Sex Advice From A Fuck-Up: I Don’t Like Fucking My Husband

libido

My friend doesn’t want to have sex with her husband. I kind of hate writing about this, for fear of reinforcing the frigid wife and horny husband trope. As we’ve discussed in this column before, Victorian-era misogynistic cultural superstition teaches that women are naturally less libidinous than men. But recent research indicates that when women don’t have to worry about being shamed, they want sex just as much. “Lesbian bed death” is another example of mythology around female sexuality that research is starting to debunk.

These myths perpetuate the damaging Madonna/whore dichotomy trope which discourages women from showing interest in sex and makes men suspicious of women who openly enjoy fucking. I especially hate the idea that a steep decline in the frequency and quality of sex in marriage is inevitable, and that it’s because women are joyless, repressed harpies.

Despite all this, I’m going to write about it anyway for two reasons. First, ideas generally don’t reach the level of cliche without containing some kernel of truth. There are lots of couples struggling with this. Second, it’s an issue I have personal, painful experience with, and I want to share what I learned the hard way.

Here’s where the kernel of truth comes in. Research indicates that straight women actually experience a more steep and severe dropoff in libido in monogamous, long-term relationships than men do. Every additional month in a relationship meant a 0.02 decrease in sexual desire on the Female Sexual Function Index in a study in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. This drop only happened for women.

This turns conventional wisdom that women are naturally more monogamous than men on its head.

However, a general drop-off isn’t destiny. If people can more prepared for this to happen, they can face it with less shame and get proactive. Here are some things I wish I’d known when I was married. The advice is mostly geared toward straight cisgender women because I’m a mostly straight cisgender woman, but hopefully most of this advice can be applied to any orientation and gender.

First, getting the goal right will make you much more successful. The goal isn’t to get to a certain amount of sex. The goal is to be happy in your relationship.

To get there, there are basically four options:

  1. One partner will need to increase their libido
  2. One partner will need to decrease their libido
  3. Someone is going to have to make do with more or less sex than they want to have
  4. Monogamy might not be y’all’s jam

None of these options is inherently better than the other. In a way, how much sex to have is like any other choice you have to make in a relationship, such as where to live or whether to have kids. Someone is going to have to compromise, change their preference, or get creative.

The more open to every option, willing to try different options, and willing to compromise you can be, the better your chances are of being happy together. Here are some tips that will hopefully make figuring out which solution is best for you easier and less emotionally fraught.

Shut down shame and fear

Sex-negative culture teaches that sex is inherently meaningful. This belief breeds unhelpful shame and fear around sex. People hold all kinds of superstitions about sex, including that waning desire means you don’t love or care for your partner anymore, or that something is fundamentally wrong in your relationship. Sex is a bodily function. In the aforementioned research about libido in long-term relationships, desire waned in happy and unhappy relationships, totally separate from women’s overall satisfaction with the union.

Sex-positive feminism recognizes the moral neutrality of sex. Doing this helps reduce stigma around sexual functioning.

Sex isn’t good or bad; it’s just an activity. The person who wants to have more sex isn’t more right or wrong, better or worse. It helps to keep that in mind when you talk about sex, to keep it as emotionally neutral as possible. When you talk about a dip in sex drive with your partner, recognize the emotional baggage and false beliefs they and you have picked up, through no fault of your own, from the culture and your upbringing. Remember that you both are likely carrying that baggage into the conversation, and that your assumptions and beliefs about sex might differ. The same words or phrases might mean totally different things to you and your partner, but you might assume you’re both saying the same thing. Define your terms and lay out your assumptions early to make conversations more productive.

If you are bored in the bedroom, be honest about that. It’s no indictment of you, your partner, or your relationship. If you suspect you might be kinky, or there’s something you really want to try, don’t be afraid or ashamed of your desires. There’s nothing wrong with kink. Again, sex is morally neutral, including kinky sex.

If you suspect issues with the relationship are dampening your desire to get it on, be honest about that too. Sex is not necessarily a barometer of a relationship’s health. But sometimes a lack of interest in sex is an indication that something is emotionally amiss.

Assume good intentions/empathize

If you’re the partner with a higher sex drive, you may be afraid a dip in sex drive means your partner doesn’t love you as much anymore, or that something is fundamentally wrong. You may distrust your partner when they tell you everything is fine. You may be afraid they are cheating on you or attracted to someone else.

As much as possible, put those fears aside. Listen to your partner when they tell you what they need. Choose to trust that your partner is being honest with you.

If you’re the partner with the lower sex drive, you might think your partner cares more about their own needs than your own. You may be afraid that your partner will leave you if you don’t put out. You may feel used if you try to meet their needs even when you don’t feel desire. You may feel guilty if you don’t have sex when they want to. And you may feel defective for not wanting sex enough.

There is no right amount to have sex. You are not defective. There is no healthy, normal, or right when it comes to sex. There are just averages. You may be above or below the average, but that’s all. The right amount of sex to have is the amount you want.

One tip I’d recommend is trying as much as possible to see your significant other as your partner in exploration instead of resenting them for pressuring you to do something you don’t enjoy that much. There’s nothing your love would rather do than give you a good time in bed. Help them do that by being open and communicative about what you want.

Be patient – your low libido isn’t forever

Don’t assume that your situation will last forever. Even if you’ve never been that into sex, or just started having sex regularly and are realizing you’re not that into it, that doesn’t mean you’ll always feel that way.

Sex drives change over time. For example it’s pretty normal for straight women to not be that into sex in their 20’s and then have a big jump in interest in their 30’s. Dips after having kids are common. Stressful life events like losing your job or a parent make people less interested in sex. Divorce or breaking up is a permanent solution to what may be a temporary problem.

Other potential fixes

Besides exploring new things and fixing problems in your relationship, one move that is very likely to increase libido is reducing stress and increasing leisure time. Studies show women who work full-time end up spending more time than their spouses on housework, childcare, and eldercare. This so-called “second shift” is generally exhausting, mundane, thankless work. Sexual exploration takes time and energy. If your partner isn’t excited about sex, before pressuring them, make sure they’re not too stressed and tired to get freaky. If you have the resources, try hiring a maid, a babysitter, or a nurse for a few weeks and see what impact that has on your sex life.

Don’t rule out health issues. There are lots of medical conditions which can affect sex drive and functioning, including depression, vaginal infections, high blood pressure, and diabetes. For some conditions, changes in sex drive can be an early clue that something is wrong physically.

Sometimes, despite trying new things, getting less stressed, and fixing relationship issues, and fixing health problems, one person just really wants a lot more sex than the other. In these situations, I would highly recommend considering opening up the relationship. I would not recommend this instead of fixing underlying issues, such as unresolved conflict, stress, and boredom. Don’t look at polyamory or an open relationship as a last-ditch gambit to save the relationship, but as a way to get a partner’s desire for sex sated.

This is where the partner with the higher sex drive needs to consider just how important sex is to them. First, remember that the less sex you have, the less you want. Just because you’re dying for sex now doesn’t mean that you’ll always feel this way. Second, consider that opening up a relationship has significant costs. If your relationship was strong when you opened up, it’s not likely your partner will find someone else and leave. But the potential is of course there. The biggest cost to hooking up or balancing multiple relationships is time. Dating, in a very real way, becomes your hobby when you open up.

Other times, someone wants a different kind of sex than their lover. You can consider “outsourcing” this kind of sex to someone with the same fetish.

When you actively reject sexual fear and shame it helps you communicate more honestly about your sexual desires, stay open to all possible fixes to your differing needs, and work together as a couple to find a way forward that works.

 

Images: Julia Shashkina/Flickr

Cathy Reisenwitz is a D.C.-based writer. She is Editor-in-Chief of Sex and the State and her writing has appeared in The Week, Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, VICE Motherboard, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo and other publications. She has been quoted by the New York Times Magazine and has been a columnist at Townhall.com and Bitcoin Magazine. Her media appearances include Fox News and Al Jazeera America. She serves on the Board of Advisors for the Center for a Stateless Society.

2 Comments

  • Reply May 14, 2015

    Anonymous

    On the high-libido side, I would add:

    (1) A high libido partner can sometimes work on reducing their libido by distracting themselves with other pursuits. If you are too distracted or tired by a full day of work, hobbies, exercise, etc., then you won’t always want sex.

    (2) “If you’re the partner with a higher sex drive…” then you probably feel extreme frustration. You might feel a blow to your self-esteem – why doesn’t your partner want you as much as they used to? You might feel guilty asking for sex. You might feel awkward or insecure about initiating sex – what are you doing wrong that doesn’t get them in the mood? Most of all, it is hard to process emotionally or rationally, because even discussing the topic makes you horny, and that makes it hard to focus.

    (3) One great option is for the high-libido partner to simply masturbate more often. This can be assisted in a minor way by the other partner, or solo activity. Many people still suffer hangups about masturbation (especially porn and toy use) within the context of a monogamous relationship. It is important for the high-libido partner to use masturbation as a way to balance out their libidos, and for the low-libido partner to encourage this healthy, normal function in the high-libido partner.

  • Reply May 16, 2015

    Fortuna Veritas

    (3) One great option is for the high-libido partner to simply masturbate more often. This can be assisted in a minor way by the other partner, or solo activity. Many people still suffer hangups about masturbation (especially porn and toy use) within the context of a monogamous relationship. It is important for the high-libido partner to use masturbation as a way to balance out their libidos, and for the low-libido partner to encourage this healthy, normal function in the high-libido partner.

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard of masturbation as a potential aide in a situation like this rather than creating a situation like this out of porn addiction.

    I’ve certainly never found masturbation to be a real substitute for sexual intimacy with a partner.

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