Although sex is not vital for good health, it’s definitely good for you. It can boost circulation, help depression, soothe chronic pain, and reaffirm the joys of living.
And sexual problems often signal deeper ills: Low libido, erectile dysfunction, genital infection, or sexual pain may hide a serious health problem such as diabetes or heart trouble.
If a disparity in libidos is causing strife in your relationship, you may need to take a closer look at each partner’s role. This process is best done with professional help, preferably through counseling with a certified sex therapist. But there’s some work the couple can do first. Joy Davidson, PhD, a New York City–based psychologist who’s on the board of directors of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists, recommends discussing the following questions.
1. What turns on the partner who has a low libido?
Are there certain times when this partner is more motivated to be sexual? What’s different about those times? Analyze that and try to replicate those conditions.
2. Are you playful?
“Look at what you’re actually doing,” Davidson says. “Is your sex life dull and routine? Do you have fantasies that you can share with your partner? Do you read books about sexual alternatives or surf the Web looking at sex toy sites?” A person with a low libido may be uncomfortable with such ideas. “If you freak out at these questions, it is understandable that you seem to have low libido,” says Davidson. Perhaps you have been raised to view sex as something dirty or shameful and need to work through those feelings with a professional. “If you have a sex-negative attitude,” she says, “your libido will be repressed too.”
3. What’s going on outside the bedroom?
You or your therapist may look at what Michael Krychman, MD, executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine in Newport Beach, Calif., calls “environmental sexuality“-basically, what’s going on outside the bedroom. For instance, he says, “I’ve had couples in the same house, texting each other from different rooms,” wondering why their sex life has taken a dive.