Sex vs Stress: Are you stressing because you don’t have sex, or no sex because of stress?
Do you feel like you have lost your desire for sex and intimacy? Does it feel like effort and work to engage in sexual acts with your partner? Do you find yourself struggling to be aroused by the idea of having sex? Do you find yourself making excuses not to have sex?
Can stress kill desire and erotic energy?
Stress the sex killer.
As human beings, sex isn’t only a physical act of the body. We have a soul and a spirit, which means our emotions, circumstances, thoughts, etc. can have an effect on how to feel about, perceive and experience sex. Just think about it for a moment…
Sex can be ignited with a thought. It can be extinguished with a thought. It is not just a body experience. Our emotional state can, therefore, determine or regulate our sexual desire and energy. Our desire for sex could be suppressed due to emotional challenges.
I believe that one of those emotional challenges is the experience of chronic stress that is not managed or being attended to at all. Stress is all too familiar for many of us. We know this monster who creeps into our lives, our relationships and even into our beds.
Although sex can be such a good stress reliever, it appears as if stress is more of a “sex reliever.” We know that stress is bad for us, physically, mentally, emotionally and relationally – but that doesn’t necessarily mean we learn how to cope with it and manage it in our daily lives.
The impact of stress on our sex lives.
When you are chronically stressing, your body produces too much of the hormone called Cortisol, which lowers your libido and decreases your desire for sex. This can explain the continuous “I’m not in the mood” scenario.
Stress can make it harder to reach a climax during sex, and at times, it can completely prevent an orgasm.
Rachel Needle says: “Your biggest sex organ is your brain.” When you have a busy mind, filled with all the daily concerns and frustrations, it will be harder to focus on becoming aroused, enjoying pleasurable sensations and reaching an orgasm.
Hans Selye said: “It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” I would like to add to him and say that it is not stress that kills our desire and passion, but our reaction to it. It is impossible to completely eliminate stress from our daily lives, but we can determine how we will react to this stress before it takes its toll on our marriages and relationships. We can learn coping mechanisms and teach ourselves how to relieve stress before it becomes chronic and destructive.
Personal sex and stress inventory.
When you think of your own life, how stressed are you? Can stress maybe be the reason for your loss of desire and passion?
A few guidelines and tools that can help you and your partner:
It is always good to start at the beginning – you may need your partner’s help with this one. You need to determine what influence stress has on you and usually, we don’t see it ourselves, but our partners will be able to help us understand. The following questions can be helpful in doing personal stress and sex inventory.
These are just a few questions that can help you to take a look at yourself and become aware of the stress level in your life and what you are feeling and perceiving sexually at this time.
Take it easy on yourself (and on your partner). This is not an exercise to point fingers, but only to become aware and to determine whether stress is perhaps a factor that affects your sex life and your desire for sex (an ultimately your relationship).
Listen and sharing.
As I said, stress can’t wholly be eliminated – but we can learn how to react to it differently. Stress is bad for you, but it can also indicate some significant stressors and problems in your life and relationship that might need some attention. As partners, it can be a good exercise in writing down what stresses you out, as that opens the communication line between you and fills the space that causes separation and isolation due to stress and trying to cope with it on your own. When we do not know what is going on in our partner’s lives and minds, we can never support them and understand what they are going through and why they react the way they do. This can be a good stress reliever in feeling like your partner is carrying the load with you and that you are not alone. This might even enhance intimacy and spark up some desire.
It might be good to motivate each other in pursuing self-care rituals that can help in relieving stress and coping with everyday stressors. Self-care rituals may include, but are not limited to Exercising, healthy diet, going for a massage, yoga, taking a long bath, reading, watching a movie, taking a walk/stroll, etc. There are literally hundreds of self-care rituals – you can help each other and figure out what you like and what enables you to relax. For me personally, I rest when spending time with my friends and we have made a habit of getting together every week where we have coffee and lunch together. My husband, on the hand, relaxes when he plays golf. He has the habit of playing 18 holes every week. We both know how these activities help us relax and we support and motivate each other in pursuing these self-care rituals.
Being intimate with your partner can actually help reduce stress, so it is a good idea to start prioritizing some couple-time during the day, the week and the year. Spending time together initiates intimacy which helps awaken desire and passion. It may be a good idea to figure out what time of the day works best for you (we are usually exhausted and tired after work at night). It can also be quite exciting in finding new ways of pursuing sex with your partner that is out of the ordinary – before work, meeting up somewhere during your lunch break – be creative. It can also be helpful in scheduling weekends away with your partner where the two of you can relax and spend time together with no work, no stress and no responsibilities. Alicia Clark notes: “The feelings produced from sex are natural defenses against stress – closeness, attachment and feeling calm – so making space for physical intimacy isn’t at all fruitless, even if stress levels are high.”
Stress can be the killer of desire, passion and sexual fulfillment in your marriage – but adapting and learning methods to cope with these everyday stressors can open the door to sexual intimacy with your partner that can reduce stress even more and leave you feeling refreshed, supported and satisfied.