Sunday, March 21, 2010

Resolving Differences in Libido

Yesterday, I taught "Yoga for Restoring Energy & Libido" at Yoga Kula in Berkeley, and realized afterward that we didn't spend the 10-15 min I had prepared on how to resolve differences in desire, and sometimes, when needed, to compensate for both high and low libido when your libido is discordant than your partner's. Most partners have discordant libido, and how your find the middle path together is an essential part of a deepening, mature, mutually toe-curling sexual connection.

I mean "compensation" in the most loving, inclusive way -- such as how a kinesthetic learner would compensate for a class that requires visual learning, such as in Art History. I mean it with no judgment and no shame associated with it.

If you have low libido, I recommend a comprehensive medical exam, ideally with someone who is well-versed in hormones and their role in energy and libido. While causes for low libido such as adrenal dysregulation, fatigue, low testosterone, estrogen dominance, and underactive thyroid are described in previous blogs, as well as their natural solutions, I will focus here on the ways that have been shown to help bridge the divide if you have a partner with a higher or lower desire than yours, at least stronger than yours, and perhaps it's motivating you to do something about it.

For those with low libido:
  1. Lean into your strength - Identify and fortify your sexual strengths. Even when desire is relatively low, often other aspects of your sexuality such as technique, variety, talking about sex, sensuality, romance, verbal intimacy or body image are areas where you are interested in putting more energy. For more info on this, and to perform a helpful survey to identify your sexual strengths and your partner's, read Pat Love's book, Hot Monogamy, esp pages 18-39, Mapping Your Sexual Relationship. 
  2. Realize the power of receptivity. Recent thought leaders such as Rosemary Basson have recognized that spontaneous drive is common for men, and relatively uncommon for women. In fact, our most recent conceptual model shows that women do not need to have sexual desire or drive to have a satisfying sexual connection with their partner. Further, many women have difficulty distinguishing desire from arousal. Sometimes just a small opening in our receptivity to our partner's bid for sex can mean the difference between a mutually satisfying sexual connection and a connection that causes distress. 
  3. Fan the fire when it strikes. Sometimes we have a small glimmer of interest in sex or sensuality, and the more we act on it, fan it, encourage it, the better. A crucial task here is to identify patterns in your life that are associated with greater libido: perhaps Friday or Saturday is a better day for you than during the week, maybe it's after your husband watched the kids while you went to a yoga or meditation workshop. Maybe it's day 9-14 of your menstrual cycle, when testosterone peaks.
For those with high libido:
  1. Initiate sex out of love and desire, not habit. We often get locked into how sex needs to be, and breaking out of this habit will create more life and vitality in your connection. 
  2. Improve technique. New expertise in love-making can go a long way in getting your less libidinous partner interested and receptive to your bid. We can always learn more and try new things. If you live in the Bay Area, attend a workshop at Good Vibes in Berkeley, or Celeste and Danielle's Become An Extraordinary Lover.  
  3. Be respectful of your partner's parameters on sex. This requires verbal fluency in talking about sex, and how to optimize your partner's interest and openness to your bid. Ask your partner what some of their preconditions for sex are (kids are in bed and asleep, dishes are done, prefers sex in the mid-day), and do your best to satisfy them. 
  4. Don't take your partner's lower libido personally. Many of us are just born with lower libidos - it's a bell-shaped curve. Find the way to negotiate a mutually satisfying plan for sex that honors your needs as well as those of your partners. Your partner's low libido is your issue as a couple - do not make your partner feel inadequate or that there is something wrong. 
  5. Broaden your definition of sex. One brilliant sex therapist I love, Ruth Cohn, defines sex as "any erotic activity that is pleasurable, connecting, makes me feel good about me, good about you (my partner) and good about us." You can create your own list of what would now be defined as sexual activity, and it may include watching a romantic movie together while you hold hands and laugh together, or giving each other a massage and delighting in the pleasure of touch without it becoming sexual.

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I'm an organic gynecologist, yoga teacher + writer. I earn a living partnering with women to get them vital and self-realized again. We're born that way, but often fall off the path. Let's take your lousy mood and fatigue, and transform it into something sacred and useful.