How do you keep your desire burning bright throughout your life? As a counsellor with a specific interest in sexual issues and relationships, I often meet clients who say they have lost interest in sex and in themselves and that they just have little or no sexual desire. It may be happening within their existing relationship, or if single, they have no wish to get involved intimately with anyone new. Their libido has gone through the floor and they don’t know how to get it to come back, or are no longer sure that they even want it to return.
Desire is about more than whether we want to have sex or not. Desire is also about how we perceive ourselves and others and the enthusiasm and interest we have for the life we live and the person that we are. When any of these are uncertain, perhaps even neglected, then so is our desire.
Desire can be affected by many significant events or change within our lives. Stress, parenting, grief and loss, relationship conflict, or periods of unemployment or financial worries. It could be as we are getting older or going through menopause, or perhaps due to trauma, illness or mental health difficulties. While any of these issues and many others too, can impact on, or distract us temporarily, from our sexual and sensual selves, some of us just seem to get stuck for no obvious reason and can’t seem to find our way back.
We may find that we are juggling several roles most of the time, partner, lover, friend, parent, employee/boss. A long list, for sure and with so many competing life-demands and roles, we rarely have time for the person that we are. When do we slow down enough to feel, to see, to smell, to hear and to taste all that life can bring? What do we notice now about our interests, our loves, our hopes and dreams? Do we even know now what interests or excites us? Self-awareness and sensual knowledge have as much impact on us as sexual beings and on the quality of our sexual relationships, as what goes on, or not, in the bedroom.
Losing our Spark
When we ignore, or do not tend to, this sensual part of ourselves, it impacts on our sense of self. It affects how we relate to others and our overall acceptance and enjoyment of being who we are. When you look in the mirror do you just zoom into your perceived flaws? A changed body? Perhaps you have gained or lost weight or things are not as toned as before because of age, pregnancy, surgery or day to day living? We can then become so critical of ourselves, we are not beautiful or handsome enough, thin enough, or ripped enough, clever enough, or accomplished. We don’t feel sexy or interesting. One person I met described it as ‘just not fancying myself anymore’.
Notice how this outlook might affect how you live your life now. Are you still engaging in all the things you would have done before? Are you refusing new opportunities and experiences or maybe avoiding new people? Perhaps you are even avoiding those already in your life. This is probably not because you consciously don’t want to engage in those parts of your life, but because your confidence and zest has diminished. When this happens we might then assume that others are viewing us the way we view ourselves, that we aren’t matching up. We feel judged, so often we withdraw from lots of things or people, even our partner, if we have one. These beliefs, according to Esther Perel, psychosexual therapist and expert in the field of sex and relationships, can mean we lose our spark. We do not feel desirable, so we do not feel desire. What can we do about that?
Self-care to nourish our desire
Perel encourages us to tend to an area of self-care in our lives that we often ignore. She emphasises the need for ‘erotic self-care’, the nourishing of our desire. This means really knowing and valuing ourselves, loving what makes us a unique human being and believing that we are desirable. We need to give ourselves permission in our lives to need and want and to be interested – to feel desire.
Perel suggests that we need to notice what ‘turns our desire on’. While this essentially relates to sexual desire, how we experience it is shaped by so much more than the physical act of sex and that starts a long time before we get near the bedroom. Erotic self-care starts with how we think.
See All of Yourself
Our thoughts are not always facts. How we see something, particularly ourselves, can often be with quite a narrow vision, skewed towards a negative and critical perception. What else are we not seeing? Look at your body, see its strength and power and all that it has done and can do. It is all yours, be proud of it. Think about all you have done and can do in your life and also the living that there is still to do.
When people talk to me about this loss of desire and feeling bored, boring or unattractive, they are often surprised when I lead the conversation away from their physical sex lives. We explore their day to day lives, their interests, hopes and dreams, the food they love, the music they listen to and how they feel and think about such things. We focus on their favourite smell or touch, their dreams as a child. We spend time talking about what makes them laugh and cry and what or who gives them strength. We talk about their fantasies and what they would think or do if they had the freedom, or weren’t scared, or gave themselves permission. We look at making time for these thoughts, experiences and pleasures. This is what fans the flame of desire.
We need to be curious, to taste and sample new experiences, but also to learn about ourselves and re-know ourselves. We do not stay the same, life and experiences can change us. What we liked or enjoyed five years ago may do little or nothing for us now. Desire thrives on energy, interest and intrigue. When we stop being interested in ourselves or find ourselves falling into a rut, we stop nourishing our desire. Take time to discover and see the ‘you’ that you are now, rather than an expectation of who or what you should be, or used to be. Start now.
The way we hold ourselves, our posture and body language can actually influence our own self-perception. For an immediate confidence booster, strike a yoga ‘mountain pose’. Stand up straight, with your feet firmly on the floor about hip distance apart, keep your chin up and shoulders back, hands on your hips or a little out from your sides with palm upwards, This gives your brain the message that you ‘have got this’ you are strong and confident.
Remind yourself that you are first and foremost a unique human being, regardless of the other roles you fulfil, and one who is absolutely desirable. It is the first step towards fanning the flame of your own desire and keeping it lit.
Light Your Flame
Prioritise you, make time to nourish your body, mind and soul to light your own flame and keep it burning brightly. Whether you are in a relationship with someone else or not, remember you are always in a relationship with yourself, so do it for you.
- Get moving and connect with your body! Walking outdoors, swimming, cycling, yoga, dance or any movement that lets you tune into the strength and sensuality of your body
- Stimulate your senses – with food that nourishes you, scented candles or oils, plants and flowers, herbs and spices, music or sounds of nature. Wear colours and be seen.
- Connect with others, open conversations, follow up, make time for your relationships.
- If you are in a sexual relationship with someone else, ask for what you want, say what you like and don’t like, show and tell and invite your partner to do the same.
- Get to know your own body, it belongs to you, what excites and pleasures you sensually? Have fun!
- Think of new activities you would like to try or experiences you would like to feel alone or with others, dare to do them
- Stimulate your sensuous mind with books, films, conversations and your own imagination
- Be open to meeting new people, be curious about them, get to know them and let them know you.
- Keep your desire burning by recording in a journal all of your sensual experiences and thoughts, discoveries and fantasies. Use it to remind you to feed your flame.