the other elements from the 6 pathways to desire– including pleasure, the ability to stay present, and your relationship.
We’re too busy/exhausted for sex
Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but there are many scenarios where we genuinely feel time is against us and we’re just too busy for sex. Perhaps the actual time we get to spend with our partner (and therefore opportunities for sex) are minimal- we work shift work, the children sleep in our room, we live in different cities etc.
But there’s also the element of feeling exhausted. Our lifestyles have become so super busy (read: work, kids, socialising, hobbies, chores, caring responsibilities- the list is endless) and we’re often so overloaded that when we slide into bed at the end of each day, sex is literally the last thing on a very long to-do list. Perhaps it falls right off in favour of sleep?
A lack of sleep also has a HUGE impact on desire. If you’re tired, it’s harder to get in the mood. The Sleep Doctor writes that this is because a lack of sleep leads to the release of cortisol. This hormone drives the body’s fight or flight response, and the release of cortisol hampers testosterone production, which in turn leads to dampened desire.
All of these issues are particularly prevalent for women. It’s often women that take on more of the domestic work within the home, e.g. cooking/cleaning/childcare etc. This invisible, underrated and unpaid labour is known as the “emotional load” which creates additional layers of stress, exhaustion and pressure. According to the American Time Use survey, mothers in dual earning households are also three times more likely to report interrupted sleep (to go check on the crying toddlers) than fathers are. Many of the sites we’ve read point to a huge correlation between why so many women have a low sex drive and the amount of stress/exhaustion they’re facing!
- Know firstly that a decline in desire is completely normal! Many couples go through periods of being busier, or having less sleep (e.g. when you’ve just had a baby). It doesn’t mean your sex lives are broken- give yourselves a break.
- Sleep/rest! If you’re feeling tired and sex is the last thing on your mind, consider what you need to nourish you and go for it. The Nap Ministry talk about “rest as resistance” and the power of napping for our mental and physical health. Feeling tired is a huge barrier to feeling horny, so if you need the sleep, take it. This article from the Sleep Doctor found that consistent restorative sleep has been shown to improve low libidos, especially for women. One study found that women who slept for only one hour more per night were more likely to see an increase in their sexual appetite (apparently they were 14% more likely to have sex the next day and more likely to experience vaginal arousal than women who got less sleep). It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that more sleep will help you feel more rested, but we hope knowing the stats behind it might help you give yourself permission to snooze earlier if you can. If you’re a science nerd and want to know more about why this is check out this article.
- Share the chores. If there isn’t already an even split in the household labour, this might mean your partner taking a bigger share of the washing, cooking, cleaning, caring…. This amazing article “Why Wives Who Do All the Housework Don’t Want Sex” has some really great tips on how to do this (and it’s super straight talking).
- Manage stress (and worry). Stress, and worry all play havoc with our libidos, and in the same manner as sleep can act as biological off-switches against desire. The best defence is to understand more about how both of them impact on desire and learn to complete the stress cycle to reduce their impact.
- Find ways to be less busy. We’ll leave this to you to figure out how you do this as you know your life best, but if sex is important to you and you’re not getting what you want, it maybe that some things need to change in your life so that you have the time and headspace to be intimate.
- Schedule in sex. Most sex therapists worth their salt will recommend that, in the case of female low desire, its a good idea to schedule in sex. If you struggle to find time for sex, find it difficult to prioritize it, or believe sex should just happen spontaneously, scheduling sex is grand. The reasoning behind this is sound- if time is difficult (or despite your best intentions sex just isn’t happening), making a set date for sex where you can put it right to the top of your “to-do list” makes total sense. If you’re interested in scheduling sex, this Huffington Post article might help you with more ideas on how to schedule sex in different ways, or this fascinating post on a woman who has scheduled in sex for the last four years and how it works for her. OR, these posts on Kinkly by Emmeline Peaches on scheduling sex, “the key to good sex isn’t spontaneity” and this one: “in defense of scheduling sex”. However a word of warning- if sex isn’t good for you or there are other reasons that you don’t fancy sex then scheduling it in to have more of it isn’t recommended. See this article for more.
- Create Space where sex might (or might not) happen- in this article Jancee Dunn (author of How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids) recommends the following:
“When I was researching my book, to find out ways of keeping your sex life exciting after having kids, psychotherapist and sex expert Esther Perel suggested the person who is feeling deprived (in my case, my husband) should create ‘space’ where sex could happen, but doesn’t have to. I’m always worried about not getting enough sleep, so my husband puts the kids to bed earlier, to create space in our day where sex might or might not happen. Feeling free of obligation relaxes me and more often than not, sex happens.”
The impact of responsive desire.
If you’ve spent some time reading about the feminist science behind desire you’ll know if you tend to experience desire in a more responsive or impulsive way.
If you’re more responsive, desire emerges only after sexual stimulation. Although this is completely normal, it can mean that thinking about having sex/getting turned on etc can feel like an absolute CHORE before you get going!
Because you don’t really want sex or feel warmed up to it until you’re likely a way into fooling around, the very thought of getting yourself warmed up and ready to go can feel like effort. If you’re starting from a point of being quite cold to the idea, you might find yourself feeling like you can’t be bothered to try, or clock watching to consider how long it’ll take and calculating how many hours of sleep you’ll have if you start now. This might lead to worry or just not being able to stay in the moment during sex- two big buzz kills!
In our experience this has a huge impact on desire, particularly because you’re less likely to initiate sex.
- Find out our no#1 tip for how to manage responsive desire in this post.
- If you know that your desire works in a more “responsive” way (read more on what this means here) scheduling in sex provides the motivation and drive for sex that you might not feel without a prompt. See the tips from the section above around scheduling in sex for me.
- Give yourself enough time for sex! Going to bed a bit earlier, or varying up times of the day to have sex when you know you’ve got a free window can be really helpful. Responsive desire can feel like starting up the boiler after you’ve been on holiday and knowing it’s going to take AAGGGESS to heat your cold house. So, making sure you get to bed with an hour to spare before your actual bed time can mean it’s so much easier to relax, enjoy sex and know you’ll get a full nights sleep still.
- Remind yourself why sex is important to you. Check out this article on ways to reframe sex for more.
- Check out this post on ways to get yourself turned on quickly for help with responsive desire.
Your motivation to have sex has waned
Often we tell ourselves that we don’t have time for sex. We’re too busy, stressed, tired etc. And yet we usually ALWAYS time for the things we want to do. Which suggests that maybe sex just doesn’t make the cut. And it’s worth asking ourselves why that is?
Maybe it’s because sex just isn’t that good anymore? Or it feels like it takes from us more than it replenishes? Sex done well can be energising, stress relieving, relaxing, fun- and it leaves us feeling it was worthwhile. But if sex doesn’t feel that great, you might find yourself clock watching because your partner takes too long, or thinking of all of the jobs we’ve got to get done in the morning. That means we’re not in the moment or gaining the things we could from sex. It can also feel difficult to prioritize sex when there are so many things competing for our attention. And sometimes we can convince ourselves that everything else is more important than a bonk!
If sex has become an additional chore, like cleaning the bathroom or taking the bins out, or just another thing on the to-do list, we’ve got some ideas that can help.
Desire emerges because we are motivated to have sex. AKA what sex gives us is worth the reward so that we pursue it. So consider what does sex give you? Why do you have sex? And you’ll get closer to what you need in order to feel moved to seek out sex. Check out this post on your sexual accelerators and brakes to find out more about sexual motivation, or this post on how the sex you are (or were) having is affecting desire.
Shake up the routine! This post gives information on ways you can incorporate novelty into your sex life to make sex more appealing (if you do you’ll find it works its own way back up your priority list!)
Read the blog on seven ways to reframe sex so it becomes essential to your everyday wellbeing for more advice on why looking after yourself is worth it (and what sex can do for you!)
I also love this article about making sure you prioritise it for you, not your partner.
Not making time for sex/to feel sexy
This is one that’s often ignored in the grand scheme of low desire, but it’s actually really important. Each of us have a specific set of conditions or environments that make it easier for us to open up to having sex. This could be having a tidy house, at least an hour free of interruptions, feeling clean, wearing perfume, donning matching underwear. The list is unique to you (and there is NO set way to be or feel sexy), but if we don’t find time in our lives for “sexual self-care” we find ourselves much less likely to want sex.
Short on time for sexual self-care, or lost on how to do it? We’ve got some ideas below…
There are some really simple ways to make the most of the time you have and make sex fit in around you, as well as some ideas on different mindsets to time which will really help. Click here for some amazing tips and tricks to bring back the spice into your relationship if you’re feeling time-poor.
Have you found any useful resources or have any great tips on how to reduce the impact of time/increase the prioritisation of desire?
Our community would love to hear from you in the comments below- lets share our thoughts and help each other ↓↓↓