"Stress has completely wiped my sex drive. How can I reverse this?"
BY CAIT ROBINSON
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Dear Miss Information,
My fiancé and I have been dating for 2 years now and lived together for a year and a half of that time. At first I had a very high sex drive and he didn't; now his drive has increased to match mine, but, because of stress, mine has decreased. He isn't upset or anything about this. He sees sex much like a girl does– as an "emotional" experience rather than a "sexual" one. I am e-mailing more for myself. I have always had a sex drive but it's dropped so low because of anxieties. I'm trying to pay my way through college with my savings, but since it's all online, I stay in my 1 bedroom apartment alone all day, every day. He works all day and has the only car we have. I can't afford to get anywhere to talk to anyone else.
I am really upset about my sex drive decreasing because it has always been high. Let’s face it: sex helps you unwind. Although he does most of the maneuvering during sex, just thinking about it feels like work. I hate that it feels this way and I have tried so many things to de-stress: I got a gym membership, have been going twice a week for 2-3 hours but that just seems to make me 10 times more exhausted. I've tried calling people to chat so I don't feel so antisocial, but it still doesn't feel the same as actually spending time with friends.
I have a heart condition and can't take any energy drinks or pills to increase my energy and I have no idea why I'm so low on energy as I sit in a chair typing all day, I mean, how much energy can that use up?
Is there anything my fiancé can do to help "get me in the mood" even when I'm exhausted, because I'm sick and tired of being too sick and tired to have sex.
Dear Not Tonight,
How much energy can “sitting at home, typing” use up? As someone who sits at home, typing, a lot, I can tell you: tons. I have a crackpot theory that “being interesting” is kind of a “use-it-or-lose-it” trait—on days I spend alone and typing, by the time I get out into the world, I feel like I have nothing to contribute other than zingers like, “so, I recently learned how to re-format my paragraphs…” or “did you know Microsoft Word has clip art of buses? Buses! Isn’t that interesting?”
The trick here is that your stress is creating stress is creating stress. The easiest way to short-circuit that feedback loop? Self-compassion. You’ve got a lot on your plate, and it sounds like you’re managing things (including rocky health) well. Give yourself credit for that! And don’t lose sight of the fact that sex ebbs and flows in every relationship. Maybe one partner is going through a medical situation; maybe one partner is stressed/ tired/ dealing with something big. This is just a reality of relationships. It sounds like your fiancé is supportive, which is excellent. In your future together, he may go through a period of situational celibacy, too. It’s to be expected. You can repay the favor by being supportive then.
“Lightening up” is a great start; now make your daily life reflect a new focus on yourself. Put boundaries around your work times, treating your education like a job. Set hours, and stop working when your “workday” ends. Schedule in breaks, including plans with friends. Make plans weeks in advance if you need to. Make sure you see sunshine at least once a day. School is great, but it’s not worth sacrificing your health and sanity. If you absolutely can’t find ways to re-join the world, talk to your advisor about lightening your workload. Sure, it might take you longer to finish your program, but that is infinitely preferable to having a nervous breakdown. Your education should work for you, not the other way around.
If you take the focus off of sex, sex has a way of improving. Make date nights with your boyfriend, even if it’s a tightly scheduled hour for coffee and then back to work. Remember why you like each other so much! Prioritize pleasure of all kinds, not just sexual. It’s easy to get lost drinking the workaholic Kool-Aid, but when something like this happens—a steep drop in desire—that’s your body’s way of telling you to scale back.
Fun is a necessity, not a privilege. Take it from me: as long as your head is stuck in the netherworld of paragraph formatting and clip art, sex will feel like a chore. Get back into the world, Not Tonight, and everything (including your productivity) should improve.