I don’t feel much desire for sex anymore. I’ve been married for seven years, we have two young kids, and I don’t feel like I used to about sex. Help! I want the old me back!
Dear Sexually Sleepy,
In my practice, I often hear women talk about how they have a hard time getting in the mood for sex and then concentrating during sex. They describe a whirlwind of lists in their heads: grocery items, errands to run, chores to finish that distract them from being fully present in the moment. I tell couples that women’s brains differ from men’s brains. Women tend to have brains like spider webs: everything is connected to everything. It is great for multi-tasking and keeping track of details, but it makes it hard to tune out distractions. Men tend to have brains like boxes: open the lid, focus on the one thing, close the lid, move on to the next box. It is great for focusing intently on one task, but makes it hard for them to hear anything while the TV is on!
This difference can help explain why men and women often approach and experience sex differently. Men can typically put away their work, kids, chores, etc. in a box and then be focused and present during sex. Women tend to have a much harder time with this and find themselves thinking of laundry, children, and work meetings during sex–definitely not sexy–and subsequently have a hard time staying in the mood and enjoying the moment.
Couples I work with often find it helpful to prepare for sex, both mentally and physically. We used to do this when we were dating. We would shower, women would shave their legs, men would shave their faces, and we’d be flirty and cute throughout the date in anticipation of what might come after. If you’ve been together for a long time, this preparation ritual has probably been replaced with lounging on the couch in old sweats eating chips before heading up to bed and engaging in a sexual encounter. So it’s time to start a new preparation ritual. Get clean and shave if you like, but more important is getting in the right mindset. Some women might find it helpful to organize their thoughts on paper to “box up” any worries or ideas about to-do lists. Men might find it helpful to focus on a warm-up for the couple to transition from the day to day to a sensual, sexual mood. To borrow the term from Barry McCarthy, some couples really benefit from engaging in “bridges to desire.” This is an activity that helps to transition or “bridge” you from daily life to sensual desire. It may be a shower together, it may be watching sexy videos, it may be giving back rubs. After a woman has swept through the spider web of her brain and is staring at the box marked “sex,” a bridging activity can help her feel the anticipation and desire to open that box and stay focused there.
My challenge to you is to begin creating a way to transition your mind and body in order to prepare for being fully present in your sexual encounters. Have fun!