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5 Things Getting in the Way of Sexual Desire

Discover the common reasons your sex life might be dwindling and what to do about it

It's common for couples to experience a decrease or loss in sexual drive at some point during their relationship. Research shows there are a few key reasons for this and by gaining a better understanding of them, it's possible to rekindle sexual desire in the long term.

  1. Snarky or hurtful comments. Research by the Gottman Institute, a leading marriage and relationship research center, is very clear on how snarky or hurtful comments can undermine trust and stop a relationship in its tracks. These comments can be an attack on a person’s physical or mental ability or disguised as “humor”.
  2. Emotional distance.The second thing that can interfere with desire is emotional distance. The Normal Bar survey found that more than 80% of couples hold hands, but after 10 years that number decreases to just about 50% of couples. In other words, people start forgetting the simple acts that bonded them. In order to rebuild intimacy, couples have to spend time together, focus on each other, and talk about things that really matter.
  3. How well someone takes care of themselves.The third common issue is how well someone takes care of themselves, or in other words, their hygiene and if they try to ‘look good’ for their partner. A third of women in unhappy relationships with men said that part of their disappointment was that their partner didn’t take time to look nice around the home or when they went out casually. And after 6-9 years in the relationship, 36% said they wished their partner would make more of an effort to impress them. This suggests that as a relationship progresses, people often start to take their partner for granted and stop doing the things that attracted their partner to them in the first place.
  4. Not enjoying the ways someone behaves in bed.The fourth most common reason is not enjoying some (or all) of the ways your partner behaves in bed. These are not easy conversations, but by not having them, sexual contact is obviously not going to be desired – at least not with that partner. It often takes a safe space with a sex therapist to relearn how to tell each other the truth and change sexual habits.
  5. One’s own feelings about attractiveness, and in particular, body issues.The fifth and final reason is one’s own feelings of attractiveness, and in particular, body issues. Body issues can cause more sexual inhibitions than almost anything else. It could be one’s own weight gain or a partner’s weight gain, and for highly visual people, it can be a desire killer. In the Normal Bar study, 54% of men and 42% of women said they would not like it if their partner gained weight, and 68% of people said they would like to lose some weight themselves. Obviously, we need to develop a little more love for our own body and much more acceptance of our partner’s.

We can increase desire by paying attention to these five issues. There also may be physiological and medical reasons for our lower libido, which should be discussed with a doctor.

About the writer

Dr. Pepper Schwartz

Pepper is Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington and has studied intimate relationships and sexuality her entire academic career.

During this time she has written 25 books, several on best seller lists, and created relationship and sexuality workshops for individuals and couples.

Most recently she has been one of the on-air relationship experts on the hit television show Married at First Sight, available to watch on Lifetime and Netflix.

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