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I greeted my ex at the door in my new Victoria’s Secret lingerie, complete with garter belt, thigh-high stockings, peek-a-boo black lace bra, and C-cup assets, standing 10-feet tall in Christian Louboutin red-bottomed stillettos.
My expectation was for him to immediately flip me over his shoulder, toss me on the bed, and join me in some epic sex. Instead, he just smiled at me and said, “Sorry, I’m not in the mood.”
There’s nothing quite as shocking as a man who turns down sex. Certainly for the woman—I responded to my then-boyfriend’s rejection by throwing a Gothic iron candelabra at his head—but it can be especially devastating for guys.
What does it mean when his libido disappears? Does it make him less of a man if he can’t keep up with his girlfriend sexually? And how can he get his sex drive back?
Here’s what you can do when you feel like saying, “Not tonight, dear, I have a headache.”
First—Don’t Freak Out
Low libido in men is not uncommon. In fact, about 1 in 4 men (28%) surveyed in a 2012 study in the International Society for Sexual Medicine reported a low sexual desire.
One of the study’s authors, Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego, also claims “nearly 30% of women say they’re more interested in sex than their male partner.”
If you’re disinterested in sex only rarely or occasionally, there isn’t cause for concern.
Marianne Brandon, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and sex therapist, points out that for a man’s libido to be technicallydiagnosed as low, he’d need to “have few sexual thoughts, fantasies, and little desire for sex for at least six months.”
Stress is the single most powerful biological inhibitor of the sex drive, according to Nan Wise, Ph.D., a cognitive neuroscientist and certified sex therapist.
Wise suggests that men shouldn’t “power through the stress,” but take on physical activities that are more social, relaxing, and less competitive.
“Even simple things like breathing exercises or taking a hike with a guy friend can really make a difference,” she says.
Change Your Meds
Prescription medicines that help with depression and hair loss, unfortunately, can be a one-two punch to your libido.
Dr. Goldstein says that the FDA-approved drug for hair loss, Propecia, can not only lessen sex drive, but in some cases can even lead to “a permanent loss of sexual desire.”
The good news for balding men is that another FDA-approved hair loss drug, Minoxidil, “has no influence sexually,” he says.
The biggest prescription culprit, though, are anti-depressants (or SSRIs—selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
“There are dozens of antidepressants with different side effects, and some affect libido more than others,” says Gail Wyatt, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and director of the UCLA Sexual Health Program at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. “You need to really work with your doctor.”
Men are often socialized to be the strong one, the breadwinner, the problem solver, and the sexual dynamo. When those things are lacking, it can have an emasculating affect.
In fact, job loss is the top cause of a decreased libido among his male clientele, says sex therapist Chris Donaghue, Ph.D.
“Competition is killing sex,” says Dr. Wyatt. “When you feel less of a man, you’re not as interested in sex. It’s time to redefine what makes you a man, and learn to be happier with less.”
Take the Pressure Off
Masculinity does not have to be defined by how hard your penis gets, how many times a day/week you want it, or how long you last.
And the culprit for those damaging ideas? You guessed it: Our old friend porn.
“When guys are exposed to porn, they think they should be rock hard really fast and last really long, and that’s just a myth and unfair,” says Dr. Brandon. “They get anxious about it, and then they lose an erection, and the next time they just avoid sex altogether.”
Sometimes revving up your sex drive is like revving up your car engine—you might need to press down on the gas a few times before it starts up.
“I advise my clients who want a stronger sex drive to masturbate, but not to orgasm, a few times a day, or watch a little porn, but don’t touch himself,” says Dr. Brandon. “This will trigger your body to want sex and get the body more primed and wanting.”
Ring That Bell
Just because you have a hottie of a wife standing in front of you in sexy lingerie, sex can still become boring after awhile.
“I encourage men to fantasize more, and think about how they can bring elements of that into the bedroom with their partner to make sex more interesting,” says Dr. Brandon.
It’s up to both partners to constantly introduce new and exciting layers to their sex life, to avoid “recipe sex,” says Dr. Wyatt. “You can’t keep doing the same thing, the same way, with the same person.”
The added bonus for novelty sex? That dopamine high!
“New experiences, especially ones that violate an expectation—like something novel, dirtier, risk taking—can release dopamine and ring that reward system,” says Dr. Wise.
Kiss and Hug It Out
One way to get back to that loving feeling is to simply kiss (with tongue) your partner for an uninterrupted 30 seconds, and give her a 20-second full body hug.
“The kiss sirs up the oxytocin—the cuddle hormone—which makes you bond to that person and want to be with them,” says Bonnie Eaker Weil, Ph.D., author of Make Up, Don’t Break Up. “It’s a powerful hormone. And, with the 20-second hug—chest-to-chest—you will feel a rush almost like when you have a drink of wine.”
Just Do It
Nike had a solid point here. Even if you don’t 100% feel up to it, just do it.
“But, remember, ‘do it’ doesn’t have to mean intercourse,” says Dr. Wise. “Just be intimate. Set up time to play. It doesn’t matter if you get a hard-on or have penetration or have an orgasm. Just play and let go of the goal, and that will let go of the pressure.”