A gentleman wrote in about his relationship; he and his gf are in their 20’s and have been together for a while, and she told him from the outset that her sex drive was low. Their honeymoon phase was full of sex, but since then it’s been sporadic and they often go for a month or two without sexual contact.
“Our relationship is great otherwise, always touchy with each other kissing cuddling, but any time it goes down that route it’s usually met with ‘I’m not feeling great’ or ‘it hurts down there.’ She has been to the doctors but nothing has shown up, at first I could feel myself getting a bit frustrated but never wanted to hurt her feelings by making it into too much of a thing, we eventually had a big argument about it but that didn’t solve anything and just made us both feel bad. The last time we have played about was about a month ago now and I’ve kind of just stopped trying to initiate it as it usually just ends with rejection, I feel this girl really might be the one long term for me but I don’t know how to get over this hump..excuse the pun, and don’t want it becoming a built up issue that ends up just causing more problems in the future, hit a bit of a wall with this one.”
Thank you for this question; so many people are going to relate. We all know essentially how to have sex, but how to have a good long term sex life with someone is a whole other world that no one really prepares you for.
If you had lots of sex initially that’s grand because it means you both enjoy and want sex with each other, and you are perfectly capable of having a good time in bed (it’s just not working out right now). But this is still a complex issue. We all tend to assume that a good sex life ‘should just happen’ but this is not so. The hallmark of a good relationship or sex life is not a lack of problems, but a willingness to work on the problems together.
The fact that she refers to pain, but the doctors have not found anything, suggests psychological causes, such as anxiety or past negative experience. This is a common problem but the NHS is not well equipped for dealing with it. Hormonal contraception also interferes with sexual and mental health, if she is using it, you might be better off switching to condoms.
A lot of women, my younger self included, need to spend time building their relationship with their vagina before they can fully relax and enjoy sex. For some women, letting go of anxieties, learning what their vagina does and doesn’t like; can stop it being painful. Others may need more healing, perhaps from an acupuncturist, abdominal masseuse or Human Givens therapist, whom they like and trust.
She will likely need time and space to decide how she wants to deal with it herself. You can not rush someone else’s journey with their own body.
There is a fine line between being supportive, and just hassling, so you will both have to be patient with each other, and forgiving if either of you gets frustrated. But it sounds like you are both very caring in this regard already.
She has a journey to go on in regards to the pain or low libido, but you have a journey to go on in regards to knowing how she likes to be approached, and what makes her feel safe and turned on. The responsibility, and opportunity, is with both of you.
Giving each other massages, where you are not secretly hoping it will get sexual, is a good way to have physical contact. Being assertive with each other during a massage, do that less, do this over here more etc, is good practise for communicating sexually too.
As the person who has the lower sex drive or is sexually anxious, a difficult aspect can be not knowing whether the other is going to make a move, and fearing having to disappoint them. You could try having a week each month where you agree there won’t be anything sexual, which gives you both a break from the uncertainty, a ‘sex-off’ week. But also schedule in a monthly date where you agree you will both get in the mood to be sexual, if it doesn’t happen so be it, but it’s a time for both of you to try. The more casual you can both be about the inevitable peaks and troughs in your sex life, the better, because pressure is not sexy.
The difficulty with having the higher drive, is that you’re inevitably more motivated to try and sort all this out.
My advice: Expect imperfection, and work towards satisfaction.
And remind yourself never to take it personally. This issue is not a personal or relationship flaw, it is a challenge for you both to navigate together.
The book Beyond Tantra by Mieke and Stephen Wik, it is very hippy so I apologise for the ‘chakra chat’ in advance, but it tells the story of a couple who had physical and emotional issues in their sex life and how they overcame them. I’m not expecting you to do everything or even anything that’s in the book, treat it as more of an interesting example of the different possibilities that are out there.
The book ‘Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom’ by Christiane Northrup. This book focuses too much on ‘believe something and it will happen’ type sentiment, however it has amazing medical information about women’s bodies, including painful vaginas, and far more than a GP would be able to offer.
I’ve had problems with my sex life in past relationships, and thought ‘Ah if I was single l could be having loads of sex whenever and with whomever I want.’ But as soon as I was single I thought ‘Sex is cool and all, but having someone to cuddle in the morning is also pretty fucking rad.’ Being in love with a great partner is one of the best things in life, and if you have that, the good sex life can follow.
Never give up on having the sex life of your dreams, but don’t expect it to happen overnight, and always know that neither of you are alone in these struggles.
Good luck x