When I worked as a journalist at a women’s magazine, we were once sent a sex book for women, filled with tips on how to “get in the mood”. It had the usual suspects – lacy lingerie, candles, massage oils and pictures of impossibly perfect couples looking all smug and loved up (wearing lingerie and surrounded by candles and massage oils, natch).
But I’ll never forget one particular section. Way before conversations about mental load dominated headlines, the book talked about how having a clean, tidy house the day you wanted to have sex could help things along. Yes, really. The author spoke about how she found it impossible to relax in a messy space, and how her partner now knew – if you wanted to get it on, you had to clear the dishes off.
Alas, I can’t remember the book’s title or author, but the lesson stayed with me: we are complex creatures, and feeling sexy and excited about sex isn’t always about obvious things like lingerie and candles. Your head has to be in the game too.
A whopping 38 percent of women suffer from a type of low desire that is massively influenced by behavioral and environmental factors. “In the majority of cases, there are lots of things we can do,” says Rosy’s founder and CEO Lyndsey Harper, MD. “For example, we can work to improve communication, introduce sexy short stories, or really talk about pleasure.” (that’s where Rosy comes in).
It can be frustrating if you want more sex in your life but never seem to quite feel in the mood or be able to make it happen. We explore four common pitfalls, and what you can do about them.
(Before jumping into lifestyle changes, it’s important to rule out any health conditions or medications that may be impacting your desire. Around 10 percent of women suffer from Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder – a diagnosable condition that may require medication to resolve – and certain prescription drugs can also cause low libido. If you think you fall into either of these categories, it might be worth speaking to your doctor.)
“For the majority of women that I talk to, they love their partners and remember feeling sexual in the past,” says Dr. Harper. “But it’s just something about the state of their lives now, they have a million things to do all day, they’re exhausted and end up looking at the clock, remembering how much or how little sleep they’re going to get until it starts all over the next morning. And so the last thing that I want to do is add on twenty more minutes.” While there’s no quick fix for tiredness, it can help to examine your daily routine and see where you might have more energy and be better able to squeeze in some intimate time. Perhaps Sunday afternoons tend to be quiet in your household, or maybe an aunt or grandparent can take the kids on a Saturday morning? You don’t have to stick to preconceived ideas of when (or where!) sex is supposed to happen – aim to make it work around your life and your energy levels.
Our lives are more hectic than ever before, making it near impossible to truly switch off at the end of the day. But when you orgasm, your body releases the hormone oxytocin, which works to reduce stress (it may come as no surprise to know that a 2006 study found 39 percent of women masturbate to relax – it’s so effective, that some even do it at work). This can improve your mood, your sleep and your ability to cope with stress the following day, thus increasing your chances of having sex again, creating a lovely virtuous cycle.
Lack of orgasm equality
A critical element in this orgasms-as-stress-busters plan? Your orgasm. If sex rarely means you reach orgasm, it’s time to flip the script. “We should really be thinking more about orgasm equality – where for every orgasm your partner is having you should be having one too,” says Dr Harper. “Bring your pleasure back to the forefront. If it’s been awhile since you’ve revived your sex life, why not try having a month of only you, or two weeks of only you?”
Knowing what gives you pleasure – and communicating that clearly to your partner – is the first step to making sure sex is something you find fun, which is key to having more of it.
The cult of busy
There will always be something to do, another thing to tick off the list; but the big question to ask is, it that truly the more important activity today? “When I ask women to name their top three priorities, their relationship with their significant other is in the top three, 100 percent of the time,” says Dr. Harper. “And, usually, things like keeping the house clean or doing the dishes is not on that list, right?”
“For example, we have three children and what we used to do was we would put all the kids to bed and go downstairs, eat and clean everything up. By the time we’d get upstairs it was 10:30pm or 11pm,” recalls Dr. Harper. “Now we go to our room right after the kids are in bed. There’s plenty of time for me to take a bath, relax and just be. And if the dishes don’t get done that day? It’s not the end of the world.”
If (like me) a messy house leaves you feeling stressed, consider tag teaming it – maybe one night you head upstairs for a bath while your partner cleans up and joins you afterwards.
Sex is a vital part of any romantic relationship, a core element of you as a couple that is important to intimacy and communication. So while there will always be something getting in the way, sometimes it can help to pause and really examine what that is, and how you and your partner can find ways to work around it. “You have to act according to your priorities,” says Dr. Harper. “And sometimes it’s about naming those priorities, then re-focusing on where you are and how you’re spending your time.”