Desire exists within the intricate network of our identity and self-image, our family dynamics, romantic and sexual relationships, our work lives, our free time activities and the choices we make every day.
Many clients who seek help in dealing with low libido will easily accept a recommendation to take an overall health inventory: a round of basic blood tests, a check on hormone levels, a look at the side effects of any medication they’re on.
It makes sense to them that sexual desire is the result of a well-functioning physiology. And they’re not wrong — that’s why it often makes sense to do that first. Things start getting more complicated, however, when they get a clean bill of health. ”I’m healthy and I still don’t feel horny? What’s the deal with that!?”
The deal is that sexual desire is so much more than just a function of our bodies.
The functions of our bodies exist within the context of our entire lives.
If you say this in a client session, you may get a moment of silence before some version of this question: ”So, you mean everything can influence libido?”
This can feel incredibly frustrating. Life would be so much easier if it was all about the chemicals in our bodies and popping the right pill would immediately solve all low libido problems. A look at the results of the clinical trials for Addyi and Vyleesi, two libido-enhancing drugs for premenopausal women, however, proves that’s just not the case.
So how do you go about discovering the crucial factors that lower the libido in a world of endless possibilities?
How are your clients spending their energy?
One technique you can offer clients is to help them think of their lives in terms of energy. Ask them to consider their daily routines and list their answers to the question, “What do you spend your energy on?” Here, by ”energy” we mean time, effort, attention, or actual elbow grease.
More often than not, it turns out the first three items on the list are, in varying order:
- Work: which includes actual work, avoiding work, as well as thinking about work when not at work
- Daily duties: kids’ homework assignments, grocery shopping, laundry and hundreds of other activities go here
- Free time: often involving Netflix sans the chill
One of the most consistent and vicious libido killers is the cycle of fatigue — spending energy on performing duties and then balancing it out by spending time (and energy!) on low-maintenance free-time activities. Many of your clients will look at their lists and complain about permanent energy deficiency.
How do we expect sexual desire to thrive when we’re in a state of constant energy deprivation?
A reassessment of priorities is in order.
As the next step, ask your clients to consider their values. What are the most important things in their lives? What really matters to them? The top of this list almost always includes:
- Family: feelings of togetherness and support, or weekend trips to the kids’ judo tournaments
- Relationships: cultivating friendships, quality time with partners, feelings of intimacy and belonging
- Sexual well-being: feeling desired, expressing affection, experiencing pleasure, satisfying sexual needs
At this stage, the next questions usually become clear:
Why the heck don’t these two lists overlap!? Why don’t I spend most of my energy on the things that matter to me most? Why am I not living in accordance with my own values?
The hard truth is, it is often up to us to encourage sexual desire to thrive. The sexual functions of our bodies need a supportive context, energy to feed on, and a space to occupy in the framework of our lives. If we don’t create this space, sexual desire may just shrug its shoulders and say,“There’s no space for me to squeeze in here; oh, well, I guess I’ll just go then.”
How do you help clients create this space?
Small steps are the answer.
Ask them if they’re ready to distribute 1% of their energy this week to prioritizing their sexual well-being. Help them choose one activity they will forego (ironing that one dress or those 20 minutes browsing YouTube videos) and an activity they will do instead (browsing sex-positive blog posts or a makeout session with their partner).
And hold them accountable for spending energy on the things that matter to them most.
Are you ready to continue this conversation or start another important one? If you want to connect with other sexuality advocates and enthusiasts, stop by our Facebook discussion group, Sex Matters. Join a community of passionate people who are just as eager as you are to discuss intriguing, diverse topics in sexuality. We can’t wait to see you there!