The quiz: How’s your sex drive?
1. Ideally I feel like having sex:
a. Every day
b. Several times a week
c. Every one to two weeks or so
d. Once a month or less
2. When I feel stressed, my libido:
a. Doesn’t really change
b. Fluctuates but I can still be turned on
c. Operates at a much lower level
a. I’m in good physical and mental shape
b. My health’s OK, but I take medication for an ongoing issue
c. A poor diet and inactive lifestyle reduce my energy levels
d. I am suffering from a significant illness
4. My relationship with my partner:
a. Is great in most ways
b. Could benefit from better communication
c. Has become strained and disconnected of late
d. Isn’t serving either of us well at the moment
5. As for my body, I:
a. Am grateful for what it can do
b. Am increasingly comfortable in my own skin
c. Miss my youth
d. Don’t feel connected to it
6. As for my sexual fantasies:
a. I have many and am keen to explore them alone or with my partner
b. It depends – when I’m stressed, imagination is the first thing to go
c. I don’t make much time to explore them – life is complicated enough
d. I only explore them on my own
a. Are easy and enjoyable for me
b. Can take a while to reach
c. Are not the point of sex for me
d. What are orgasms?
8. My diet:
a. Is well balanced, including fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds
b. Is healthy, but has too much alcohol
c. Needs more fresh produce
d. Isn’t nourishing
Congratulations – you naturally have what advertising, porn and music videos tell us we should all be striving for.
Being in great physical and mental health is the best thing you can do to achieve peak sexual drive.
If you have a strong libido, you can likely conclude you have no hormonal or chemical blockages and you’re in touch with what turns you on.
The only challenge is matching your happy-go-horny feelings to those of your partner, who may be less up for it – a challenge faced by 1 in 4 couples, according to the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL).
Don’t take a partner’s lesser desire personally or worry about what it says about your relationship – fluctuation is the norm. According to authors Justin Hancock and Meg-John Barker and the Enduring Love survey, these fluctuations don’t seem to make much difference to relationship satisfaction.
Try… to remember to treasure a strong libido while you have it. Any number of unexpected factors could tip the balance. A lifelong strong libido certainly isn’t a given.
A libido that regularly goes up and down is often being affected by a chemical or hormonal imbalance.
While it’s well known that alcohol and drugs affect the neurochemicals that buoy your sex drive, prescription medications, such as anti-depressants and those for birth control, can also have a stultifying effect.
If you think medication is affecting you, talk through other options with your GP.
If medication isn’t the issue, then communication could be. Peaks and troughs in desire for your partner are entirely normal, but if there’s a correlation between not having sex and arguments about money, the kids or when you were last intimate, it’s time to stop the quarrels spoiling an opportunity to reconnect.
When we make love, our hormones help us feel bonded. And it’s this that helps us to work through conflicts in our relationships. So even if sex is the last thing on your mind, it may be the thing that solves the dispute over, well, sex.
Try… hugging your partner when you’re on the brink of fighting. You may not want to, but if you can embrace for 30 seconds, you’ll get calm enough to speak without shouting.
Desire – you remember what that feels like, but these days it occupies about as much brain space as wondering if you forgot to buy cat litter.
It’s true that in a long-term partnership desire comes and goes. Yet a life full of rituals in which you organise everyone else might make for a smooth Monday to Thursday, but not a fiery Friday night.
You need to make space for your libido to flourish again and tune up your erotic feelings and thoughts before you consider inviting anyone in to share them.
Commit to reconnecting with your body. Take a scented bath, read an erotic novel or maybe watch a saucy film and allow yourself to fantasise.
Get into the habit of doing this before extending the erotic energy to your partner. Then, plan a ‘sex date’ to help you both reconnect, while ensuring nothing gets in the way. Focus on making a connection through touch and, as your desire rises, let your body lead you.
Try… shopping for a vibrator or other pleasure product. When you’ve had fun experimenting with it, you’ll be better placed to show your partner a new trick to make you tick.
Libido? What libido?
If you’re experiencing little or no sexual desire, you are probably dealing with a health or wellbeing issue, such as illness or a stalemate in your relationship. The good news is that low desire does not have to be forever.
As sex experts Meg-John Barker and Justin Hancock put it, ‘there’s a spectrum from being completely non-sexual to highly sexual and it’s fine to be where you are on that spectrum, and for that to change over time’.
Sex is its own aphrodisiac – the more you have, the more you want – but, as sexual psychotherapist Dr Kate Moyle explains, the idea of getting back on the horse after a period of inactivity can be scary – ‘there can be some hesitation about approaching someone we love in a sexual way for fear of rejection’.
In which case, feeling safe is key – something that can be brought about by being playful, rather than sexual, in the first instance. Tickling or massage can help to restore the trust.
Try… sending texts through the day to show you’re thinking of someone and make an evening plan that allows for sex, but does not require it for you to have an intimate time.
FIND YOUR BALANCE: Ways to improve your libido
Cut out substances – It may feel like a good way of loosening up, but you’re not doing your communication or sexual energy levels any favours if you’re dosing yourself in wine or other substances before you hit the bedroom.
Swap the alcohol for a lust-boosting diet including broccoli, watermelon, lettuce, eggs, ginger, cloves and, of course, chocolate. Oysters are an aphrodisiac, but pine nuts (as found in pesto) are a more accessible source, which may explain why the Italians are so good at amore.
Stop worrying about what’s normal – People in relationships often don’t have the same level of desire, says Enjoy Sex authors Meg-John Barker and Justin Hancock. They don’t find the same things arousing, either.
‘People tend to believe that the “ideal” sexual relationship involves people wanting the exact same kind of sex, and around the same amount. They are often concerned about how often other couples have sex, for example, assuming they should match up to that.’
The trick is to find what works for you. If that’s every day, great. Once a month? Also fine. It’s the quality and connection that matters, not the number of positions or orgasms.
Stress is not sexy – The number one obliterator of a healthy libido is stress. As Louise Manzanti, co-author of Real Sex, explains: ‘When your system is flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, your mind is racing to deal with the perceived threat and your desire for sex decreases accordingly.
Manzanti recommends this erotic exercise: ‘Sit comfortably and breathe into your body. Your only task is to look for pleasure in your body. If your mind starts racing, just come back to playful inquiry. Imagine you could turn up the volume of this pleasure and let it spread. How do you want to move in this moment? If you’re with a partner, let this erotic energy guide you.’
Read more: Are you having conscious sex?
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR SEX LIFE?
TERRI FINNIGAN, 27, Production Manager
I get enough sex. I am in a relationship and I think we are quite different sexually anyway so it depends on the scenario as to whose sex drive is higher at the time. I think stress from work can have a massive impact on my libido. I think when it is spur of the moment that heightens libido, you never want it to be a planned out scenario.
RICHIE MANN, 32, Business Owner
It’s a joint thing when it comes to sex, although I can be a little forceful. Alcohol decreases my sex drive and also when I’m tired. Rest increases it, you feel refreshed after a period of relaxation. I get enough sex but I would always like to have more. Do I dream about it? I don’t know anybody who doesn’t.
LOTTIE MILLS, 26, Personal Assistant
Yes I definitely get enough sex! I started seeing someone about two weeks ago and it’s great. I think my libido is pretty high in general. Drinking increases my sex drive and just being in a new relationship too. I think about sex about four times a day and I reckon I dream about it around once a week or so.