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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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!