In our first instalment of this article series, you learned about inhibited sexual desire, a very common sexual disorder that plagues millions of couples, and gay partnerships are no exception to this epidemic. You learned about its symptoms, subtypes, and possible causes for its existence in a relationship.
In Part 2, some tips and strategies will now be offered on how best to manage and overcome this barrier to intimacy so that your relationship may enjoy the fruitful rewards of a healthy sexual lifestyle.
Additional Facts & Tidbits
Knowledge is power, so as you begin to try and make sense of the discrepancies in your sex drive as a couple, it’s important to be aware of some factors that pertain to sexuality and desire in long-term relationships.
Inhibited sexual desire rarely exists by itself; there’s usually a co-existing problem that goes along with it. Erectile dysfunction is a common partner-in-crime, for example. You then have to sift through all the possible determinants and figure out which came first. What’s the original source of the problem versus what’s really a symptom of something else? This will help you prioritise where to start first in focusing your efforts for change.
Many people succumb to the myth that only the young are interested in sex and that the need for hanky-panky declines with age. Wrong! While it may be true that some sexual functions in men take longer to get warmed up after midlife, older men can still “kick it” like the best of them, and lots of times even better! If one of the reasons you’ve stopped being sexual is because you’ve bought into this notion of being “too old”, stop the madness! It can take longer to stoke the fire to get things burning, but imagine how much fun you could have with all that extended foreplay. Yummy!
What now follows are some tips from my clinical experience and suggestions from Sandra Leiblum’s “Principles & Practice of Sex Therapy”  on some possible ways to best negotiate the slippery slopes of desire difficulties in your relationship so you can restore that needed sense of connection.
It’s important for both partners to read and understand the tips below; it can be easy to pigeon-hole and scapegoat the low-desire partner, but it’s essential to understand that most relational problems have interactional and systemic dynamics in which both men contribute to and/or sustain and reinforce the issues in some way.
Taking responsibility for both your parts will go a long way toward improving your situation. As the higher-desire partner, your understanding of the psychology behind your partner’s struggles may better help you gain some clarity on how to best support and encourage him.
Coaching Tips for the Low-Desire Partner
As a prerequisite to doing anything, make sure that you have obtained a medical examination to rule out any organic causes. Sometimes decreased desire occurs because of such things as diabetes, endocrine problems, thyroid issues, or low testosterone. Additionally, if you’re taking any medication of any kind, sexual side-effects could be a big culprit and you’ll want to address these things with your physician. Also make sure to spend time pinpointing the possible causes underlying the diminished interest in sex as outlined in Part 1. Don’t forget too that things like boredom, feelings about your partner, mental health struggles, alcohol, fatigue, family upbringing influences, and fears of contracting STDs could be potential influences to your bedroom woes.
Distancing from a sex life with your partner can lead to a cognitive negative association with sex and intimacy. Work at developing and nurturing positive feelings and connections to sex. This would involve doing such things as countering sex-negative thoughts and creating visualisations of enjoyable sensuality with your partner that is practiced daily to re-wire the meanings you attribute to sex with more satisfaction and interest. Fantasise about fulfilling sexual experiences with your partner during solo masturbation sessions to create an association of him with your feelings of arousal.
The intensity of your sex drive is not a gauge for measuring sexual satisfaction. Just because you don’t feel like doing cartwheels when your partner starts putting the moves on for sex doesn’t mean that you can’t be aroused. Remember that we are all capable of experiencing sexual sensations in our body whether we’re in the mood to get laid or not. It’s our attitudes that create barriers to being open and receptive to these sensations that becomes the issue; perhaps allowing yourself the chance to get stimulated first might increase your desire.
Be kind to yourself. This isn’t easy. Particularly with sex being socialised into us as such a key component of our masculinity as men, inhibited sexual desire can wreak havoc on your self-esteem in addition to your relationship strain. Be patient with yourself as you work through these exercises and separate your worth from this whole equation. Your sexuality is just one part of your identity and you do have the power to create a healthy and satisfying intimate life if you choose. Work on developing a healthy self-concept.
Coaching Tips for Both Partners
Avoid getting into power struggles and pursuer-distancer traps over sex and using it as a weapon against each other. Sex is supposed to be a source of pleasure, not guilt or punishment. Address the underlying issues that might be getting in the way of the two of you experiencing more intimacy in your relationship. Affection, trust, communication, and honesty are all necessary ingredients for you to be able to jump-start your sex life together again.
Keep sex vital and interesting! Use imagination, creativity, and humor. Break out of traditional ritualistic roles. Take turns initiating sex and demonstrate through your actions that you’re invested through involvement and enthusiasm. Break out of any boring routines that exist and expand your sexual repertoire. Use erotic books, magazines, and videos to spark a mood and act out this content in your own unique way. Draft up your own separate sexual fantasies in graphic detail and share them with each other and try them on for size. Have sex in different places, do some sexy role-playing, etc. Do anything to bring in some fresh energy.
Note of Caution: Many gay men turn to opening up their relationships or bringing in a third person into the bedroom to cope with their discrepant sex drives or to add more spice. While there is nothing wrong with this, these types of scenarios are best reserved for relationships of strength where sexuality between the partners is not compromised in any way. For relationships struggling with inhibited sexual desire, these scenarios only serve to create more distance and detachment from each other by focusing attention on another person to gratify sexual needs, reinforcing the association of a negative sexual relationship with the partner—which is already fragile. If your intent is to reconnect sexually as a couple, avoid these tactics at all costs!
Realise that sexual intensity and chemistry is at its highest in the beginning of a relationship and tends to wax and wane over the course of time. This is normal and not a sign of trouble necessarily. By accepting that this passion and excitement fades, you can be more open to valuing what develops in its place and can perhaps put more of