'Not tonight dear': How to support your partner through lost libido
Struggling with a reduced sex drive is one of those embarrassing subjects that none of us really want to talk about if we can help it. But if your partner's been saying "not tonight dear" more frequently than usual, it's worth sitting them down and chatting it through together, in an open and supportive way. There are lots of possible causes of lowered libido, but here are four ways you can help your partner get their spark back in the bedroom.
1. Reassure them
Loss of libido is actually far more common than most people think – throughout our lifetimes, one in five men and even more women will be affected at some point, so start by reassuring your partner that they're not alone. The cause could be an emotional trigger, like stress, depression or anxiety, or it may be something more physical, like drinking too much alcohol, certain types of medication, or a hormone problem. Start by trying to identify together if there is an obvious cause – perhaps they're under increased pressure at work, or they're suffering from depression. Are there any problems in your relationship that could be coming between you? Or maybe they're simply not ready to get back into sex after a major life change like having a baby.
2. Discuss solutions
If there is an immediately obvious cause, talk to your partner about ways to tackle the issue. Perhaps they could benefit from seeing their GP or a counsellor to work through any underlying mental health or drug and alcohol concerns, or the two of you could look into seeing a sex and relationships therapist together if there are problems you need to work through together. Or, if it's simply a matter of sexual boredom, talk about ways to spice your relationship up and bring back some of the magic you had in the early days. Think about ways to reduce any external stresses – no checking work emails in the bedroom! – and spend quality, relaxing time together away from other distractions. There doesn't need to be any pressure to dive straight back into sex; focus on rebuilding intimacy first.
3. Visit a GP or sexual health clinic together
Of course, the cause of your partner's reduced sex drive won't necessarily be clear just through opening up. If you can't find a solution by yourselves then it's important to see a GP or sexual health specialist to identify what's behind it, and look at possible treatment options. They might prefer to go alone and speak to a doctor of the same gender, or they might really appreciate you going along for a bit of moral support, so suggest both options.
Physically, loss of libido can be related to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity, as well as changing hormone levels often associated with getting older or with an underactive thyroid. Low sex drive may be caused by certain medications, including hormonal contraceptives and anti-depressants. Visiting a healthcare professional as soon as possible can help to detect or rule out more serious problems. They'll also be able to look at whether switching your partner's medication, or introducing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) could help in your particular circumstances. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/loss-of-libido/Pages/Introduction.aspx
4. Be patient
Regardless of the underlying cause, stress can play a big role when it comes to libido levels. If your partner feels under pressure to 'get better' and perform sexually, that stress is only going to get worse and block things further. Be patient; allow them to take their time to tackle the issues and ask if there's anything you can do to help. It might be that creating a relaxed and romantic atmosphere is enough to ease them back in, but don't expect your partner's libido to suddenly come bounding back just because you've had a chat and lit some candles. Take things slowly, and move at their pace.
Lost libido can put a strain on any relationship, but having a partner who's supportive and eager to help makes a big difference. Don't be afraid to start that conversation.