Losing Sexual Interest in One's Partner

executive summary
I love my girlfriend, but lately, I’m not so interested in sex with her. Thinking about sex with my girlfriend doesn’t do it for me like it used to.

hot facts
Since we don’t know exactly what makes one person desire another, we don’t know exactly what makes someone not desire someone else.

Don't Desire My Partner

Ask the Sexpert

Low sexual interest in my partner

Dear Dr. Klein,
I love my girlfriend, but lately, I’m not so interested in sex with her. I still think about other women, but thinking about sex with my girlfriend doesn’t do it for me like it used to. Now she’s demanding to know what’s wrong. I can’t just tell her I’m not in the mood as much as I used to be -- partly because I don’t understand it myself. What’s causing this, and what should I do?

Dear Reader,

Of all the mysteries involving sex, desire is the one that humans understand least. Since we don’t know exactly what makes one person desire another, we don’t know exactly what makes someone not desire, or stop desiring, someone else.

But we do know that there are millions and millions of men and women who are dissatisfied with their desire level, or their partner’s desire level. And in my experience, there are as many men struggling with low desire as women.

In understanding someone’s low desire, I first want to rule out physical factors if possible. Physical causes are more likely when someone says he has no desire for anyone; you imply that you have desire for other women, just not your mate. This suggests that you do not have a physical problem. But to be on the safe side, I would ask about the following:

* Are you taking any prescription drugs? Anti-depressants, anti-hypertensives, ulcer medication, sleeping pills, and many other drugs can reduce desire.

* Do you use street drugs? Stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines in more than the very small amounts are legendary for destroying desire. Even ecstasy and marijuana can undermine desire—not so much neuro-chemically, but by undermining the physical energy required for desire. Alcohol is a classic desire killer for many men and the partners who have to deal with them.

* Depression is a common problem that undermines desire. Although some depressed people use sex to enhance their mood, many depressed people feel that sex seems like more work than it’s worth. And physiologically, many depressed people have trouble generating energy for anything as complex or focused as sex.

* Sometimes, low desire is caused by endocrine problems such as low thyroid or low testosterone. Before you diagnose or treat yourself, consult your physician or a Planned Parenthood clinic. And forget about mail-order and internet-advertised products that claim to increase desire: regardless of endorsements, they just don’t work.

Then there are the psychological, emotional, and mental reasons that desire is lower than we might want. These include:

* Relationship issues: Anger or apathy toward a partner can kill sex drive. Interestingly, many people don’t know this, or they try and overcome it without resolving the relationship issue. One of our culture’s powerful messages is “men are supposed to want sex 24/7, no matter what”—and not surprisingly, many people believe this.

* Guilt or shame: These feelings about sex are so common in our culture that many people just take them for granted. And yet, these feelings -- “there’s something wrong with my body or my sexuality” -- can undermine desire for weeks, years, or a lifetime. Guilt and shame commonly result in the decision to keep secrets (about turn-ons or the past) from a partner, which can make sex a scary and lonely experience.

* Performance anxiety: This is no abstract idea; many people are afraid of failing in bed, afraid of disappointing their partner or exposing their inadequacy or inexperience. It’s hard for anyone to enjoy sex when they distract themselves in this way, and for some, the easiest response to their fear is to simply withdraw from sex.

* Fear of pregnancy or disease: Despite the overload of sexual images in our culture, many people still don’t feel comfortable discussing pregnancy and disease prevention with their sexual partners. The fear of one or the other can reduce desire in both genders.

* Dysfunction: Erection, ejaculation, and pain problems are very common. And just as common, unfortunately, is the lack of ability to talk about these difficulties. To deal with these problems, therefore, many men withdraw from sex. Whether it’s conscious or not, the result is the same -- low desire.

* Unrealistic expectations: “My penis is too small.” “It takes me too long to make her come.” “I only want sex once in a night.” “I don’t know a million positions.” “Her last boyfriend was a real stud, a sex expert.” These are some of the ways that men torment themselves, building up the monster of high expectations that they imagine their partner will have -- and that they can’t possibly fulfill. When sexual failure looks this likely, many men shrink away from even trying to please. And everyone, as a result, suffers.

What can be done about low sexual desire in men? Talk about it. If it seems appropriate, see a physician. A psychologist may be helpful in resolving emotional conflicts about sex. Ultimately, two honest conversations -- one with himself and one with his partner -- are the most important steps a man can take to understanding and reversing this frustrating, and often unnecessary, difficulty.

~Dr. Marty Klein