Right now, not wanting sex is the most common sexual problem of all for women as well as for increasing numbers of men.

Researchers have suggested that lack of desire may often be caused by boredom.

Losing desire is a particularly upsetting issue because society is so sexualised that if you don’t want to make love, it can seem as if you’re not only failing, but also letting your partner down.

WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

It could be a natural occurrence. Some scientists think that the first lust you feel in a relationship is programmed by Mother Nature to inevitably die away after about 24 months – in other words, once you’ve fulfilled your genetic duty, got pregnant, and had a child. Other scientific theories suggest that desire is automatically programmed to fade as you get older, so that it’s the young, fit, and healthy who make (healthy) babies.

But scientists are also realising that much falling desire isn’t natural or inevitable – it happens because society expects older folk to be less sexual. Step outside that expectation and research suggests people can still feel sexually enthusiastic well into their eighties.

Researchers have also suggested that lack of desire may be down to boredom – as a relationship develops, couples get into a rut. And particularly for women – who may need lots of scene-setting, foreplay, and encouragement – the fact that they don’t always get an orgasm may mean they lose interest in sex altogether.

Finally, if a relationship isn’t going well, then the undercurrent of anger between partners may kill desire; why make love with someone you hate? On the other hand, if a couple is very, very close they may not need sex to keep them together and so desire fades; sex needs just a bit of healthy distance in order to be exciting.

WHAT TO TELL YOUR PATIENT

  • Don’t panic, desire will ebb and flow throughout life.
  • Don’t accept long-term loss of desire, it doesn’t have to be like that, even in your later years.
  • Get a medical check-up in case illness is triggering lack of desire.
  • Get your doctor to help you identify whether depression or anxiety may be the root cause.
  • Ask your doctor if you could benefit from any of the new medications that promise to help lack of desire.
  • If your symptoms started after a key life crisis such as job loss, retirement, or bereavement, get specialist counselling for that crisis.
  • If your symptoms started after the birth of a baby, get as much support as you can, practical and emotional, to navigate this difficult life stage.
  • Expand your sexual options. Over time you may have got into a routine – break that routine by doing different things, in a different order.
  • Make sure that both you and your partner are reaching climax at least 50% of the time so you’re motivated to have sex.
  • Ask yourself if you are getting enough individual space. If not, negotiate with your partner to develop at least some of your own interests, and to get some regular breaks away from each other and from your family.
  • Make room for sex. Of course work and children are important – but taking time out from them occasionally will help keep you solid as a couple, which in turn will make you more able to work and look after your family.
  • Don’t just take a few hours – research suggests you need at least a long weekend to give desire room to return.
  • Face up to whether you are angry with your partner. If you are, resolve that.
  • Be honest, has lust died because the relationship is dying? Get counselling help, most relationships are rescuable, but the sooner you find support, the more likely it is you can turn things round.
  • If it is your partner who is lacking sexual desire, be patient. Given no obvious relationship problems, it’s vital to try to persuade him (or her) to get a physical check-up as the cause is almost certainly a medical condition or depression.
  • Try fantasising to kickstart your desire. If you’re short of ideas, read erotic books or watch a sexy video.
  • Update your sexual technique. Needs change, and what turned you on a few years ago may not turn you on now.