Having a healthy, stable, loving relationship is one of life’s greatest joys, and one that no man should take for granted. The bad news is, however, it’s more than likely that if you’re a guy who dates women, your long-term girlfriend, wife, or partner is going to get bored of having sex with you.
A recent study found that women are almost four times more likely than men to lose some interest in sex with a partner they’ve lived with for over a year. Researchers at the University of Southampton and University College London surveyed 4,839 men and 6,669 women over the course of the study, which was published today in the British Medical Journal. While that initial statistic—that your girlfriend is four times more likely than you are to become less interested in sex—sounds daunting, the study notes that a number of social and environmental factors contribute to this, some of which are healthy, some of which are tragic realities, like the larger proportion of women who have experienced sexual abuse.
First off, both men and women statistically lose some of their libido as they age. Men are most likely to lose their sex drive between 35 and 44, and women are less likely to care about sex between 55 and 64. Of the over 11,000 people studied, 15 percent of the men reported that they had “lacked interest in sex” for three months or longer in the past year, compared to 34 percent of the women.
So what explains the discrepancy? The researchers found that women were more likely to be distracted or turned off from sex because of the presence of young children at home (if this is you, here’s a guide for how to have sex without waking the kids). Losing interest in sex is also an issue that can snowball—both sexes reported that past sexual difficulties could be a factor. Women, however, were more likely to not want to have sex if they weren’t feeling emotionally close to their partner during the act, or if it was difficult to talk to their partner about sex.
It makes sense: There are plenty of ways to spice up your sex life in a long term relationship, but the secret to a healthy sex life often comes down to flexibility and communication. Men and women were both less likely to be into sex if they had a history of sexually transmitted disease, and especially if they had a history of sexual abuse or non-consensual sex. As the latter disproportionately affects women—one in six women experience rape or sexual assault, compared to one in 33 men—that could also be a major factor in explaining why women are more likely to lose interest in sex over time.
The researchers’ takeaway was that there’s not magic pill or miracle cure for sexual problems in a relationship. Instead, the team writes that their “findings highlight the need to assess, and if appropriate, treat lacking interest in sex in a holistic and relationship-specific way.” What works for one couple may not work for another, so talking to your partner and getting specific help for specific problems is probably the best way to make sure the bedroom stays just as steamy as it was when you first met.