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Is the economy downgrading your sex life?
August 11th, 2011
03:44 PM ET

Is the economy downgrading your sex life?

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.

With the threat of a double-dip recession looming, I’ve been encouraging couples to extend their own personal debt ceilings (so to speak) and start reinvesting in their relationships.

All of the economic turbulence of the past few years has resulted in couples seriously cutting back on things like date nights, babysitters, gifts to each other, short trips and, of course, longer vacations.

Yet for all their thriftiness, couples are more anxious and stressed-out than ever about personal finances, and arguments over money remain one of the leading causes of marital strife. While it may seem counterintuitive to add to your expenses when going through your budget of must-haves and nice-to-haves, I implore you to find a way to put relationship satisfaction at the top of your priority list.

Things like date nights may not seem like necessities, but like trickle-down economics, a strong relationship feeds into personal and professional success. In fact, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, people with healthy sex lives may even do better at work.

And a healthy sex life requires a strong underlying relationship to support it.

Financial stress is also a leading cause of low libido and sexual dysfunction, especially in men. Desire and sexual confidence are rooted in self-esteem, and - maybe it’s evolutionary - men derive so much of their sense of self-worth from their jobs and status as providers.

Normally in my practice, I tend to see men who suffer from sex issues that are more chronic than “situational,” meaning that the person generally has a long history with the problem and that it has a basis in underlying biological, psychological or relationship issues. But with the volatile ups and downs of the economy, many men are reporting the first-time occurrence of an issue - such as premature ejaculation, erectile disorder, delayed ejaculation and low desire – or that an occasional issue is suddenly becoming an ongoing problem.

When asked to discuss what’s going on, almost all of the men cite their anxiety over work (or lack thereof), mounting debt or arguments over money as a main source of their bedroom difficulties. In some cases, these concerns have caused men to go on anti-anxiety medications (which tend to have their own sexual side effects), but more often the men just feel anxious, distracted, depressed and/or have generally lost their mojo.

Sexual dysfunctions are a bit like bedbugs: Once they appear, they’re awfully hard to get rid of. Worrying about an issue often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. No wonder a recent study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that sexual performance anxiety plays a role in male infidelity.

Writes study co-author Robin Milhausen, a professor and sexuality researcher at the University of Guelph, “People might seek out high-risk situations to help them become aroused, or they might choose to have sex with a partner outside of their regular relationship because they feel they have an ‘out’ if the encounter doesn't go well - they don’t have to see them again.”

Although this also may sound counterintuitive - wouldn’t a guy who suffers from a sexual issue be less likely to cheat? - I’ve seen this dynamic play out many times, especially when a guy blames his partner for the issue or his feeling about the issue is enmeshed with his relationship.

This same study also suggests that women are more likely to cheat because of relationship issues. When a guy is tuned out, turned off, irritable and critical — as men often are over money issues - a woman is more likely to develop her own doubts about the relationship. Says Madeleine Castellanos M.D., author of "the Good in Bed Guide to Male Sexual Issues," “The economic downturn has sent lots of men into a funk: Job changes or loss, financial worries, and depression can all add up to a low libido. He may feel like less of a man, no matter how much you tell him that money doesn’t matter.”

Will money issues lead to infidelity in your relationship? Will they create sexual issues? We can hope not. But in my experience, financial issues are about more than just dollars and cents. Money is about emotions and family history, and just going through a credit card bill can lead to accusations, generalizations, outbursts, lies and ultimatums.

Our government often takes emergency action to create liquidity and protect the economy, and I think people need to do the same to protect their relationships. Call the babysitter and go on a date night; take that weekend getaway - it’s worth it.

A double dip-recession doesn’t have to mean a dip in your love life, and if you invest in your relationship, the return is virtually guaranteed.

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soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. oracle3

    haven't had this problem yet and in hopes that I never do.

    August 11, 2011 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. BigMo

    Ladies if your man doesnt want to give it up. Just Call me!!!!

    August 11, 2011 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tino

      Why would they call you? the way you talk you must be a bicha! no good for them LOL

      August 11, 2011 at 19:27 | Report abuse |
    • Jane Janson

      LOL!
      MO–"Big" and Mo-ready works for this desperate housewife...

      Haven't seen the hubby in months–

      August 11, 2011 at 19:50 | Report abuse |
    • Mach

      You might want to offer a BIGGER "stimulus package"!

      August 11, 2011 at 21:07 | Report abuse |
    • Veritas

      Yes, I'm sure all of these ladies would be interested in a 13 year old who is sneaking onto the Internet after his parents are in bed. Go play, skippy.

      August 12, 2011 at 00:11 | Report abuse |
  3. gaucho420

    Don't need money, don't take fame, don't need no credit card to ride this train, its strong and sudden and its cruel sometimes, but it might just save your life, that's the power of love...Huey Lewis & the News.

    August 11, 2011 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Veritas

      And your point is?

      August 12, 2011 at 00:12 | Report abuse |
  4. C

    Hee, hee, I can't even swing the dinner date, let alone the risk of having children, alimony, child support, and whatever else they throw at you. I'm actually going go retire someday. In today's world, it's a risky and costly item that I go without.

    August 11, 2011 at 18:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Tzckrl

    The best things in life are free. Really. Don't worry so damn much about money - there's other things right in front of your nose that are much more important, more enjoyable, more meaningful - go get 'em!

    August 11, 2011 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • newman

      The best things in life are free- that's what every poor person says!

      August 11, 2011 at 19:42 | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      I'm with newman on this one.
      And even if I weren't, the "romantic sunset" still costs gas $ to get there and a babysitter at $15/hr so you can enjoy it.

      August 12, 2011 at 15:11 | Report abuse |
  6. runner305

    I guess I'm like the poster that goes by "C". Been through the BS too many times....just not worth it anymore. Risk vs reward, and the risks are too much. Now, just going to school to land me a better job when I graduate, and I got a beautiful daughter to help raise. Enough to keep me busy without the head games!

    August 11, 2011 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • judge_bill

      God Bless You
      Good Luck

      August 11, 2011 at 18:57 | Report abuse |
  7. Sean

    Only if she is a GOLD DIGGER!!!!!

    August 11, 2011 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. mark

    exactly... only if she's with you for money in the first place, in which case it's a meaningless relationship anyway so who cares.

    August 11, 2011 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Laura

      Actually, I have found the SD/SB relationship to be the most honest type out there. He gets what he wants, I get what I want, and that leaves us time to make each other's day special.

      August 12, 2011 at 15:13 | Report abuse |
  9. The Offended Blogger

    Good lord the stuff that passes for "expert" advice is astonishing.

    August 11, 2011 at 20:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. willowcat

    "if you invest in your relationship, the return is virtually guaranteed." OH REALLY! How naive do you think your readers are? Nothing in life is "virtually guaranteed," especially a relationship. MFT is a racket...

    August 11, 2011 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. what

    Why does every single picture that goes with this guys blog contain a hot lady and a thin, metro looking dude. That isn't how it works...

    ...makes me doubt he gets women or relationships at all.

    August 11, 2011 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Corwin

      Depends on where you're from. All the women in SF bay area are into thin hipster guys.

      August 12, 2011 at 00:57 | Report abuse |
  12. Mach

    I can see the memo from my wife now!

    Honey: I am sorry, but due to the recent economic downturn and in navigating these financially troubled times, it has become necessary to examine all areas that may be "over budgeted". This is not to say that you are no longer needed or loved, that is not the case! However, after much consideration and only as a matter of fiscal responsibility, it has been decided to withdraw certain "fringe benefits" that were previously extended to you in your position.

    August 11, 2011 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Robotchic256

      That was very humorous to read, thanks for lightening it up. It's really pretty sad when you think about it, that family closeness is being pushed aside because both spouses have to work so many hours just to make ends meet. No one seems to make time for each other because they are so physically exhausted from having to work 60+ hours each week. Thanks again for the little chuckle....that was a good one:-)))

      August 12, 2011 at 08:23 | Report abuse |
  13. indepth1

    THIS IS SOOOOOOOOO TRUE I CANT ANYMORE LIKE I USE TO CAUSE OF THE STOCK MARKET MY MOOD GOES UP AND DOWN WITH THE MARKET

    August 11, 2011 at 21:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Samantha

    I hate to say this but.....money and emotions always have been and always will be tied together....they are never mutually exclusive! Life is too hard, and that's why it's wise for women nowadays to A) Totally support themselves and remain independent or B) if you decide to get involved with a man, my God find one who can support you (and a possible family) financially. At the end of the day....love doesn't EVER put food on the table!!!!!

    August 11, 2011 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ryan

      Love also is truly about staying with the person, and not just packin your bags and going home when the money runs out. Makes me sick. Like one day your not going to poop yourself from the pain of dying, and who is going to be for you then, hopefully the true loves in your life. The ones that really love you.

      August 12, 2011 at 02:05 | Report abuse |
    • Ra

      Samantha is money the only thing that is important to you? My husband and I's finances are up and down all the time. We make sure we spend time together. Whether it's something so simple as a walk around the block or sitting out on our deck talking. When we can afford it we do take small weekend trips just to get away. It isn't alway the money. And Ryan is right, when you get to the end stages of life it'll mean more that you are surrounded by the one/s you love.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:33 | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      If Samantha is saying what I think she is, she is spot on.

      Money doesn't buy love. But it's hard to enjoy the romantic sunset if you're worrying about whether or not the electricity is going to be on when you get home. I married once for love, and it's way over-rated. Then I hooked up because of money, and the genuine attraction followed.

      August 12, 2011 at 15:16 | Report abuse |
  15. pulsars

    No money? No honey!

    August 11, 2011 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. wsircin

    I would go a step further, Samantha, and suggest that we would all be wise to reject the notion of love entirely. Human relationships are transactions, plain and simple, and few men have anything valuable to offer a woman besides the potential for financial security. I know I am slowly being crushed under the wheels of history, but at least I can console myself knowing that I won't take some poor girl along with me.

    August 11, 2011 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Mabel

    You totally hit the nail in the head!!! Thanks for writting this article!

    August 11, 2011 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. cosmicsnoop

    This article is completely wrong in the first few sentences. Trickle down economics is a scam that has never and will never work so his analogy to that is foolish. How well you do your job has no bearing now a days as to whether you get to keep it. Another foolish statement. I have no money to go on a date with my wife. It's been that way for four years. We have gone to dinner once a year on our anniversary in those years, that is it. We have not gone on vacation in 4 years though we desperately need one since I am working two jobs and she is working full time and finishing up getting yet another degree full time to try to get to a better place finally. We are both on the verge of nervous breakdowns since we still can't get ahead. If this guy wants to give me cash to take a vacation, great. Otherwise he can shove it. Going further into debt to take a vacation I can't afford that would not relax me at all, but stress me out all the more knowing I can't afford this would be the most irresponsible and stupid thing I can think of.

    August 12, 2011 at 08:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Younan MarketingAnd Management Associates Inc, Int'l Intst'r

    Palin was bombed on her bus and died instantly in a tangled hairraising mess of metal rusted out recycled bus abuses in a school district in idaho. I gave her a new instant job executive style as a model for promoting a cherry red wood funeral casket. she can have the job permanently, no worry that she'll get bumped out. George Washington's cherry tree that he cut done was preserved for her to be buried with it made into her casket. I guess he foresaw the terrorist risk she would present to America and anticipated that i would be there to provide for the other's needs. one potatoe two potatoe three potatoe four, five potatoe six potatoe seven potatoe oar, row row your boat gently down the stream merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream. is there even record of where exactly and in what orchard george washington chopped down that cherry tree. maybe it was in idaho where there is a george washington school i think maybe not. i'm talking clairvoyant guessing here. i beleive he was there on a goodwill trip to talk to the kids.

    August 13, 2011 at 01:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Panties

    All I know is that I Need Some.

    August 13, 2011 at 06:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. MinnyHockey

    She looks like Casey Anthony and he looks like (a young) Warren Jeffs

    August 15, 2011 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. OBA8YEARS

    I BELIEVE "HAITIANS WOMAN" SHOULD BE ABLE TO GIVE OUT BETTER ANSWERS AS ""HAITIANS WOMAN KICK OFF HUSBANDS OUT 'OFTEN & MOSTLY FROM MONEY MATTERS'. HAITIANS WOMAN TACTICS ARE: 'FALSE CLAIM RESTRAINING ORDER AGAINST THEIR HUSBANDS, THEN KICK THE HUSBAND OUT'. MY SISTER, ... FROM 2076 MELROSE PARKWAY UNION, NJ DID THAT TO HER EX-HUSBAND. ALL HAITIANS WOMAN HAVE ONLY ONE LAWYER(ATTORNEY) FROM 'SOUTH ORANGE, NJ' TO DO SO. AS NJ LAW ALSO LOVES THOSE MATTERS ...

    August 21, 2011 at 01:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jazlynn

      Supreoir thinking demonstrated above. Thanks!

      September 16, 2011 at 03:03 | Report abuse |
  23. OBA8YEARS

    I BELIEVE "HAITIANS WOMAN" SHOULD BE ABLE TO GIVE OUT BETTER ANSWERS AS ""HAITIANS WOMAN KICK OFF HUSBANDS OUT 'OFTEN & MOSTLY FROM MONEY MATTERS'. HAITIANS WOMAN TACTICS ARE: 'FALSE CLAIM RESTRAINING ORDER AGAINST THEIR HUSBANDS, THEN KICK THE HUSBAND OUT"". MY SISTER, ... FROM 2076 MELROSE PARKWAY UNION, NJ DID THAT TO HER EX-HUSBAND. ALL HAITIANS WOMAN HAVE ONLY ONE LAWYER(ATTORNEY) FROM 'SOUTH ORANGE, NJ' TO DO SO. AS NJ LAW ALSO LOVES THOSE MATTERS ...

    August 21, 2011 at 01:41 | Report abuse | Reply

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