Advice

WAfyWF: What to do when you want to want it

Question: How can I bring back my desire for romance?

I haven’t felt motivated to pursue a romantic or sexual relationship in the past year and a bit. I know in the past I’ve enjoyed sex and relationships, but it seems as though my sex drive and my romance drive (is that a thing?) have completely disappeared. I feel as though I’m missing out on cool people and fun experiences, how can I encourage my sex drive and romantic drive to return?

Answer: Focus on connection, and cultivate sensuality.

It sounds like you don’t identify as asexual or aromantic, but for what it’s worth, desire is a fluid thing, and it changes over the course of our life. So leave room for the possibility that right now, not wanting sex or romance might just be where you are in your life, and that’s just fine. 

Take stock of what’s happening in your life. There are probably at least a dozen very good reasons you’re not feeling romantically inclined. Those reasons can be all over the map. Are you feeling  nervous about your life circumstances, depressed about the state of the world, tired of the toxic online dating environment, or afraid of connecting with new people because the world is honestly kinda scary? Perhaps you’re just more focused on school or work right now, or maybe sex and dating just don’t feel that important to you because they simply aren’t. 

I’m curious about why you feel a need to change what you’re feeling, and I would encourage you to be curious about it as well. Our society holds relationships in an oddly special status that is at once very personal yet also one of the factors by which we judge ourselves and others, often rather unreasonably. This is a good time to review for yourself just how important sexual and romantic experiences are and what role they play in your development as an individual.

I think one of the reasons people lose interest is that online dating can be impersonal and even dehumanizing. Dating apps encourage users to swipe through people’s profile images casually, as if shopping for shoes we don’t need. This encourages us to eliminate people as possible connections very quickly, before we can have any idea who they are. While physical appearances certainly play a role in attraction, and knowing a few key facts from a profile can help us determine if we’d like to get to know someone, the real powerful sense of connection and excitement typically doesn’t show up until you meet in person, hear their voice, see how they carry themself, and experience how they treat others. So it’s no surprise if modern dating is a turnoff to you. Take your search out of the digital realm and focus on making in person connections if you can.

Hang out with friends and try to get to know some new people platonically. Go to a social event that’s a little outside your norm, and see if you can activate your “friendship drive.” Focus on building positive social connections, and perhaps you will meet someone who sparks your romantic and sexual desire … but maybe not. Go to community fundraisers, art openings, academic talks, maker workshops, coding classes — anything where you can learn something and meet new people at the same time is ideal in my book. The learning aspect is key because even if you don’t meet anyone you want to see again, you will have expanded your horizons. 

Meanwhile, here are some specific practices to help awaken desire in your life. Test these out and use whichever ones feel right to you, and modify liberally for your own preferences.

  1. Connect with your body through movement. Movement helps wake up the senses and invites deeper enjoyment of sensual experiences of all kinds. Try a different type of activity from your norm. It doesn’t have to be strenuous. Start as simply as possible. Move and connect with your body every day. 
  2. Dress up for yourself. Dress as though you were going out on a date, but just do it for yourself. Remind yourself how it feels. See the sensuality and beauty in yourself so that when you go out, you can know that others see it too. 
  3. Flirt with strangers. No, I didn’t say sexually harass strangers. Just smile. Give compliments. Make silly little jokes with the people around you in public. Just practice connecting in simple, friendly ways. Keep it casual, not creepy.
  4. Indulge your senses with intention. Listen to sexy music. Use candles, essential oils, or incense to make your boudoir smell like a pleasure den. Place erotic art in your bedroom or dressing area where it will remind you of how you want to feel. 
  5. Daydream and journal about the kind of relationship you would most like to have. Think about how it feels to be held or to connect with a lover in the way you want. Cultivating and contemplating that feeling can help us recognize it and feel open to it when it arises naturally later.
  6. Create a romance ritual. Light a candle, state your intention, and spend a few minutes each day cultivating the feeling you would like to have more of in your life. 
  7. Practice self-sensuality. Be kind to your body. Slow down and listen to what your body is saying. Take a warm bath or shower, then massage your entire body with oil. This may sound like a Lizzo song, but it’s also an ancient yoga practice called abhyanga, which is supportive in developing a healthy and loving relationship with your body. After that, roll out your yoga mat and have a good, long stretch. Turn on some music, move slowly, tune in to your breath, and have a conversation with your body in this process. 
  8. Get a yoga therapy session. One of the biggest reasons I suspect people are feeling disconnected romantically these days is because we’re stressed and our bodies struggle to appreciate pleasure when we’re pre-occupied with feeling like the world is ending. A  yoga therapy session is a more structured way to have a deep conversation with your body that will let you start addressing some of that stress. You can find yoga therapy practitioners here.

Finally, try to have patience with yourself and not force anything. Often, the harder we push for something, the harder it is for us to see it when it arrives. The natural rhythm of life will bring about changes no matter what. It’s when we try to over-control those changes that we run into resistance both internally and externally. Loosen your grip a little bit, and let life lead. Something interesting will happen. It always does.

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