If you haven’t been there, it can be hard to fully understand the difficult experience of losing your libido for an extended period of time. If you have been there, you probably know that it can be a distressing, isolating, utterly confusing development. To offer some solidarity and reassurance, we spoke to women who have experienced (or continue to experience) a low sex drive for a variety of reasons. Here’s a glimpse into what life is like for them, along with some hopeful takeaways if you’re going through the same thing.1. “I could go for months without sex.”
Barb H., 44, remembers first becoming frustrated by her lack of libido around age 22, not long after she became a mom. At first, she thought it was the decline in libido many people temporarily experience after giving birth due to factors like hormonal changes, pain during sex (also called dyspareunia), and stress. But though it’s waxed and waned over the years, Barb’s sex drive never returned to what it once was.
If she’d been single, Barb would have been fine going for months without any kind of sexual activity, she tells SELF. But Barb was married, and her lack of desire made both her and her husband feel increasingly bad about themselves, she says.
“I was frustrated and angry that I couldn’t show my husband how much he meant to me without it being painful and disappointing,” Barb explains. (In addition to a lack of physical arousal that made sex difficult, Barb later found out she had endometriosis, or ovarian cysts caused by endometriosis, which can lead to painful sex. She recently started seeing a new doctor, and together they’re figuring out a treatment plan.) “And my husband felt neglected and like he was not good enough,” she adds.
Barb found that honesty and emotional intimacy have helped heal the rift between her and her husband. “Because I communicate with him better, he knows my lack of desire is not something he has caused, at least 99 percent of the time,” she explains. “We manage to express our desire and love for each other in other ways.” And although they don’t have sex as often as they used to, she says it is “very special and pretty amazing” when they do.2. “I want my body to want sex as much as my mind and my heart.”
For Veronica F., 21, the noticeable decrease in her desire for sex came as a total shock. She had just turned 18 and was in a loving, previously sexually fulfilling relationship. “One day I’m staring at my gorgeous boyfriend and wanting to spend all day locked away in our own little room…[then suddenly I’m] completely indifferent to the thought of being with him,” she tells SELF.
Veronica noticed that her lack of libido coincided with her starting the combination birth control pill, which contains estrogen and progestin. While low libido is sometimes listed as a possible side effect of hormonal contraceptives, the link between the two isn’t well understood. One theory is that because birth control pills (and some other methods of birth control) suppress your ovaries from releasing hormones and instead supply the hormones themselves, you miss out on the natural spike of libido-boosting testosterone that happens around the middle of your menstrual cycle. But it’s also possible to experience a lowered libido due to other side effects of the medication or any other number of factors.
The most frustrating thing for Veronica is the total mismatch between her actual sex drive (zero) and her desire to have a sex drive (100). “I love sex. I want sex. I want my body to want sex as much as my mind and my heart,” she says. She’s tried watching porn and having sex with her boyfriend anyway, but she is hardly ever able to get in the mood or orgasm the way she used to.