Friday, January 04, 2008

What to do when your sex drives aren't in sync?

"Lonely in Thirties" posted a comment to another post, and what she said is so important that I'm repeating it here so I can address her points. This reader is 38 and has been with her husband, age 42, since she was 17. She writes,

My husband used to want to have sex every day if not more often. I did not want it as often but tried my best to accommodate him for many years. Around the time I turned 35, I noticed a huge jump in my sex drive, I would say 3 times a day, every day, would now satisfy me. All I think about is sex and my orgasms are explosive, usually having multiples back to back.

Her reason for writing is her disappointment with her husband, who no longer wants to have sex as often, mainly only on the weekends. She writes,

I am very frustrated. I thought this is what he wanted all these years, a wife who wanted to have sex as often as he did. He claims he still wants me and wants to have sex but, gives a long list like I used to as to why “now” is not a good time. Is there any hope his sex drive will return?

It seems unfair to give myself to a man all these years and not have him reciprocate. I feel resentful, rejected, and hurt. I have always been faithful to him. However, I admit I fantasize about an affair or even leaving my husband for a younger more virile man. It would be nice to have a man keep up with me, not fall asleep on me. Yet having been with one man so long, I worry that a younger man would not find me attractive, or only want me just for sex. Is this true? Are there sexy men out there in their twenties that want a woman my age?

If I end up staying with my husband I think I should to go back on the pill or something to rid myself of my sex drive. I’d rather not have one then to feel this way. Is this it? If I stay with him will I be subject to years more of frustration?

It's impossible to say whether her husband's sex drive will increase again, or whether a younger man would find her attractive (I suspect he would!), but there are a couple of other important issues here besides the obvious difference in sex drives. I wish I could ask Lonely in Thirties these questions:

1. How was communication about sex before your desire changed? Could you each ask for what you wanted? Were you able to talk about what turned you on? How do you communicate about being interested in more sex now? If you have trouble communicating, a counselor could help you break through the barriers and gain a much better understanding of each other and the relationship, as well as this specific desire disparity issue.

2. Have you explored solo sex? Your own fingers and, if you like, a vibrator, would let you enjoy your orgasms, whether or not your husband was in the mood. If you're considering infidelity, try fantasies and pleasuring yourself first. You may find that you can enjoy yourself with deep satisfaction without risking your marriage.

Lonely, if you return to this blog and read this, I hope you'll comment again. Although you're younger than most readers of this blog, your concerns are those that many readers (both men and women) have, and I welcome you to our community.

-- Joan

12 comments:

  1. Let me give you a view from the other side of Menopause. I am sorry that I didn't have more sex when I was younger. My husband also had a much lower sex drive than I did, and what sex we had was usually not very good. Now I have gone through menopause and my sexual responsiveness has plummeted. I miss the strong sexual urges and I miss reaching orgasms quickly (most of them have been through solo sex). I will never have the kind of sex I could have had when I was younger, if I had had a better-matched lover. Talk to your husband or find a lover.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Joan,

    Thanks for posting my comments.

    Q1)How was communication about sex before your desire changed? Could you each ask for what you wanted? Were you about to talk about what turned you on? How do you communicate about being interested in more sex now? If you have trouble communicating, a counselor could help you break through the barriers and gain a much better understanding of each other and the relationship, as well as this specific desire disparity issue.

    A1)We have always been upfront about everything, including sex. Early on I went as far as to look at Playboy with him to see what he found attractive. I have no problem asking him what he wants or likes and tell him the same in return. I admit this sudden change in my sex drive with his decline had embarrassed me. However, frustration has won over embarrassment.

    I have always tried to be a good lover and when my sex drive blossomed I tried even harder. Talking about it is not helping, we just end up fighting. I tried a few counselors that said either leave him or have an affair. We have even tried marriage counseling together.

    I then set out to seduce him hoping perhaps he might get the idea and return the passion. I read books, studied his body to perfect our lovemaking, and Kegeled regularly to make myself as tight as possible. He says I blow his mind, I am as tight as a virgin, and it is the best sex ever. Then what is wrong?? He seems content to just lay back and enjoy it. I should not give the impression that he never tries to satisfy me, just not nearly as much as I need.

    Thinking about it makes me sad. I want more then just sex, I want passionate intense lovemaking, and often. Is this wrong? Is there something wrong with me that I cannot be content with what we have?


    Q2)Have you explored solo sex? Your own fingers and, if you like, a vibrator, would let you enjoy your orgasms, whether or not your husband was in the mood. If you're considering infidelity, try fantasies and pleasuring yourself first. You may find that you can enjoy yourself with deep satisfaction without risking your marriage.

    A2)Yes, I have resulted in this thinking if I can figure out what I like perhaps I can show him. I have even let him watch me. The orgasm depends on how good my fantasy is, but it does not come close to having a warm mans body make passionate love to me. It is just not the same. Instead of feeling satisfied afterwards, I usually feel empty.

    Lonely in Thirties

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lonely, thank you so much for returning to answer my questions. You say you have tried "a few counselors that said either leave him or have an affair." Did these counselors (I hope they are licensed therapists) talk to both of you together before suggesting that you won't resolve this within the relationship?

    I'm concerned that he won't talk about the change in your sexual desire and in your relationship. If he were open to communicating with you about it, he might also be open to pleasuring you when he doesn't feel as sexy himself. Then you could have the sexual satisfaction you desire and the "warm man's body" making love to you.

    If he won't talk about it, then you'll need outside help getting past this barrier. A licensed sex therapist might be a good solution for both of you, or for you alone if he won't go. Is this an avenue you might consider?

    No, you're not asking for too much. Sex is one of the most delicious pleasures we enjoy, and you're not wrong to want to experience it fully.

    For everyone reading this, I hope you'll open up communication with your own partner if you're in a relationship. I'll post more soon about communication about sex with tips from a sex therapist.

    Meanwhile, your comments are always welcome.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Paula, age 55January 08, 2008

    After reading all this I’m going so to suggest something more radical and risky. I think this woman is a good candidate to at least think about being polyamorous.

    After so many years of marriage it can be hard to keep things sexy. That ultra hot sexual chemistry is a tricky critter, anyway. When you live with someone all the time for a long time, no one has to work at sex, not that we don’t often try, but we don’t have to. The more intensely sexual you are, the more this can be a big problem.

    This is something like my marriage, right now anyway, we’ve evolved to a place where we’re like two peas in a pod, except that I have much more sex drive than he does, and we don’t have a lot of chemistry together. I see the possibility of that changing in the future, but meanwhile I want to have sex now! I still love this man so much, we have an otherwise great marriage, we’re inseparable.

    Like this lady, we tried working it out, various solutions, and things stayed about the same though we continue to work on it. So I decided I wanted to have a lover or lovers -- and -- have that be okay with my husband. Set some parameters, do it kindly and respectfully, or do our best anyway.

    It took some negotiating, especially since our friends were dead set against it, but I’m not one to give up easily so I finally prevailed. Eventually I met this man who I’ve become close to. I see him from time to time, have been at times unhappy with him, but he drives me wild when we’re together.

    It’s a juggling act extraordinaire to keep two men happy, but overall it meets my needs better than before, and my husband is reasonably comfortable with the arrangement. We both like and respect my lover as a person, and all three of us are friends.

    A really important part to all this is maintaining my relationship with my husband, staying affectionate in our new way (we very occasionally still have sex, usually if I initiate it, but we kiss and hug a lot) and keeping my vestiges of dissatisfaction to myself, because my expressing this around him makes him feel like a failure. He’s a very gentle guy, so I try to get him to do things for me and be chivalrous. Perhaps we’re engaged in a years long seduction.

    I’m a big fan of self pleasuring as one part of a varied sex life, always have been, and that’s just my personal preference, but I can understand really needing a man for sex, and needing him to take the initiative, really want you and come after you. There ain’t a thing wrong with you girl! A high level of sexual energy is a blessing, cultivate it, use it!

    Our culture at large doesn’t really support the full expression of women’s sexuality -- at least not yet. You have to respectfully carve your own niches sometimes.

    If it weren’t for the fact that I need to care about someone, and be reasonably sure they’re gonna stick around and care about me too, not to mention they have to respect my husband, I think I could have been having wild partner sex all the time. My way of saying that even though I’m suggesting you explore the world of multiple partners, you still need to take care of your feelings and those of others, tread carefully. And use condoms.

    Apparently this is widespread, sexually frustrated married women whose husbands have lost interest. I saw a magazine article about it, in Redbook I think. Maybe this has been going on for generations and women are just now speaking up about it. I think there are a variety of solutions to examine, and individuals will have to determine, perhaps with guidance, which are best for them.

    Another post menopause perspective, my enjoyment of sex overall has increased gradually over the years, got incredible during peri-menopause, and continues to amaze me. Human females are complex sexual beings, the researchers could study us more.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I wrote the below before reading the comments, so consider it 2 votes for possible polyamory.

    How about mentioning polyamory or some other form of ethical non-monogamy to her husband? Therefore, she won't have to leave her husband, she won't have to cheat, she'll get the sex she wants (and get to try out other partners, which is an understandable curiosity after being with the same partner for so long), her husband won't feel like she's bugging him for sex so much, and it might make them become closer to each other (what with the extra communication needed for poly and with the fact that when they have sex, it'll be a joy instead of a chore).

    ReplyDelete
  6. "I tried a few counselors that said either leave him or have an affair. We have even tried marriage counseling together."

    I'm truly saddened that a counselor would advise someone to do something as ethically reprehensible as cheating, ESPECIALLY that they'd recommend it before ethical non-monogamy. I can't believe these people still have their licenses. Granted, everyone's entitled to their own opinions on how wrong cheating is, but even at worst, it's still seen as something that's to be avoided if possible.

    "[tried to seduce him, it doesn't work]"
    Don't get yourself down because of that... don't let yourself feel any less sexy or desirable. Sometimes it just doesn't happen, despite the situation. I've had lovers in their 20s not get aroused no matter what I do, and I've had lovers in their late 30s and early 40s not be in the mood (or have some "plumbing problems"). Having it happen with a regular occurrence is more common with men as they get older, but it happens with all men. Don't blame yourself.

    "The orgasm depends on how good my fantasy is, but it does not come close to having a warm mans body make passionate love to me. It is just not the same. Instead of feeling satisfied afterwards, I usually feel empty."

    Have you tried masturbation with him doing stuff like touching you, holding you, snuggling you, etc? Even if he doesn't want sex, perhaps he'd be willing (and wanting) to give you the physical touch and affection you're wanting from sexual intimacy.

    Also, something that wasn't brought up that might be at play here... his feelings on this. Men sometimes place their value on their manhood via their sexuality. He might be feeling out of sorts that he doesn't want sex as often as you, as if it somehow makes him less of a good husband and less of a man, and his avoidance of talking about it might be him trying to avoid what he may feel to be shame and embarrassment over the situation. Helping him realize that you're in this together and that there's nothing wrong or shameful with your sex drives being out of sync (in fact, if I remember correctly, at your age is when women have their highest sex drives, and men's have lowered by that time) might make him feel better. Helping him realize that you still love, value, and cherish him as your partner after all these years, that you still want and need him, might be the trick needed.

    My 2 cents.

    ReplyDelete
  7. paula, age 55January 17, 2008

    There's a lot to be said for sex with a partner you've known and been with for a long time. First time magic aside, I think sex deepens and becomes more meaningful, both physically and emotionally, when you know someone well.

    Given our culture's prevailing widespread agreement that fidelity at all costs is the way to go, there is not a lot of support for spouses who want an additional partner. Most people don't yet understand the "ethical" part of non-monogamy. When I made the mistake of announcing to our friends that my husband and I were going this way, all they could see was that I would be "cheating" on him. This was compounded by the fact that my hubby and I seem to be their poster children for a happy marriage. They were all sure we would break up, which we didn't. Their attitudes were decidedly unhelpful.

    We do have a glorious partnership, except when it comes to sex.

    Interestingly some of our friends did suggest that I just "have an affair" and be sneaky about it. My husband told me later that if I had done this he would have divorced me. Difficult as it's been, I know I made the right choice. My thought on that is how could I have an orgasm in an atmosphere of disrespect and dishonesty?

    This is not to discourage anyone who decides to practice polyamory or ethical non-monogamy, just to point out that these days this takes some fortitude and is not easy.

    I like this idea of asking your husband to be with you when you self pleasure. Initially he's "off the hook" about having to perform, it's no longer a "have to." If he’s like most people, feeling pressured to perform only makes things worse. Watching you self pleasure might inspire him and get him in the mood. I think men get excited watching a woman get excited. But also be ready for this not to happen sometimes too, and just love him anyway, like, afterwards, wrap your legs around him, and have a great big kiss and hug.

    It's a law of the Universe -- ironic but true -- that when we let go of our attachment to a particular outcome, what we want will come to us more easily, or maybe something even better.

    No one has said anything here about spirituality. I'm not a church goer, have my own unique version of "religion," and believe strongly in freedom of religion (as long as that "freedom" doesn't include interfering with mine), but I still have found it helpful to give my problems up to God/Goddess/One Love. Sometimes they seem so big that I can't solve them on my own. When I allow Divine Love into the picture, things usually get better with whatever problem.

    My personal take on religion when it comes to sex is that the Creator gave us our sexuality for a reason. It's not evil or wrong in itself, just in the way some people use it. We're meant to explore, cultivate, and express our sexuality in healthy ways. The Tantric texts take this a step further and say that sex is a way to connect with the Divine. I’ve found this to be true of both partner and solo sex. Gina Ogden, a western sex researcher, has written a book about this spiritual connection called "The Heart and Soul of Sex."

    ReplyDelete
  8. Paula and C4bl3Fl4m3 are suggesting polyamory or "ethical non-monogamy" -- which means deciding with your partner that one or both of you is free to have sex with other people. The key to this choice working in a committed relationship is that both partners know and accept that one or both will have other lovers. I've interviewed polyamorous couples and singles who are very happy in this lifestyle. (These stories will appear in my next book.)

    I've also known other couples who absolutely could not accept bringing other lovers into their relationship, and couples who could not communicate honestly or fully enough to work out the challenges.

    So communication has to come first!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Joan has reminded me of a really important point. If you’re going to have more than one partner -- as in ethical non-monogamy -- you have to respect couples who want to remain monogamous!

    I don’t pursue anyone who’s in a committed relationship, boyfriends/husbands of my girlfriends, or my husband’s long time close friends (in case there’s any bad blood down the road.) If you’re married and want another partner your best bets are non-monogamous singles and other married people in a similar situation with a similar agreement.

    When I was still looking, I asked questions and was also up front about my own marital arrangement. Lots of men weren’t able or willing to deal with this. Okay so lots of near misses, which was sometimes frustrating, but I was honest and it's almost always nice to be flirted with.

    This kind of relationship might have different parameters, like you don’t live together or have sex at your house (for example) and there might not be as many "strings attached," but it still has to have some parameters. I think it’s up to the people involved to work those out so everyone is comfortable.

    This is all somewhat uncharted territory. There are still polygamous and polyamorous societies in Africa and polyandrous ones in Tibet. There have been a few experiments with this in the U.S. if you don't count being single and playful these days.

    Communication is a must, I agree. The "rules" have to be decided on and clear to everyone. Also you have to work out the problems which arise here and there even in monogamous relationships. Finally it's also good just to talk about how wonderful everyone is.

    ReplyDelete
  10. If I had to say something about this is that I'm in a relatively new relationship with a woman, she is 62 and I am 33. What really pains me is that our relationship is so good but the lovemaking is not satisfying for me because I am unable to orgasm through intercourse with her. We've tried alot of different techniques but it's just been terribly difficult. She's even vocalized her frustration with me not having orgasm with her. It's possibly just not meant to be. All I want to say is that...maybe the solution is NOT a younger lover. Because our physical bodies might not be best matched sexually when there is a large age difference...

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ummm,don't overlook a medical check up. I lost interest for a while a few years back. Fortunately I was living with a nurse. Got the physical and the labs came back my testosterone was gone. Now get a hormone replacement shot once a month and feel much better and look forward to loving sexuality.

    Men go through hormone changes too. Can't hurt to have the lab work done and see if that's an issue.

    ReplyDelete
  12. You're absolutely right, Ron. Thanks for making that point.

    ReplyDelete

My readers and I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Please share your views! Comments are moderated, so yours won't appear until I've seen it. Thank you in advance for commenting!

Some people have reported problems commenting. If this happens to you, please email your comment (with the name under which you want it posted) to joan@joanprice.com, and I'll post it for you.

Retailers please note: I delete comments that attempt to hijack my readers to a commercial site. If you'd like to advertise, contact me at joan@joanprice.com and I'll be happy to send you information.

Authors, therapists and sex educators who have helpful information for readers are welcome to post links to their sites.

-- Joan