Let’s face it, there are times when we’re just not into it—”it” being sex. Whether our lack of a sex drive is due to a stressful week of work (or wedding planning!) or a mere result of certain medications we might be taking, there are many reasons why someone may be not interested in sex.
Some reasons, however, are more complex than others. “Sometimes detailed explorations into family history are required to begin to unravel the mystery of one’s sexual self, which are woven into the fabric of their upbringing and all the messages they received around sex and sexuality,” explains Wendi L. Dumbroff, a licensed professional counselor. “For women, there may also be certain circumstances and periods in their life, during which they want sex less, that are not quite as complicated.”
It’s tough to know where you fall on the “not wanting to have sex” spectrum, but here are some times where experts say it’s totally normal that you’re not interested in sex.
It’s that time of the month.
Aside from the uncomfortable cramping, not to mention bloating, that comes along with menstruation, it’s no surprise if you and your partner are not interested in sex when Aunt Flo is in town. “Some folks aren’t put off by blood, but most women tend to feel inward and vulnerable during their period, preferring to curl up with a cozy blanket and a book, and aren’t in a big hurry to be penetrated,” says Claudia Six, Ph.D., sexologist and author of Erotic Integrity: How to Be True to Your Sexuality. “Plus there’s the clean-up!”
You’ve been fighting with your partner often.
As Six puts it, resentment is not an aphrodisiac. “Resentment builds up and festers, creating distance,” she says. “It’s contradictory to be resentful of someone and want to get naked and physically close to them.” If you and your partner have been fighting more often than usual without ever feeling like you’re back on the same page, it might be worth it to consider couples counseling. Having a third party listening to your issues and unbiasedly providing suggestions might be just what you need to reconcile in and out of the bedroom.
You’re experiencing side effects from medication.
Many medications, ranging from antidepressants to blood pressure medication, to heart medication to others can hurt both men and women's sex drive, explains Steve McGough, DHS, Director of Research & Development at Women and Couples Wellness and associate professor of Clinical Sexology at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. Unfortunately, patients are not always informed of these side effects when a physician prescribes them medications. If you think your medication is messing with your sex drive, let your doctor know, as he or she may be able to prescribe you something else instead.
You’re feeling self-conscious about your body.
Even if your partner is just as attracted to you as ever, if you don’t feel sexy in the skin you’re in it can make you not interested in sex. “Issues surrounding body image and body confidence can definitely keep a woman—or man—sexually distant from her partner and/or prevent her from really enjoying sexual activity even if she does engage,” explains Dumbroff. “When she is so focused on her body, she is unable to be ‘in the moment,’ which is often necessary for good sex.”
You’re not getting enough shut-eye.
Unsurprisingly, chronic loss of sleep can have a direct effect on your libido. This, Dr. McGough explains, is often seen in young couples with young children. “After several months of sitting up all night, they wonder why they have lost interest in sex!” he says. “One very useful skill for all these challenges is for couples to go ‘back to the basics’ and focus on getting enough sleep whenever possible, even if that means going to bed far earlier than normal and sleeping a bit later.
You just had a baby.
We’re not just talking about the six-week rule, the timeframe after birth which women should refrain from sexual intercourse—it might take even longer for some women to recover their sex drive. “Not only has a new mother’s body just been through a physical trauma, which she is healing from, but she is also completely and utterly exhausted,” explains Dumbroff. “Her hormones are also in a bit of an uproar, and if she is experiencing postpartum depression, that is all the more reason she would be unlikely to seek out sex.”
You’re raising young children.
Aside from the constant motion involved in dealing with one or more young children, the work of parenting young children is very physical, explains Dumbroff. “I have heard people say, ‘I have little people climbing on me all day, and wanting something from me all day long; the last thing I want at the end of the day is someone else touching me or wanting something from me!’” she adds. “Now, obviously, childhood lasts quite some time, but fear not, there are ways that couples can work together to find the time and willingness for intimacy.”
You’re going through menopause.
Since menopause can cause a drop in many hormones, including the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, it’s quite common for a woman to be not interested in sex, as well as experience symptoms such as hot flashes. “This can cause stress and other challenges that make it more difficult for women to relax, which can cause loss of libido as well as changes in vaginal lubrication,” says Dr. McGough. Luckily, there are estrogen creams and lubricants, and in the last few years vaginal rejuvenation laser therapies have become available, explains Dumbroff. “These lasers have not only been successful in rejuvenating the vaginal mucosa, but also in helping to get rid of scar tissue and with issues of incontinence.”
You just learned your partner had an affair.
This is a traumatic experience for anyone in a relationship, but especially for the partner who was cheated on. For this reason, Dumbroff explains that it can take some time to re-engage in sexuality. “It takes time for a couple to rebuild their relationship and their trust,” she says. “You may be surprised to hear, however, that with some couples, their sex life is uninterrupted by the discovery of an affair, or it can even increase.