It’s happened to all of us at some point.
Day in, day out, you’re living a nice, predictable life with all your ducks in a row. Then, life throws you a curveball that changes everything, including your sex life.
In 2017, I fell off a horse and broke my leg (Click here for all the juicy, excruciating details about my accident).
Like any accident, it was unexpected and grossly inconvenient.
It was also a huge eye opener about how one’s sexuality changes and evolves over time.
In particular, I thought about what happens to our sexual energy as we face the inevitable ups and downs of life.
For example, getting older: brings us wisdom and a sense of accomplishment.
On the other hand, we feel a definitive shift in the way we relate and feel about sex.
Whether it be a drop in our libido, busy careers, putting kids through college, people often assume sex can never be what it used to be.
While hormonal imbalances are a major and real factor, sexual desire has far more to do with your mindset. And your mindset – you can control.
Many of my clients who tell me they’re not interested in sex assume that their bodies are no longer “responsive.”
But when we dig deeper, there’s usually an internal crisis that’s crippling them from the inside out – one might call these ‘low points in life.’
These low points are difficult to talk about with our partners.
It’s hard to admit and be with the changes that low points can create in the relationships. Especially if you feel there’s not much you can do about it.
Some of our low points, like my accident, can change our physical ability to be sexually expressive.
And there are also emotional traumas that most of us will face at some point in our lives.
Depression, grief, job loss, medical diagnoses, major life transitions, exhaustion are just a few life experiences that can change the flow of your sexual energy and how you relate to your body.
Believe it or not, many people will struggle with guilt over their lack of sexual energy during this time.
I know that I certainly did after my accident!
As I focused on my recovery, my sex drive was “out of order,” so to speak.
My leg was trapped in a cast and I was bound to my crutches. Even getting up from bed to use the restroom was a major task. The last thing on my mind was “sexy time” with my partner.
I realized that I had to change my expectations of intimacy and sexual expression. I would need to dig deep, and find ways to connect with my partner without the full use of my body.
We tend to view these lulls in sexual energy as negative, depressing experiences.
However, these moments are also opportunities that challenge our ability to create and be creative.
I remember helping a couple reconnect sexually after years of not being erotic with one another.
After a few months of working with them, they were loving the new and improved sex life they had created.
Then, one of them came down with a serious illness.
The doctor visits, researching, learning how to live with this new disease, took all the eroticism out of their relationship.
When they came to my office a few months later, their biggest frustration wasn’t the lack of sex. Rather, it was about the total backslide on all the progress they had made.
On a deeper level, they were ashamed of having failed — failing me, failing the process, failing themselves.
The first step in dealing with the shame was to accept that the relapse was 100% okay. To accept that certain things were, are, and will remain out of their control.
The second step was seeing what could still be erotic between them.
To do that, we needed to figure out:
- Did they still want to be sexual with one another during this time? (This is something we revisited each week).
- If they were to be erotic with one another, what might need to change, or be different? For instance, are there positions that are no longer comfortable, do you a softer touch, would a long, hot bath help you get in the mood, what do you need to hear before, during, or after?
Another thing I noticed after my accident was the drop in my partner’s libido.
In actuality, there was no reason to feel guilty about depriving him, since he wasn’t “feeling it,” either. It turns out, seeing me with a serious, debilitating injury was an instant mood-killer for him.
Along with seeing me injured, he was also one of my main caregivers. Boy, talk about a mood-killer!
The nurse-patient dynamic may be sexy as a role play, but not when you’re actually caring for the person 24/7. This level of caring caused a dynamic shift in the relationship that almost felt “parental.”
Thankfully, we were able to discuss these changes quite openly and put our relationship back on track.
Sadly, many couples do not communicate around the changes and remain “stuck” in a No man’s land of loneliness and sexual deprivation.
With clients, I have found that care-taking is one of the most common reasons for why they stop having sex.
That includes emotional caretaking — being the one who listens and comforts and cleans up after everybody else, while putting aside their own needs and feelings.
Pinpointing the exact moment you or your partner became the caretaker is critical.
Many couples accept this as their “new normal,” the next chapter of how they share and relate to one another.
However, there’s a big difference in caring for each other as lovers and care-taking like a parent.
In my situation, there was no actual way around the “caretaking like a parent” role.
I mention this, because there will be experiences in your life where you or your partner have no choice but to take on this role.
But you don’t need to play this role forever.
At some point, there will be an opportunity to shift the dynamic back in the other direction. When you see this opportunity, seize it!
Of course, there are situations where that opportunity may never come.
Some low points in life are so big and so life-changing, there’s no way to put things back the way they were .
Learning to accept what we didn’t ask for and never needed is one of life’s most difficult tasks.
Yes, we must grieve over what we lost and what we’ll never have, but there comes a time when you have to accept the reality of your situation.
When you do, I hope you’ll realize that your future is still full of possibilities.
They may not be the possibilities you envisioned, but there’s still unlimited potential for growth, pleasure and play.
Within yourself and your sexuality.
Allow your low-point-crisis to be an opportunity. Grow and expand into a deeper more meaningful layer of your erotic self.
It is also important to be aware that for many people, low points will create drastic changes in their mood.
You were brimming with hope and positivity yesterday, but this morning, you can barely get yourself out of bed.
These mood swings affect not only you, but your partner as well.
During these times, it’s especially important to talk and open up to your partner about your thoughts, feelings and whole internal world.
Yes, your sex life may be on hold while you work through your trauma. Yes, things have changed in a way that’s unfair to one of both of you.
But even within all the craziness, you can continue to develop your emotional intimacy. A must have for long term physical intimacy is a strong and deep emotional connection.
The takeaway here is that we must adapt our erotic energies to fit the times and circumstances.
We lead nuanced, complicated lives. Yet, we’re beautifully sensitive, capable creatures who can roll with the punches — if we choose to.
No matter what crappy situation life throws our way, we can CHOOSE to accept and learn from it. Growth allows us to feel new parts of ourselves and this will certainly give your erotic world new energy as well.
Yes, being injured changed my life in some truly awful ways. I cursed my way through so much of that experience.
But now, I realize all the positive ways that accident changed me. Though I can’t say I’m glad for my accident, it’s taught me many lessons that I would never have learned elsewhere.
For now, I hope my words will serve as a gentle reminder on how to make lemonade when life hands you lemons.