Low Libido... Nooooooooo
May 21, 2016 7:19 AM   Subscribe

I’m a 35-yr-old cis woman married to a wonderful man. I’m attracted to him in every way, and we’ve been together for 10 years. This is the first time I’ve needed to reach out for this problem…

April/May I was experiencing a ton of stress. Over the course of this month and the last, my libido fell, and fell, and fell, and crawled, and then disappeared altogether. It fell as my exhaustion levels were raised, culminating in the weekend of the 14th/15th where I basically wept on and off for 48 hours. Over the course of this week, I’ve managed to fill my sleep deficit and I’m feeling much better… but the libido draught is still there. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be aroused. I feel like I’ve forgotten what it’s like.

My husband has been extremely supportive and is cognizant of my emotional state(s). I’m feeling better but still “uninterested” and I need some advice.
Additional relevant info: I take Cipralex (highest dose) for anxiety (have taken for about 5 years) and Wellbutrin for Depression (since 2014). I’ve never had libidinous problems in the past with this medication, nor the Celexa I took 5 years prior.

YANMD and I’m meeting with my GP in 2 weeks to look at “moods/meds” because this has been upsetting me. I guess I’ll tell him how I’m feeling and maybe ask for bloodwork and maybe thyroid testing? I’m hoping to bring my husband too, so he can give his lay-of-the-land to my doctor.

Here are a few more factors:
1. I really feel ugly and unattractive. I generally have good self-esteem, but I just can’t stand to look at myself right now. I feel like I’m ageing like the Nazi at the end of the Last Crusade when he chooses poorly.

2. Normally, during a small dry spell, I’d fake it till I made it – and it worked. But I currently have no urge to do this and it kind of makes me feel (for the first time) kind of squicky and actually turned-off… should I anyway? Hope for the best?

3. Is it fair to ask my partner to try to turn me on? He hasn’t had to work at this before. I don’t want to put my low libido on him, but I could use some help, too…?

4. How do I turn on my own partner when I can’t turn on myself?

5. Do you have any other suggestions?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Have you tried reading erotica?
posted by Jacqueline at 7:31 AM on May 21, 2016

it seems to me like (4) should be something you can discuss. you say your partner is being supportive, but it's not clear that you've really talked together about this problem. one reason you need to do that is because they could be worrying it's their "fault". but also, it could give new ideas. they know you way better than we do...
posted by andrewcooke at 7:40 AM on May 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Stress and exhaustion are HUGE libido-killers. Give yourself a little time to recover.

Regarding #3 -- asking your partner to turn you on -- yes, it's totally fair, but is it what you really want and need right now? How about some relaxation instead? Take a long bath or shower, put on your favorite lotion and ask your partner for a long massage. See where it goes. Don't put any pressure on yourself, just let go for a little bit. Maybe something will happen, maybe it won't. The important thing is for you to relax. Take a weekend vacation with your partner to do something you love. Enjoy yourselves together and relax!

Take good emotional and physical care of yourself, get checked out by your doc, and give yourself a break. You (and your libido) need some time to recover from the last couple months.
posted by erst at 7:51 AM on May 21, 2016 [10 favorites]

Any chance you might be early pregnant?
posted by eglenner at 7:52 AM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's been only a few days since you've been getting enough sleep. That's a really short time! It seems very likely and normal that you need a bit more time to recover fully.

It's certainly fair and okay to ask your partner to do some extra stuff to turn you on, but it sounds to me like you'd be better off asking him to romance you up a bit. Looks like you could use some extra love and appreciation, not necessarily in the form of sex. Most people need to feel confident in their skin, and appreciated, before they can feel sexy.
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:14 AM on May 21, 2016 [23 favorites]

It really does sound similar to the early weeks of my pregnancy before I was aware that I was pregnant. It was the first month in our long relationship that we didn't have sex multiple times a week. My husband was so surprised when I told him I was pregnant. He was, by that time, pretty irritated at me and I at him and was all, "But we only had sex like one time..." Yep!

Anyway, assuming you are not pregnant, I feel like you're doing all the right things. Over the course of a relationship, we should all be allowed to have ups and downs in things like desire. What if you were ill during this time period? You'd be allowed a break. I understand it's upsetting to you but can you focus just on de-stressing, eating well, sleeping and please be open with your partner. "I'm not sure why but I have just zero interest in sex right now. I'm going to talk to my doctor about it because it is very concerning but I just need to take a break and try to re-center myself."
posted by amanda at 8:15 AM on May 21, 2016

Yes, definitely give your self a little more time. Sleep deficits take forever to recover from, not to mention this kind of stress!

When you're feeling more recovered, ask him to romance you. Then seduce you, possibly over several days, in a loving and affectionate way. To really get what would help you the most you might want to tell him what kinds of things you'd like (or not like): take things of my plate, help me relax, spend more time with me, give me some space, tokens of affection, treats, silliness...

Let me run you a bath, I'll take care of this task, let's take a walk, would you like a massage, I got you this stuffed thing, I'm making cookies, let's make cookies together, here's a water gun and there's your base, I wrote a note on your napkin, you're pretty damn cute and I love your toes, control my arms and we'll make a smoothie.

He loves you and wants you to be happy. He will be happy to do things for you. Don't force anything. Start small with your own sexuality. Watch/read something that has sexy parts before you move into full on erotica/porn. It'll help guage your interest.
posted by meemzi at 8:45 AM on May 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

How are you two with non sexual but sensual touching. Hugging, cuddling, massages, etc? If you're comfortable being touched/want to be touched like that, maybe do more of that, with the explicit understanding that it's not going to lead to sex.

As far as I'm concerned, it's 100% okay to say to one's partner "I feel gross about myself, can you XYZ to help out with that?" And it's also totally okay to say "I need your help turning me on by doing ABC because I would like to sex with you."

It's also totally okay to go "Shit, I've been under ridiculous stress and I haven't been sleeping well and I'm going to need some time to just recover from that in general terms and not stress myself worrying."

Sex drive does wax and wane, stress is a major genital-zombifier, and you're only just getting back to normal for you. Can you pursue things to further reduce your stress, or help you relax more? Like... "Spouse, I need the next weekend to be all about me. I need you to handle all the things so I can just decompress." What all the things are is up to you. Even if you can get a hotel room for a night or a weekend, maybe just for yourself, and take a little vacation from the world. Cocooning isn't always bad, and if approached mindfully can be very good for you.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:03 AM on May 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

You may need a little more time to recover from the sleep deficit - it's not quite like a balance sheet where you can lose 3 hours on Monday and then just sleep an extra 3 on Tuesday and then feel fine.

That said there's nothing wrong with telling him you miss feeling sexy and asking him to help you try to get turned on. I'd be careful not to make it into a big do-or-die thing where if you can't get turned on this particular time it's The End Of The Libido. Bodies are weird, they have all kinds of behind-the-scenes stuff going on, and what doesn't work today might be perfect next week. So maybe try some cuddles and dirty walk or whatever generally works for you, but if it doesn't happen don't force it ... it'll come back on its on. Like a recalcitrant cat that mysteriously disappears for days on end and then turns up missing half an ear, covered with mud and demanding to be fed. Imperfect metaphor but YKWIM.
posted by bunderful at 9:23 AM on May 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

3. Is it fair to ask my partner to try to turn me on

Yes, as long as you talk this through in advance and agree that if he makes you feel so good you fall into a deep, restfull sleep with no sexy-time, that's all well and good and a win for you as a couple.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:55 AM on May 21, 2016

If you're on hormonal birth control, it may be worth asking the prescribing physician about that, too. Your description of crying for 48 hours sounds a lot like how I discovered I have to be really careful about hormonal birth control (and I had been on that particular pill for well over a year). The mood craziness stopped a day or two after I stopped the medication.
posted by lazuli at 10:08 AM on May 21, 2016

[This is a followup from the asker.]
Thank you so much for you reassurance and if nothing else you've made me feel less anxious, so thank you.

I noticed in my original post I mentioned the crying, but I left out the parts about being a complete emotional monster to my husband. Very very embarrassingly out of control foul tempered alternating with sad and numb. I thought immediately of depression.

I hope I am not pregnant. I'm on Mirena, year 4. It would be a long shot but heck maybe I will test just to rule it out.

Thank you again. I want to feel and be better.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:05 AM on May 21, 2016

It took me a few months to recover from long-term sleep deprivation
posted by Jacqueline at 11:09 AM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I noticed in my original post I mentioned the crying, but I left out the parts about being a complete emotional monster to my husband. Very very embarrassingly out of control foul tempered alternating with sad and numb. I thought immediately of depression.

I've heard anecdotes of people developing major anger issues as a side effect of Wellbutrin, too, so that may be something to ask your GP about.
posted by lazuli at 11:23 AM on May 21, 2016

Crying jags can be caused by B vitamin deficiencies. When my oldest son becomes too much of an asshole to put up with, the cure is B vitamins. They are critical to brain function.

Medications often lead to vitamin deficiencies. Zithromax interferes with magnesium absorption and ibuprofen causes a deficit for a specific B vitamin. This tends to creep up on you over time.

It might be time to Google the names of the meds you are on, see if they are known to cause specific deficiencies, and start taking supplements for those specific vitamins. My need for B vitamin supplements dropped dramatically after I finally got off of the ibuprofen therapy that is a common treatment for my condition.
posted by Michele in California at 11:35 AM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wellbutrin made me very angry, too. Just a data point (i.e., anecdote). I took it for about a year and a half before I noticed.

I think it's fair to tell your husband that your libido just hasn't been there lately, and you still want to be intimate but you might night to try more sensual talk/touching to get in the mood. It's possible to frame this in a way that isn't about his sexiness. Hopefully turning you on will turn him on, so you don't have to worry too much about how to turn him on when you're not feeling very sexy yourself.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:21 PM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I did not see this mentioned, but you are not too young for the start of perimenopause (ask me how I know!). Sounds like you have been stable on various meds for a while, but if hormones are starting to shift, that could be throwing you off. You might want to talk to your gynecologist about the issue and about the birth control you are currently using.

It is definitely not a bad thing to do general blood work with your GP, and check for levels of B12, Thyroid, iron, Vitamin D, etc., etc., and to periodically evaluate the meds you are on in general.
posted by gudrun at 8:39 AM on May 22, 2016

I second perimenopause, I started being symptomatic around age 35. It's worth asking about.
posted by yodelingisfun at 10:04 PM on May 22, 2016

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