Life happens, which means dry spells happen, am I right? No biggie—unless that dry spell morphs into more of a, well, severe drought.
Can’t remember the last time you wanted to have sex with your husband or partner? “It’s normal for there to be an ebb and flow in sexual desire in a marriage,” says licensed clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., author of Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Factors like stress, time, and kids can seriously zap your sex drive. That said, you shouldn’t just give up on your sex life forever. “Getting ahead of it is important,” Durvasula says.
These stories encompass some of the most common reasons why women lose their sex drives.
“At first, I thought something was up with our relationship. We did it a lot in the beginning, like six times a week. We were animals, and we loved every second of it. But about a year and a half into our marriage, I was seriously never in the mood to have sex. I had to pep talk myself into doing it once a week in order to make my partner think everything was okay.
“The thing is, everything was okay. I loved him fully and was super-attracted to him. It was a mood thing. He was always very supportive about this. He never made me feel bad about not being in the mood or anything like that. I ended up finding out I was feeling this way because of my birth control, and once the doctor took me off, I felt better and we started having a decent sex life again, doing it about two to three times a week.” —Heather J., 32
The expert take: While this doesn’t happen to the majority of women, it still can and does happen to some, says women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D. “Because there are hormones in the birth control pill, the reaction can vary from woman to woman depending on a person’s body chemistry and the type of hormone mixture in the pill,” she says.
If your libido seems to go on a permanent vacation right after you start a new hormonal birth control method, talk to your doctor. “There are tons of options to choose from and having your sex life impaired due to medication can be easily overcome for most people,” Wider says.
“Nobody tells you this when you’re a teen or in your twenties, but sex is way different after you have kids. Mainly because I’m always tired and the last thing I want to do is get naked, show my husband my post-pregnancy body, and have sex. Don’t get me wrong, I love him, and I love our life together. I just feel blah about my body, and I’d also rather sleep when the kids sleep than stay up and have sex.
“I think I’m just changing my sexual preference and may have an attraction to females.”
“We have two kids under the age of 4. Imagine that! My husband is annoyed about this. He’s not home all day, so his level of tired is consistent and based on his job. Mine is based on rowdy young kids. This is an ongoing fight in our household, and it kind of sucks.” —Juliet M., 29
The expert take: Motherhood can be rough on your sex life. “You’re tired, stressed out, and may not feel sexy anymore,” Durvasula says. “Is that a formula? No. But for many women it’s real.”
Being a mom means constantly tending to the needs and demands of others, and at some point, sex can feel like another demand, she says. Try talking to your partner about the pressures you’re dealing with and be open about how it’s affecting your sex life. Then, see if they can help with any of the responsibilities you’re dealing with on the regular, Durvasula says. That may help lift your sex drive.
“I literally woke up one day and decided I didn’t want to have sex anymore with my boyfriend. It sounds weird saying it because I didn’t wake up and also not love him anymore. I still loved him and thought he was sexy. I just lost my sexual appetite. It was ultra-tough explaining this to him.
“I’ve been married for over 23 years. I’ve had all the sex I need to in my life.”
“Guys don’t understand female hormones, and I didn’t understand why I was feeling like this. My boyfriend and I almost broke up because of this. He took it very personally and thought I was just over him and who he was. That wasn’t the truth, and I even brought him to the doctor with me. The doctor said I was probably feeling like this because of some stress I was experiencing in my job and with my family. She said there was nothing wrong with me, and that made me feel better. It definitely made him feel better, too.” —Ruth L., 36
The expert take: Stress is “becoming the new normal for people,” Durvasula says. And, unfortunately, that can have a direct effect on your sex life. She recommends trying to carve out time in your busy schedule for sex, and trying to set the mood/relax yourself beforehand. Maybe take a bubble bath surrounded by candles, or slip into some silky lingerie—all of that can help. “Sex is really an essential part of a relationship,” she says.
“I’ve been married for over 23 years. I’ve had all the sex I need to in my life, and truthfully, I’m just over it. Plus I’m a little bored. My husband doesn’t understand. He says he will try new things. He told me last month we’ll take a sex class, or he will order a book on Amazon, and we’ll get back into the swing of things.But I told him I’m good. I love him. I want to spend the rest of my life with him. But right now, I don’t want to have sex with him. He has to deal with that. He doesn’t have much of a choice.” —Linda B., 48
The expert take: Sex with the same person “can start to feel formulaic” after a while, Durvasula says. Instead of looking at it as the same old, same old, she recommends reminding yourself that this is something special that only you and your partner share. That, and doing what you can to spice things up. Try taking a vacation together and having hotel sex, or working in some new positions. “Anything that can make sex feel new is great,” she says. And, if things still aren’t working for you, it may be time to consider couples therapy.
“When I lost interest in having sex with my boyfriend, about two years into the relationship, I started investigating why, and began to admit to myself that I think I’m just changing my sexual preference and may have an attraction to females. I’ve been with females before, and I thought I was over it. I guess I’m not. I still loved my boyfriend, but maybe more in a friend kind of way?
“My boyfriend, of course, was concerned when I told him I didn’t want to have sex for like three months straight. I told him the truth, and at first he was completely taken back and a little offended. We met each other in the middle, and now we have an open relationship, which I feel is modern and most people understand.” —Sarah B., 24
While this can work for some couples, it’s a tough thing to navigate, Durvasula says. “It requires a lot of communication, conversations, openness and honesty,” she says. “Normal human emotions like jealousy, practicalness, and safety all come into play here.” Some couples can feel that an open relationship enhances what they have together “but it’s not a solution for a lot of people,” Durvasula says. “Many prefer to be in a monogamous union.”
If you find yourself suddenly not wanting sex, Durvasula recommends checking in with your doctor to make sure everything is okay on the health front. Things like depression, hormonal changes, and certain medications can all affect your libido, she points out.
If that all checks out, consider going to individual therapy to try to find out what’s happening with you mentally. Also, have an open dialogue with your partner and be honest about how you’re feeling. If you still want to be close to them, hold their hand, kiss, and touch them, those are all great signs, she says. If you don’t, it could be a sign of a deeper issue