Dear Dr. Jane,
What do you do when "everyday" stress that will, realistically, never really go away (finances, jobs, family stress) is always the big excuse? I mean I understand it, but that doesn't make the rejection any easier. How do you overcome that? From, Stressed Out
Dear Stressed, I hear your question—why and how do the everyday stresses take precedence over something more lasting like love, connection and pleasure? It's true that many, many people talk about stress being the reason that they aren't turned on at any given time (or ever).
My answer to this is the same answer I give my yoga students, and to myself when I fall off my practice: we have a finite number of hours in the day.
Intimacy itself is a practice. We make time and space for it because we value the connection. When we show up for it, we grow in love together.
Just like yoga, it can be tough to get back on the mat. We don't get to the studio or to our home practice for lots of reasons. But in yoga, as in intimacy—that's usually the time when we really need to be there. Taking a child's pose, or being together in the dark, holding each other tenderly, making love.
Create an intimacy practice just like you cultivate a meditation practice, a healthy eating plan or an exercise habit. But don't force "sex." Set an intention, make a plan and implement it. Excuses aren't going to nourish your body or your relationship.
Our lives are filled with stress—when they're over, what will matter?
We're wrapped up in the round and round of our lives and don't have a way out—a way to find each other and ourselves without worry. And sadly, sex becomes another thing to stress about.
Here's how to solve this problem of too much stress and not enough sex:
Let yourself dream.
Even though you're incredibly busy right now, think of a future where you're truly, passionately in love. What would life be like in the relationship you imagine?
Focus on working together.
When you say, "I need it or I'll go crazy," your partner will close down. Your demands for sex become one more thing on their To Do list. When they "do you" like they "do the laundry," there's something missing. Instead, talk to your partner about ways to solve problems together so that there's less stress. Write a comprehensive list of all the work that's involved in your lives (visible and invisible). Talk about increasing your physical intimacy only after you've talked about resolving the significant issues in your lives as a team.
3. Look at how your schedules reflect your relationship values.
We are what we do. And we do what we are. Our schedules reflect our priorities. What are yours? Most of us have a few minutes every day for connection, but our busy schedules don't allow it. We go to bed late and our partner goes to bed early. The less we connect, the faster we spin, untethered by love—supposedly the most important thing in our lives.
4. Make a commitment to be together this week in a way that actually feels good.
Just this. Make a commitment. Find one opportunity to touch base. Set up some spaciousness to touch a little, hug a little, kiss a little. The stresses of the day need time and space to fall off and to settle. Studies show that any affection (given authentically with consent) is wonderful at decreasing your body's stress response. It's not necessary to have sex right now. Enjoy something that feels easy. The sex will come when you make space.
Let me know how it goes. Stress is real but when you have a compassionate conversation with your partner, make time in your life, and follow through, things will get better. Honest.
PS: If it's been more than six months since you had sex, think about getting help from a sex expert. There might be some simple things you can do today to make it easier for both of you.
Send her your questions at [email protected].