Could your libido be signaling an underlying problem with the way that you see sex?
It’s Day 4 of our Sizzling Summer Sex Series! What I want to work us towards this month is a mutually-satisfying, passionate sex life where guilt and expectations are thrown out the window, and acceptance, love, and generosity have replaced them.
We’ve looked at how expectations on what should happen in the bedroom often hinder us, either because we assume that women’s sexual responses should be the same as men’s, or because we don’t work towards her sexual satisfaction.
Today I want to add another thought: maybe the root about why sex isn’t passionate is that we misunderstand the focus of sexual desire.
Here’s a question that a reader recently sent me:
I just finished listening to the audio version of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex–thank you for that! I feel like I understand sex better. But I’m hoping you can help me: I have an all or nothing libido. And I don’t know how to deal with it! I can go weeks (probably months!) without sex and it doesn’t bother me, apart from the fact that I know that I’m letting my husband down, and I miss the emotional intimacy. But if I put to mind to engaging my brain sexually, sex is all I think about. It keeps me up at night, and I am very distracted and unproductive during the day. My husband loves it while it lasts, but I end up burnt out after a week or two, and have to put sex out of my mind. My poor husband has to go from sexual overdrive to a sexual zero until I have the energy to pursue it again. Is this normal?
Okay, this is a tricky thing I’m going to try to explain, and I hope you’ll bear with me!
Let’s think about alcoholics for a second. Alcoholics can really only approach alcohol in one of two ways: either they abstain altogether and try to keep alcohol the furthest thing from their mind, or they go on a binge and can’t stop. It’s all or nothing, feast or famine.
They cannot have a healthy, moderate experience with alcohol because everything has been warped.
I think the same thing sometimes happens with sex (though the analogy falls short because I’m not really talking about addiction issues). I’m talking about the fact that many of us simply cannot see sex in a healthy way. Either we ignore it altogether, or else it becomes an obsession that steals all of our energy.
What’s the underlying issue?
We’re not supposed to desire sex; we’re supposed to desire our spouse.
Sex is the way that we express our desire for our spouse, but our spouse is the object of that desire. What we really yearn for is true intimacy on every level–physical, spiritual, and emotional.
I explained this at great length in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and if you’ve never read it, I highly recommend that you get it, because if you’ve struggled with understanding what sex is supposed to be and why God made it this way, it can answer so many questions and make you excited about sex in your marriage!
But let me try to boil this down:
God made sex to be intimate in those three ways–emotional, spiritual, and physical. The world took sex outside of marriage, though, and thus all that is left is the physical. Our pornographic culture makes this even worse, rewiring the brain to become aroused from visual stimuli rather than from a relationship. And soon what is sexy is an anonymous fantasy or the sex act itself, rather than the pull of feeling closer to someone.
Even if you didn’t use porn or erotica, we live in this culture which presents sex this way. And it’s easy to fall prey to that. Our marriage is loving and safe and tame; sex is wild and crazy and almost dangerous.
When we’re just focused on our marriage and family, then, we frequently feel as if we have no libido. When we focus on sex, though, our sexual desire may skyrocket–but it’s not necessarily aimed at our spouse. We may then “want” our spouse, but more in the way that we may reach for a sex toy. We have an itch that only they’re allowed to scratch.
I don’t know the woman who wrote this email, and there could be far more going on than this, but this is a dynamic that I see frequently. We’ve distorted what sex is.
Now, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with sexual desire or sexual feelings.
Please hear this! It’s just that true passion does not grow out of physical feelings alone; and in fact, emotional vulnerability tends to lead to far deeper physical desire. They fuel each other. That is healthy sexual desire. You feel it physically, yes, but it is directed at your spouse.
If you have a sex dream; if you yearn to try something sexually; if you feel really anxious with sexual frustration one day, this does not mean that you’re warped or evil or sinning. That’s not what I’m implying. We were created to have sexual feelings, and we were created to be passionate, and those feelings are good.
The problem comes when sex becomes only about an act, and not about the relationship. That’s when you get this unhealthy, all-or-nothing approach to sex. When something takes all of our emotional and mental energy, so that we can’t focus on anything else, that’s unhealthy. That borders on obsessive. That was not what sex was meant to be. Sex is supposed to be a healthy, passionate expression of our feelings for each other, not something which takes over our lives.
So what’s the solution for a healthy libido?
I deal with this in one of the modules in my Boost Your Libido course, but let me make a suggestion. What really fuels sexual passion isn’t porn or sexual fantasy as much as it is deep intimacy. That’s why make up sex is a real thing; when we’re vulnerable with each other, desire often engulfs us!
If we can learn to focus our desire for sex on our spouse, as part of a relationship, then we may find that our libido evens out. We no longer can go weeks without sex; but it also doesn’t consume us at times, either.
Your Sizzling Challenge!
Build closeness and vulnerability as part of foreplay!
Just try it. Either pray together (here are 10 tips to make praying together that easier) or use a few of my conversation starters. But share some deep needs and feelings you have, and you’ll often find that your sexual desire for each other grows, simply because you feel closer to each other.