[Two Pronged] Losing my libido during lockdown
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,
Please call me "Alex." I am in relationship with “Sandra." We are both in our early 30s. Our relationship is just a few months in. We understand, support, and take care of each other. We’ve made plans (i.e., a vacation) when this pandemic is over. The dynamics of our relationship are great.
Sandra and I are living together to save on expenses. We are currently on lockdown due to the pandemic. I work from home 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. I am grateful for this steady flow of income at this time. We still go out to buy groceries and medicine.
But I think the lockdown is affecting my mental well-being and my sexual appetite for Sandra. I sometimes feel very anxious, itching for this lockdown to be over and get back to my usual routine (ex. working out).
Prior to the lockdown, Sandra and I had sex a couple of times. It was great, to be honest. But as the lockdown keeps on getting extended, my sexual appetite gets lower and lower. First week of lockdown, we had sex everyday. Second week, every other day. Third week, Friday or Saturday night. Now, we do it IF I’m not tired from work. I suggested we watch porn just to get off and Sandra agreed.
However, there were times I pleasure myself or watch porn and get off while she's out. I sometimes imagine one of my exes or watch some of our old private videos. I haven't told anything to Sandra about my anxiety, low sexual appetite and pleasuring myself in private. In my previous relationships, I had high sexual appetite and would sometimes imagine them while pleasuring myself. But this time with Sandra, it's different.
She’ll feel bad if she hears these things. When this lockdown is lifted, I hope that with my usual routine, things will be better.
I think lockdown is affecting me. Why do I prefer self-pleasure to doing it with Sandra? I feel I'm a bad partner because of this behavior.
Thank you for your email.
When asked why desire fades over time even in a loving relationship, psychologists like Ester Perel make a series of points: previously marriage was basically a business transaction involving a partnership for life, status, companionship, children and security of succession i.e. inheritance. Noticeably absent was any consideration of love or desire.
Since then, we have had the emancipation of women, a relaxation of moral standards, the invention of various forms of birth control and a partial loosening of the iron grip of religion. Now our view of relationships and marriage is to desire all the old attributes plus love and passion — and we all live twice as long
One of the key problems with the current desire for all-embracing marriages is that love and desire are often incompatible. For example, love propels us to get to know the other as well as possible, to close the distance but desire seeks novelty, the unknown.
There are a number of situations where this incompatibility can be overcome. The first is when partners have been apart and are reunited. The second is when one partner watches the other doing their thing, professionally or socially, and sees them with new eyes — someone so familiar in one setting yet so different in another. The third is novelty, not in the sense of costumes or toys, but more in revealing new aspects of the person or the partnership.
Relating this to the current situation, clearly the first two are temporarily out of the running but there is scope for novelty even during lockdown. Consider what facets of your character you have revealed so far in the course of your relationship and how many others you could reveal to get closer to your partner. For specific advice on lockdown you could listen to Ester Perel.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. I would like to take off from Mr Baer’s penultimate statement: “Consider what facets of your character you have revealed so far in the course of your relationship and how many others you could reveal to get closer to your partner.”
The very first thing you might share with Sandra is what you shared with us: that you think lockdown is affecting you—your anxiety level is going up, while your sexual desire is going down. I think this will not necessarily devastate Sandra, since a great number of people feel this way right now.
In fact, Sandra might even be relieved when you share this with her. I have no doubt she’s noticed your diminishing sexual desire; and your sharing it with her will relieve her of the shyness/fear of bringing it up herself. Also, she will now have the freedom to tell you how this lockdown is affecting her. Not just sexually, but in other ways too…which, in turn, will give you the opportunity (permission, if you will) to share even more and possibly deeper things about yourself.
Psychologists call this self disclosure: the process of revealing information about yourself to others that is not readily known by them. In other words, telling Sandra you work where you work is not revealing something that leads to greater intimacy, but sharing how lockdown is affecting you directly does. Because it shows you trust her enough to allow yourself to be vulnerable to her.
Perhaps, even more than that, it shows that you trust her enough to take a risk that even if “She’ll feel bad if she hears these things” her love for you, for your relationship, and for herself will carry her through whatever bad feelings she has to a deeper understanding and sharing of what is going on between you right now.
Your opening up and, hopefully, her opening up to you to, will create a safety zone because each of you will have exposed his vulnerabilities and thus tend to protect the disclosures to avoid mutual embarrassment and pain resulting from a breach of trust.
I hope, dearest Alex, that this encourages you to, if not self disclose right now ☺ then, at least think about it?
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email email@example.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.