Is work ruining your sex life?
Are you feeling more frazzled than frisky? Is your idea of a romantic evening a bottle of beer shared with your PC?
Have you given up on candlelit encounters and decided that the fluorescent glow of your open-plan office isn't so bad after all?
Are you too busy to stop and look at the window cleaners just in case soft drink ads really do come true?
If you've answered “yes'' to these questions it could be that you've been spending too much time thinking about your disc drive and not enough time about your sex drive.
We all know that demanding jobs can interfere with personal lives, but they can wreak havoc in the bedroom.
Fremantle sexologist Dr Gabrielle Morrissey, whose sex book - Urge, says it can sometimes be difficult to be both sexy and successful.
“If you look at overworked, over-ambitious men in their late 50s, their sex drive has totally plummeted, ” Morrissey says. “They're the ones hunting down Viagra if they can even muster up the drive in time to get to the chemist.
“That's a classic case, but women tend to juggle so many things - not just their work life - that sex is put as the lowest priority.
“That's the mainstay of women that I see. They are asking me why their libido has disappeared - and it hasn't disappeared it's just at the very bottom of pages and pages of priorities that are above it, which is a shame.
“They don't notice that they've put it to one side until it is too late and it has become a real problem.”
Morrissey says the sex system is one of the most fragile systems in the body. When you're stressed, it knows it.
And let's face it, when you close your eyes on the way to ecstasy, it's your lover's face you want to see - not your boss's (unless of course you work for Richard Gere).
But seriously, it can be difficult to think of a hot date when you have a big deadline looming.
“The sex system is very temperamental, ” Morrissey says. “It listens to our hormone levels, which fluctuate according to stress. Everything is inter-related.
“If you are upset, stressed, worried, angry - any of that - it actually cuts the sexual response off. So, not only do you lose desire, but women also have a hard time achieving orgasm.
“They'll kind of say, “Well, it's not happening for me tonight' and that develops into a pattern where it just doesn't happen because their sexual response has closed down. It's like a circuit breaker - it just clicks off because everything has to be in place for it to rev up and be really good.”
So, what do you do if you're in a work-related sex rut?
Morrissey says it is possible to have a great career and a great sex life. It's all about achieving a balance.
“I have a lot of issues with Oprah (Winfrey), but one of the great things Oprah does is tell women to pamper themselves - and it's such an important thing, ” Morrissey says.
“I'm an extremely busy woman but every fortnight I have a manicure, pedicure, massage and a facial. I couldn't live without it.
“And it's not a vanity thing. It's my check-out time. I just completely check out from the world. And for different people it's different - whether they walk the dog or do something else.
“Women have to take time out for themselves. Some people say, “Oh Gabrielle, you shouldn't be so beauty conscious' because I'm always telling women to take time out for themselves and do wonderful things for themselves and they say, “You're just buying into the whole beauty/sex thing', but I'm not. It's actually a nurturing thing.
“If you have low body image and low self-esteem, your sex life isn't going to be what it could be.”
Keeping your groove in an open-plan office
Dr Gabrielle Morrissey's tips for thinking sexy.
The more often you have sex, the more you feel like having sex. “Sometimes I tell women, “Just do it even if you don't feel like it' because your body will kick in and your hormones will surge and you will want to have sex.”
If your schedule is so busy, pencil sex into your appointment book like you'd book in a session with a personal trainer. “This is your sex life - surely it is more important than that meeting with a colleague you hardly know.”
Visualise. “One thing that has been shown to improve sex is to consciously spend some time fantasising because it starts to rev up your desire levels. So if you are in front of the computer screen put up a Post It note or something that has just a word that triggers off some sort of fantasy, then every time your eyes skirt across the note you'll remember to fantasise.”
Flirt by email. “Use emails back and forth to your partner. It's just that sort of teasing. Because women keep sex so low on the brain on a daily level, sometimes you need to do 180 degrees different, just for a while and keep sex on the brain.”
Eat chocolate. “It's a band-aid effect, but it's helpful because when you fall in lust, there's a hormone that makes your knees weak and your palms sweaty and the butterflies in your stomach and you can't concentrate and you're wondering if they are going to call and why haven't they called yet. You just go completely stupid.
“That's mainly to do with this hormone. But the maximum time it lasts is 18 months and that's when people start to get a bit bored.
“The reason you can eat chocolate is that that actually has that chemical in it and it replaces it in the body.”
What's a normal sex life?
Morrissey says there is no firm answer.
“If you're part of a couple, a lot of studies have revealed that the average number of times over the course of a year that a couple have sex is about 52, ” she says. “About once a week.
“Now the studies use couples who are married, couples who have just broken up, people who have been single during the year - so you could go three months in an incredible affair having sex five times a week and then have a drought for the rest of the year.
“It's a pretty good number because it allows you to think, “Well, if I'm not having sex then I'm not missing out on that much, but if I am having a lot more sex, then I can feel good about myself'.”
Urge, by Dr Gabrielle Morrissey is published by HarperCollins.
© The West Australian
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