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Low Sexual Desire: Can It Be "Fixed?"

February 1, 2019

The most common issue that couples present with in my practice is low sexual desire. This isn’t surprising to me, since I specialize in working with sexual difficulties—although couples are often surprised to know that their concerns are very normal.

In fact, we're currently experiencing a sexual recession. Rates of sexual intimacy are on the decline for the first time in decades. 

There are some anecdotal explanations as to why we aren’t having as much sex as prior generations. These include solo sex becoming more acceptable and practical, and people being less willing to take the emotional risks that are necessary for sexual intimacy. 

The second explanation is what we tend to focus on in therapy. Research shows that we can improve the quality of erotic intimacy by focusing on such elements as being fully embodied during sex, as well as by increasing authenticity, trustworthiness and vulnerability. 

These can be difficult tasks to take on. In my practice with couples, we first assess the levels of emotional intimacy within their relationship. After all, if you don’t feel safe enough to share your emotions with your lover, you’re probably not going to feel safe enough to explore your erotic desires with them. 

Research shows that when we create emotional intimacy in a relationship, sexual satisfaction can increase without even having to talk about sex in the therapy. Although talk about it we do. Some of the basic questions I like to ask couples about their eroticism include:

  • What’s the difference between sex and desire for you?
  • What turns you on?
  • What turns you off?
  • Does your partner know these things?
  • How do you turn yourself off?
  • How do you practice your own sexuality? 

Sex is such an important part of a relationship. We value physical touch and comfort in our relationships. And if we practice monogamy, our intimate relationship is the only place where we can get this need fulfilled. 

If you’re struggling with low sexual desire in your relationship, know that you’re not alone—and that it doesn’t have to be that way. I encourage you to talk about sex with your lover. How are we supposed to fix what we don’t know is or isn’t broken? 

If you aren’t sure how to start this conversation on your own, schedule an appointment with a therapist. You can schedule an appointment with me or one of our other therapists by using our Request an Appointment form or by calling 319-356-6352.

Erin Maher, LMFT

Erin is licensed in the state of Iowa as a marriage and family therapist. She uses an experiential approach called emotionally focused therapy (EFT) to work with couples. She also uses sex therapy to work through sexual health concerns. Erin works with adults and questioning adolescents - individually, as couples, in groups or as a family.