Boost Your Libido

“I’ve been married a year now and my husband is extremely frustrated because he wants it five times a week and he’s lucky if I can manage two to three, and even then half the time I’m only doing it for him,” writes one reader. “Is this normal or is this just me?”

Jill Smith (name has been changed) is one of many women asking, “What about us?” With so much media attention to Viagra, erectile problems and low testosterone, women with low libido feel left out in the cold.

There are many reasons women find their libido sagging, says Marjorie Rand, Ph.D., a sex therapist and author of Body, Self and Soul: Sustaining Integration.

“Almost every sexual problem concerning women’s libido is a relationship problem of some kind,” says Rand. The crucial relationship may not be with her husband or boyfriend, but her mother (i.e., how she was raised) or her interaction with men as a whole (i.e., her identity as a woman).

When a woman is inhibited from feeling, for any reason, psychological and emotional blocks shut down the body through tight muscles, shallow breathing and other forms of physical armoring.

Medication may also cause low libido. Antidepressants, anti-hypertensives, anti-inflammatories, ulcer medication and birth control pills can affect sexual response. And, post-menopausal women lose testosterone, which can limit sex drive. If either of these scenarios describes you, talk to your medical doctor.

But in the vast majority of cases, says Rand, there is a psychosomatic origin of low libido. “You don’t recognize what’s going on because sex and the body have become split off from your normal states of awareness,” she says.

And so Smith and many like her mistakenly chalk up their lack of sexual intensity to male-female differences. “Men,” says Smith, “can drop everything and do it anywhere at anytime. Women just can’t do that, our minds are still on the laundry that needs to be done.”

There’s more to it, says Rand. Low sex drive is usually a recurring problem and not something that springs up overnight. It is important to consider the entire story of a woman’s life.

A woman may see herself as comfortable with sex and in love with her man, but she doesn’t respond fully. She is frustrated because she wants to have a level of desire that matches his. This stress can accentuate low libido.

Try these ideas to eliminate the pressure and create a secure environment in which to feel sexy:

Eliminate pressure for sex or orgasms:“Sometimes, taking the pressure off of her can improve the problem all by itself,” says Rand. Very often it opens the communication lines and allows him to share his feelings too.

Open up to your man and discuss your low sex drive. Let him know that he is not failing as a sexual “performer” and tell him he needn’t respond by trying harder.

Promote a feeling of security: This means changing the rules, which may be difficult without the guidance of a therapist, but the idea is this: Where he used to just plow forward, he now asks permission.

Rand says a more courteous approach to sex may seem like a loss of spontaneity, but in the long run everyone benefits. “You feel invaded when you think you have to say `yes,’ ” says Rand.

Pursue fitness for mind and body: Most women who lack sexual vitality breathe shallowly, says Rand. She recommends taking several deep breaths (using chest, diaphragm and belly) periodically throughout the day.

Slow deep breaths ease anxiety. Rapid, hard breaths beat back depression by creating “excitation.” Don’t overdo this. Focus on the feeling of breath going in and out of your body. Then notice how you constrict your breathing during sex.

The breathing you do during exercise can be therapeutic, but you want to create overall vitality and do more than build muscles. Take a modern dance or yoga class. Work expressively with music and rhythm.

All deep breathing and expressive movement allows you to connect with the moment and focus on the body. This is indirectly helpful to creating more sexual feeling.

Mix it up: Positions that allow the pelvis to move freely will promote more sexual feeling, says Rand. For this reason, she is not a big fan of the missionary position, which has the woman’s feet flying high in the air. Positions that allow a woman to have her feet on the floor (or on a wall) are very “grounding,” she says. It’s even better if both partners can have something solid under their feet.

Make eye contact: Many women close their eyes during sex. In some cases, a deeply held fear of intimacy may cause this. In her therapy practice, Rand has couples grow accustomed to prolonged eye contact. In true Tantric tradition, eye contact pumps up the energy exchange and enhances emotional interplay.

Learning to look at each other during sex builds comfort and trust. And those qualities help break through the blocks that inhibit desire.


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