Often, I have couples and partnerships come into my office reporting that all of a sudden (or, in many cases, slowly over time) one partner has lost their drive to engage in sexual play. While desire discrepancy is common, it can be unnerving, especially if bids for affection or sexual initiations on your part have been unsuccessful leaving everyone involved feeling potentially disconnected or humiliated.
In many instances, before a solution can be formulated or you understand the origin of the problem, anxiety gets a strangle hold over the relationship and communication breaks down. Constructive conflicts become quickly triggered fights, and often are not productive or go in circles where one partner expresses their need for sexual connection, and the other seems apathetic about sex or anhedonic (he/she/they do not seem to experience pleasure in life).
Prior to making progress in psychotherapy, physiological issues (e.g., hormone levels, other medical disorders…etc.) and co-occurring disorders (e.g., depressive episodes/mood disorders) should be ruled out or determined to be a part of the cause. Afterword, psychotherapy/sex therapy can commonly be helpful in discovering what is impacting the individual and rebuilding or discovering new or old arenas that provide pleasure in the relationship.
Cases of desire discrepancy are common, and require clear communication of boundaries, expectations and sexual (physical and emotional) preferences of all partners in the relationship to be overt and well negotiated. Rebuilding an open line of communication, with the addition on a number of intervention techniques (e.g., sensate touch, trying new sexual activities, discussing fantasies, attempting to stage a novel sexual scene…among many, many others) to be practiced at home can help reform pleasurable sexuality in the relationship.
Regardless, rigid or strong expectations can be crippling, leading the individual with low/no desire to feel incompetent and valueless, further continuing the potential cycle of initiation/shutdown/disinterest/resentment. Don’t let a lack of clear communication around desire destroy pleasure in your relationship.