There’s a good chance that at some point, money has stressed you out.
A recent study by Northwestern Mutual found that money is the most common source of stress among U.S. adults. Worse, that tension creeps into our love lives. Four in 10 of the study respondents said money issues have affected their relationships with their partners, while 1 in 5 said they have financial disagreements with their significant others at least monthly.
Worrying about money doesn’t just cause couples to quarrel. It can destroy your sex life, whether you’re used to going at it solo or with a partner.
“Chronic stress can wear down people’s ability to let go and fully enjoy themselves during sex,” said Azra Alic, a licensed clinical social worker in Palo Alto, California. “People can become so preoccupied with worries about their financial future that they cannot concentrate on what’s happening in front of them ― in this case, sex,” she said.
Plus, when you’re regularly putting in extra hours at the office or poring over financial statements, sheer exhaustion can get in the way of getting it on.
“Because so much energy goes toward worrying, planning and, in some cases, overworking, some people find that there is not enough energy left over to get in the mood,” Alic said.
The effects of money stress can manifest themselves in even more damaging ways. Rather than risk yet another fight about money, some couples choose to bottle up their emotions and avoid talking about finances at all.
Those feelings “become pent up and turn to resentment, which becomes like a cancer to the relationship. People can become passive-aggressive and withhold sex from their partners as an attempt to punish or to act out their rage,” said psychotherapist Lauren Dummit, the co-founder and clinical director of Triune Therapy Group in Los Angeles and co-host of the KABC radio show “Behind Closed Doors with Dr. Kate and Lauren.”
There’s also a scientific explanation for the link between more stress and less sex drive.
“When we experience stress, our nervous system goes into a fight-or-flight response, releasing stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine,” said Dummit.
These hormones, she said, are not harmful in small doses. “However, when we experience chronic stress and the release of these toxic hormones is prolonged, our physical health is affected in many ways,” Dummit said. “For example, cortisol suppresses our sex hormones.” That, in turn, lowers your libido.
How to get your groove back It’s important to find ways to alleviate financial stress. Getting your money and your mind in the right place will lead to bigger rewards in the bedroom. Dr. Brian Doane, owner of Tampa Bay Counseling Services in Florida, has some advice.
Get some sleep Grabbing more zzz’s can fight off those pesky stress hormones. “Make time to get a little more sleep as it can help lower cortisol levels,” said Doane.
Find a healthy outlet Instead of bottling up your emotions, find a healthy activity that helps you blow off some steam. Doane recommends spending more time outdoors. “This could be hiking, gardening, swimming, etc. Anything to help you take a break from life’s stress,” he said.
Focus on your overall health It’s harder to manage stress when your body isn’t in the best shape. Try to make small improvements such as eating better and adding exercise to your daily routine. “Low to moderate exercise has also been shown to help reduce stress, regulate hormones and increase libido,” said Doane.
Talk it out Improving both your finances and your mental health is easier when you enlist help. “Perhaps most importantly, talk to someone about your financial problems,” said Doane.
“Whether it’s coming clean to your partner about the state of your bank account or meeting with a financial planner, confront the fear rather than avoiding it,” he added.
Have more sex It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the best things you can do to improve your lackluster sex life is to have sex anyway. You might not be in the mood beforehand, but you’ll likely feel better afterward. As Dummit noted, that’s because sex itself alleviates stress.