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When job stress saps your sexual energy

What can you do when work woes lead to a lackluster libido? Or your husband falls asleep during sex? And which lubes are safe? Sexploration answers your queries.
Is your job killing your sex life?
Kim Carney /
/ Source: contributor

What can you do when work woes lead to a lackluster libido? Or your husband falls asleep during sex? And which lubes are safe? Sexploration answers your queries.

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Q: As a general manager for a big office, I am under a lot of stress. Due to my work, my sexual appetite is not what it once was. My wife and I have been married for five years and we have always been very close sexually, but lately my life has been all work, all stress and no intimacy. Anything to recommend?

A: Yeah, I have some things to recommend: Put down the damn BlackBerry, stop taking your work home, shut off the cell phone.

Too simple and trite? “Oh, I just can’t. My job depends on it!”  Please. Stop whining. Look at the woman you married five years ago and tell me what is more important. 

Where does this work-warrior culture come from, anyway? Do you think bragging over working 70 hours per week somehow makes you a brave modern knight, your PDA slung from your belt like your own Excalibur? Do you think you are going to heaven because you are still working at 9 p.m. and taking red-eyes to Boston? Sorry, pal.

Have you ever tasted fine olive oil and salted bread and fresh, cool wine while sitting on a white-washed terrace overlooking the blue Aegean with your wife sitting next to you, her beauty and her love a blessing you can’t believe you deserve? That’s heaven.

Can’t afford the trip? Then take her out to dinner and talk about nothing work-related at all. Talk about a dream. Talk about the blue Aegean. The office will still be there tomorrow. No one is that important.

Stress experts agree that a major cause of stress is the feeling that we do not have control. But that feeling often is an illusion. We do have control. We can control how much stuff we buy, how much money we have to make to support that stuff. We can change our work environments.

Psychologist Alan Nagamoto, director of the UCLA stress clinic, suggests trying “to identify the specific source” of stress. If it is work, what is it about work? A collection of small things? One big thing?

Once you have identified the source, he says, ask yourself: “Is this anything I can do something about? Is it under my control?” Next, attempt a proper “adaptive solution.” (Martinis don’t count.) Sometimes that could mean doing nothing. Or it could mean making small or large changes — everything from delegating some tasks to finding a new job — to reduce stress.

Though it sounds cliché, a good workout and talking with trusted friends are good quickie stress-relievers. So is sex. Research proves it. Buck up and take your medicine like man.  

By the way, your health could depend on controlling stress. Stress activates the autonomic nervous system, our fight-or-flight response. In the context of evolution, we are designed for short bursts of either running away or duking it out with the lion that is stalking us. Our bodies aren’t made to run or fight all day, every day.

Besides, when we think we’re on somebody’s dinner menu, we tend not to think of getting it on with the cute wildebeest on the other side of the herd. 

Q: My husband is 6-feet-tall and weighs over 400 pounds. He has sleep apnea and he can’t stay awake during sex. He doesn’t know this is happening, and I am turned off. How can I get turned back on?

A: Lady, your getting turned on is the least of your worries. The apnea, the obesity, the inappropriate sleepiness all make your husband a big risk for heart attack, diabetes, stroke and impotence.

No kidding, get him in to see his physician, ask the doc about a sleep specialist and a weight-loss program. It may take awhile, but in time, your sex problem should resolve.  

Q: Are there certain lubricants that aren’t good for women, like the ones that are petroleum-based? Can some promote yeast infections?

A: Time was, there was just K-Y. Now selecting sex lubes is like selecting wine. Stores shelves are full of different lubes.

If they are sold as a “sexual” or “personal” lubricant, they’re likely safe. If they are sold as a “novelty,” they may not be safe.

Many novelty lubes are flavored, and if they are, they may contain sugars that can promote yeast infections. This doesn’t mean all flavored non-novelty lubes will, so read labels if you just can’t face having sex that doesn’t taste like choco-banana.

Petroleum-based products such as Vaseline don’t make good sex lubes either, partly because they weaken condoms. 

Silicone lubes can feel great, and they last a long time, but never use them with a silicone sex toy. They’ll integrate with the toy and “melt” it, creating a gooey mess on the surface.

Water-based lubes may not last as long as the silicone-based ones, but they are safe for condoms, sex toys and you.

Brian Alexander is a California-based writer who covers sex, relationships and health. Alexander, also a Glamour contributing editor, recently traveled around the country to find out how Americans get sexual satisfaction for the special report

Sexploration appears every other Thursday.