Clue Three :
What's going on between you?
Many cases of low sexual desire can be traced to other problems, often non-sexual, within a couple's relationship. But some- times it's just a matter of desire discrepancey. It is not that there's some absolute scale of desire and he registers too much and she registers too little. Rather, there is a difference in styles or interests, just as there may be disagreement about how to raise children.
Marc, 29, wanted to make love "at the drop of a hat,'' complained Sharon, 25, his wife of two uears. Sharon was quite satisfied with once a week. Who had the desire problem? It would be wrong to describe Sharon as deficient in desire, says Carol Ellison. In her view, Marc used sex as the only means of addressing feelings such as restlessness, alienation, boredom and affection. What he needed was to find additional ways of expressing those feelings.
Sharon, on the other hand, needed to become more aware of sexual cues and how she responded to them. In the therapy she learnt to become aware of any feelings of tension or restlessness and to notice if such feelings might be associated with sexual arousal. Sometimes, it turned out, she was aroused without even knowing it.
Holly, 28, had stayed home for four years with her two small children. She and her husband, Brian, also 28, had not made love for six months, a situation that Holly considered frightening and 'abnormal''. Yet Carol Ellison thought that Holly's probelm had nothing to do with sex. "Holly saw herself as and educated person who should have had a career. She felt ashamed that she wasn't out working. She refused to have sex because she feared she'd lose that small sense of self she still had.''
To bolster Holly's self-esteem, Ellison recommended that she start working part time and she and Brain become more intimate in other ways, enjoying common interests and acting more affectionately. Adds Bernard : "people are entitled to have various emotions during a sexual encounter - and that includes feeling depressed, threatened or angry. "If you suppress or ignore these feelings, you may very well be increasing your sexual apathy - because you will be turned off by the situation and produced them. Once you stop feeling pressured to be turned on, you can accept the way you really feel.
Bernard recommends "giving yourseld premission to discuss guilt or anxiety about negative feeling experienced durin a sexual encounter with your partner,'' This can open a dialogue, something that's all too frequently missing in the marriage bed. "This kind of conversation doesn't necessarily end a sexual encounter,'' Bernard emphasizes. "IN fact, it may help it to begin.''
Clue Four :
What's in a pill?
Many prescription drugs are suspected of lessning desire. The list includes sedatives, blood-pressure medications, and relaxants such as Valium. Chronic use of cocaine, marijuana or alcohol may also diminish desire. Can pills cure sexually apathy as well as cause it? Lately, certain vitamins and minerals have been promoted as aphorodisiacs, but there is little scientific evidence to substantiate these claims. The same also holds true of hormone treatments for physiologically normal individuals.
The exact relationship between hormone production and desire is subtle, and unclear to scientists.Whatever its cause, lack of desire is often temporary. It can pass when a specific cause - such as grief or anger - fades away, or when you find a remedy on your own. But when a problem is chronic, or affects your marriage, then you may need to see a therapist. "People used to think they had to have a performance problem to consider therapy,'' says Bernard. "But more and more people are turning to professional help for desire problems too.'' And breaking the sexual-apathy pattern, he notes, does not necessarily require prolonged counselling.