Sexually Dysfunctional Relationship

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I have been with my boyfriend for 3.5 years and we have been living together for the past 2.5 years, I am 30 and he is 44. In most respects, we have an ideal relationship, we get along well, complement each other and we have similar goals and dreams. Our biggest problem, however, is our sex life. He has a very low sex drive. He always said “sex isn’t the most important thing” and I agreed at the time, but after 3.5 years, I’m increasingly, unhappy, frustrated and anxious about the lack of sex and just plain “bad sex.” He uses viagra every time, but still the sessions are short and often end up with him limp to where he cannot finish, he can usually only cum from frottage. We have sex about once every 2-3 weeks and its not something I look forward too. We’ve had several heartbreaking discussions about breaking up, because I desperately want to be in a sexually fulfilling relationship (ideally having satisfying sex 3-4 times a week). We love each other, but my anxiety has increased to the point where it interferes with my well-being and work life. I feel tremendous guilt leaving him alone after 3.5 years at the age of 44, but at the same time, I feel so sad that I’m only 30 and I knowing I will never have a fulfilling sex life. We have tried, sex therapy books, talking about turn-ons, herbal supplements, viagra – but I’m almost certain that our sex will never rise above mediocre at best. He wants to buy a house together, because he thinks it will makes things better and bring us closer. But I’m balking at this because closeness isn’t the problem, its just really “bad sex.” A friend suggested I go on prozac to reduce my sex drive and feel happier, but I long for a sexually fulfilling relationship. What should I do?

A. There are other ways to have an intimate sexual and satisfying relationship that do not involve vaginal intercourse. Most couples have mismatched sexual desire. Usually there is one person in a relationship who has a higher sex drive than the other. There are ways to compensate for the discrepancy.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to take Prozac to reduce your sex drive to feel happier. That’s not a particularly healthy solution and it skirts the real issue which is your dissatisfaction with your sexual relationship. I think there’s other ways to approach this problem.

Sex is a biological drive. It is almost completely a function of hormone levels. Your sex drive can be increased by increasing levels of certain hormones or it can be completely eliminated by decreasing certain hormone levels.

Is there a normal level of sexual drive? The answer is no. Let’s look at relationships for a minute. In your relationship you crave more sexual pleasure. In the beginning of a relationship sexual pleasure is always at its highest. With the passage of time, and we’re only talking months, the level of sexual excitement will decline. Again sex is a biological drive and many scientists believe that biologically mankind is programmed to have multiple sexual partners. Children born of different fathers will have a greater chance of surviving to the age of reproduction. Any genetic weakness which would cause a particular disease would not be present in a child with different DNA. Thus, the belief is that we are genetically programmed to have multiple sexual partners. This would explain the drive to have and to be sexually attracted to multiple sexual partners. For most people their highest level of sexual excitement will always come from a new sexual partner. Most people will say that sex becomes very stale in a relationship over time. To combat this many people tried to bring novel situations into the bedroom. The idea here is to provide new stimuli to take the place of new sexual partners. Many couples, much more than the general public is aware of, actually have open relationships involving other people. They find this approach to be much more sexually satisfying.

I am not advocating that you involve new people in your sex life. What I am really saying here is to what extent are you willing to go to improve your sexual satisfaction? How important should sex be in a relationship? Should it become the focus of the relationship? I guess the bigger question here is whether or not you believe a human to be a physical creature or a spiritual being. Many people believe that humans are spirits contained within the physical body. Most religions believe this to be the case. Sex is a complex issue and to fully discuss it we would need the format of a book or many books. You are thinking of ending your relationship based on a lack of sexual pleasure. If you do so, you are answering the above question by saying that sex is more important than the relationship.

As I mentioned above, sex is a biological drive and it can be completely controlled hormonally. Do we follow our biological drives or do we control them? For human beings there most certainly is a psychological aspect to sex. We don’t just do it, we also think about it.

In my opinion, the very fact that you are thinking about ending your relationship because of sexual reasons is an indication that the rest of your relationship may not be good enough. Does real love have anything at all to do with sex? How strong is the love of a parent for a child or the love of a child for the parent? This love involves no sexuality. And the great love that you have for God and that God has for you has no sexual component (I hope I have not offended any atheists reading this).

I urge all readers to carefully make the distinction between love and sex. I hope I have not minimized the importance of sexual satisfaction. However, it is possible to provide sexual relief without involving another person. Granted, the degree of sexual pleasure is greater with a partner and lasts without one but in your case providing a higher level of sexual satisfaction means ending the relationship you’re in. As I mentioned before, the very fact that you’re thinking of ending your relationship, suggests to me that perhaps this relationship is not good enough. I can assure you that anyone who experiences true love would never put sex above that love. Good luck.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Jun 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Sexually Dysfunctional Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/06/29/sexually-dysfunctional-relationship/