Do we all have the same sex drives throughout our lives? What happens when we’re a couple and one person wants more sex? What happens when one person no longer wants sex? These are crucial issues for each person and for both people inside the relationship. Let’s proceed carefully, with sensitivity.
Begin with one person first. How old is the person? What has happened in terms of life changes? For example, a woman who has given birth may not want sex for a substantial period of time after the birth. The necessities of taking care of the new child, or children, and having her body adjust to the post-birth period may make her too tired and preoccupied. So, too, may the demands of running a household or maintaining a job or looking for a job or worrying about money. Similarly, a man whose partner may have given birth may be preoccupied with many of the same job, household, and money worries. So, no one may be in the mood for sex.
But some people may react uniquely in ways that we don’t truly understand. We don’t know how variable the sex drive is for each person at every stage of life. I’ve treated both women and men who have had no to minimal sex drive, even in their teenage years, as well as people with a very high sex drive. Not all of it is due to beliefs, upbringing, or trauma: they just didn’t think or care about sex.
We have a myth that people are always sexual, especially when young.
Similarly, people change for different reasons throughout their lives. People can want less or more sex when they’re under stress. People usually don’t want sex when they’re depressed. Women who have had children often become more sexual before menopause. Men fancying themselves going through a midlife crisis can become hypersexual.
When a person is in a relationship, other than differences and conflicts that arise for other reasons, different sexual cycles and needs can upset the balance. Even assuming that people in the relationship are compatible and like each other, these cycles can produce strain. Each partner can misunderstand the other, as we saw in When Harry Met Sally.
As we age, medical conditions – such as changes in hormones or cardiovascular levels and other organ functions – can affect how much sex we want, when we want it, or if we want it. So, the best thing is to go see a therapist experienced in these sexual issues and go to your respective physicians as well—and have the therapist and the doctors talk. We want to know what’s medical, developmental, and psychological—so we can maintain our individual functioning and our relationship.