Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


how to boost libido in a long-term relationship
March 31, 2009 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Help us (straight couple in our late twenties) fix our sex life so we can stay together.

I'm a woman in a two year relationship with a man also in his late twenties. We've been together for two years. We've lived together for a year, but as he puts it, "we've basically been living together since the beginning." He has never lived with anyone before, but I have. We've had our share of problems, but both of us think we have a really good thing going. The major exception right now is the sex.

We both enjoy sex when we have it, but that's rarely more than once a month. I'm not particularly turned on because I don't feel very desired. He says he just doesn't feel the urge as often as he used to. This has been going on for over a year, but first was attributed to depression/anxiety (he's now on Wellbutrin), then to a need for some personal space, an issue which is now much better.

Typically he has a higher libido, and while neither one of us thinks we're doing it often enough, he just doesn't feel like having sex very often. Me coming on to him doesn't work either. (I've also tried not changing clothes in front of him, wearing nice things to bed, and leaving him alone about it).

The main problem, he says, is that sex is not related to emotions for him; it's more about the thrill of the chase. I realize that this is true of a lot of people, but here it's true to the point of causing problems.

As far as I can tell, emotional intimacy and sexual desire are inversely correlated for him. One idea I had was to try to shift something in the bedroom, not necessarily for further excitement, but just to break us out of habit (sort of like switching which side of the bed you sleep on).

So, two parts to the question, I guess. 1) what are some general things we can do to boost his libido? and 2) what are some things we can try to break out of our routine, that don't involve costumes or toys? (neither of us is prudish, we just don't get into that).

We agree that we're at the point of progressing to marriage, but neither of us wants to do so unless this issue is resolved. Please help us.
posted by monkeygenius to Human Relations (33 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
a) Typically he has a higher libido, and while neither one of us thinks we're doing it often enough, he just doesn't feel like having sex very often. Me coming on to him doesn't work either. (I've also tried not changing clothes in front of him, wearing nice things to bed, and leaving him alone about it).

b) what are some general things we can do to boost his libido?

These don't make sense together, and you seem to be doing all the work, so I'm going to assume you mean he does not have a greater desire for sex than you.

The main problem, he says, is that sex is not related to emotions for him; it's more about the thrill of the chase.

Tell him I said "tough shit." If he can't maintain an erection, he should be willing to please you by other means, or allow you to get some on the side. He can't take half an hour out of his day to make you happy?

That said, something he can do to 1) boost his sexual desire is to get off the meds ASAP, under (of course) his doctor's supervision. As for 2), I would bet your routine has nothing to do with his disinterest.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:21 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would recommend both of you get a physical or check in with current docs about meds you may be on. It is very common for drugs like anti-depressants to affect libido. OTOH, adding certain mental health treatments like drugs or therapy may help too. Depression doesn't feel sexy, and sometimes our past (e.g. child abuse, rape, too many walks of shame) can take up a ton of space in bed.
posted by ShadePlant at 4:26 PM on March 31, 2009


Well you don't need costumes to roleplay, you can just dress up and pretend to be on a blind date or something, create personas and go on a first date again where you are the coy thing who doesn't have sex the first date. Having sex in other rooms in the house, or very naughty places (like in the car) spices things up. Learn to striptease, play hard-to-get (and mean it) when you perform too. Videotape yourselves (deleting the film if you need to), or invest in some mirrors to watch yourselves. You can also schedule intimacy time - not sex time, intimacy, where you explore foreplay and see what feels good again. Go get him some viagra if it doesn't mess with his other meds.
posted by lizbunny at 4:29 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The main problem, he says, is that sex is not related to emotions for him; it's more about the thrill of the chase.

What a load of wank. Sex is what you do when you have an erection. If he can't get or maintain an erection, either he's not attracted to you, is looking at too much porn, is drinking too much, or has a medical problem. Erections are the easiest thing in the world. You don't even have to do anything, they just crop up.

So he's depressed and anxious and on medication, so what? I've been depressed and anxious and on medication and I've still been popping boners all over the place.

Yeah, passion can fizzle out if you're in one another's faces all day every day. But a year seems a bit quick.

If it's really about the "thrill of the chase", well, force him to chase you.

As far as I can tell, emotional intimacy and sexual desire are inversely correlated for him

Yawn. I'm so tired of hearing this shit. I don't doubt that this is the case, but this whole "I can't get close to people, I don't know how" is fucking nineties grunge indie movie bullshit and it's boring and lame. Guy needs to harden up literally and metaphorically and learn to please his woman. Plus orgasms are great for depression. Tell him it's for his own good.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:32 PM on March 31, 2009 [19 favorites]


neither of us is prudish, we just don't get into that

Are you sure about his feelings on that?
posted by desjardins at 4:32 PM on March 31, 2009


Hi, OP here.

Optimus Chyme: what I meant was that normally he has a higher libido than he does now. By which I mean to say that this is not typical for him.

Also, just to clarify, I don't know that they're not affecting things, but this problem started before he got on meds and Wellbutrin is often cited as an anti-depressant that doesn't have a high rate of sexual side effects (in fact, can sometimes boost libido).
posted by monkeygenius at 4:35 PM on March 31, 2009


why don't you try to think about what attracted you to each other in the first place? Try sitting down with him and talking about it. Has your relationship been desireless from the start? Just talking about the silly things we did together with my SO makes me remember why we fell in love, maybe it will help you guys get back in the mood.

Good luck.
posted by Stirdog at 4:39 PM on March 31, 2009


desjardins: yes, I'm sure. In fact, I'd probably be more into than he is. He's relatively...reserved? Not prudish, exactly, just doesn't find it very sexy.

I want to make it clear that he doesn't have a problem getting a hard-on. He just doesn't feel like screwing very often. And he is willing to talk about this, work on it, etc, so insulting him is not particularly helpful, though I appreciate your support.
posted by monkeygenius at 4:41 PM on March 31, 2009


Since it's about the thrill of the chase for him I would try to not focus on the lack of sex so much. He may be picking up on your disatisfaction which might make him feel like a failure. You said you've tried not mentioning it. For how long? Think about it all you'd like, just don't mention it to him for a while.

I generally dislike those dating rules books but you can create more desire by having a life of your own. I think one of those books mentions that people are more attracted to people that have a lot of interesting things going. They called it a "rapidly moving interesting object" or something like that. You're in a committed relationship, and you live together, but that doesn't mean you can't be a little less accessible and predictable.

I'm sure you have a life, but kick it up a notch and take the initiative to do some things on your own to make yourself more appealing and increase your quality of life. You may become so fabulous and maybe realize that this once a month sex thing isn't working for you. Examples are exercising on your own, taking up a new hobby, or devoting more time to an existing hobby, going out with friends, leaving the house on your own for a few hours to see a movie/bookstore/cafe. Don't depend on him for your entertainment. Don't sit at home watching a movie with him every evening just because he's in a funk.

One of the best things you can do to increase the frequency and quality of sex is to do something physical together on a regular basis. Every weekend y'all can be riding bikes, going for hikes, playing racquetball, going to the lake/beach, etc. Engage in a physical activity together with no pressure or talk for sex on a regular basis and do more things alone and I'm betting your sex life will improve. It may be time for counseling if it doesn't. When all efforts have been exhausted moving on might be a consideration. Your relationship is relatively young. It doesn't sound like you're going to be happy with once a month sex for the rest of your life. Hopefully that will change. Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 4:44 PM on March 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Do you know how often he's masturbating? Find out.
posted by hermitosis at 4:48 PM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sounds to me like you're doing all the work here. If he's not disturbed that his sex drive isn't higher, IMO, that means that other shit is going on. Why isn't HE posting this question? Why isn't HE making appointments with doctors, etc., to find out what's going on? The fact that you're the one doing all of this (from what I've seen - I could be wrong) is a HUGE red flag. And the fact that he's dumping it on you: "emotional intimacy and sex drive blah blah blah" is also a red flag.

Get him talking about the relationship itself - what's REALLY bothering him, and keep pushing until it's all out in the open. This is a way for him to control a relationship (even subconsciously) when he doesn't feel like he has control anywhere else in the relationship, or in life. But for the love of God don't marry the man unless this gets resolved. Speaking from experience, here.

Ok, hopping off my armchair now.
posted by twiki at 4:49 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


OP, you're correct about Wellbutrin, but sometimes organic causes of things are not always obvious. It might not even be organic, but that's my angle. Good luck.
posted by ShadePlant at 4:56 PM on March 31, 2009


A lot of these comments are really helpful. Thanks everybody.

More clarification: he's no saint, and he could try harder in some cases, but this is one scenario where he's been extremely open, honest, up for suggestion, and it's something we're both concerned about.

He's the one who brought this up. The context was something like, "we've been talking about marriage, but I don't think we should do that right now. I don't want to have sex with you as often as is typical for me, and I want to resolve that before we make this commitment." It wasn't so blunt, but that's how he approached it. He realizes that this is his issue but is at a loss as to what to do about it.
posted by monkeygenius at 4:58 PM on March 31, 2009


You should schedule sex at least once every two days, like a chore. Put it on your to-do list. If you find that you don't enjoy it, then perhaps you are not sexually compatible. It happens. But most therapists will tell you that the first indication of a healthy relationship is a healthy sex life. Perhaps it's just not working out.
posted by ALB209 at 5:00 PM on March 31, 2009


I absolutely 100% agree that you shouldn't marry the man until and unless this gets resolved. Incompatible sex drives are a time bomb and the pressure can build and build over the years. Talk to him about it. Suggest he talk to his doctor about whether the Wellbutrin might be messing up his libido. Go to couples therapy if you feel it necessary.

That said...

Tell him I said "tough shit." If he can't maintain an erection, he should be willing to please you by other means, or allow you to get some on the side. He can't take half an hour out of his day to make you happy?
...
Guy needs to harden up literally and metaphorically and learn to please his woman.
...
etc

This is a bunch of shit. If the OP were a woman and was told she needed to loosen up literally and metaphorically and why can't she take half an hour out of her day to spread her legs to make her man happy, well, the firestorm that would (rightly) ensue would burn with the heat of a thousand suns.

If the dude doesn't feel like having sex, he shouldn't necessarily have sex. If he is dissatisfied with his libido that is something he should work on in conjunction with his girlfriend, doctor, etc. But this whole "man up" stuff is a bunch of misogynistic crap.
posted by Justinian at 5:01 PM on March 31, 2009 [13 favorites]


(note: I realize the OP is a woman. Y'all know what I actually meant)
posted by Justinian at 5:02 PM on March 31, 2009


Justinian, this isn't really a gendered thing. Sex is an integral part for most relationships, and we can assume as much of the OP and her boyfriend if they both want to resolve their failure to have sex before getting married. The fact that one partner has done basically nothing to mitigate his lack of libido, an issue that leaves his girlfriend dissatisfied and concerned, raises red flags. I don't think turgid dhalia's boner-happy explanation is very fair, because lots of men have problems with arousal, but most of them would proactively work to alleviate that problem at least for the sake of their partners.

OP, you're doing everything you can to fix an issue that is ultimately in your boyfriend's hands. Worse, he has inexplicably allowed you to shoulder this burden as if you could read his mind and chart his physiological reactions. He has stagnated when he should rally, and while I'm sure he's partly just embarrassed that he can't please you, he has no excuse to roll over on his side of the bed every night while you lie there in your nice underwear, upset that you're not an object to be chased. That's totally a lame way to behave to someone he ostensibly loves and wants to keep happy, and as an active participant in a relationship, he should know better.

So what do you have to do? Sit him down and tell him that you can't magically divine what's wrong with him. Make him set up an appointment with his doctor, maybe another with a couples therapist. If he protests or in any way makes you feel like this is your problem, think really hard about your future with him. Boiled down to the basics, your boyfriend has patently refused to satisfy your needs. That doesn't bode well for a happy marriage.
posted by zoomorphic at 5:21 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is unlikely, but definitely something he should check out: low testosterone. It's less common than in older men, but it occurs, and it's often undiagnosed and treated as depression in younger men. Doctors are not inclined to test it routinely in younger men since it's so uncommon, but if your significant other is in the percentage of younger men w/low T, and it's not diagnosed and treated, that would really be a shame. You can google hypogonadism and see if he has any other symptoms (many coincide with depression so it's tricky) and then try to wrangle a blood test out of your primary care physician. It's just another checkbox on a routine blood panel. Good luck.
posted by pallen123 at 5:23 PM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


"The main problem, he says, is that sex is not related to emotions for him; it's more about the thrill of the chase."

I think many of us are going to latch on to that statement and wonder what the heck the real story is there, because honestly, I'm not buying it. That sounds like he gave you an excuse for something else rather than an honest comment. I mean, come on now... let's be honest here. Sex. Is. Fun. Even years into a relationship... even when a couple might not be getting along so well... sex is still fun. Even when you're not 'making love' it's still fun to fuck.

"We agree that we're at the point of progressing to marriage, but neither of us wants to do so unless this issue is resolved."

DO NOT MARRY HIM if huge massive long term changes aren't crystal clearly obvious regarding his sexual issues. If he really equates sex with conquest, he's left with two options: live without sex, or CHEAT.
posted by 2oh1 at 5:38 PM on March 31, 2009


Wellbutrin can have sexual side effects for some people.

Other organic causes of low libido can include high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid issues, and other non-urological stuff (including the low testosterone issue already mentioned by pallen123). And then there's the urological stuff.

So, yeah, he should probably start by seeing a doc about this, and maybe a urologist as well.

So if there's no organic component, what about the emotional and psychological stuff? Couples therapy, sex therapy, you know the drill.

he doesn't have a problem getting a hard-on. He just doesn't feel like screwing very often.

So what does he do? Wait until it goes away? Masturbate? Cold shower?

"Doesn't feel like screwing" more than once a month is pretty much an outlier for men his age. And, as you said, his libido used to be higher. So something's going on.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:41 PM on March 31, 2009


All about the chase? A 61 year old man here.

For me, sex stopped being all about the "chase" when I was 25.

It became inextricably involved with deep emotional feelings for a woman. I remained monogamous through a 30 year marriage and a 4 year, serious relationship. I had many chances to "chase."

Doesn't mean at all that I wasn't physically attracted to innumerable women along the way. That I didn't (and still do) enjoy looking at the female body.

But, I found, sex with a deep emotional bond is so great, that after that, nothing compares. Thanks, but no thanks.

For me, sex has been all about giving my woman pleasure and she reciprocating. While single, the chase can be thrilling, but it involves the hope of something more than sex.

I don't ever give advice on relationships. Too dangerous. But, if for him, it is all about "the chase," perhaps moving will give him that chance. Will he follow?

Nah, I always absolutely loved to be "seduced," To have a woman be the gentle aggressor is a giant turn-on. That she "wants me" and isn't "accommodating" me. THAT is a major turn-off. Sounds like he needs a maturity pill to me or, he isn't being quite honest.

Best of luck.
posted by private_idaho at 6:07 PM on March 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Perhaps an obvious point, but if y'all are tired in the evenings, then you should make sure to have some free unscheduled time together in the mornings / midday weekends /whenever.
posted by wyzewoman at 6:10 PM on March 31, 2009


I've started and decided not to post an answer about 4 times, so we'll see how this comes out now.

I'm 24 years old. I'm engaged to be married to a beautiful, amazing, sexy 24 year old woman of my dreams. I suffer from something like you've been describing your boyfriend has - a crazy low libido. Sometimes, unless she initiates, I could go weeks without it. Right now, I'm on a higher period, but it does dip down.

Here's just some anecdotal evidence - a single data point, if you will.

1) I can't have sex late at night. I get tired, I get into coma mode. Occasionally, yeah, late night sex is fun, but generally, I'm not in the mood. My cycle hits in the afternoon/early evening. That means on weekends, I think about those times, and use them to my advantage. During the week, we try to have sex as soon as we get home (I have some late classes/rehearsals from grad school, though, so sometimes it doesn't happen).

2) I have trouble feeling sexy if my apartment is a mess. Unfortunately, neither of us are compulsive cleaners. If the living room is junky, if the bedroom has piles of laundry, I'm just not feeling hot, sexy, or whatever. That means that I have to overthink that and do my damndest to keep things clean. Right now, it's getting worse, and I feel myself starting to slip into a low libido period yet again. I know what I need to do - doing it, sometimes, is even more difficult.

3) Here's the thing - I know what he means about the thrill of the chase. At least, spiritually. I wouldn't call it that, so if I'm way off, ignore this part: it goes past the honeymoon period and the passion at the beginning. It's the flirty texts, dirty e-mails, wondering if you'll get some, wondering if that brush of the hand means something... when I'm guaranteed to get some (and with my girlfriend's libido, I generally am), it kind of guts it. I keep sending her dirty e-mails, flirty texts, little gifts, buy her cute underwear, etc etc... I keep myself moving. I keep the motion of the relationship going, because if I don't it's going to collapse. And, yet again, I've been lacking in that recently, which means I need to redouble my effort. This has happened in previous relationships of mine, so I know what's happening - I'm just so madly in love with this girl that I'm doing everything possible to not let libido drop happen yet again.

4) To those of you saying to bail due to uneven sex drives: I'm sorry, I just don't see that here . I believe it's not uneven sex drives - it's a cyclical problem for him, or something along those lines. For me, this even ranges into guilty. My fiancee has no problem taking care of herself, yet the fact that I don't seem to be having sex as much as I think I should makes me feel even more guilty, driving me into a vicious fucking cycle which destroys any sort of libido or sexual prowess I may think I have.

5) Masturbation - find out how often, etc etc. I've had to stop completely when I fall into my cycles, because if I know my only method of release is sex, I look forward to it a lot more.

This got way too long - I just kind of understand this, feel this, and want the OP to know that there are many, MANY ways to fix this, and that this relationship is totally viable. I deal with this all the time (maybe it's time for ME to go to the doctor), but I've figured out some ways (as listed above) to help it along. We have sex 3-4 times a week when I'm doing good, 1-2 or less when we're not. It's been once every 2 weeks occasionally - it happens for various reasons. If my frame of mind is wrong, or something else is wrong, I just don't feel sexy. Maybe it's the perfectionist in me pushing things away. I don't know...

Good luck, and good fuck.
posted by SNWidget at 6:36 PM on March 31, 2009 [13 favorites]


From the original post, and the followup comments, it sounds like your boyfriend is putting the blame and responsibility for this situation right on you. That is plain old BS, and it is not your responsibility to fix it all by yourself, either. As others have said, I don't think he is being as truthful with you--or himself--as he could be.

That said, the first step--if this is a big enough concern for him to keep from advancing your relationship--is to get himself to a doctor to get checked out. He is an adult, he can do that.
posted by so_gracefully at 9:04 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


First, let's just look at how much effort SNWidget is putting into keeping his shit together. Is your boyfriend doing the same? If he wants the chase, is he chasing you?

I also just want to comment on the dress-up/costumes. That is SO NOT my thing. I am kind of a prude. I dated a guy who had libido problems. He was Bavarian, and I happened to have a dirndl that I'd bought before I met him. We were always supposed to be finding an event where I could wear my dirndl and he his lederhosen, but it hadn't happened. One day when he was on his way over, I decided just for fun, not trying to be sexy, to try on the dirndl, which he'd never seen me in. Oh man. It was the first time he was interested in sex in months. I was shocked because he was an even bigger prude than I. But I think it was just new, unexpected. Almost like you're a new girl, or it's a side of you he's never seen, which are huge elements of "the chase."

I'm not saying to go buy a pleather nurse's uniform in a plastic bag from CVS, because I think the other factor was that I wasn't trying to make it a big deal. I wasn't putting on the outfit right before bed, looking at him all expectantly. I was just trying it on, planning to change right back out of it so that we could go out. I definitely think that performance anxiety and guilt come into it, and his feeling like you want more than he's able to give.

Maybe think up an excuse to dress "sexy corporate" and be "on your way somewhere."

Also, this

He's the one who brought this up. The context was something like, "we've been talking about marriage, but I don't think we should do that right now. I don't want to have sex with you as often as is typical for me, and I want to resolve that before we make this commitment."

makes me feel like there might be other issues here. Maybe he's not as ready for marriage as he says/thinks.
posted by thebazilist at 9:04 PM on March 31, 2009


There've been a couple suggestions to have him go to a doctor; I'm thirding that. There are a number of things that could be affecting his libido, particularly if he says he knows that this isn't typical of him. Him being willing to work on this is a really, really good sign -- even if you don't know what's afoot right now, you know that he is really, really interested in figuring it out.

The fact that he's also said that it could be about "the thrill of the chase" is also a sign that he's really trying to figure out what the hell's going on. Not that I'm saying that he's right about this - I don't know whether he is or isn't -- but the fact that he's said this means that he's trying to dig deep and study himself and think about this.

It may take a while to sort this out, but it sounds like he really, really is committed to trying. I was with a guy once whose libido also really took a downturn, but he wasn't anywhere near as interested in fixing that, and things limped along for a long time until they just went splat. The fact that your boyfriend really wants to fix this is a good, good sign.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:36 PM on March 31, 2009


A commonly belief is that anything is or should be fixable.

Consider breaking up. Greener pastures await.
posted by hpliferaft at 10:01 PM on March 31, 2009


A commonly belief is that anything is or should be fixable.

Shouldn't one attempt to fix it first, especially if both parties are willing to try, before giving things up?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:34 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been the one with the low sex drive (I am female). Here's what factored into it for me:

1. BC pills. Not an issue here, but get his hormone levels checked out and investigate adjusting his medication. You say this started before the meds - but before the meds, it seems likely he was depressed. So that was the problem then, maybe the meds are perpetuating the problem.

2. Depression. I had it. Even as it waned, it took awhile for my sex drive to come back.

3. Exhaustion. I was working too hard. The only time I had enough energy for sex was on the weekend. Consider this.

4. Monogamy. I too, am invigorated by the thrill of the chase, tend to be less sexually excited in an emotionally intimate relationship after awhile, and when we opened up our relationship, the excitement I felt in my pursuit of others transferred back into my primary relationship. YMMV.
posted by mai at 9:10 AM on April 1, 2009


Wellbutrin is often cited as an anti-depressant that doesn't have a high rate of sexual side effects (in fact, can sometimes boost libido).

That's what they said about the one they put me on too. And yet, getting off it made getting off a much more appealing activity. He should see his doctor about this and the other things mentioned.
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:30 AM on April 1, 2009


I skimmed and didn't see anyone suggest this, so I will. This is a broader solution than is called for by your specific problem, but I still think it's relevant.

Think about couples counseling. My new(2 months) wife and I did that as a bit of a self-imposed requirement before even getting engaged. We learned a bunch about each other and how to deal/communicate with each other. And it's made talking about/solving issues like this much easier. In many respects it's like having a translator or a referee.
posted by specialnobodie at 11:43 AM on April 1, 2009


[few comments removed - please do not play predicting games abotu what MeFi might do if the genders were reversed - metatalk is your option.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:35 PM on April 1, 2009


How often do you touch each other? sometimes something as simple as spending a half an hour just touching each other (non-sexually) can help the mind ...wander. And if he's depressed, he might want some extra contact (this varies though).
posted by subbes at 8:24 AM on April 3, 2009


« Older Why is there no email address ...   |  I am looking for cross-discipl... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.