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The Real Reason Your Partner Might Lose Interest in Sex ... And What To Do About It

When your partner is depressed, their rejection of your advances is not about you.

A couple of weeks ago, someone tweeted at me to ask for advice on getting their partner "to be more into sex." It turned out that said partner was dealing with depression and had lost all sexual interest. I tried to explain to this man that he really couldn’t do much to make his partner want sex at the moment, that it sounded like the depression was causing the loss of libido. So, I told him that treating the depression would be the best route to treating the libido issue. I got the distinct impression this answer was not satisfactory and was left with a tweet about how a romantic bath would be set up. I felt a knot form in my stomach. I could tell he didn’t quite understand what I was saying - and I wasn’t going to get through to him in less than 140 characters. 


Depression In the Bed

As of 2011, one in 10 adults in the U.S. suffered from depression, according to the  CDC. It is an incredibly common, but still largely misunderstood, condition. In a society that struggles to accept ailments we can’t see, depression looks a lot like laziness, emotional over-indulgence, anti-social behavior and a whole host of other things we don’t appreciate in others. Is it any wonder we’re not to quick to recognize its  very real symptoms

For partners of depression sufferers it can be especially hard. When your partner breaks a leg and doesn’t want to go out dancing, you totally get that - and you don't take their desire to stay on the couch as a rejection. When someone's depressed, they look "fine," so it's easy to feel rejected when they don't want to got out and have fun. And it's almost a given when they stop wanting to have sex.

This takes us back to my friend on Twitter and, by extension, all partners of people who are dealing with depression and consequently have no interest in sex. This can feel horrible. This can feel like rejection. This can feel like your partner no longer wants you. Let me just make one thing very clear: Your partner’s lack of interest in sex is NOT ABOUT YOU. I can almost guarantee it. Your partner’s lack of interest in sex is about depression and trying to fix just the sex issue will not help. Let me put it to you this way: Asking how to get your partner with depression more interested in sex is like asking how to get your blind friend more interested in Impressionist paintings. Your friend isn't ambivalent toward the art because he hates the Impressionists, he's ambivalent toward the paintings BECAUSE HE'S FREAKING BLIND! Do you get me? 

OK, so now that I've got that off my chest, the next question to ask is what exactly your partner's lack of libido is about. Let’s look at that. Here are some of the most common signs that depression is in your bed.

They've Lost Interest ... In Just About Everything

We’ve all heard it in the drug ads on TV: "sudden loss of interest." Even though I've been through years of depression myself, whenever I hear that I picture a dude suddenly putting down the model airplane he was building. That phrase makes it sound like depressed people stop wanting to do just the extraneous stuff, but here’s the deal: In many cases they stop wanting to do  anything. At all.

In fact "loss of interest" is a misleading term because, in my experience, it isn't so much that you aren’t interested in doing anything so much as you  just can’t . I’ve found that "loss of interest" can easily be translated into "shit be hard." Like insurmountably hard. Small tasks feel massively overwhelming. Even good stuff just feels like such a huge undertaking. I know in my worst times a partner approaching me for sex triggered resentment and thoughts of "Really? You want me to just perform for you?" In the state I was in, I just couldn’t get my head around enjoying sex at all. It felt like a demand and I couldn’t handle demands. 

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