How to regain intimacy after living with a partner’s diminished sexual interest for so long.
Many of my patients are delighted to get their libido back after years of avoiding sexual intimacy with their spouse because of disinterest, difficulties, or physical pain. Once bioidentical hormone therapy helps them physically desire sex again, there are often many issues surrounding how to resume normal intimate relations. At this point, their spouse has spent months, maybe years, learning to cope with their diminished sexual interest and there is no quick-fix pills to solve the problem. It’s not simple because it’s not just about sex, it’s about an expression of self and love within a relationship. Hormones are crucial to get the mechanics and the physicality of sex in working order, but being in a place of intimacy, passion, and love takes much more work. There are many psychological changes that have occurred while a couple has endured uneven sexual drives. After you have been in the desert for a long time, it’s hard to learn how to drink again.
My co-host on the BioBalance Healthcast, Brett Newcomb, is a Licensed Professional Counselor. He has helped me learn more about how my patients can recover from the psychological and relational aspects of hormone imbalance. These are the steps we recommend for couples who have coped with diminished sexual interest (from one or both sides) for a long time:
When there has been an imbalance or a disruption in consistent sexual intimacy, someone will inevitably have been wounded, disappointed, hurt, offended, upset, or any combination of those. These wounds may run deep, and to embrace the relationship and commit to both working towards healing, you must begin by letting go of your resentment, hurt, and anger. Have a conversation where you are able to discuss your wounds; to feel, label, express, and externalize them. The process of understanding where you each have failed and expressing those inadequacies is like hitting a “reset” button. Now you are both in the same space and commit together to move forward even though you have this history where you have hurt each other. Ask each other, “Are you willing to go forward with me?”
2. Start Fresh
Now that you are both ready to move forward, do not continue to bring up things from the past or “keep score.” This is about starting over. One approach that can really help to focus on today instead of the past, is to learn to communicate in “I” statements and not in “you” statements. Instead of saying, “you always treat me this way,” say something like, “I would like to be treated like…” Another example is that instead of saying, “you never touch me this way,” say, “I would like to if you touched me this way…” Negative accusations will only inspire your partner to put up their defensive walls, making the conversation unproductive. Replacing those hurtful messages with your current desires helps to communicate more effectively, without anyone needing to get defensive. In this way, you are able to speak for yourself without labeling your partner.
3. Fantasize Together
Once you begin to improve in communicating your current desires without bringing up past failures, the next step is to engage in conscious conversations about your sex life. One of the things that I find couples rarely talk about is their personal sexual fantasies or desires. When you are daydreaming about a wonderful sexual experience, what do you fantasize? Begin to create an environment of comfort and trust that allows you to each share these thoughts without feeling ashamed, criticized, or embarrassed. You both need to come to the table with an attitude that says, “I love you and if that’s what you want, we can experiment with that and see if it is something that I can do. But, I am open to hearing it and trying to engage in it.” You need to keep in mind that this is a partnership; there is mutuality. Your sexual behaviors, while they are individually exciting or satisfying, actually are in service of a greater goal: intimacy.
Men and women often experience difficulty doing this because they may have been ingrained with the idea that sexual discussions, fantasies, and self-awareness are wrong as adolescents. They may have been told, “good boys and girls don’t talk or think like that.” You need to move past these mentalities in order to freely discuss your sexual relationship in a mature, loving way.
4. Flirt with Each Other
Something I encourage couples that are rekindling the fire to develop is a flirting attitude towards their spouse. It’s necessary for couples to remember why they fell in love and what first attracted them to each other. How can you send the messages to your partner that you still find them attractive? Maybe you can begin with small compliments like, “I really like your hair that way” or “I like the way that shirt makes you look.” Many people, women especially, have a hard time accepting these complements. You will need to learn how to receive that compliment as genuine and to say, “thank you.” Allow yourself to hear it. Part of flirting is learning to accept being complemented and letting yourself bask in the attention or the attraction.
5. Touch and Feel
When there has been a lack of intimacy in a relationship, part of romantic healing is to make touching each other a priority. This is not about sex. It may involve sexualized contact, but it is not about intercourse and the goal is not orgasm. It’s about holding each other and learning how to be in that space and feel safe. Sit or lay together, feeling with all of your senses how you are connected in love and in safety with your partner. What does this look like? Maybe taking just 10 or 15 minutes a week to simply hold each other and pay complete attention to that process. Don’t leave the TV playing in the background. Don’t answer the phone or deal with the kids. Go into your bedroom and lock the door if you have to, just make sure you don’t turn that into a sexual experience. Sit together, look in to each other’s eyes, hold hands or cover your spouse in gentle kisses. Just touch.
These practices will lead you and your partner towards building intimacy, and in turn will lead to a more trusting and healthy relationship. Bioidentical hormone therapy can take care of the rest!