I never want to have sex again.
Thats what Raleigh sex therapist Laurie Watson hears over and over again when she picks up the phone in her office.
And thats what prompted her to write Wanting Sex Again: How to Rediscover Your Desire and Heal a Sexless Marriage, a new book aimed at helping the estimated 40 million American women who suffer from low libido.
Chapter by chapter, the book explores the factors that can contribute: poor body image, mixed messages from childhood, resentment over household duties, parenting stresses, infidelity and more. Its written in a conversational tone informed by Watsons two decades as a couples therapist.
I think this is a soft Southern voice, Watson said in a softly lit consulting room at the Awakenings Center for Intimacy and Sexuality, the practice she founded in Raleigh in 2000. Many women are very anxious that have low libido. So if its a slick, sexy book, theyre thinking, Thats not who I am, you dont understand my problems. I wanted to speak to women the way I speak to women in this room. With a softness about understanding their problem, understanding who they are, understanding what they struggle with.
But most important, she said, is making sure readers understand whats going on with their minds and their bodies to make sex unappealing.
Its multilayered, multidimensional, Watson said. Its about the relationship, about her body, about her self-image, and about her voice can she represent herself well. All of these things play into it.
Its hard for a marriage to recover when low libido takes sexual contact out of the relationship, but, Watson says in the book, I have never sat with a woman or a couple and not felt hopeful about finding a solution.
For couples in a sexless marriage defined as less than 10 times a year Valentines Day is a high pressure day, Watson said.
If you are struggling to have sex and to have libido, and you know theres a big demand on this day, it can be a day that many, women particularly, look forward to with dread, she said.
Her advice is to change up the formula. Instead of worrying all through dinner, a movie, drinks, dessert and everything else about what might happen in the bedroom at the end of the day, visit the bedroom (or a hotel room) first, Watson said. Then enjoy a closer, pressure-free evening out as a couple.
Even before she launched her career as a therapist, Watson was used to looking for problems and finding solutions. Her early work was on another complex system: the stealth bomber.
As a software analyst on that project, I was kind of a bug finder, she said. I was concerned with what didnt work.
Pretty soon, however, she was back in school to formally study psychology, one of her longtime interests.
My passion lay more in helping people than it did doing the hard sciences, she said.
She worked as a marital therapist in California for about a decade before coming to Raleigh to start Awakenings, where business is booming.
Ive printed tens of thousands of cards and distributed them to gynecologists, urologists and internists, and I continuously get calls for more cards, she said.
But her interaction with doctors doesnt stop with a stack of business cards. She also is a frequent guest lecturer to doctors in training at Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill and East Carolina University, where many tell her they receive very little, if any, training in sexual functioning, Watson said.
Its all about anatomy, she said. I may be the only two hours they ever get on sexual functioning.
Physicians sometimes a gynecologist or urologist, or sometimes a general practitioner are usually the first resource for a woman or man facing sexual problems, she said, but they often dont have time in a short exam to ask about sexual health. Or sometimes they just dont have the knowledge or comfort level to bring it up.But her training aims to give physicians the power to help overcome problems stemming from low libido, starting with the right way to approach the question.
Instead of saying, Are you happy in your marriage, (to) which every good Southern woman is going to say, yes!,
I want them to ask, Do you feel like your husband listens to you, do you feel respected? she said. Because those are different questions.