From the workplace and the marketplace, the devastating effects of the nearly $12 trillion worth of wealth-destruction over the past 15 months are reaching the bedroom big time. Or put another way, the sexual appetite of many financially-strapped couples seems to be going the way of the hula hoop.
This bleak turn of events on an integral part of everyday life is what I get from a cross-section of sex therapists and psychologists who relate today's bevy of economic horrors--such as a sagging economy, massive numbers of layoffs or fears of job losses, a big drop in the stock market and declining home values--to mounting sexual problems.
"No two ways about it; the financial turmoil is taking its toll in the bedroom," says Kara Nichols, a clinical psychologist in Chicago, whose practice focuses on singles and couples in the 25-45 age group. Pointing to growing money worries among her clients, largely stemming from fear of job losses and steep stock market losses, she takes note of a consequent increase in the incidence of depressive and anxiety disorders, symptoms synonymous with decreased sex drives. "It's a definite trend that's likely to reach growing proportions if the current economic stress is sustained," she says.
It seems, she says, there is even a greater trend toward those couples feeling stressed about money and job stability increasingly involved in more conflicts and arguments, which, in turn, results in less desire to engage sexually with one another.
In her cases, Nichols finds that both men women seem to be equally affected as most of the women contribute financially to the family. Women and men, though, do experience the stress differently, with men wanting to distance themselves and have more alone or down time (if they can't solve the financial issues outright), while women are more inclined to discuss the financial stress the couple is under. In any event, the difference in these coping styles in itself adds to the stress, Nichols points out, by leading to an increased rift in the relationship and consequently less sex.
Amy Levine, a New York City sex coach and sex educator, says the financial crisis is definitely impacting a percentage of Americans, resulting in no sex, infrequent sex or sex that only lasts a very short amount of time. Differentiating on how the crisis is specifically affecting men and women, she finds some men, notably those feeling insecure, having erectile problems, while women, due to decreased sexual desire, postponing sex.
"The extra stress from money problems is clearly leading to less love-making," one of Denver's leading sex therapists, Dr. Neil Cannon, tells me. "It's also affecting our business," he complains, observing that some people who have lost their jobs have stopped coming for therapy, while others have cut back the frequency of their therapy sessions to once a month from one a week. He also notes a number of clients who used to come during work hours have stopped doing so for fear of putting their job in jeopardy.
What's advice is he giving on the money-sex relationship? "I tell clients to focus on what they have, not what they lost," he says. "I also tell them not to lose sight of the fact that sex is free, that it's one of the few things in life that doesn't cost money."
A retired New York psychiatrist, Lynne Maidman, who is wired into the who's who of business and finance, says declining interest in sex in a financially troubled environment is a natural offshoot among couples who have become emotionally stressed over job or stock losses. "Today's kings of the universe want to be macho, have the ability to buy anything, go to great restaurants and order great wines," she says, "and when they're thwarted in this respect and become depressed, sex has to suffer and that's precisely what's happening."