Sex and the Dating Dilemma of SSRIs

"Tuesday" by Sharon Shapiro (2004) courtesy SharonShapiro.comThe dating pool

I’ve been a single woman for a long time, dipping in and out of the dating pool for the better part of a decade. It was a slow re-entry, wading into the shallow end, then descending into the depths when I was ready.

Fortunately, I came with a strong stroke or two to start, and my own Personal Flotation Devices (exactly). Yet nothing prepared me for the strange currents I would have to navigate.

Nor did I anticipate the need for drug tests and health warnings that ought to be mandatory. STDs, HPVs, HIV? I’m talking  SSRIs.


We all have inhibitions (a few, anyway), but this particular dilemma wasn’t in my  Idiot’s Guide to Internet Dating. When it came to SSRIs – I had no idea that Prozac and its pals, those feel-good Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors – were about to screw with my newly rediscovered sex life. 

The Pill Plague

Match, eHarmony, Jdate, PerfectMatch, Meetic… how about adding a set of checkboxes relative to pill usage? Happy pills, specifically.

Oh – not the perky little blue ones! I mean the ones physicians hand out by the fistful, assuring us a more upbeat state of mind (for almost any woe, it seems), even if it means libido SSRIstakes a tumble.

Of course there are many conditions for which these medications are prescribed, and necessary, and extremely helpful. But if your doctor is doling out SSRIs because you’re getting over a divorce or enduring two consecutive poor sales quarters,  you might want to weigh amiable attitude versus amorous advances…

Recreation and Hooking Up

Swimming laps is lovely (in my dreams, if not actuality), but it doesn’t lessen my desire for other types of physical activity. You know – things that work muscles and pump blood flow without involving chlorine.

My wanderings on the worldwide web began some years back: a search for an occasional grown up man, as I re-entered single life. My age range? 45 to 55, or thereabouts. Was it really so much to ask for? A down-to-earth guy of my own age, smart, funny, verbal and sexual?

Can you spell antidepressant??

Wishing on a star? A pipe dream?

Hungry for human connection, I was sorely disappointed when one thing would lead to another, then grind to a full stop. Such occasions were followed by embarrassed explanations. SSRIs were the culprit.

Wouldn’t it have been more fitting to drop a clue up front?

It’s no wonder I went for long distance dating. East Coast to Paris. (If the men are depressed over there, they buy two bottles of Bordeaux and leave it at that. And drown their sorrows in a woman’s charms.)

“Happy to meet you. I can’t get it up.”

Dirty martini - don't spill too much over the first drink!No! I don’t mean a casual communiqué over the first cocktail, and certainly not like that! But if you make it to a third date, you like each other; at the very least one of you expects a hook-up. So it might be a good time to mention – gently – that you’ve been on Paxil since the divorce, or Prozac since the new boss took over.

Believe me, she – or he – won’t be as clueless as I was.

A new syndrome: Condomitis Interruptus

If your new guy is on an SSRI, the condom question may be as relevant as high school hockey practice in South Florida. Or you may be lucky, and get lucky. Just keep in mind that if either of you is over 40, there’s a significant possibility that some sort of mood enhancer is the third wheel on the first date. And every encounter thereafter.

On the upside – if you think “she’s just not that into you,” it may not be the case; it may be her med-induced lustlessness.

Feel better now?

You don’t want condomitis interruptus as part of your romantic routine; you think you’re getting things rolling along (think again), but sparks fizzle before you’re dressed for the occasion. Perhaps you should consider disclosing – or asking – about medical conditions a bit before the heart gets in too deep.

Love and other exceptions

Sometimes emotions are invested quickly. Sometimes SSRIs (or other libido-reducing meds) are critical to your long-term partner’s health. Am I suggesting you ditch a magnificent man or woman if he or she can’t keep up with you in bed?

Certainly not. Love is rare; intimacy, even more so. And there are ways to enjoy erotic pleasures even with physical challenges, if both parties are motivated, caring, and creative.

Lovers : Photograph Courtesy Susan Hammond

Be careful what you wish for

In the interest of journalistic integrity, I confess I’m out of the pool at present. For how long? There’s no predicting.

With teens under watchful eye, writing around-the-clock, and looking for paying gigs, it’s hard to be “out there” for long periods without getting waterlogged.

Besides, I met this lifeguard. Not an SSRI in sight.


© D A Wolf

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  1. jason says

    I really enjoy your writing, especially relating to dating as a single parent. You sound like quite a woman, it sucks that it can be so difficult to find someone.

    I am going through a divorce now and it is good to see the ups and downs that others have. I think being divorced is one of those things, people do not understand unless you go through it.

    Keep up the great writing!


  2. BigLittleWolf says

    Glad you’re enjoying reading! Yep. The “D” word is definitely something you can’t imagine unless you go through it. But we do get through! Humor helps…

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