Her low libido: Soures and cures. What to do when she is happy without sex.
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Laurie Watson: Hi, it’s time for a Foreplay. I’m certified sex therapist, Laurie Watson, author of Wanting Ex Again. And I’m here with marriage family therapist, Tony Delmedico, my cohost.
Tony Delmedico: You can check us out on the web at ForeplayRST.com. Find us on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. We’d love to hear from you. Laurie, where will Foreplay lead us today?
Laurie Watson: Tony, this is a good one. We have somebody wrote in and we have a question today. It’s about a woman who is 42 years old. And she couldn’t care less about sex.
Tony Delmedico: Do you want me to read it or do you want to read it Laurie?
Laurie Watson: Sure, I can read it. Dear Laurie and Tony, I’m 42 years old, as is my wife. This is from the man. And we have two kids, five and seven. But the problem has started long before the kids came along. When we met and married sex was fabulous. But a couple of years into the marriage, it happened a lot less frequency. Now, my wife says she couldn’t care less. She says she finds me technically attractive. But doesn’t think she would feel desire if I looked like Bradley Cooper. What is going on? And what can I do about this?
Tony Delmedico: Ouch. The Bradley Cooper phrase just killed me. I’m thinking if, Bradley Cooper, isn’t doing it. There may be some serious problems there.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. You know, but I don’t think that that’s really necessarily everything that turns a woman on is what a man looks like. I think, there’s more going on usually than just that. I think men think that. Because they wouldn’t want to have sex unless, if they didn’t want to have sex, it would be because they didn’t think she was attractive. What do you think?
Tony Delmedico: I think it depends on the man. Some men suffer from low libido.
Laurie Watson: Some they will just do anything right?
Tony Delmedico: Exactly. And some men will try to blame it on something, whether it’s a weight gain, whether it’s aging, whether it’s being too tired. So, I think it’s unique to the person. I think as you read this, and we read over it before the show. I was thinking about this term technically attractive. I was wondering if anything came to mind on that. So, technically you’re attractive. But really, I’m not attracted to you. That’s sort of hard to take as a partner, you know.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. I think that women do say that a lot though. And certainly, I feel that sometimes. I think men are technically attractive. I can see that they, you know, maybe have good looks. But I’m not really drawn to them.
Tony Delmedico: So, when you read this, what were some of the things, obviously if this couple had come into your office —
Laurie Watson: Yes, this is my sweet spot.
Tony Delmedico: — immediately start going through your mind as you hear the story.
Laurie Watson: Okay. So, I mean this is my bread and butter, right? People come in with this problem all day long and I’ve been working on this for years. And this is a lot of what my book is about, Wanting Sex Again. So, definitely, you know, I have a lot of questions for her and for him. But the first thing that I would want to know is, number one, does she have orgasms? Because a lot of women, for whatever reason, maybe she was orgasmic in the beginning. But she’s too tired or he didn’t get it right or something and she stops having orgasms. And without orgasms, women are not going to have libido. And some women, even at 42, they never figured it out. And so, you know, it died a long time ago.
Tony Delmedico: You know, as a marriage and family therapist, I’m always wondering, I mean, this is his perspective. He’s saying sex was wonderful when we were together. And I’m curious, I’d be really curious to know what her experience of their sex life was like.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, does she remember it the same way?
Tony Delmedico: Exactly.
Laurie Watson: Or did she tell him what she was feeling? I mean, I think so many women don’t talk about their experience. It’s silent. You know, they just let it, let it be. Instead of telling him, this isn’t working for me. Or I’m not as excited about it as you are. And this is why. So, then it could have been corrected early. And it’s not.
Tony Delmedico: Right. So, if you go to orgasms first, Laurie, and you find that she is orgasmic or was orgasmic in the beginning. What do you do with that information then? I’m not attracted to him.
Laurie Watson: And sometimes women say things like, men think is crazy like, “Yeah, I have great orgasms but doesn’t make me want to do it again.” And that probably makes men’s mind just explode inside. It’s like they don’t understand that. But I think for women, sex is very complicated. It’s a complex process. And there is meaning behind it other than physiological release. Okay, the next thing I want to know is just technically, does she have any pain problems? You know, it’s crazy. But a lot of women do have pain problems. For instance, they decide, “Well, I just, I want to make him happy.” And so, they’re having intercourse before they’re really aroused, before their body is ready, and it hurts. And over time that can create a big problem. And then they have pain problems from then on. And then there’s other technical things. We don’t necessarily want to talk about it. But you who are out there and suffer pain problems, you know what I’m talking about it. It’s the three V’s, vestibular neuritis, vaginismus and vulvodynia. Which are all weird pain things that happen to women. And unfortunately, it happens more commonly than we’re aware of. You got to run straight to your gynecologist. And if you’re gynecologist doesn’t help you, go to a pelvic pain specialist. Because a lot of women, they bounce from doctor to doctor. They have these issues. And by the time they get to me, they feel a little crazy. Like, you know, “I’ve been told it’s in my head. But really it’s in my body.” And most of the time, I say to them, “It is in your body.” And then I get them to the specialist that they need. So, yeah. So, that’s one thing that I check out. I want to know, are you aroused? Are you really aroused enough so that it’s comfortable? Are you using a lubricant? You know, and is that part of the problem?
Tony Delmedico: I’m thinking about children five and seven. And this idea of just taking your time is really hard to do with two small children in the house.
Laurie Watson: Sure, sure. Everything is hard to do with two small children. But he’s saying these problems were way before kids. I mean, that complicates it, right? I think about children, they’re kind of, they come into the marriage, but there’s often cracks in the sex life before they get there. And then this is just the grand cavern.
Tony Delmedico: And the sad thing is that they’re thinking that this is going to bring us actually closer together when in fact, you know, these children just lay those vulnerable spots wide open.
Laurie Watson: Sure. Children are big stressors on any relationship. I mean, they’re wonderful, we love them, but it’s a lot of work. So, I think the next thing I want to ask her is how much kind of natural libido does she have? So, I ask her, how often do you think about sex yourself? And you know, women think about sex very differently than men think about sex. You know, for a man he sees a woman and he’s thinking about doing her, having sex with her. And for women they have a more mild fantasy life. So, maybe they think, “Oh, he’s got great hair.” Or they think, you know, uh, some magazine in the grocery store kind of triggers them to think, “Yeah, I don’t, I don’t know if I know that about sex.” Those are actually the beginnings of sexual fantasies for women. Or she hears a sexy song that she heard in high school and you know, it’s like she remembers that is a sexual fantasy. So, I ask women, it’s not just, do you think about having sex? But do you get triggered sexually through kind of the environment? Does that happen for you? That’s what I’m looking for.
Tony Delmedico: Sort of where’s your sexual thermostats set?
Laurie Watson: Right. And if a woman gives me the answer, and this is going to sound crazy low to you, Tony. But if a woman gives me an answer, I think about sex twice a month, to me, you know, that’s great news. I can get her there. Because what I want to have happen is I want her to initiate those two times during the month. And I want her to learn to be receptive because women have kind of more receptive desire. They get turned on and they’re open to sex, but they don’t necessarily have that part that says, “Yeah, I want to do it right now.” So, I want her to learn to act on the two times a month. And then to become aware of her receptive desire. And that often brings a good match in a heterosexual couple. You know?
Tony Delmedico: So yeah, it brings both of their thermostats more in line over time. So, you’re really working on this mismatch.
Laurie Watson: Yes, yes. And I would say the number one thing in a coupleship that shuts women down is the emotional connection between her and her partner, especially with small children. I’m going to argue it and you can all write in and argue with me. But I mean really women are still doing more than their fair share with small children. They’re more household management, more childcare, and resentment becomes the monster under the bed.
Tony Delmedico: And still having full time careers on top of it now.
Laurie Watson: And still having, yes, absolutely.
Tony Delmedico: In addition to, we haven’t stepped up.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. And the resentment about that is just huge and it kills their sexual desire. So, it steals that. And so, that’s what I want to know. And I ask women, you know, does he listen to you? And does he respect you? Because you can’t ask, you know, we’re in the South, you can’t ask a Southern woman, is your marriage good? She’s going to say yes.
Tony Delmedico: Yeah.
Laurie Watson: But you can try to figure out what she feels really qualitatively about the relationship by those two questions.
Tony Delmedico: So, you’re speaking to the power dynamics and the unwritten rules. Not only are you going to now be an educated professional in your own field. But you’re also going to be mother, cook, chauffeur.
Laurie Watson: Taking it all on, too much.
Tony Delmedico: And I’ll cut the grass on Sundays after I play my around a golf.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. And I do have men tell me, you know, Laurie, I do everything. I, you know, cook. I clean. I take care of the children. This is not what the problem is. But sometimes there are deeper dynamics. It’s not just the doing, it’s that she doesn’t feel deeply connected to him. You know, somehow or another, their friendship is lost. They’re not sharing vulnerably. They’re not talking about the things that are significant. I mean, I think the number one thing a man can do to help emotional connection is listen to his wife. Listen to her just on a daily basis. Let her, not fix it. But just let her rant a little bit about her day. And that can be a wonderful connector for her.
Tony Delmedico: Great. Well, Laurie, this is bringing us to the end of the first half of our episode on, She Couldn’t Care Less About Sex. So, we’ll be right back after this short break.
Laurie Watson: Okay. Back with some more Foreplay in a minute.
Commercial: Wanting Sex Again, how to rediscover desire and heal a sexless marriage by certified sex therapist, Laurie Watson. Each chapter is designed to fix one of the problems that caused low libido from early marriage through the childbearing years, even all the way through menopause. I’ve also had men read it and tell me that for them it was the most helpful thing they read about resolving sexual problems. Look for Wanting Sex Again on Amazon.com. You can also talk to Laurie Watson for therapy in person or via Skype. I offer couples counseling and sex therapy and I think about both aspects of the relationship, emotional intimacy, and sexual technique. And that combination together helps marriages be happy. Improve your sex. And improve your relationship with awakening center for couples and intimacy. Find out more at AwakenLoveandSex.com and sign up for their next couples retreat weekend hosted by Laurie Watson. AwakenLoveandSex.com, awaken what’s possible.
Tony Delmedico: Welcome back to Foreplay Radio, Sex Therapy. We appreciate you fooling around with us today. In the first part of the show, Laurie, we had a listener write in. And it was a couple, 42 year old man who had written in. They had two small kids, five and seven. And they were finding that while they had started out as a couple with a great sex life, with the coming of these kids and over time, he was finding that she was just not attracted to him anymore. Said she was technically attracted, but their sex life has really fallen off.
Laurie Watson: Right. And again, I don’t think it’s necessarily about attraction. I think that it is, it is so different for women. There’s something.
Tony Delmedico: You’re not buying the Bradley Cooper thing?
Laurie Watson: No, I mean, I think I hear that all the time. It isn’t, he could be very good looking. And she may think he’s very good looking. And it’s more than that. I mean, I think we kind of talked about, you know, first of all, we want to make sure she’s having orgasms. We want to make sure she’s not having any kind of pain problems. And wondering what she thinks about, does she allow herself sexual fantasy? Or any kind of thought? And what is the big connection between the two of them? Are they friendly and warm and connected? I think that oftentimes with children there’s just not as much time and they let that go, right? We often prioritize our children and then suddenly there’s no time for the couple.
Tony Delmedico: We become mommy’s and daddy’s instead of lovers.
Laurie Watson: Right.
Tony Delmedico: Yeah.
Laurie Watson: So, I think the next thing I would want to know from her is just sort of, does she have anxiety, depression? Is she on any kind of medication? Many times, women get on antidepressants because this is the lowest time of satisfaction in any marriage is when we have small children. That is just statistically the worst time for a marriage. So, just try to get through it everybody. And it gets better. And I would say sometimes women are managing with real depression. They’re on an antidepressant and that kills libido and it kills orgasm for them.
Tony Delmedico: Laurie, and I’m also thinking about birth control after two children. And don’t want a third one. And that is a libido killer.
Laurie Watson: It also can cause pain problems because it can dry out her vaginal tissue. That’s a big one. Yeah, I mean birth control, I often listen and women kind of it, it makes sense. They’ll say, you know, I’m attracted to him, we’re great friends. He respects me, you know, but there’s just something in my body, I just don’t crave it. And this is, let’s say a young 42 year old or a 32 year old, you know, and something tells me, okay, go back, maybe get an IUD instead of the birth control pill. And see what happens then. In fact, I vote for IUDs for most women. Oh, yeah. If you’re not going to have children or you’re waiting some period of time in between, you know, the birth control pill can really stop libido. And that’s the big problem.
Tony Delmedico: I know he’s just 42, but if he was 52 or 47, would you be advocating a vasectomy?
Laurie Watson: Yes. I mean, if they’re done kids, any age get the vasectomy. Yeah, absolutely. And 42, it’s possible that she is perimenopausal. Which means she’s starting to have hormonal changes that are setting her down. But he’s saying, no, no, no. This happened before children. So, this is probably not hormonal in my mind. I wouldn’t go there first. But I would at least check out her meds and stuff like that.
Tony Delmedico: Yeah. I think getting away from this just a bit, it is a sad and ironic thing that birth control has created so much liberation for women and giving women so much power. And on the flip side of it, it dampens libido. So, it’s a shame they haven’t come up with a way to have your cake and eat it too. And actually, have the libido. I know they just came out with a pill that’s supposed to be for women.
Laurie Watson: Right, right. And we can talk about that, but you’re right about the pill. I mean, we think that this provides sort of a Cadillac way of not to have to worry about birth control. And then suddenly it shuts down libido. And men tell me, “Well, you know what, she was on the pill for five years when we were dating, and it didn’t seem to do anything to her libido then.” But I think what happens for women is in new relationships, their excitement about that, their arousal kind of overrides the negative effects of the pill. And there’s a cumulative effect, over time that can impact her. So, sometimes women in good relationships, where everything else seems to be right, have some relief when they change birth control methods.
Tony Delmedico: So, you’re saying cumulative just by taking a certain pill for a certain amount of time.
Laurie Watson: Exactly, exactly. Even the low estrogen ones are problematic. Because let me tell you a physiological little fact while we’re at it. Estrogen binds with testosterone and testosterone is the hormone in both men and women that gives us that physical hunger, that wanting sex. And so without that, you know, it can be bound together with the estrogen and the pill. So, we have a problem. So, talk to you gyno about that.
Tony Delmedico: Got you. Coming back to technically attractive. I know we keep wanting to move on from that and I think we’re trying to get at, you’re really talking about desire because you have people oftentimes who come in are extraordinarily physically attractive on the outside, even to each other. Yes. And yet you can’t sense any deep desire or connection underneath. And so, if couples are going to reconnect, I think that’s what we’re getting at is trying to look at the technical problems. And are there any things that need to be reset physiologically? And then, how do you go about working that desire piece?
Laurie Watson: I think some of it for me is just kind of shaving off what doesn’t work, you know. Trying to figure out and fixing all the things that don’t work. And then wondering about the attraction piece. I was talking to a young woman this week. And she said somewhere mid marriage, she’s just not attracted to him. And you know, that’s a really scary thing for anybody to hear. You know, my partner is no longer attracted to me. Oh my gosh.
Tony Delmedico: Do you think that’s a natural stage in a long term relation?
Laurie Watson: No, I really don’t. I don’t, for many women, and men too. I don’t think that is natural. I think that for women, attraction is not necessarily about physical looks. There’s something, particularly this woman, we nailed it down to, you know, he got preoccupied. He got busy. And she said, you know, sometimes I dress it up and I walk into the room and he might say, you look nice. But there isn’t that pop, that male energy. And I think for women being attracted, being turned on is so much about turning on the other one. You know, turning on the man visually, just kind of having that male energy come your way is so exciting to women.
Tony Delmedico: Right.
Laurie Watson: And so, without his reciprocity in the game, you know, that kind of falls away. And he’s thinking, okay, you know, it’s like now we’re married, and I don’t necessarily need to give that reassurance, that verbal compliment. And I got to say, there’s $1 billion industry out there in romance novels and it’s all about him describing to her how attracted he is. You’re so beautiful, you look so great. And women just respond to that and they feel attractive. And often feel more attracted to the person who is making them feel that way.
Tony Delmedico: Well, it’s interesting is that as I work with lots of men in my practice. It is not uncommon for men who have been in committed relationships for a while to come in a bit confused. Like they thought that the wooing part of the relationship stopped once they decided to throw in together. And they come in going, I didn’t realize that I needed to keep closing. I needed to hang on the prowl in the hunt. I actually have to keep working here in this relationship. I thought I would just sit back.
Laurie Watson: I did all that.
Tony Delmedico: That my sandwiches would be brought to me on the couch on Sundays while I watched the football game. I’ve done that. Like what more does she want? And it is sort of, I’m not sure where it comes from in the culture. Sometimes you just give up after you’ve captured, I don’t know what the right word is, your prey.
Laurie Watson: So, maybe the excitement is over. I do think though, I mean there is something about living with someone right, where they become familiar to us.
Tony Delmedico: Exactly.
Laurie Watson: We see them in all kind of states. When they’re sick. When they’re having bad moods, you know. When they’re down and out.
Tony Delmedico: When they’re in the bathroom.
Laurie Watson: Hopefully they don’t see that Tony.
Tony Delmedico: Even by accident, I mean you’re, you’re living closely together, you’re on top of one another.
Laurie Watson: And that familiarity, I think does change our feelings of attraction.
Tony Delmedico: Well, I think that’s what I was getting at earlier and I’m not sure you understood my question. I was wondering if every couple got to this stage of sort of taking each other for granted, in some form or fashion, at some point in the relationship. So, when this couple comes in like this, you say it’s your bread and butter. It would seem like to me that most couples bump up against this familiarity thing, taking each other for granted. So, and you can normalize that I think with people that come. You’re actually right where you’re supposed to be.
Laurie Watson: Sure. I mean, I, and I think there does have to be some sort of mystery in the relationship. We have to have active full lives outside of our marriage. So, we have something to talk about, something that we’re excited about, that we bring into the relationship that kind of infuses it with something else other than just the bills, the children, talking about what’s wrong between us, right? I mean there has to have that excitement that we bring to it. I would also say another thing that happens in couples in long term relationship is they start to have sex in the same old way. You know, it’s sort of like go upstairs, pull down the sheets, get ready, do it, clean up, go to sleep. And pretty soon, nobody wants to do that. It’s so boring. I would say a good, this is crazy, but a good 20% of the women who come in and say, “I have low libido, I never want to do it again.” Really, as it turns out, they have good erotic parts. They do think about sex. They are very sexual, but maybe they’ve tried to communicate to their partner what they like and he’s forgotten about it or he doesn’t do it. And they are actually more erotic than their partner. But for some reason, as women, we feel like we can’t own it. And so, we shut down. We don’t necessarily manage the sex life in the direction that makes it work for us. And so, the sexiness of sex is just gone and then nobody wants to do it.
Tony Delmedico: And with him pressing, that probably just causes her to recede further behind the facade of not being interested.
Laurie Watson: Right.
Tony Delmedico: Somehow the dynamic needs to shift so that that can come up.
Laurie Watson: Right. And he might be pressing, we don’t know, but he might be pressing for it his way.
Tony Delmedico: Right.
Laurie Watson: Let’s just do it frequently. Get it done. You know, I had a girlfriend who really was sexual and then her husband just basically it was a shout out from the shower, “Hey, hun, do you want to do it?” It wasn’t good for her.
Tony Delmedico: Yeah, same old. Same old. Well, Laurie, we’re rapidly approaching the end of our session today on this. I loved your thinking both from the technical side and the relational side. And I think if couples can hit both of those, you’re saying, if there’s some desire there, there’s hope for this relationship. If they’re willing to put in the time and the effort.
Laurie Watson: Right.
Tony Delmedico: Yeah. Do you have a tip on this? I guess the tip for this couple.
Laurie Watson: The tip of the day for this couple is, it’s complex. Don’t take it personal. Don’t be afraid if she’s not attracted to you. But understand that this is a very complex mechanism for her to have continuous desire. And try to all these aspects with her. Ask her questions.
Tony Delmedico: Yeah. I think my tip is just to say, yay. You had enough courage to write in. This is a first step in doing something about this because you could easily be sitting here 10 years from now at the same problem. So, that’s hopeful in and of itself. So, great job and just keep, keep trying to open to it.
Laurie Watson: Right. Thank you so much for this letter.
Tony Delmedico: Well that’s about it for Foreplay Radio, Sex Therapy today. I’m marriage and family therapist, Tony Delmedico with Laurie Watson, author and sex therapist. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next time for some more Foreplay.
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