Sex, Love, and All of the Above is an advice column written by Psych Central’s sex and relationship writer, Morgan Mandriota. If you have a burning question for Morgan about mental health and sex and intimacy, she’d love to hear from you! Submit your anonymous questions here.
My husband and I have been together for almost 8 years. As the years go on, sex happens less and less. We even finally went on our honeymoon and only had sex once the entire trip. I’m a very sexual person and feel really disconnected from him and frustrated by the situation. We have an incredibly strong relationship, but there’s just no sex and I feel this hurts our connection deeply.
We both have very different sex drives. I get turned on like a light switch and he’s a bit slower to get going and needs to be in the right mindset. This only gets more difficult as we get older and his job becomes more stressful. It’s really difficult for him to compartmentalize his personal stress and our romance and relationship.
I don’t know how to make the situation better.
I bring this frustration up almost monthly and he always says “I just need to be better,” which leads nowhere. I don’t think either of us knows how to take active steps to make it better.
Dear Sexually Frustrated,
I’m sorry you’re going through this, but please know you’re not alone. So many people I know have experienced this — and I’ve been there before, too.
Weeks turned into months without intimacy with my ex. We acted more like roommates than partners, and I felt frustrated, unwanted, unloved, and unsexy. I tried my best to save us, but nothing worked. Our demise eventually boiled down to irreparable incompatibilities — our libidos being one of them.
New relationships often start off hot and heavy (with lots of sex). As time rolls on, the excitement starts to fade. You may run out of new things to try or maybe your stress loads increase. You may find yourself grieving the sex life you once shared and desperately craving more.
Sex educator Searah Deysach, owner of Early to Bed, a sex shop in Chicago, says that after over 20 years of talking with customers about their sex lives, mismatched libido issues are common among couples.
According to Deysach, sex drives can fluctuate for so many reasons — from stress to age to medications you may be taking. Everybody has different sexual needs and responses, too.
Still, being the partner with a higher libido in a sexless relationship can be challenging.
That’s why communication is key. You say that you and your partner seem to have a solid connection sex drive aside, so there’s definitely hope.
Here are some ways to manage your mismatched sex drives and the frustration that comes along with it.
Sex can be so much more than penetration. It can also be:
- a steamy make-out session
- dry humping
- oral sex
- using sex toys on each other
- masturbating together
“Remember that just because you’re not having sex (whatever that is to you), it doesn’t mean you can’t have deep intimacy,” Deysach says.
Expanding your definition of “sex” and leaning into different activities might bring you relief (and pleasure!).
“While we like to think that sex is a spontaneous thing that magically happens when both parties are ready to go, some couples find that setting aside a specific time for sex can be very helpful,” Deysach says.
Both partners will know what to expect and when, and the person who needs more time getting in the mood can have a chance to do so.
“This can make sure you’re still taking the time to be intimate with your partner in an intentional way,” she adds.
Masturbation (aka solo sex) doesn’t replace partnered sex, but it can give you the release you’re craving without relying on your partner.
“If you’re both comfortable, masturbating in bed while they’re kissing or snuggling you can be remarkably satisfying,” Deysach says. “If that doesn’t work or isn’t appealing, make time to pleasure yourself.”
Friendly reminder: You’re not cheating by taking care of your needs without your partner.
“Masturbation is self-care, and everyone has the right to practice it, no matter their relationship status,” she adds.
You’re married, so the solution probably isn’t as simple as “break up” or “go find someone with a higher libido.”
But if you’re truly unhappy and having (more) sex is important to your well-being, it’s worth reflecting on your needs and whether this relationship is sustainable long term.
“People shouldn’t have to go the rest of their lives not having sex if they want it, and no one should feel forced or compelled to have sex if they don’t,” says Deysach.
Ask yourself: Are compatible sex drives a non-negotiable? Will I be happy in this relationship if we continue to lack intimacy? Have I tried everything possible to make this work?
You can also speak with a couples counselor or sex therapist about your concerns. Deysach says a third-party professional can help you two work through what might be getting in your way or help you transition your relationship to one where this issue is no longer a factor.
Hang in there, Sexually Frustrated. The answer isn’t cut and dry, but with dedication to finding a resolution, relief is possible. However you get there, I hope you and your partner feel empowered enough to honor your needs and do what’s best for you so you can both receive the pleasure and connection you crave. You’re worthy, and you deserve it.
With love and pleasure,
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