February 5, 2021

Sex Drive isn’t a Drive (& Why Understanding This is Crucial).

sex drive

Sex drive seldom just happens.

It’s the relationship between all of our core emotions and how we deal with them that determines how much we feel like sex.

If you shift your perspective about sexual desire—and view it as a product of the emotions of sex as opposed to a “drive”—you can spark your desire again.

Reexamining Sexual Desire

What we often refer to as a drive (you know, like the phrase “sex drive”) is really more of an emotion, and, just like our other emotions, it can be affected in both positive or negative ways.

Emotions guide us: they help us understand what we need, help us express these needs, and push us to act on them.

We feel a variety of emotions, but emotions expert Tomkins tells us that at the root, there are really only nine: joy, surprise, disgust, surprise, interest, sadness, fear/worry, shame, and guilt, and a term coined by Tomkins—dissmell.

Clearly, Tomkins leaves sexual desire off the list of basic emotions; however, most of us would probably agree that desire is something we definitely feel, just like sadness or joy.

When something sparks desire, we feel that physically and emotionally; this compels us to participate in sexual activity—alone or with a partner.

The Emotions of Sex and How They Affect One Another

It’s important to start at square one when looking at the potential causes of low libido—especially when you feel like you’ve tried everything; including a scheduled day for sex, exercise, or new positions.

This means checking in with yourself and how you’re feeling.

Why is this important? Because our emotions all interact and impact our general well-being; the same can be said of sexual desire.

For example, joy encourages connection with others, so it’s a feeling that can often increase sexual desire.

Anger, on the other hand, is our brain’s way of telling us that we need to set boundaries—and feeling the need for boundary-setting doesn’t exactly equal desire. Desire relates to attachment while fear and boundaries are more about separation.

An emotional inventory

An emotional inventory can help you evaluate your feelings and your nonexistent desire. The exercise below uses two of our most basic emotions and will help you figure out what might be inhibiting your feelings of desire.


Anger or frustration are important feelings as they help us defend ourselves and establish healthy boundaries. Anger—and how we deal with it—can, unfortunately, negatively affect our libidos.

Use the following questions to analyze your recent emotions and how you’ve been dealing with anger or frustration.

>> On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most annoyed), how annoyed have you been in your love relationship(s) this past week?

>> On a scale of 1 to 10, how annoyed have you been in your other relationships this past week (friends, family, work/school)?

>> On a scale of 1 to 10, how annoyed have you been with life in general, this past week?

>> On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being whenever needed, 1. being not at all), how much have you established boundaries or talked about the situation at hand, when you’ve been annoyed this past week?

If you scored high on frustration and low on setting boundaries or talking about your frustration, this might be contributing to your low libido.

Our feelings aren’t always easy to manage. If you want help understanding your emotions and how to manage them, especially as they relate to sex, you can download my free resource, A Manual for Emotions.

You can also make an appointment with a counsellor, sex therapist, psychologist, or other mental health professionals for help.

Communication in the relationship—be it romantic, friendship, or a professional one, is important.

A counselor or therapist can help you develop skills and coping strategies for anger or frustration in a healthy way.


Often forgotten, joy is one of the most integral emotions of sex. It’s an emotion that relates to connection and gratification. Because of this, it’s important to do a quick check-in with yourself on how happy you’ve been lately.

>> On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the happiest), how happy and fulfilled have you felt in your love relationship(s) this past week?

>> On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy and fulfilled have you felt in your other relationships this past week (friends, family, work/school)?

>> On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy have you been with life in general, this past week?

Depression and even general sadness can affect us intensely. If you notice that you’ve scored lower on joy, this could be a factor in your lowered sexual desire.

Take a moment to think about why you might be feeling like this—are there circumstances that might be making you anxious? Do you feel more worried than usual? Have you been practising self-care?

What can you do to increase overall joy? Think small: if you could take 10 minutes each day to find a bit of joy, what would you do?

Emotions and Sex Go Hand in Hand

Your libido likely needs more than strawberry-flavoured lube and new positions to get going. A rampant sex drive isn’t just a question of hormones and biology—it exists in the space between all of our core emotions and how they relate to one another.

If you want to boost your libido and have a better sex life, it’s important to reflect upon your emotions and to try looking at your sexual desire as a feeling and not a drive.

Things will start to click into place and your libido will begin to increase when you start to put the pieces together between your general well-being and your desire.


Read 8 Comments and Reply

Read 8 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Leigh Norén, MSc  |  Contribution: 5,575

author: Leigh Norén, MSc


Editor: Naomi Boshari

Relephant Reads:

See relevant Elephant Video