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Ask Lynn-My Sex Drive Keeps Dwindling…


One woman finds that, once she's in a relationship, her libido and interest start to wane. Is this normal… or is it a sign that she still hasn't met The One? Lynn offers a few possible explanations.

By Lynn Harris

ear Lynn,
I have been in several serious relationships in my life and the same experience has happened in each one. I feel so sure about my feelings, but a year or more into the relationship I seem to lose interest and the desire for sex with my partner. I do not understand why this continues to happen every time I think that I'm happy, or that I have found The One. I have been with my current boyfriend for a year and a half now and the same thing has happened; I no longer have any interest in sex. He asks me why, but I do not know what to say… because I do
You might have some built-in or acquired fears about commitment.
not understand why, either. It is very frustrating, especially when it's a continuous cycle that keeps happening. Please help me understand, if you can!
– Cold Front

Dear Cold Front,
I can understand why that would be frustrating — and not just for your boyfriend. But the "cycle" you describe might not be as vicious as you think. Let's investigate some possibilities, and then circle back to some solutions.

Possibility #1: You're weird about sex.
Maybe, maybe not — seems to me the right answer is "not," because (if I understand you correctly) things tend to be fine in the sack for the first year and change before things go south. So maybe you don't have a broad hormonal or psychological resistance to sex — but maybe you do require novelty. I mean, there are many wonderful things about sex in an 18-month relationship, but novelty is not an obvious or immediately apparent issue to many people in your same situation. That said, there are ways to create novelty in your sex life no matter how long you've been together. (Stay tuned for a couple of paragraphs and I'll explain.) The important thing to realize — and this is not necessarily a "bummer" — is that the level and flavor of your sexual desire changes through the course of a longer-term relationship. Things are likely not going to be as hot — at least, not in the same way — as they were at the early can't-keep-your eyes/hands/minds-off of-each-other stage. That's normal and expected, by the way. (Who can keep that up?!) It's up to folks who find themselves in this situation to understand this issue and to find new and different ways to keep things simmering in the bedroom.

Possibility #2: You're weird about commitment.
This scenario looks something like this: after a year or so, you start to think, "OK, this is getting serious… yipes!" (Hey, many people don't even get that far!) You might have some built-in or acquired fears about commitment (from your own parents divorcing, for example, or some other reason) that make the idea of being with one person "forever" feel overwhelming. Whatever it is, you haven't quite worked it out in your brain, so it works itself out in your loins instead. And then, you pull away. (Probably not just in bed, either.) Now, everyone fears commitment to some degree; it is scary, almost by definition. So no, you're not doomed. For some people, the fear never disappears; they
This is not to say that you should settle for a spark-free sex life.
just find something (or someone) who motivates them, eventually, to overcome it.

Possibility #3: You're not weird at all.
You are a person who has had a series of positive and promising relationships. What happens to you is what happens, broadly speaking, to pretty much everyone who is looking for The One. That is, you meet someone, get involved and give it a real go… only to realize that this person is "close, but no cigar." In each of these cases something could be telling you that, while each of these people is lovely and worth dating (and sleeping with) for 18 months, for whatever ineffable, alchemical reason, none of them is The One for you. And your waning interest in sex is simply the manifestation of that internal realization.

But before we shrug off your current boyfriend as another "Mr. Great, but…," let's take a closer look by allowing for possibilities 1 and 2 as listed above. Ask yourself: Is it just the sex that's a problem? Can you see yourself with him — clothes on — as life partners, or becoming an old married couple in the future? Can you see yourself raising children together? Do you respect him, and vice versa? Do you enjoy being around him? Because saying "yes" to those questions are what will sustain you as a couple in the really long-term future.

This is not to say that you should settle for a spark-free sex life. So, about that: try to create some novelty in your boudoir routine. Share or indulge in your fantasies. Read woman-friendly erotica by Lonnie Barbach. Role-play with him: go to a bar and pick each other up as though you were strangers. Wear a French maid or Princess Leia outfit to surprise him — or whatever else turns you on. Don't just wait for the desire to come to you; go out and seek what stimulates you most. See what you discover along the way — about your libido, your relationship, and your ability (along with his) to discuss and explore openly (and perhaps X-ratedly!) with each other. Whether or not you find renewed passion with this guy, it'll be good practice for the next time you find yourself facing the same dilemma. With enough work and play, the right relationship will last through the two-year mark.


Lynn Harris (www.lynnharris.net) is co-creator, with Chris Kalb (www.chriskalb.com), of the award-winning website BreakupGirl.net — you can visit BG's blog to discuss this letter! A longtime journalist, Lynn has written about dating, gender, and culture high and low for Glamour, Marie Claire, The New York Times, Salon.com, Nerve.com, and many others. She is currently the communications strategist for Breakthrough, a transnational organization that creates pop culture to promote human rights. Submit your own dating questions for Ask Lynn via bg@breakupgirl.net. Your question may be answered in a future column.
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