woman working at night at her desk in the office
Illustration by Marta Pucci

Is Your Work Interfering With Your Sex Life?

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Date published:
3/10/2022
Last updated:
5/8/2022
Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Laura Vowels,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Date published:
3/10/2022
Last updated:
5/8/2022

TL;DR

  • A survey reported by NBC news found that for all age groups above 24, far more time is spent thinking about work (and money!) than sex.
  • There are numerous ways this pre-occupation with work can impact on your sex life.
  • When work is busy and demanding it can be hard to switch off and give your partner the focus and attention they need.
  • Work-related stress can build up, causing hormonal changes that reduce sex drive and libido.
  • There are lots of things you can do to rekindle your spark and rebuild the emotional connection with your partner.

What was the first thing you thought about when you got home from work this evening and saw your other half? Was it the three emails you still need to bash off before the morning? Was it the dread of the inane conversation you’d be forced to engage in when there were more important things in your head? Was it the reorganization rumors you’d heard from Jim by the coffee machine?

Or was it sex?

The sad fact is that work has become a common pre-occupation, often taking over our every waking thought. In fact, a survey by GOBankingRates, reported by NBC news, found that for all age groups above 24, far more time is spent thinking about work (and money!) than sex.

But did you know that all that time working, or thinking about working, can actually have an adverse effect on your sex life? Not only can it reduce sexual desire in the short term, it can even increase the chance of experiencing sexual dysfunction in the longer term. And it can impact all other aspects of your primary relationship too.

How does work impact on sex?

Whether it’s too much time spent working so you’re just not spending enough time with your loved ones, or work-related stress that’s causing mental health issues, there are numerous reasons your illustrious career might be damaging your romantic relationship.

Difficulty switching off

For many people there have been blurred lines around home and work, with lockdowns for office workers in particular. But this is a problem that has existed since well before the pandemic. Many of us fail to leave our work ‘baggage’ behind us. Whether it’s paperwork that’s unfinished, emails that still need to be sent or simply emotional unpacking that needs to be done, it can be difficult to switch off when you arrive home.

You might find that just as the kids have gone to bed and you’re settling down on the sofa, those thoughts pop back into your head and prevent you from focusing on your partner. You might move to a different room to complete the work but often even if you remain in the same room your busy mind can create emotional distance. Unfortunately, like it or not, this can feel like you’re saying, “My work is more important than you are.”

When work gets in the way of your relationship

Let’s think about that again: “My work is more important than you are.” How do you think that makes your partner feel? When work constantly gets in the way it can drive a wedge between even the strongest of relationships. And over time that can have a very real impact on the health of your sex life.

When one partner becomes distant or withdraws emotionally it can have an impact on the behavior of the other partner too. Perhaps they find themselves rejected more when they initiate sex so they reduce how frequently they even try. 

This might lead to resentment as they begin to notice changes occurring. They might lose confidence, fear their partner is losing interest in them or feel like they’ve done something wrong. They might even become anxious about sex and struggle to relax and enjoy it when the opportunity does come around.

And the harsh reality is you might be too wrapped up in work to even notice… until it’s too late.

The impact of stress on your sex life  

There has been much research into how stress affects your desire and interest in sex as well as the way your body responds to sexual stimulation. So we know a lot more about it than we used to.

In short, stress - whether from work or not - can have a huge impact on not just our sex lives but our mental and physical health too. 

When stress is elevated for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to hormone imbalances that interfere with the production of testosterone and even alter our brain chemistry. This drop in testosterone levels is thought to lead to a reduction in sexual desire in women and men, causing low libido and even impacting sexual dysfunction, causing erectile issues in men for example.  

If left unchecked, or allowed to overwhelm us, stress can lead to anxiety or chronic depression for which we might need prescription medications. Unfortunately it's a cruel fact that one of the common side effects of depression medicines can be an impact on sexual function and lower levels of sexual desire.  

As an aside, if you really feel work is getting on top of you, or you feel the stress is overwhelming, it's important to see a qualified healthcare professional or mental health professional for support.

You find yourself tired from your work day

Don’t underestimate the impact of simply feeling really, really tired. Couples often say to us that they’re just exhausted after a day’s work and all they want to do is kick back on the sofa and watch TV once they’re home.

And of course sex is ultimately physical activity, so it requires some energy. The good thing is that once you get started, you’ll find your heart beats that little bit faster, the blood starts flowing and maybe you weren’t so tired after all.

Sometimes it just takes a little push. We often say that a healthy sex life is about forming habits around sex. If you lose the habit it can be very easy to let things slide in the bedroom department. But often you’ll find that where sex is concerned the more you have the more you’ll want.

But we realize it’s not always that simple!

What can you do? Some top tips

  • Talk to your partner – If sex has fallen off the agenda it can often be difficult to bring the subject up, particularly if it’s been going on for some time. You might feel that by mentioning it you’ll be hurting your partner’s feelings or pushing them further away. Even if you find it difficult, start the conversation. You might well find it a relief that they’re feeling the same way too.
  • Reprioritize things – in some cases it might be as simple as reprioritizing and making a pact with your partner that you will find time for sex. Schedule sex if you need to, to get back on track, but just make sure you make it happen.
  • Ramp up the excitement – If the idea of sex is no longer enough to have you rushing through the front door ‘honey I’m home’ style, maybe talk to your partner about ways you could both inject a little anticipation. Perhaps plan to watch a little soft porn together to see if it gets you in the mood. Or share and try out some of your long-held sexual fantasies. We wrote an entire blog about spontaneous sex, so why not have a read?
  • Create the right environment for sex – It’s true you may not be able to control how much work you have on, or the meeting that’s worrying you the next day, so concentrate on the things you can easily control. In other words, make the bedroom a stress-free relaxing environment to be in. Think music, candles, and sumptuous textiles to start with.  
  • Consider sex therapy to get you back on track – Couples therapy or sex therapy can really help you focus on what’s important for you as a couple. It will help you to work through any blockages, spend time solely on each other and rekindle the spark that might be missing. If face-to-face therapy feels too much or too time-consuming, consider taking the Blueheart app for a spin. It’s a great way to reconnect and get your sex life unstuck in your own time and in the comfort of your own home. And because it's been developed by experienced sex therapists you can trust in the techniques and information provided.

But of course we all have those days where work gets too much, so if sex is really off the agenda there are plenty of ways to get closer to your partner beyond sex.

Don’t forget though, there is one huge, often overlooked, benefit of sex. It is great for stress relief!

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