2020 has been a tough year for all of us. To make things even worse, the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdowns have thrown a wrench into our sex lives. For singles, it’s almost impossible to date and meet new partners, while couples across the world have been reporting problems with intimacy and incompatible sex drives. All of this should come as no surprise, as the pandemic has completely disrupted our normal lives and changed routines completely. There’s no reason why it wouldn’t disrupt our sex lives as well. So, if you and your spouse feel frustrated and isolated, just remember that you’re not alone and this isn’t permanent. At the end of this article, we also have some tips on how you can revive your sex life. Read on!
The Upside in the Bedroom
To be honest, most people haven’t seen any upside to the pandemic, but some couples have benefitted from the lockdowns. Typically, these will be relationships where both partners have good resilience to anxiety and stress and already have strong relationships. Of course, it can also boil down to luck, with partners experiencing similar responses and reactions to stress. Broadly speaking, some people experience a surge in libido when exposed to anxiety and stress. This is because sex actually serves as a coping mechanism. Of course, if anxiety and stress levels go too high, it has the opposite effect.
The Downside to Your Sex Life
Pandemics are known to trigger mental health problems and COVID has been no different. The incessant lockdowns and quarantines have led to greater isolation, increased anxiety, anger, depression, and PTSD in some individuals. At the same time, we have experienced a reduction in access to health care services, including mental health care, poor access to leisure activities, and so on. This has given rise to a mental health crisis with existing patients suffering from reduced access to care and treatment, while many others have developed mental illnesses. This is simply not conducive to a healthy sex life or libido levels (1).
Although few studies have looked at the impact of pandemic-type events on libido, research published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics is telling (2). Researchers looked at the reproductive health of 170 women after a massive earthquake in Wenchuan. They found that satisfaction levels dropped from 55 to 21 percent after the disaster. Loss of libido was so widespread that 32 percent of the study participants reported not having any sex for a month after the event, while previously they had sex once a week. As more data emerges from the COVID pandemic, we could expect similar findings.
It is evident, a pandemic is also very different from other natural disasters and the difference only exacerbates the problem. After most traumatic experiences like earthquakes or flooding, we can seek comfort through physical intimacy and contact with others. During a pandemic, we are required to be vigilant and maintain social distance. This is not conducive to intimacy. Additionally, couples are now forced to spend extensive periods of time cooped in together. Under normal circumstances, there would be healthy outlets and some amount of personal time, whether it’s the night out with friends or some alone time. For a healthy relationship, partners need to be close but still separate. These boundaries have been blurred and it’s taken a toll on our sex lives.
The impact is already evident from preliminary studies and surveys. A recent study found that many women reported an increase in libido and frequency of sex during the pandemic, but they also reported a decline in the quality of sex life (3). What is most obvious is that the pandemic has affected all of us differently, but these changes are not permanent.
How Your Sex Life Can Survive
Here are some things that you should consider discussing with your partner to get through the crisis:
- Discuss your emotional, mental, and sexual state in a judgment-free environment.
- If you’re not on the same page in terms of sex drive, discuss and find other ways to feel intimate.
- Try to find a middle ground as compromise goes both ways.
- If your partner is in the mood but you aren’t, make it clear that masturbation is an alternative.
- If you’re in the mood and your partner isn’t, just remember that there’s a lot going on and it doesn’t mean that your partner is no longer attracted to you.
- Instead of waiting for your partner to make a move, initiate sexual encounters yourself.
- Get cozy with your partner and chill with an erotic movie, this might put the two of you in a mood.
- Create a ‘couple ritual’ that you and your partner do together. For example, brushing your teeth together every morning, or watching a show together every night.
- Flirt with your partner like you used to when you first started dating. Believe it or not, but it’s a key component in keeping the fire ablaze.
- Start-up with lesser intimidating options such as bubble baths, sensual massages, intense make-out sessions, etc. Such activities too can create sexual tension and desire which can ignite the spark in the two of you.
These are just pointers to help you get started. At the end of the day, the most important thing that you can do to save your sex life and relationship is to keep those lines of communication open.
Bradford, Andrea, and Cindy M Meston. “The impact of anxiety on sexual arousal in women.” Behaviour research and therapy vol. 44,8 (2006): 1067-77. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2005.08.006
Liu, Shujuan, et al. “A Report on the Reproductive Health of Women after the Massive 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake.” International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, vol. 108, no. 2, 2009, pp. 161–164., doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2009.08.030.
Yuksel, Bahar, and Faruk Ozgor. “Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on female sexual behavior.” International journal of gynaecology and obstetrics: the official organ of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics vol. 150,1 (2020): 98-102. doi:10.1002/ijgo.13193