Why Doesn’t She Want to Have Sex? | The Common Couple Dilemma
Written by Alysha Jeney, MA, LMFT Owner of Modern Love Counseling and Co-Founder of The Modern Love Box
*It is important to note that although I am using specific gender pronouns, I am not intentionally meaning to exclude or generalize behaviors unfairly based on someone’s preferred gender identification. This article is an example of themes I have heard in my experience as a couples therapist from heterosexual, cisgender couples. However, this content has and can be a theme in any relationship, regardless of gender and identification.
“Why doesn’t she want to have sex?” is a common question we often hear in couples therapy. Sometimes, this may be the question that brings a couple or an individual into therapy to begin with. Of course there is never a one-size-fits-all answer to any one question, but I can share with you what I have learned in the years of being a couples therapist that may be helpful to you if you find yourself on this blog.
Many times, women are identified with having a low to non-existent “sex drive.” We often use this term to describe the lack of desire to engage in sex or forms of eroticism. It is easy to make the assumption that women who have a “low sex drive” are struggling in some area and it just needs to be “fixed.” Many clients will ask, “Is it because of my hormones? A lack of attraction to my partner? Is it just my age? What do I need to do or take to get us back to having sex like we used to? I don’t understand why I don’t want sex, really ever.“
Well to start, we have to use caution with the term “sex drive” to describe the desire to have sex, and start recognizing that our sexual desires are a lot more complex than just the spontaneous biological urge to orgasm. When we use the term “sex drive,” we are implying that we HAVE to have sex and that if we don’t ever have that urge, then something must be wrong with us. We biologically have the drive to drink water, to eat food, to be warm… to simply survive. The catch here, no one has died from not having sex, which is why we should be cautious using the term “sex drive” to describe the desire to want sex. We all have an impulsive drive to drink water, to eat or to sleep, which are essential to our existence. We don’t have the same biological impulse to have sex because our bodies don’t need it to survive. To read more on this theory and how to look differently at this topic, check out the book Come As You Are.
With that said, there are still many people asking the question, “Whats wrong with me?” when they don’t desire sex with their partner. Many people assume that this is a biological or a hormonal issue. Many people just settle with the belief that it must be “age,” and assume their sex “drive” is long gone.
Most likely, there is nothing “wrong” with their body. Yes, it would be a good idea to be up to date with health exams, but often times the reason why she doesn’t want to have sex has nothing to do with bodily functions and hormones. It has to do with how she is relating to sex, her sexual self and her partner. It often has everything to do with what she is thinking and feeling in the day to day. The specific context of the day can either spiral her down a stressful hole of exhaustion, or actually be a fun loving opportunity for excitement and sex play.
Now the key, is mindset. The biggest sex organ in the body is the brain. Without a conscious decision to be open to letting go of control and allowing for an organic experience to occur, most often the desire to have sex will be out the window. Many women are bombarded by the self induced endless list of to-do’s in their heads. Unfortunately, this often includes the perceived stressful obligation to have sex, which makes the desire even more of a negative. Women are often too “busy” internally that they rarely unburden themselves with the free time to ask what they want to do. Women can get stuck in their own heads and put a lot of pressure on themselves to do more, which ultimately limits the space in their brain for the decision to want sex.
What is also interesting, most often women need to become aroused before they can make the full decision to desire sex.
That’s right… Women often need to make the decision to want sex, verses wait for their bodies to alert them that they are ready to go.
Women’s sexual responses can be understood by thinking of a cycle. First, it starts with willingness. When the context feels safe, (which is different for every women), she can make the decision to be open to an organic sexual experience. Secondly, once she is mentally open, she will be more allowing of her body to become aroused. Once her body is aroused, she can make the conscious (and excited) decision to want sex. The cycle may have to be repeated if she gets stuck in her head during any part of the sexual experience and isn’t present.
Generally speaking, men’s sexual responses are linear and start with desire, lead to arousal, then ultimately end in orgasm, before it plateaus. You can understand then, how women can perceive that they have an “issue” when they never “desire” sex (like men). The reality is, men and women’s sexual responses are very different and when understood, you are less likely to personalize the symptoms and support each other differently.
As a woman, it is important to understand the appropriate context for which she feels the most willing to have sex. Is it ample quality time with her partner? Is it less house work or less overall stress? Is it alone time to recharge? Is it all of these above? Is it getting complimented or caressed a certain way? When she is able to identify it, she can communicate more about what gives you both the green light to initiate sexual experiences.
When sex becomes a challenge for her, it can indicate that there is a huge imbalance in her life. For example, there may be no room for her to feel unburdened of responsibilities and she may be desiring feeling more emotionally close to her partner. She may also not desire sex because she isn’t attune to her own body and sexuality. She may dismiss her own sexual needs and prioritizes everything else above that, which is frustrating for both parties. When both people can communicate more honestly, you can work together at creating an intentional space for the context to line up and support an organic sexual experience without the pressure.
Before we blame or feel rejected, we should find space to understand each other. Men and women’s sexual responses biologically are really different and the connection between the two of you may be a bit off. Talking about the elephant in the room with a trained professional may be all you need to start having more fulfilling and less pressuring sex!
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