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Q: My Low Sex Drive Is Causing Big Problems With My Girlfriend Of One Year.
For some backstory my girlfriend and I have been together for a little over a year, but about a year “officially.” At first I was reluctant to enter a relationship just due to our difference in past relationships. She is my first “real” relationship. Before meeting her I didn’t believe in relationships, didn’t want them, etc. She has had several girlfriends and they’ve all been long time relationships. Because of this I have had more sexual partners and more sexual experience than her. I know this sometimes bothers her, and makes her uncomfortable but I don’t think it’s ever been a problem.
When we first started hooking up she had a lot of anxiety over sex. I tried to be as understanding and helpful as I could, and together we got over the problem and have a great sex life. Except recently I’ve been experiencing a far lower sex drive than normal.
It started a few months ago, and she picked up on it immediately but unfortunately her reaction was to blame herself. She asked me if I wasn’t attracted to her anymore, and other questions like that but that’s completely not the case. I’m genuinely more attracted to her than anyone I’ve ever encountered, and we have the greatest compatibility and chemistry.
Any lack of desire is not on her part at all and yet she still blames herself. I hoped/thought it would be a passing feeling but over the past few months it’s only grown, even against my best efforts to stop it. The problem really came to a head last night. We were having sex and I felt nothing. I felt absolutely nothing. I felt empty, and lost, and confused.
The biggest problem within this problem is that after thinking about it a lot last night I don’t have a complete lack of sex drive… it’s just lower with my partner right now. I don’t know what to do about this at all. I can still watch porn, read erotic stories, or even fantasize about other people and get turned on but not when I’m engaging in the actual activity with her. I’m afraid that it’s gotten to this point because of the monogamy (this is the longest I’ve been with the same person), and the fact that I don’t really know how to exist in a relationship. I’m still learning I try to tell my partner that but she’s convinced it’s going to be our downfall. What makes me feel the guiltiest is that I’m still prone to having sex dreams, but the ones that turn me on are the ones that don’t focus around my partner. Honestly, this really kills me. I feel like I’m emotionally cheating on her and I don’t know what to do. I know that it’s just my subconscious but it’s destroying me.
At this point I don’t know what I need. It’s not just a break from sex, since I can still get turned on. I never want to do anything with someone other than my partner but right now having sex with her just hurts.
I’ve tried to suggest to her a period (week long/month long) of not having sex to “recharge our batteries” but she always takes offense to this. I just feel really alone with this problem, and the thought of losing someone I love so much is crippling. What should I do?
A: Well, my girlfriend isn’t going to be too fond of this article, but I have something to share with you: I’ve been in the same rut. Very similar, at least. I’m not going to delve into the specifics just in case my girlfriend is reading, but rest assured – I know where you’re coming from, and I get paid to write about sex. Go figure!
To me, it sounds like you’re not dealing with a lack of love, but actually the opposite. When we become comfortable in our relationships, we have a tendency to neglect each other. It seems counter-productive, doesn’t it? I’m sure you’ve heard of “lesbian bed death”, and the truth is that it can affect all relationships, whether the partners are the same sex or not (lesbians and straight married couples definitely get more than their fair share of the stereotype, to be sure). It’s a lot more common than you think it is.
Part of the reason for this is that we know we can have sex with our partner whenever we want – and that makes us want it less. It’s not a challenge anymore. These other women you’re thinking about, on the other hand, have mystery, and especially if you’re coming from a place where you’re used to having the freedom to sleep with whomever you desired when the opportunity struck… It’s quite an adjustment.
What I recommend is that you continue talking to your partner about how you’re feeling, and try to get to the bottom of why you’re feeling this way, to see if it’s something you can change. It’s possible that it’s just an anxiety on your part – sometimes, when we’re feeling guilty about “cheating”, even if we haven’t actually done anything, our sex life can take the back burner. I’ve definitely been there, as well.
I do think that your idea of “taking a break” from sex can be beneficial, with certain limits. For example, when I’m busy with work and I don’t have the time or energy for sex, I look at my schedule and plan out when I’ll be free and hypothetically responsive. Sometimes, a crazy thing happens: When I know I have to wait for it, I want it so much more. Obviously this isn’t always the case, but it works often enough to be considered a good idea.
Have you considered the idea of rolling with the fantasies you have? Allow yourself to think of these other people, while you’re having sex with your girlfriend. (Well, with one exception: If they’re people you could feasibly cheat with, or people you’ve had sex with in the past, I don’t recommend intentionally engaging those fantasies. Try to keep it limited to celebrities and made-up characters.)
I have a philosophy that, if there’s nothing to worry about, there’s nothing to confess. Not everyone may feel the same way – but it’s how I keep jealousy at bay.
Another option would be to mutually “self-service”, while thinking about whatever it is that turns you on. Use a blindfold if you have to, but make sure she can see you. Having your partner know that you’re turned on but she’s not allowed to touch can be incredibly sexy if handled correctly.
Try to think of it as an opportunity to “live out” a fantasy, instead of a roadblock.
If you approach the problem from that standpoint, you may find that your partner is receptive to this “fantasy” scenario – which can result in your sex drive for her blossoming back. After all, you mentioned that you’re still definitely attracted to her.
My third and final option is that you try to push yourself through it. Tell your partner that you need her to work harder to “warm you up”. Maybe she’s not doing the things she used to do that get you turned on – it’s not necessarily her fault, nor is it yours, but it plays into the “comfortable” thing I touched on earlier. Tell her the things you need from her to get aroused. (In my own experience, sometimes it can be helpful if I compromise and allow my partner to be the receiver when she’d rather be the giver.) And then, if she’s making an obvious effort to do these things… Have sex for her.
Your partner should never force this on you, of course, but if you make a conscious decision to try to be aroused, two things are likely to happen.
You’ve already addressed one of them (feeling nothing during sex – even though my partner is the best I’ve ever had, it still occasionally happens that I’m completely unresponsive to her touch). The other possibility is that it will work, and you’ll start to slowly build your sex drive back up with her.
It’s going to take some time, and a lot of communication, but it’s worth every bit of effort if you want to get through this. The fact that you’ve reached out for help tells me a lot – obviously you want to work past this. There’s definitely not one solution that works for everyone, and even if a solution works for you this time it might not work the next time, but I’m sure you’ve heard it before – relationships take a lot of work!