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Do You Worry About How Your Libido Compares?

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Do You Worry About How Your Libido Compares?

Why drawing any comparisons between your libido and that of others is a pointless exercise that can leave you feeling inadequate.

Comparing ourselves to others and concluding that we come up short may be the most common way humans create their own unhappiness. With sex (as with the rest of life) do your best to sidestep comparisons, or, more realistically, to strip them of their emotional power.

It’s true that people differ widely in the ease and intensity of their sexual experience, just as they differ in their capacity to enjoy conversation, music, friendship, or gardening. But so what?

For women in particular, arousal and orgasm can take a lot of time and attention after the altered brain chemistry of the honeymoon stage wears off. As marriage expert Pat Lovedescribed it, (referring to lower-testosterone women) first you have to focus, focus, and focus some more, until you get exactly the right erotic fantasy in mind. Then, of course, a spot on the ceiling (is it a water stain?) or a thought about the laundry distracts you (should I have put the linen pants in the washer?) and you have to start working all over again until finally, finally, you have your orgasm.

I don’t mean to discourage you from getting help if you’re seriously troubled by a damped-down libido. It can be very difficult to relax, for example, if you’ve been sexually abused, and it’s worth the money to see a good therapist. And a number of medications that shut down libido can be replaced by other medications that don’t.

Also, your capacity for erotic attraction changes with time, so you may lose it when you’re home with little kids, and re-discover it when they’re in school and you’re out in theworkplace again. But don’t compare your current level of desire to what it first was with your partner. Helen Fisher, an evolutionary anthropologist reminds us that the hormonal cocktail for passion and romance is short-lived, lasting a few years at most.

Certain physical conditions that inhibit sexual response can be helped by a skilled urologist or gynecologist. But “lack of desire” is too quickly labeled a medical problem, disorder, syndrome, or dysfunction, with the goal of getting you fixed.

Be wary of a narrow medical model; sexual desire is far too emotionally complicated to reduce it to hormones and to the function or dysfunction of your parts. My best advice is to realize that you’re okay the way you are, or, as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross put it, “I’m not okay, you’re not okay, and that’s okay.”

[Harriet Lerner]

Dr. Lerner is one of the world’s most respected voices in the psychology of women and family relationships. She is the author of 11 books published in 35 languages. These include The Dance of Intimacy, Marriage Rules, and The Dance of Anger, a New York Times bestseller that has helped rescue men and women from the swamps and quicksands of difficult relationships. Dr. Lerner hosts a blog for Psychology Today.

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