What if sex doesn’t start in the kitchen–but her libido can die there?
Rebecca here on the blog today, and I want to tell you about a fascinating new study coming out of Australia. This is the first post in our research deep-dive series on the blog that will be happening for all of October, and I’m excited for this one! Let’s jump into it.
Researchers from Australia set out to answer the question: how does mental load inequality change women’s libido? They asked women questions about their level of sexual desire, and also questions about how equal the emotional and mental llabour around the house was. Were they responsible for keeping track of their partner’s appointments, juggling friendships for the both, doing the housework, taking care of the kids? Or were the relationships more equal–they shared the load, the woman didn’t feel like they did more than their partner, and they weren’t carrying more than their fair share?
Ironically, and completely unsurprising, they didn’t have enough women who reported their partners doing the majority of the housework to draw any comparisons to that group.
But then they also asked a question that makes this study so fascinating: they asked whether or not this would affect the woman’s solo desire, or her dyadic desire. So what do those terms mean? Here’s how the researchers explain it in an article about their study:
So as far as I understand, a woman with solo desire could be very drawn towards erotic content, have a strong libido in general, but if she has low dyadic desire she may simply not feel a lot of libido towards her spouse. In other words, she may want sex–but struggle to want sex with him. A woman with high solo desire and low dyadic desire could feel like a very sexual person and have incredibly high sexual confidence–but just not feel any real pull towards sleeping with their spouse. So it’s not always that the low-desire woman isn’t a sexual person (we hear that a lot!) or doesn’t have a libido–it’s just that the dyadic desire is fizzling out.
And why does the dyadic desire fizzle out? For many couples, it’s because she’s tired of feeling used.
Johansen et al. found that women who carry more of the mental load than their partners have lower dyadic desire, and their relationship satisfaction is lower as well. Interestingly, they didn’t find tha solo desire changed much, but just the desire for partnered sex–so it seems that women who are in unequal partnerships may begin to feel resentment at being taken advantage of for so many years, and as a result their libidos tank.
The marriage that was supposed to be their source of joy, love, and partnership feels a bit like a chore. The question isn’t really why she doesn’t want sex–it’s why would she want sex in that scenario?
The researchers also discuss how this dynamic impacts the couple long-term, too:
Research shows long-term relationships are associated with decreasing desire for women, and this is often attributed to the tedium of over-familiarity (think of the bored, sexless wives in 90s sitcoms). However our research indicates relationship boredom is not the reason, with the increasing inequity over the course of a relationship often the cause of women’s disinterest in sex.
(Eva Johansen and Dr. Simone Buzwell, Reference)
When I read this research, it makes sense to me. This is logical, and it’s also the same as the patterns we see throughout Scripture. We are supposed to be equally yoked, and do you know what happens if one ox isn’t pulling its weight? The whole plow veers off course. But working in tandem, working together, the two can do more than either could alone. The whole “two is better than one” passage in Ecclesiastes speaks to this, as well:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
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We are designed to want a PARTNER, and that is a good thing.
It’s no wonder that in marriages where there isn’t an equal level of effort there will be ramifications. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)
So in light of this new research, what can couples do who are facing libido differences?
Here are a few suggestions.
1. Recognize there are likely mental load inequalities and research how to fix them.
No, not all instances of low libido are mental load related, but considering the vast majority of couples have the woman carrying the majority of he mental load, it’s irresponsible not to at least consider this.
You can start by reading our mental load series, it’s a great introduction to the topic.
- Let’s Talk Emotional Labour and Mental Load
- The Fair Play Solution
- The “Let’s Go to the Beach” Saga, an example of how this plays out.
2. Stop seeing libido as the problem.
We talked about this in The Great Sex Rescue, but when we see libido differences as THE problem for a marriage to overcome, we set ourselves up for a bad time. Why? Because low libido is often a symptom, not the problem itself.
When you are dealing with chronically low libido, or a completelack of desire for your spouse sexually, it’s time to figure out why.
3. Remember the goal is health and wholeness, not just to get more sex.
I’m gonna be honest and talk to the dudes who have been letting their wives shoulder more than her fair share of the burden around the house for years. You do not do housework to get sex. You just don’t. When you start to do your fair share of the housework and become the equal partner your wife deserves, you aren’t doing it FOR her–you do not do housework FOR your wife. She does not owe you anything for you simply carrying your own weight, that’s the bare minimum standard.
If she’s been carrying your share of the mental load for years now, in fact, she’s been doing housework FOR YOU. Not the other way around.
Women are not sex vending machines, and to treat them that way is not respectful or appropriate. What this research shows is not a road to more sex as much an area for self-reflection and growth so that men will stop allowing desire for personal convenience and adherence to gendered tasks to destroy their wives slowly over time.
The whole problem is that women have felt used and taken advantage of. The answer isn’t to simply “buy” sex from your wife now by doing housework, but to stop using and taking advantage of her by pulling your fair share regardless of if her libido ever comes back. It’s simply the right thing to do!
4. Check out the Boost Your Libido course
If you enjoy sex when it happens but you just never seem to want it, but you’re ready for a change, do check out the boost your libido course! It’s not about how you SHOULD want more sex, it’s about figuring out WHY you don’t and fixing those things. You are not broken, your environment may be. So just a quick plug for our course in case you didn’t know about it and it sounds like it could help you!
5. Recognize that this research did find what lowered dyadic desire, but it also saw what raised it!
Female libido is not stagnant, it ebbs and flows with our environment. Women are very attuned to what’s happening around them, which means our libidos tend to respond quite dramatically to changes in our relationship, our daily routines, our stress levels, all of it.
But we don’t only have libido dips–our libidos can also rise! So this doesn’t mean your libido is destroyed forever, it doesn’t mean damage has been done that can’t be undone, it doesn’t mean that this is just your lot in life–but it does mean that some serious changes may have to be made. And if you are the higher-drive spouse and you want the lower-drive spouse to want sex more–well, recognize that you may have contributed to creating an environment for your spouse that made sex become less attractive and fix it!
So that is our first research deep dive for October! What do you think about these findings? Let’s chat about it in the comments!
The Research Deep Dive Series
- Does Sex Start in the Kitchen or Does It Die There?
- How Does a Couple's First Time Affect Libido?
- Is "All Men Struggle With Lust" a Primal Fear?
- Is She Dressing for Attention or is He?
- PODCAST: Ogling and Dressing for Attention
- 5 Questions to Ask That Minimize Bias When Discussing Research
- 10 Things to Know About Hormones and Libido
- Bring Back Vanilla Sex