Reader Usual Problem writes:
Hi, I’ve been following your “Functional Couple Friday” articles (I’m always curious to find out what other couples do to maintain their relationships) and I’ve noticed that a lot of the couples who seem the happiest, have similar levels of sex drive. This is not the case with me (32) and my partner (23) of two years.
When we met we were instantly drawn and attracted to each other. In the beginning we had sex at least 4 times a week, often more. As we settled in to the relationship, my sexual appetite became less. My mood is easily affected by external factors, such as financial issues, health issues, and small annoyances. I get the strong sense that he is convinced that my sex drive is below average. I know it’s important for (many) women to invest time and effort into sexual activity and I’m trying to do that but I also often feel quite pressured. I know if it was up to him, we’d be having sex every day and somehow that knowledge is always in the back of my mind, pressuring me.
In the beginning, when my sex drive decreased, he tried to initiate a lot but after some time that stopped. I realize he feels rejected when I turn him down and I hate hurting him like that but I don’t really know how to fix this.
In the beginning, when my sex drive decreased, he tried to initiate a lot but after some time that stopped. I realize he feels rejected when I turn him down and I hate hurting him like that but I don’t really know how to fix this. Every time he gets close to me now, I feel like he hopes it will lead to sex. I’ve tried scheduling our lovemaking as that actually helps me get mentally ready for it but he’s not enthusiastic about scheduling something he feels should happen spontaneously. I do enjoy having sex with him once it’s started, especially when he’s enjoying it.
Lately however I can feel that he’s trying to satisfy me, more so than he has done in the past and again, I feel pressured by it. This has also led to less overall physical affection on my part because I always worry that he will consider any kisses, hugs etc as potential “sex-starters”. I love my partner deeply and want him to be happy. Please let me know what I can do to be a better lover for him.
As you see from the name I gave you, this is far from unusual, and is basically why I wrote my What Men Think About Sex Versus Reality article. Some of my functional couples don’t have similar sex drives, like this one. Your situation is very very common, which is why I’m always giving advice about it, like here, and here.
The reason I responded to you instead of just referring you to those other posts is that you bring up a new and good point, which is that, often, when women (or men) feel pressured for sex, they will start shying away from other forms of physical affection too, because they are scared that these hugs or kisses are “sex-starters” as you say. Since you don’t want to be a tease, you just offer zero physical affection. And you’re not altogether wrong, because when partners feel starved for sex, they often do try to turn any physical affection into sex.
There are some points to consider that may help you and your partner cope with the disparity between your drives.
1. Assure him that the problem is you, not him.
And in fact it’s not just you, it’s most women in long term monogamous relationships. Women are wired to want to mate with different males in order to increase the diversity of the species. In fact, women become more critical of their mates when they are ovulating, because they want to go out and cheat and get some new sexy genes up in their pool. So evolution is against you here. That’s why you were more easily aroused when your partner was new to you.
2. Tell your partner that scheduling sex trumps not having sex.
If he wants to be Mr. Spontaneity, he is going to end up Mr. Celibate. If you are willing to get sex on the calendar, he needs to be willing to meet you halfway here and understand that this is going to end up in more sex in the long run. He can lose the spontaneity battle but win the sex war.
3. He is going to try to please you unless you tell him to stop.
So, like I suggested for this woman, maybe you can have sex once a week “for him” (but don’t just lay there; I mean the point is not your orgasm and encourage him NOT to try to give you one because you want it to be for him), and once a week where you do really try physically and mentally to prepare to have whole hearted sex with an orgasm for you.
4. Use porn, erotic stories, masturbation, whatever you need to use in order to get in the mood.
Try new things. Maybe you’re a swinger at heart. Just kidding, unless you like that idea, in which case I’m not kidding.
5. It sounds like you’re good at communication, so continue being direct. Here are some things to say:
“I love you and I’m sad that our sex drives don’t match up. I wish they did, but they don’t. I will try to have sex more and get myself in the mood for you. I do like sex once we’re having it. I also will try to hug and kiss more, but I would also like it if you don’t try to turn every hug and kiss into sex. This feels like pressure to me and turns me off. Also, can we try and have sex sometimes just for you? When I feel you trying to make me orgasm, although it is sweet of you to try, sometimes it just again feels like pressure to me and makes me less likely to orgasm. I am hopeful that we can work on this together and improve our sex life.” Say it all in one breath. Just kidding.
Anyway, good luck, and thanks for writing in with an issue that will resonate with so many couples. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Thinks You Can Work It Out.