In the past, my depression made it hard to connect sexually with my partner—even before I started taking medication. I often didn’t feel worthy of his attention, and though I knew he loved me, it was hard to be as vulnerable as I needed to be for us to have sex. We’d often try, only to end up with my feeling even less attractive than before we started. While he was always understanding and willing to stop in these moments, I began to feel guilty somehow, as though I were being a tease.
And while my body-image issues and my depression are separate, one compounds the other. During my most depressed days, I often felt terrible in my own skin and found it hard be naked in front of the person I should’ve been most comfortable with, let alone physically intimate.
Once, during sex that I initiated, I began to cry uncontrollably; I suddenly felt detached, not only from the moment and from him, but from my own body, and we had to stop. I began to shake and took anxiety medication to calm down, and though he held me and told me over and over that he loved me, all that mattered were the thoughts in my head. My depression took over, and I was completely stuck. It was hard for me to articulate what had happened, just as it’s often hard to articulate why a person is depressed. It’s often not a singular thing that’s wrong, or even something that can be put down on paper in a way that makes sense. However, that doesn’t make it any less real.
It’s a strange thing to be attracted to your partner sexually, but to not have your body respond the way it used to.
While my partner has been completely understanding about my sexual needs, it’s been a frustrating situation for both of us. And while my medication has almost been like magic in terms of helping my motivation, views of my self-worth, and more (including frequent migraines), it’s also lowered my ability to feel sexual desire, which has changed the dynamic of our relationship. It’s a strange thing to be attracted to your partner sexually but to not have your body respond the way it used to. Over the course of the past year, we’ve discovered ways to reconnect and be intimate again, which I hope will be helpful for anyone in a similar situation.
5 Tips to Bring Back the Passion
1. Start with massage.
Massage can help your partner relax and release tension, which will lead to them feeling present and in the moment. Depression itself can often make people feel like they aren’t worth attention or love, so caring acts like this can help remind your partner that they are worthy of feeling good. It’s also often a precursor to foreplay and is a great way to help your partner start thinking about sex.
2. Ask your partner what they need to feel turned on.
In my experience, desire and arousal can be affected by SSRIs (a common type of antidepressant medication), so it’s important to stay connected to your partner while you’re trying to be intimate. In addition to being another great way to get them thinking about sex, sharing what turns you on can also help them feel more confident (and comfortable) in bed. Even if it doesn’t lead to sex right away, it can lend itself to sexy conversation, which can be equally stimulating. You also want to keep communicating with your partner during sex—not that you need to keep up a conversation, just try to stay in tune with how they’re feeling and ask if they like what you’re doing.
3. Talk about sex during the day.
Sending texts to each other throughout the day (as long as both partners are encouraging and returning them) can be super fun. It also gets the partner dealing with depression in the right mindset for sex later. Personally, I've found that when we’ve been planning on having sex and have talked about it throughout the day, it's easier for me to get "in the mood" (I hate that phrase, but it works in this scenario) later, because it doesn’t feel like a surprise. If we've been working on the desire part all day, the arousal part comes more easily for me.
4. Try not to make them feel guilty for something that’s purely chemical.
It can be super frustrating when your relationship dynamic changes. Maybe you were having sex every day, and now it’s only once a week or once a month. The thing is, whether it’s because your partner is too depressed to have sex or because their antidepressant has lowered their libido, or both, it’s not their fault. You can talk out your frustrations with your partner, but try to be understanding, because chances are they’re frustrated with the situation as well.
5. Be patient.
Be patient with each other—both in and out of bed. It’ll likely take the partner dealing with depression a little more time to have an orgasm, and that’s OK. It’ll also take a little time to get back to having sex as frequently as you used to, and that’s fine too. But by using some of these techniques, as well as giving your partner time to settle into their new normal, you’ll hopefully find that you’re having sex more often and both finding it to be super satisfying.
Editor's Note: The opinions presented in this article are the author's personal views and should not be treated as medical advice.