Several years ago we received a desperate plea for help from a man who wanted to lower his libido:
“I desperately need your help. Neither my primary doctor nor my psychiatrist is interested, so I turn to you.
“What can I take to reduce my libido? I have a lovely wife who for the last seven years has not been interested. She is the only person in my life. Your input on this would help keep me from driving myself nuts as well as her. I’m currently taking lithium, sertraline, lorazepam and trazodone. After the ridicule both doctors put me through, I certainly hope you can help.”
It is not that unusual for partners to have vastly different libidos. We tend to think that men are always interested in sex and women frequently feel overwhelmed by constant pressure to perform in bed. That is not always the case. This website has become a place where women can share their frustrations too:
“I have a problem and I don’t know where to turn. My partner and I don’t have sex very often anymore. We have been together for over five years.
“I became depressed because of work, family and medical issues but worked through it with his help. He is a great man and I love him more than anything. The problem is that we only have sex three times a month if I’m lucky.
“He says it’s not me, but rather that he is under stress from work, family and friends. Is there anything a woman can do to slow down her sex drive? I love this man and will do anything for him, even give up sex if I must.
“Wow… this is so depressing. I have been with my husband for 6 years. He was my first. For the first year he couldn’t get enough of me to the point that I couldn’t keep up. Then we were long distance for a while. After that, I found that it was often me going to him and getting rejected. I actually have a diary entry where I was panicking because we hadn’t had sex for three days. ha ha ha! if only I’d known! Now it’s once a month if I’m lucky, and once over three months without anything at all. Sometimes he won’t even let me touch him.
“He is the most wonderful person and every other part of our relationship is heaven, except this. He is very loving and affectionate but the sex has disappeared. He was absolutely wild when I met him and the sex is incredible when it happens.
“It’s breaking my heart. I find myself trying to get male attention elsewhere, which I am ashamed about. I know I would never cheat on my husband, but I just like to be looked at as a woman now and then.
“I’ve reached the point where I am trying to accept that this will be my life. I am 28, we don’t have any kids, this should be when we’re going crazy on each other. The idea of being in a sexless marriage terrifies me, but I have no choice but to accept it, because I love my husband. I guess you can’t have it all…
“I have been taking chasteberry capsules for 1.5 months now. It has had some positive side effects like regulating my periods and making PMS less severe, and I am less sensitive sexually. It hasn’t really helped with the thoughts of sex.
“I wish I could go back to when I was ignorant and didn’t think about sex. The array of hobbies and projects I have going as distractors is incredible. If anyone has a solution please help.”
There is no simple solution to this very complicated problem. We always suggest counseling. Intimacy issues are frequently a red flag for deeper relationship difficulties. A sex therapist or marital counselor who specializes in sexual complications can be very helpful.
When we asked Dr. Ruth to offer some advice on this matter she cut right to the chase. Her suggestion: the less interested partner should care enough to help the other person achieve an orgasm, even without intercourse. Dr. Ruth recommended oral sex as one possibility.
If the relationship is not strong enough to support that kind of sexual gratification and counseling is not possible, there are dozens of drugs that can dampen desire. We do not think this is a viable option for most folks since all the drugs carry some risk of side effects. Progesterone, for example, lowers libido for both men and women, but side effects include depression, fluid retention, irritability, nausea, headache, blood clots and fatigue. The herb vitex (which has mild progesterone-like action) may help some, but as one of our visitors reported, it doesn’t work perfectly. Many antidepressants also lower libido, but possible adverse reactions are non trivial and stopping such drugs suddenly can be extremely difficult, leading to withdrawal.
It is incredibly difficult to talk about sex. Being honest about something so intimate with the person you love can be challenging. But ultimately communication is essential in a good marriage. Not discussing sex leads to a lot of heartache as you will discover if you search our website for comments.