“I’m just not sexually attracted to my partner anymore.”
Has someone said this to you? Has someone said this about you? Have you said this?
Hurtful- yes; Honest- yes; Hopeless- no
You may be surprised to hear that this is a very common sentiment and actually makes a lot of sense when you begin to break it down.
So why does this happen?
For many, our ideal relationship consists of both love/intimacy and erotic desire. What we may not know though, is that the ingredients of love/intimacy are often in direct conflict with the ingredients of desire. Herein lies the great paradox.
Love and intimacy thrive when there is a sense of closeness, security, and care.
Desire, on the other hand, thrives when there is surprise, mystery, and novelty.
We feel a need for both security and adventure, for predictability and surprise, permanence and risk.
Not surprisingly, it is difficult to feel both at all times in a romantic relationship. As intimacy tends to increase, it is common for desire to decrease. The other person becomes safe, known, reliable and therefore the spark and mystery gets lost.
So what can we do with this information?
- Realize that you have been deceived! Intimacy does not equal desire. Both desire and intimacy can be cultivated in your relationship, but how you do it for each will look different.
- Don’t blame your partner! This phenomenon is a natural part of relationships and often has very little to do with who your partner is/is not. While it is easy to place blame on another person and look elsewhere for sexual desire, very rareIy does this have to do with relational compatibility.
- Work on it! Instead of just waiting around for something to change or starting over with a new person, the most erotically intelligent couples actively engage in creating the sex life they desire with their partner.
- Take Ownership! We like to think that our desire is dependent on our partner. They turn me on when… I get turned on when they… However, the research tells a different story. How turned on or off we feel often has much more to do with our internal state than with the other person. Think about it, when you feel terrible about your body and self, does it matter what your partner is wearing to bed? One way of cultivating desire is to ask yourself the following questions: “I turn myself on when _____” and “I turn myself off when ______.”
- Learn more about what your partner is passionate about! Research shows that we tend to feel greater erotic desire for our partner when we see them in their element. When we watch them on stage playing an instrument, when they are giving a speech etc. Their passion reminds us of their separateness and vibrancy for life.
Please know that this is in no way an exhaustive list. The information above comes from the work of Esther Perel, a psychotherapist and relationship researcher. To dive deeper into these topics, check out the following resources:
Podcast: Where Should We Begin?
Ted Talks: Ted.com
Book: Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
Additionally, our blog post on repairing relationships provides information on how to support yourself within your relationship; check it out!
**The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).