Join 3,516 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Why should the fire die?
November 26, 2012 8:34 AM   Subscribe

What do you do when the sexual fire's gone? How do you get it back?

I've been with the same partner for nearly 20 years. We have a five-year-old son who is the light of our lives. My partner is kind, funny, and just an all-around good person. The only problem is that I don't feel sexually attracted to him any more. In fact, I haven't felt attracted to him for years now. As far as I can tell, the attraction pretty much died shortly after the birth of our son. So yes, it's been over five years. We still have sex around twice a week, and I know he still wants me. He is affectionate and touchy and I reciprocate as much as possible, but my heart hasn't been in it, not for a long while. He just doesn't turn me on. He used to, of course he did. I wouldn't have committed my life to him if he didn't. At first I chalked it up to post-baby craziness that all people go through, but I'm sad and scared that it hasn't come back. Sex with him is often a chore that I get through, although I'm very good at faking my excitement, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't notice. I honestly can't remember the last time he made me come. Usually I just end up taking care of myself when he's not around.

For a long time I just assumed it was my problem, my hormones that were out of whack, that things would settle down eventually and we'd get back to where we were pre-kid. However, I discovered a couple months ago, that it wasn't something wrong with me. I've played a well-known MMORPG for the last year or so, and a while back there was a player I really hit it off with. It's a story that's been told a thousand times, but through tons of flirty in-game messages, we got to know each other really well, or at least as well as you can in an online medium. Inevitably things took a turn for the racy, and I let it get into full-blown sexting messages. It felt so good to feel that very basic lust again, even though I knew it wasn't authentic. Still, I knew what I was doing was wrong, so I soon cut things off with him (nicely) and closed my account, because I could feel it getting serious and I was already experiencing a ton of guilt.

And now I don't know what to do. The online daliance was a one-time thing, very out of character for me, and not something I will repeat. But the one thing it proved to me is that my lust and need for sexual fulfillment on a most basic level hasn't died, but I'm not getting that from my partner. I love him, I love being around him, I love the life we are building together, and I love the life we are building for our son. I do not want that to end under any circumstances, especially since both he and I came from pretty awful divorces, and have said over and over that we are going to avoid that at all costs and not put our son through that.

I feel like I'm in this impossible situation. We have in all other ways a really good level of communication, but I can't bear to tell him that I am just not sexually attracted to him anymore. It would break his heart and wreck his self-esteem, and to me it seems like it would be the height of selfishness for me to do that to him. At the same time, I hate not being turned on by him. I absolutely hate it. I miss being turned on. I want him to inspire the same level of lust and craving that some dumb guy on a dumb online game did, but he just doesn't. I don't have the first idea what to do about it. I don't want to live the next 50 years of my life without lust, where sex is uninspiring and completely unsatisfying.

I've sometimes wondered about open marriages, but I don't think that's the right answer for us, because if I were to flip this situation around, I would be devastated if I knew he needed to be with someone else to be sexually satisfied. And that just makes me feel like a giant hypocrite, because sometimes I find myself fantasizing about a random hook-up with a guy, getting fucked as I so badly want to be, even though I know that's dangerous, and odds are it would just be empty and meaningless sex, and probably be more damaging to my psyche than I would realize at this point. But that fantasy hasn't gone away.

Other things that might be important:

- I'm not a SAHM, and our kid has been in daycare most of his life, and just started kindergarten, so I don't have the complaints of it being all about the kid all the time.
- We are very good co-parents and partners. I do not feel like I bear an unfair portion of the child-raising duties, or keeping the house clean.
- My partner and I both work, but not excessively. We have usual, boring 8-5 jobs. We do fun things together, both as a family and as a couple. He and I have dates on a semi-regular basis, like going out to a nice dinner, going to the movies, and so forth, but every time we do it's like I'm going out with a great friend. There is zero sense of romance or lust there.
- I am definitely able to satisfy him, quite easily.
- We are not prudish in the bedroom, we do all sorts of positions and things. I'm not shy about anal or oral.
- He is a good-looking guy. His hygiene isn't always up to par, but that's a minor issue.
- We both are physically active and lead engaged lives. We don't watch a ton of TV. We eat a healthy, balanced diet most of the time.

Please help me. I feel like there is no good answer here, and I'm hoping that one of you might prove me wrong. Email is missingthefire@gmail.com.
posted by missingthefire to Human Relations (51 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
It says that you haven't talked about this with your husband, but you really need to. This type of issue isn't usually the kind of thing that can be solved in isolation. You'll need his support and assistance

Also, maybe think about what aspect of your online relationship made it so exciting for you. If you can figure out what exactly was it about that interraction that got you so excited, you may be able to better understand what you feel is lacking in your relationship with your husband.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:41 AM on November 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I would look into a sex therapist. I'm not sure if it would be better for you to go alone or as a couple, but there is totally help out there for you.

The best way to bring this up to your husband would not be to say bluntly "I'm not attracted to you anymore," but something like "I feel like since we've had a kid and settled down, some of the fire has gone out of our relationship, and I want to get it back."
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:49 AM on November 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


The fact that it happened right around the birth of your son makes me think that, random internet dalliance aside, there really might be a physical / hormonal component to this. Have you talked to your gynecologist or other doctor? Sexual health is an important component of your overall health, and talking about it is definitely a conversation you can have with your physician. Even if she doesn't have answers, she might have some good questions to ask you that can lead you into a discussion with your husband.

If that doesn't go anywhere, and given that ending the marriage is off the table and so is opening it up, then I'm sorry, you have to talk to your husband about it. Left unattended, issues like these can ruin good marriages and CAUSE nasty divorces. There are a lot of things you can do to fix issues like these, but you need to talk to him and probably also to a therapist about it.
posted by KathrynT at 8:53 AM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


do you think he's good looking, or is that trying to be an objective assessment? And if you aren't sexually attracted to him, why are you having sex with him multiple times a week? This is the sort of thing that may be pretty confusing to him -- how would he know?

Is there anything that he could do that would be attractive to you? Is it just the age of the relationship?
posted by garlic at 8:53 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seconding involving your husband, but I'd say avoid framing this as "I'm not sexually attracted to you anymore." If you were attracted to him once, and he hasn't since undergone some enormous personal or physical change that effectively converts him into a different person, then it sounds as though the key variable here is not your husband as a person, but your joint marital situation, or the relationship you share, or possibly your personal outlook on life, not your husband as a person. So it's reasonable to include your husband in your quest to renew the flame, but you might try approaching it with a view toward finding what's missing in your relationship dynamic right now, not what's missing in him.

I'm so not a therapist, but since (a) you mentioned that both your sets of parents divorced messily, and (b) you seem to emphasize how well everything else is going with your husband, have you considered the possibility that what you might be missing is a source of tension in the relationship? If your primary familial model was kind of a high-stress, high-drama one, then it makes perfect sense that you'd tend to experience greater attraction in situations where there's a little bit of distance/drama/danger between you and your partner. Certainly the online flirtation would fit that bill, and it sounds as though everything about your non-sexual married life right now is pretty safe and tension-free. Do you ever feel a bit more attracted to your husband after fights, or when the emotional equilibrium between the two of you has been temporarily disrupted a bit? If so, then that's something you might consider exploring in bedroom role-playing.
posted by Bardolph at 8:55 AM on November 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


5 years is way too late to try and fix this. You needed to catch this early.

If you are unwilling to seek a healthy outlet with another man, then you have only two choices :

- pleasure yourself as often as you need to, and no longer rely on your husband to satisfy you.

- wait it out. Libidos decline as you get older, and the intensity you feel now will not be at the same level 2,5,10 years from now.

Finally, in the future, don't make unwise and unrealistic promises to each other like "we'll NEVER get divorced.." as a divorce is a perfectly legitimate solution to a situation such as yours, particularly in comparison to adultery.
posted by Kruger5 at 8:55 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kruger5, I respectfully disagree. It is never too late to fix things like this. Earlier is better, but given love, respect, and compassion on both sides, anything can be lovingly addressed at any time. OP, don't give up, this is a solvable problem.
posted by KathrynT at 9:01 AM on November 26, 2012 [45 favorites]


KathrynT :

She's cheated once already - the respect and love you mention has already been violated. She is on the road to adultery, better be practical.
posted by Kruger5 at 9:07 AM on November 26, 2012


5 years is way too late to try and fix this. You needed to catch this early.

I strongly disagree. But you should find a therapist who does sex/couples counseling tout de suite. As KathrynT suggested, you can get a referral from your physician or gynecologist, whomever you're most comfortable with, or call through the listings in your city to see whom you feel a good rapport with over the phone.

You've been sitting on this for a long time, and it will probably take some time and effort to fix it, but it is fixable. Please don't consign yourself to a life of isolation, misery, and shame as the poster above suggested. You clearly love your husband and your life with him, and you're willing to work to make this better. That is a solid foundation on which to repair your sex life.
posted by Spinneret at 9:11 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just because it's already been violated (and, truthfully, we don't know if her husband would consider that cheating. I would, but different couples draw that line in different places) doesn't mean that it's broken irreparably. Marriages recover from worse situations than this all the time.

She says "I love him, I love being around him, I love the life we are building together, and I love the life we are building for our son. I do not want that to end under any circumstances[.]" If we take her at her word, which we have no reason not to, then it only makes sense to try and solve this one problem rather than throw out the baby with the bathwater.
posted by KathrynT at 9:12 AM on November 26, 2012 [17 favorites]


A few things that you may be neglecting to think about:

Online is very, very different than in-person. Online, all the sex is fantastic - because it is fantasy sex. There's no flab, no sweat, no bad hygiene. Also, people can think out what they're going to say in advance. I've had awesome sexy messages/phonetime with people where it was an absolute fizzle in real life. Don't make more of it than it needs.

Also, there's no way to sugarcoat this, but: passing a baby out of the place you usually have sex in does funky things to your body that make your orgasms more difficult to achieve. How are your pelvic floor muscles? Was there any tearing? Did you guys approach sex post-baby like a new thing, or like a return to the same-old, same-old? Because things are totally different and some positions will just not be as pleasurable - which may make you think you just don't enjoy sex, which is a cycle that keeps repeating and repeating forever.

When you "finish yourself", what are you doing? What are you fantasizing about? Is it different than the things your husband is doing to you, or that your husband is?

When your online partner was sexting to you, what were you thinking about? What was he saying? (And was it, in some ways, the lure of the forbidden that made it sexy?)
posted by corb at 9:16 AM on November 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Jesus. 5 years is a long time to be faking it twice a week. This is something you should have been talking about 5 years ago but we don’t have a time machine here. You did a lot of what you’ve done because you were worried about hurting him, that’s important. But it is also a textbook case of storing negativity instead of addressing it. Here is how I would proceed from here:

1 Stop having sex when you don’t want to. (this is something everyone should do always) This may mean you stop having sex with your husband all together.

2 He will likely want to know why the sex has stopped. This is when you ask him about the couples counseling appointment that you’d like him to attend with you. (something soon, within a couple days)

3 At said appointment you pretty much read him this post. You’ll want to condense this into bullet points of good and bad. (I would personally leave out the WoW romance) Will this be terrible? Yes it will.

4 Make a plan in that appointment for more appointments (if he is interested)

5 Those appointments are for making a plan on how/if you are going to move forward with your marriage.

It is surely possible that this will end your marriage. It is certain to end the lie you are living. The alternative is to just do step 1 and continue to not discuss things for another 5 years. I don’t believe step 1 should be negotiable… do you?
posted by French Fry at 9:37 AM on November 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


She says "I love him, I love being around him, I love the life we are building together, and I love the life we are building for our son. I do not want that to end under any circumstances[.]" If we take her at her word, which we have no reason not to, then it only makes sense to try and solve this one problem rather than throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I agree with this. There is a child involved, and while I'm don't believe that Divorce Is Bad For Kids OMG, I do believe that when children are involved the stakes are higher. Here is why: even after divorce, your child's other parent will still be in your life, perhaps very much in your life depending on how you share your parenting. There are no clean slates when you divorce with kids (unless the other parent is out of the picture completely, and that's rare).

I would visit both a gynecologist (to see if there are correctable hormonal and physical problems that are interfering with your sex life) and a couples counselor (to work on issues between you and your partner). Good luck! I think, given what you've posted, that you have a decent chance of making things work if you honestly work on your problems now. Five years is a while but it's not a lifetime - people have "fixed" their marriages even after twenty years.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:38 AM on November 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


5 years is way too late to try and fix this.

I would have to disagree with this. The "fixibility" of most marital issues is largely a function of how much time, energy and effort the couple is willing to invest in seeing the issue resolved.

To the OP: Talking about this with your husband is definitely in the cards here. I don't think you need to go complete full disclosure right away with the details of your sexting; I think that is best addressed inside a counseling context.

The main point is that this is not just a "you" problem, it's an "us" problem (i.e., you AND your husband). It sounds like the foundations of your marriage are strong; foundations are what let you rebuild when other parts of the house get weak.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:40 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


How about you start flirting with your husband? Yeah, you don't feel like it...but do it anyway! Because most likely, he'll flirt back. You know, like the guy online did. Because it sounds like that's what's gone wrong here - neither of you is actively trying to seduce the other any more.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:41 AM on November 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


I think the letter writer handled her online-only dalliance just right: take it as a wake-up call, put it down, walk away, and focus on making changes in her real-life love life.

I think the real sticky wicket here is that you've been lying to your husband about your enthusiasm/arousal. That's a really tough thing to discuss in any event but the additional lying is going to make it even harder to resolve. Even though you don't describe it in your letter, I have to imagine that there are some tough emotions smoldering under there about this: resentment or anger or disappointment. That's also going to make it hard for you to let go and get crazy in the sack.

I think there are compassionate ways to bring this issue out in the open so it can be fixed. Tell him that this is hard to talk about, that you love him and don't want to hurt him, and that the same instinct is what led you to stay engaged in bed when you first started having this struggle, because you thought you'd bounce back. But you didn't, and now you're in a pickle, and need to change how things are. This will be hard to hear. If you guys can navigate it yourselves from there, great, but if not, by all means, get a counselor and take it from there.

But bottom line: time to start being honest, for your sake and his. Intimacy involves taking risks...

Good luck. It will be worth it!
posted by Sublimity at 9:47 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the suggestions to talk to a therapist are very good. As an intermediate step, you might benefit from reading Rekindling Desire; while it's a self-help book, it's a very pragmatic one that amplifies a lot of the best advice given in this thread. And, more importantly, very forcefully drives home the point that you're very much not alone in experiencing what you're experiencing, and it's by no means too late to do anything about it.

My gut reaction is that you should give the book a read and then, after digesting, give it to your husband by way of starting a conversation that may or may not lead to therapy. But that many steps out, it's your call and you should see how you feel at that point.

Good luck!
posted by COBRA! at 9:57 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, I really appreciate all the answers here. I know there have been a few questions asked of me, so I'll try to answer them as best I can:

- I don't know that open marriage is off the table per se; I like the idea of having a sex-for-the-sake-of-sex fling, because I'm certainly not looking for a life partner. But as I said, I would have a very tough time if the situation were reversed and I knew he needed to fuck another woman to be satisfied. I am reasonably certain I couldn't cope with that. So it just seems unfair.

- I'm having sex with him because every time I naiively keep hoping it will be different. And because I don't want to hurt him and let him know that he's not doing it for me anymore. If I'm being completely honest, he's never been Superman in the sack. I was his first and only, so I've had to teach him a lot of things. And, pre-kid, I just got used to the idea that he'd never be beyond awesome. I think it was here that I first read about the "Cost of the Relationship" phenomenon, and I was ok with that at the time. I've become decreasingly ok with that, obviously.

- He is objectively good-looking. I really don't know how to see him separate from how I see him as my partner.

- Divorces: The misery of our respective parents' marriages is not something we want to replicate. At least I definitely don't. There was nothing there worth modeling.

- Online dalliance: Yeah, it was the forbidden aspect of it that was largely part of the turn-on. Also, it was the aspect of being desired by someone other than my partner. The seduction was definitely key. I have no idea how to tell my partner, "Please seduce me," because the times he has gamely tried, it's inevitably awkward and clumsy and the opposite of sexy. I love the boy, but he is not smooth. At all. I guess I want and need to be wooed, but asking him to do that feels like when you have to ask someone to apologize to you, rather than them knowing they need to apologize. I want it to be organic, rather than doing it because I said so.

- Physiological stuff: I had a c-section, so pelvic floor muscles and other biological things that might negatively impact sex were not affected. I'm also within three pounds of what I was before the baby.

I will seek out counseling, even though I'm absolutely terrified of it. To our friends and family, we are the super couple. The perfect ones. And I already feel like a failure just anticipating this conversation.
posted by missingthefire at 10:09 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


When was the last time you had a night out without your son? Like, an overnight night out. Like in a hotel room while your son was with grandparents being spoiled with popcorn, tv, and ice cream.

My husband and I just did this. And that's all we really needed to get everything back on track. Attraction, even within marriages, can wan and wax like everything else. And marriage takes work. For us, it took a night in a hotel room with the kids gone to really help us to be focused on each other the way each of us deserves.

- Physiological stuff: I had a c-section, so pelvic floor muscles and other biological things that might negatively impact sex were not affected

I wouldn't be too sure about this. I too had a c-section with my first, and I still had pelvic floor problems and had to see a physical therapist. Don't rule that out just because you had a c-section. Pregnancy, not just labor and delivery, can negatively affect those muscles.
posted by zizzle at 10:14 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will seek out counseling, even though I'm absolutely terrified of it. To our friends and family, we are the super couple. The perfect ones. And I already feel like a failure just anticipating this conversation.

My kid is happily spooning his breakfast onto the ground so I have to make this quick, but I had to quote this out and say: everything you are terrified of about counseling is exactly the reason you should go. You have expectations and fears about people's perceptions vs. reality that are almost certainly holding you back in key ways, things that you may have learned from your parents' crappy marriage that you haven't even realized are maladaptive.

Perfect marriages can benefit from counseling, and IMHO really should. Just because you love each other doesn't mean that you necessarily have dealt with all your crap, both individual and joint, and getting that crap on the table to be dealt with often requires a strong relationship. Don't think that counseling makes you a failure; great athletes have coaches, after all.
posted by KathrynT at 10:15 AM on November 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


On the wanting to be wooed and not wanting to have to ask: I have extensive experience with this trap, and others similar, so I feel you. Long story short, you absolutely need to get the subject on the table, talk about it, get him to learn your love language. Too much to talk about in not enough time right now--but by all means MeMail me if you want to discuss.

Also, please, please do not feel bad or a failure because the two of you don't have the ability to read each others' minds. Being "the perfect couple" doesn't mean you don't have bumps in the road--it just means you do a good job of navigating them together. Sounds like you have an awesome loving marriage and I'm sure you guys can do that--though yes, it's so scary to rock the boat. But worth it, worth it, worth it!
posted by Sublimity at 10:21 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everyone has offered good suggestions about how to address this. All I can say is I would NOT tell him you have been faking it twice a week for five years. Say you're not feeling the fire any more but fudge the length of time (and only mention the length if he asks). The steps you need to take this are the same whether you tell him it's been half a year or five years. The only difference will be his feelings of betrayal.

If I were you I'd also not tell him about the online thing, only say you're missing the excitement of the new and forbidden.
posted by schroedinger at 10:21 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess I want and need to be wooed, but asking him to do that feels like when you have to ask someone to apologize to you, rather than them knowing they need to apologize. I want it to be organic, rather than doing it because I said so.

It feels worth noting - what's beeing going on so far? It *is* organic. Everything you "introduce into the system" influences the direction of organic growth, and I promise you I'm not trying to be mean, but what you've introduced is a bunch of fake orgasms. If you're good at faking, and he's "not smooth" like you say, he has no reason to think anything is wrong.

It feels like what you really wish is for him to wake up to all this and somehow "fix it", and take the responsibility for doing the hard, next things out of your hands, but until you introduce something besides the status quo to your relationship, that won't happen. I've been in a situation of dampened desire, and I really do feel for what you're going through.
posted by ersatzkat at 10:29 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess I want and need to be wooed, but asking him to do that feels like when you have to ask someone to apologize to you, rather than them knowing they need to apologize. I want it to be organic, rather than doing it because I said so.

Sometimes you need to ask for things you feel you shouldn't have to ask for. Typically it's the only way of getting those things.

He might be good at wooing you if he knew how important it was.

He will never be good at reading your mind.
posted by French Fry at 10:43 AM on November 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I guess I want and need to be wooed, but asking him to do that feels like when you have to ask someone to apologize to you, rather than them knowing they need to apologize. I want it to be organic, rather than doing it because I said so.

You can tell him in generalities what you like, and give examples, and then he can be creative on his own.

Ex. If I don't tell my partner anything, he might decide that taking me camping where we don't shower for a week is a great and romantic thing, because that's what his family does.

I tell him instead: actually, I really like good food, and I love home made meals. Now he knows to cook for me (and he's an excellent chef!) to make me feel loved. He still puts lots of thought into it (most of the time he chooses the menu), but now it's also something I'll appreciate.

Also, I think "being smooth" is very subjective. I absolutely hate, hate, HATE super expensive restaurants (especially on earlier on first dates). And going to concerts. And seeing (romantic) movies on every... single... date. But apparently a lot of women love that stuff. So those moves would work on other women, but make me feel awkward as hell. (Which is why I've learned to talk about what I want.)
posted by ethidda at 11:10 AM on November 26, 2012


It's possible that I'm going catch hell for raising it, but what the heck. You might consider researching the therapeutic uses of MDMA. I believe in talk therapy, but in the right circumstances one shared ecstasy experience between people who love and care about each other is worth months of therapy.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:22 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


We have in all other ways a really good level of communication, but I can't bear to tell him that I am just not sexually attracted to him anymore. It would break his heart and wreck his self-esteem, and to me it seems like it would be the height of selfishness for me to do that to him.

The trouble is, not being honest with him about this aspect of your relationship is putting a wedge between you two. After five years of faking orgasms, I bet the feeling of distance and "he doesn't understand what I need" and "what's wrong with me?" and "what's wrong with him?" that you're dealing with all alone are causing way more problems than the simple fact that you're not feeling any fire with him. Healthy partnerships are a team effort, but you've cut out your teammate on this issue. If you can discuss things openly and honestly with him, then it can be the two of you working together against this lack-of-passion problem, rather than you working by yourself against the problem and even against him. Having a shared goal to work on together (i.e. Revitalize our Sex Life) can bring new connection and intimacy, which are things you've lost not only because you're not having good sex, but also because you're not being honest with him.

As others have pointed out, you can frame this discussion as "I feel like the passion has fizzled" rather than "You don't turn me on, and you haven't for a long time." When you tell yourself that there's no kind way to bring this up, you're letting your fear of the conversation shut down any attempts to come up with a kind way to mention the problem. Luckily, MeFi has suggested the less-hurtful way to initiate the discussion, and I bet if you spend some time thinking about it, you'll realize that the kinder version is the more honest version, too. Emphasize that this is an issue for the two of you to tackle together, not something he has to fix, or something you're just complaining about. It might be helpful to suggest concrete things you think he can do to help, and volunteer concrete changes that you're planning to try as well, but be sure to ask for his ideas about things each of you can do, too. Teamwork is the key, because you haven't been a team on this issue for so long.

One thing I would really recommend is trying to keep some humor in the discussion. When people feel like the sex is bad, they get all serious about it, and imagine that sex has to be all passionate and serious to be good. But a lot of times, good sex is silly. You have to be able to laugh together at missteps, weird body sounds, attempted new positions that turn out to be terrible, whatever. Being honest and getting your sex life back on track is scary, but humor is a really good antidote to fear.
posted by vytae at 11:23 AM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, and to put together the humor aspect and the what-to-discuss aspect of my advice: perhaps you could brainstorm together, some ideas for how to fix your sex life. And do it with the understanding that you're working in the true spirit of brainstorming. You say whatever idea comes into your head, no matter how silly, and it gets written on the list. There's no judging, you're just throwing out ideas. Not only does this give you a chance to be silly ("Rent a hot air balloon and have sex in it!" "Hire a director and make a porn movie together!" "Eat dinner off each other's bodies every night!"), it also gives you a chance to bring up real ideas that might actually help, with a lot less pressure than a serious-ideas-only conversation. You can bring out the list another time to discuss which ideas might be worth trying, but the initial brainstorming session should be a total free-for-all. And maybe once things are running smoothly again in your sex lives, you'll find out he wasn't totally kidding about the hot air balloon.
posted by vytae at 11:32 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm going to differ with most of the people here. I agree you should go to counseling, but I think you should go by yourself.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds as if your husband is being the same person, in bed and out, as he's always been. It's you who changed. Which brings up a question: you said he was never that great in bed, but it's not clear what that means. Specifically, you taught him to please you sexually, it seems, but were you ever really super-duper *in love* with him? this involves both sex and not-sex (i.e., romantic feelings).

If you never felt very very in love with him, then having a child (which appears to be the only thing that's changed in your relationship equation) may have been all you needed to tip the scales in the not-attracted direction. This is not such an uncommon phenomenon.

Your husband isn't just your lover anymore -- you're now part of a family, and "familiarity" is not always consistent with exciting sex. (We could call this the Elvis Phenomenon -- remember how Elvis couldn't have sex with his wife after she had a baby? I think in that case he was repulsed by the idea, but, still, it's not uncommon to view your sexual partner as uninteresting sexually or "bland" when he becomes Parental).

But -- as I said earlier -- before you think about how to get back to where you were before sexually with your husband, you need to think about *where* you were before with your husband. Were you sexually attracted to him enough, and *in love* with him enough, to want to get back there, if you can? If honestly the answer is "no" then I would not involve him in a whole project designed to create excitement when there really wasn't all that much to begin with and, sadly, you might decide that you want to co-parent with him without remaining married.

You also have to try to get rid of the pressure of "everyone thinks we're the perfect couple." It's your life, not theirs. And obviously your child is not going to benefit from your staying together when you are craving another life and no doubt engaging in secretive activities on the side.

But, summing up, I think you have to think about the *in love* part before the sex part. You're not excited anymore, and I don't think that manufacturing some "hot sex" scenarios is going to do it for you. You know who he is, intimately. Either he has the potential, in your mind (and body), to be the lover you want to go the distance with, or he doesn't, and you need to try to be honest with yourself about it.
posted by DMelanogaster at 11:43 AM on November 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


As I see it, you have a couple of options.

Option 1) Keep going down this road where you pretend you're happy but aren't. Eventually give in to your needs and have an affair which will inevitably be discovered.
End Result: You end up divorced, your husband will hate you for a long time afterwards, and depending on how much influence he has on your son (and how much he chooses to share), your son may end up hating you as well. You will probably hate yourself regardless.
Reward Factor: Terrible.

Option 2) Fast-forward to the divorce without ever telling your husband the reasons why, because you're too worried about hurting his feelings.
End Result: His feelings will be hurt by the divorce, but as long as you do this in a way that is respectful of his feelings (and don't immediately jump into bed with somebody new) he will probably respect you. You may however find your options more limited than you think. There have been several AskMe's posted on how the dating scene is not very kind to older women.
Reward Factor: Sub-optimal.

Option 3) Tell your husband about the problems in your sex-life, and attempt to work them out. His feelings will be hurt.
End Result: Unknown. You may manage to rekindle the spark and save the relationship, or it may fail - in which case the projected track will default to Option 1 or Option 2, depending on the choices you make when ending the relationship.
Reward Factor: Unknown.

Based on this analysis, I'd say it's better to pick an option with an unknown outcome rather than one where you know the outcome will be pretty lousy, don't you think?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:33 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am shocked to read that for the past five years you have been having an enormous problem with your relationship but you haven't made any effort to talk about it with your partner. I can understand the notion of "fake it until you make it" but for five years? If I were your partner and reading this, I would be utterly devastated. What is the point of having a life partner if you can't work together to resolve your problems? Honestly I think that five years of full on cheating would be just about as bad as five years of "we have a problem but I am not going to tell you about it or enlist your help in resolving it".

So the first thing you need to do is stop the charade. Don't hit him with a mallet, though. Just say you're not feeling it. And that you two need to work together to resolve it. Whatever shape that resolution takes, you need to do it as a team. Anything from therapy to counseling to divorce to an open marriage to you just finding some action on the side. Whatever it is. You need to work on it together. Together together together.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:40 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are you on any type of hormonal birth control? I was fine with it for years and then one day fwooooop sex drive death. I've tried them all, my body just won't deal with it.

I'm not sure how this would be related to being aroused by a stranger and not your husband, but after 5 years it's worth looking into.
posted by Dynex at 12:52 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hormonal birth control: Nope. Not an option for me for unrelated medical reasons.

Kid-free overnight: I'd love to do it, but we have no relatives within driving distance whom I'd trust with him overnight. Also, my son has some minor sleep issues that require our involvement, so staying overnight with a friend isn't doable right now. It is something that would be doable in a yearish, I'm guessing.
posted by missingthefire at 1:03 PM on November 26, 2012


I have no idea how to tell my partner, "Please seduce me," because the times he has gamely tried, it's inevitably awkward and clumsy and the opposite of sexy. I love the boy, but he is not smooth. At all. I guess I want and need to be wooed, but asking him to do that feels like when you have to ask someone to apologize to you, rather than them knowing they need to apologize.

Here's how you say it:

"You know how we do lots of awesome and sexy stuff! I have an idea for great sexy stuff. The next time we're out on a date, instead of just going to a movie and dinner, I want us to go somewhere, enter separately, and pretend that we don't know each other, and you have to pick me up."

This is a Known Sex Fantasy, so it may not present as: "I never desire you" or "You don't love/woo me enough" but more as "Kinky, whee!"

Another thing that may be really, really, really valuable is the Love Languages stuff mentioned above. I know it's an AskMe favorite recommendation, but that's because it is useful and works and not hooey at all. Try picking it up! It's a relatively cheap paperback and can really help.
posted by corb at 1:14 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the issue here is about THRESHOLDS. A forbidden online attraction or an affair is highly effective at producing arousal because it meets and surpasses your threshold for stimulation just by virtue of being novel, relatively two-dimensional, and detached from the banal realities of life. The root of the problem is that your threshold can really creep upwards with the passage of time and the piling-on of mundane duties and familiarity, to the point that it's just higher than most drama-less LTRs can reach. So, you have choices. Within the confines of monogamy, you can lower your threshold (alcohol, pot, ecstasy, etc.), or you can up the stimulus level (porn, roleplay, hotels, etc.), but you must make absolute peace with the fact that NONE OF IT IS EVER GOING TO BE AS EFFORTLESSLY VISCERALLY EXCITING AS THINGS LIKE FORBIDDEN INTERACTIONS THAT ARE INHERENTLY HIGHLY STIMULATING. Seriously, repeat that statement ten times and let that dream go. But don't underestimate the profound effect something as simple as an animal mask, or the perfect music, or a super hot movie, can have on an encounter. Better to have one or two really good sessions a month than two yuck fucks *shudder* a week.
posted by SinAesthetic at 1:43 PM on November 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


I wonder if part of it is you see him as a "daddy" now.


I know that for some men, when their wives become mothers it becomes harder for them to see them as sexual beings and not just "mom." I don't see why it wouldn't be possible with the genders reversed.


Anyway, good sex starts in the brain, and I bet if you sit down with a counselor you might find out where the sizzle went. Good for you that you want to work on this!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:52 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


To our friends and family, we are the super couple. The perfect ones. And I already feel like a failure just anticipating this conversation.
This is what super couples do - they open up lines of communication when they need to in whatever means they think will work best. Doesn't have to be scary.

As for seducing you, be sure to tell him what you want and what you need/how your need it if you're not getting it. Yes, I know it's like giving someone a shopping list for your birthday, but without that, he'll only stumble on that, if ever.

Think to keep in mind - does he even think there's a problem? If it were me, it would break my heart if I found out that Mrs. Plinth was miserable and there was nothing I could've done.
posted by plinth at 1:56 PM on November 26, 2012


Kid-free overnight: I'd love to do it, but we have no relatives within driving distance whom I'd trust with him overnight. Also, my son has some minor sleep issues that require our involvement, so staying overnight with a friend isn't doable right now. It is something that would be doable in a yearish, I'm guessing.

My husband and I have a somewhat similar problem, so what we did was when we visited my parents this past weekend, the kids stayed at my parents and we went to a hotel for one of the four nights we were in town. We couldn't afford it financially, but we also couldn't afford not to do it in other ways. We really needed a night for our marriage to ourselves.

I don't mean to imply this is a magic bullet. But it definitely worked for us in reconnecting some and just being able to be with each other in a way that hadn't been possible since before the kids were born.
posted by zizzle at 2:10 PM on November 26, 2012


I have no idea how to tell my partner, "Please seduce me," because the times he has gamely tried, it's inevitably awkward and clumsy and the opposite of sexy. I love the boy, but he is not smooth. At all. I guess I want and need to be wooed, but asking him to do that feels like when you have to ask someone to apologize to you, rather than them knowing they need to apologize. I want it to be organic, rather than doing it because I said so.

Here is the key to your problem. You have unrealistic expectations. You are essentially unwilling to communicate what you need to your husband, yet you want him to organically understand what it is you want. This is, pardon the strong language, incredibly unrealistic.

You do not have good communication with your partner. At all. You have not told him how you feel for years and refuse to do so for the desire for a perfect sexual situation where he reads your mind and does exactly what you want.

You need to ask for what you want, starting as soon as possible. You will never get 100% of what you want from any sexual partner, ever. You need to get as much as you can from your partner, which is a fair thing to attempt and get.

Finally, you need to stop taking your partner for granted. The fact is if you cheat and get caught, the percentages are not good for your marriage. Experience has shown that the first thing that happens at that point is a sudden onrush of all your desire for your husband because you will not have him ever again. And that will be the most painful and saddest outcome possible.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:50 PM on November 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


The single biggest mistake people make in relationships is expecting their partners to read their minds.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:36 PM on November 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Stop the bad sex right now. No more mechanical sex.

He will be hurt, he will be confused, but you have to come clean and while you don't have to tell him that you have been faking for years you do have to admit to Not Feeling It. But be sure that he understands you want to change things around. He will probably resist and may even try to guilt you into sex but make sure you convey how important it is to reconnect to him.

What you need to do is play with him. No sex. Just foreplay. At least a couple of times a week, you will spend time in the bathroom preparing yourself-- make-up, hair, perfume, sexy clothes-- the works just as though he was an important date. Then you guys "date." You may touch, you may kiss, you may murmur intimate things into his ear, but no sex.

He is allowed to masturbate, you are not.

Hopefully the prep time will get you in the right frame of mind, the flirt time will reconnect you with your partner, and the foreplay without release will give your libido a chance to recharge.

Good luck.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:54 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is your love language? (Physical touch, words of encouragement, quality time, gifts and services) What is his? I find a lot of people try to give THEIR love language to their partner, not understanding that partner needs THEIR OWN love language. Conversely, he might not be giving you YOUR love language.

Talk, talk, talk talk, talk. He doesn't knot there is a problem. This is unfair to him and too much pressure on you. See a doctor/gyno/OBYGN/you know what I mean. See a therapist by yourself and maybe couples counseling.

Seconding most of what Secret Gravy says there... you seem to be more imaginative than you spouse in the bedroom, and that hopefully can be fixed. Is he at all dominant? Encourage that! Maybe you might like being dominant? Can you show up at the same bar and pretend to not know each other, and have 'stranger sex?' Do you know his fantasies? Do yall have date night? Can he 'make' you wear certain clothes/toys/do activities for him? Fantasy, roleplay, kink, even other partners... something, somewhere yall can do to light some matches.
posted by Jacen at 4:19 PM on November 26, 2012


Kid-free overnight: I'd love to do it, but we have no relatives within driving distance whom I'd trust with him overnight.

When we were newly moved to a new state and needed a kid-free weekend, we flew my mother in to stay with the kids. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.
posted by COD at 5:30 PM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sex gets you into relationships. It may or may not be involved in keeping you in them.

Evolution is to "blame", not mate nor you. We like being serial monogamists. It's good for the species.

Sooner or later, most married people wake up in bed with their sibling. Magic in love comes from novelty, mystery, uncertainty, desire. Clock ticks fade into background noise or we'd die of distraction. This stinks so much, folks have affairs, even when the sanctions are divorce or death in many societies.

The interval it takes for things to get old is about 5-10 years. However, in our society, kids take 20 to hatch completely, so if you feel strongly about this aspect of your relationship, the sex may have to wait for the kid to leave and by then, poor woman, you'll run into some other troubling aspects of this theory.... pairing is progressively harder for older folks, and seemingly more so for women. I have a list of many names of aging female friends who are hunting unsuccessfully. It's a societal meme, so pervasive we coined a derogatory term, "cougar" for the prowling puss. I'm not endorsing it, but I am recognizing it.

helen fisher and writers of her ilk discuss this topic, which is called sociobiology, and in fairness, most of my scientist friends discount it as lay junk, but you can assess it yourself. dianne ackerman is another. david bussman, yet another. there are a bunch.

A therapist is useful if you need to waste some money and time, IMO.

I think getting the fire back is hard to impossible. some folks just tolerate mechano sex. others do without. a few fool themselves. some very, very lucky few manage the preservation of prolonged mystery and magic and are the envy of all, but the odds seem low. my longest married and closest friends are uniformly dissatisfied with their love lives.

and with that, i send you my fondest wish that you will be one of the exceptions to my cynical observations, and your spirit will be the one who finds the key to the land of missing magic.
posted by FauxScot at 6:22 PM on November 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Kid-free overnight: I'd love to do it, but we have no relatives within driving distance whom I'd trust with him overnight. Also, my son has some minor sleep issues that require our involvement, so staying overnight with a friend isn't doable right now. It is something that would be doable in a yearish, I'm guessing.

Would it work to pay a babysitter to be there for a night? Even at $20/hr, that would be a lot cheaper than an hour of a divorce lawyer's time, you know?

It sounds to me like you have a fairly long and extremely practical checklist to work through before you get to the extremes of proposing an open relationship or getting a divorce, much less settling for a lifetime of faking it. I mean things like getting a night alone together, talking to a therapist, straight up talking to your partner (about the desire and about the hygiene issue, which isn't minor at all in my world), etc -- all the good suggestions here, in other words. Those are all worth working through step by step before you give up, and none are particularly expensive or invasive.

Because over and above what some people describe as a natural lessening of desire in a relationship (which is not always the case), you have a set of what are extremely real and practical issues. Things like the effects of childbirth, five years of never having a night off, hygiene issues, a lack of day to day romance... need I go on? But those are also solvable issues that aren't being externally imposed; they are fixable with some communication and effort, and it's worth fixing them in order to see what remains.
posted by Forktine at 7:06 PM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Our kid is out of the house, now, for three years, and my wife's libido has come back, in spades.

So there is hope, if you want to wait it out. . .
posted by Danf at 7:08 PM on November 26, 2012


You make your life in general sound really dull - maybe doing some wild (but safe) things together would help.
posted by meepmeow at 11:49 PM on November 26, 2012


You've been with this guy for 20 years and have decided that you want something from him now that you decided early on to settle for living without; a thing that he's never given you and that has never been part of your lives together; this thing that you have been pretending for years you're getting twice a week; this vital, missing thing that you won't tell your husband you want because he should just somehow magically know. You've been dishonest with your husband for far longer than your online dalliance. This missing spark is not your husband's fault. He's been GGG all along, and you've lied to him for years. And to top it off you are reluctant to enter into therapy because of keeping up appearances.

Therapy is called for here. Not couples, but individual. Look into why you were willing to settle. Why you were afraid to be honest. Why you can't speak up about your desires and preferences and needs. Why the opinions of others are more important to you than your own personal and relationship health. Therapy can help your relationship with your husband but it can also help you understand yourself better. You have to go into it willing to do the work though, and be totally honest.
posted by headnsouth at 4:07 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a common problem.
Take a look at (two very different approaches):
1. Married Man Sex Life by Athol Kay. I know, I know, it says married man, but there might be something in there for you. His blog is here and the forum for his blog is here. Your topic is a favorite in the forum.

2. Stuff by David Schnarch is almost exclusively about your issue. Books by him on Amazon, and his website is here.

Both these approaches seem to work with your "impossible situation."
posted by feelinggood at 11:09 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Buy The Passionate Marriage. Bring it into your home and use it to talk with your husband about your sex life. It's a brilliant book.
posted by Kerasia at 2:09 PM on November 28, 2012


Thank you again to everyone who responded. You've given me a lot to chew on, and I really appreciate all the different view points.

Thanks again.
posted by missingthefire at 5:14 AM on November 30, 2012


« Older Questions about installing the...   |  Our 24-lb puggle (for scale: I... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.