Work woes: sex difficulties in busy people
Growing numbers of people are finding their sex life suffers because they work too hard. Find out what you can do to redress the balance.
|Working too hard can take its toll on your relationship.
In our practice, we are seeing an increasing number of people whose sex lives are going badly because of their jobs. This is partly due to the UK's current 'long hours' culture, and partly due to the fact that in 2013 so many businesses are facing serious financial difficulties.
These patients say that they are not making love as often as they used to, and don't seem to have the energy for it either.
One high-powered exec told us: 'When I first moved in with my husband, we had sex almost every night. Now we only do it once a month. I think it's because both of us are exhausted'.
The effect of long hours on sex drive
Ebb and flow of desire
Less frequent sex or lack of libido doesn't automatically point to an inherent problem in the relationship.
Human desire tends to ebb and flow quite a bit.
Sometimes we feel really sexy and sometimes we don't.
Also, there is a natural tendency in relationships for sex to get less frequent as time goes by.
This is due to two things:
- as the couple grow used to each other, the novelty of the relationship wears off
- for hormonal reasons, the desire for sex tends to decline a little with age, particularly in men.
A recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine confirms that couples do tend to have rather less sex as they get older, especially after the age of 50.
- If you are tired, you are unlikely to have much strength left for sex – whether you are a man or a woman.
- When a job is very stressful, the effect of that stress will be to diminish the amount of energy you have for sex.
- You may be so stressed out, you don't even think of sex for quite long periods.
The above has always been true, but in recent years we would say long hours have become common place, and this is having a damaging effect on a lot of people's sex lives.
We first noticed this among patients who work in the financial sector. Some of our clients start work at six in the morning, and carry on for more than 12 hours.
Often, they do not stop for lunch and many of them have a long commute at either end of the day.
So when we see a man or a woman who leaves home at 4.30am and gets back at 8.30pm, it's not surprising that they're likely to have trouble with their sex life.
The effect of business uncertainties on sex drive
Similarly, if you're working for a business that seems to be on the verge of going into administration (or indeed, if you own one), then the stress that this generates is likely to make you produce more 'anxiety chemicals' – like adrenaline.
And often the physiological effect of those 'anxiety chemicals' is to diminish your sex drive, or to make it difficult for you to 'perform'.
In particular, men who are under stress because of work woes are liable to have problems in getting a good erection.
Sexual difficulties caused by excessive work
No matter what your job, excessive work can cause the following sexual difficulties.
- You will have less time for sex.
- You will be tired, so it may be difficult to summon up much interest.
- You may find it more difficult to climax.
- You will find it difficult to relax in bed.
- If you're female, you may find it hard to produce adequate lubrication pre-intercourse.
- If you're male, you may not be able to get erections easily.
- Feelings of stress may make you less likely to give your partner sufficient romance and love play.
- You will probably opt for doing the same things during sex.
- Your partner may show disappointment or even anger towards you because of these work-induced symptoms.
Letting things continue as they are could lead to the breakdown of your relationship.
If work is affecting your love life, you need to do something about it fast. Doing nothing and just hoping things will sort themselves out is folly.
What changes can I make?
Short of giving up your job, there are no instant or magical solutions. But everyone can make small changes in their lives – no matter how busy they are.
These changes need to be ones that will bring some sort of balance into your lifestyle that does not exist currently. Such changes should help your health as well as your love life.
1. Be honest with your partner
The first thing you can do is to be honest with your partner.
We have had clients who have no desire for sex on weekdays. What they want during the week is a loving companion who will snuggle up to them and listen to what has happened in their day, but not demand sex.
If the busy person has never discussed this with their partner, it can cause a lot of upset and rowing because, understandably, the other person tends to feel rejected.
It may not be ideal to only have sex at the weekends or during holidays, but at least if both parties know that this is the plan, there will be fewer unrealised expectations and fewer quarrels. In other words, the relationship should become more relaxed.
2. Give your partner some attention
It has to be said that honesty is not going to be enough to fix a rocky relationship, unless you pay your partner some real attention. He or she needs to feel affirmed and important – despite the paucity of sex. So make sure that you spent adequate time on kissing, cuddling and stroking!
3. Think about how you talk to your partner
It's easy to take your workplace language into the home, but that can seem rude, abrupt and terse. For instance, never bark out bedtime instructions to your beloved!
Use the journey home from the office to unwind and to get into a softer frame of mind. Instead of working on your laptop all the way, read a book or do a Sudoku puzzle.
You need to change gear from working mode to something a little more empathetic and human if you are to have a healthy romantic life at home.
4. Don't let work encroach on weekends and holidays
If you want to maintain your relationship, your partner will want to feel that you put him or her first at weekends and holidays. This means a complete change of pace.
Try not to bring work home or to keep checking your emails – and switch off your mobile phone.
5. Make sex special
When you do make love, try to wind down first so that you are in a more relaxed frame of mind. Partners do not want to feel that they're being used as a substitute for quick masturbation, and that all you care about is a swift climax.
Partners want to feel cared for and loved, so cuddle up together first or have a romantic meal. And then spend half an hour giving your loved one a massage, or have a bath or shower together.
6. Add variety in the bedroom
Try to vary your lovemaking. In our experience, very busy people tend to get into a set sexual pattern. They find a routine that works and is fast - and then use it every time – for years.
This is boring and unimaginative. If you keep doing it, it's likely you'll both go off sex and this can spell doom for your relationship.
Lifestyle changes to reduce stress
You also need to make some lifestyle changes that will benefit your mental and physical health – and which will impact positively on your love life.
Here are four important points:
It is crazy to skip breakfast when it only takes three minutes in the microwave to make some porridge – or less to make some cereal or muesli! This is a good way to start the day.
Oats give you a slow-release of energy and line your stomach before a tension-packed day. So does muesli or other healthy cereals.
Take a lunch break
You may say no-one in your office takes lunch, but why not be the exception? If you can get out of the workplace for half an hour and get some fresh air, you will feel more relaxed.
On days when you have to eat in the office, try ordering in some salads, fruit and nuts. This is good fuel for your hard-working body.
Drink more water
Somehow you need to get some exercise. If you look carefully at your timetable, you should be able to find the odd half-hour where you can fit in a workout or go for a swim. Since the 2012 Olympics, it has been encouraging to see more people running through our cities in their lunchtimes!
If running or swimming isn't possible, get off the bus or train two stops early or park your car a few streets away and walk to work. At the office, take stairs instead of lifts between floors.
What if I don't have time to make these changes?
When you are busy and your career is going places, you probably feel you must put work first.
But unless you strive to bring some balance into your life – and unless you find the time to be loving and close to anyone who matters to you – you may find that your life begins to feel rather empty and meaningless, despite your (presumably) healthy bank balance.
Specific sex problems may be disrupting your sex life that can only be resolved with specialist help. See the factsheets below for more information.
- Erectile dysfunction (inability to get or maintain an erection).
- Premature ejaculation (ejaculating too quickly to satisfy your partner).
- Retarded ejaculation (male inability to climax).
- Difficulties in climaxing (women).
- Pain on intercourse.
- Who to contact for sex therapy.
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