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Want to have more sex in old age? Then accept that your libido will fluctuate

More women than might care to admit have found themselves feigning a headache or pretending to be asleep to avoid the amorous attentions of their other half.

But women who have lost interest in sex cope better if they believe that sexual desire changes over time.

Expecting your passion levels to always stay the same can lead to greater bedroom difficulties, a study has found.

Women who think this way are more likely to be in denial about their lack of a sex life, disengage emotionally from their partner or try to avoid the problem by making jokes.

The study of 780 women found those who expect their passion for their partner to come and go over the years are less likely to adopt such negative coping strategies.

Women who have lost interest in sex cope better if they believe that sexual desire changes over time, researchers have found

It means their low libido may be less damaging to their marriage or relationship as they do not feel ‘helpless’.

Siobhan Sutherland, the study’s lead author from the University of Waterloo, said: ‘Women who believe that sexual desire levels remain the same may feel that challenges with sexual desire, such as low sex drive, are impossible to overcome and therefore they try to avoid or ignore the problem.’

She added: ‘Our findings suggest that holding a belief that sexual desire changes over time may protect women against responding helplessly to their sexual problems.’

Loss of libido is one of the top problems women face in the bedroom, and it affects a third of females in any given year.

The researchers wanted to see if women coped differently based on their beliefs about sex drive.

In two studies the researchers gave women two separate articles to read.


Loss of libido is a reduced sex drive.

Past research suggests it affects nearly half of all women at some point in their lives.

It is often linked to relationship issues, stress or tiredness, but could also indicate an underlying health problem.

Sex drives vary person-to-person with no libido being ‘normal’, however, if it is affecting your relationship, it may be worth seeking help from a GP or psychosexual therapist.

Common causes:

  • Relationship problems – such as becoming overly familiar with your partner,  poor communication or trust issues
  • Sexual problems – including erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness
  • Stress, anxiety or depression
  • Age – sex hormones fall during the menopause. Low libido can also occur due to the side effects of medication or mobility problems
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding – can cause changes in hormone levels, exhaustion or altered priorities as people focus on their child
  • Underlying health issues – such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes 
  • Medication – including antidepressants and drugs for high blood pressure
  • Alcohol and drugs 

Source: NHS Choices 

The first reported that an expert had found sexual desire to ‘increase and decrease’ over a decade, while the second stated that it stayed the same.

To check women had been influenced by the article they had read, they were then asked for their own beliefs.

They were asked to report whether they had experienced or were likely to experience their own loss of libido and then completed a test to show the strategies they would use.

The results show women who believe sexual desire stays the same are more likely to use negative coping strategies, such as denial, mentally distancing themselves from their partner, physically disengaging or using humour to avoid addressing the problem.

The study, published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, states that the women in the study may have seen ‘little use in actively coping with sexual desire problems if they believed that these problems do not change’.

It adds: ‘Learned helplessness occurs when, after experiencing several failed attempts to achieve a goal, one gives up hope and adopts the attitude that efforts to reach the goal are futile.’

Positive coping strategies for low libido include venting emotions and seeking support from other people.

However people who believed desire changes over time surprisingly did not use such positive strategies more often. This may be because they believed the problem would resolve itself in time.

The study concludes: ‘Through achieving a better understanding of how women’s implicit beliefs impact their coping with sexual desire challenges, this research serves as an important component in refining current psychological interventions for women’s sexual desire problems.’