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Great Sexpectations
February 26, 2014 1:51 PM   Subscribe

I have a super high sex drive (female, 30) that I've been blessed/cursed with since puberty. My boyfriend is a fairly sexual person, but has a lower libido than I do (male, 41), and don't want to have sex as often as I do. I am having trouble not taking this personally.

I read this question and found this comment explains pretty much how I am feeling, as the high-libido girlfriend in this situation:

"This problem destroyed my last long-term relationship. Admittedly, my interest waned to much less than twice a week. But I truly loved her, as well as liked her more than anyone I've been with. We were extremely good and compatible in terms of the friendly part of relationships. But she has a high sex drive. I don't think she'd have an upper limit on frequency, as long as the sex is good and she had time for it.

So, anyway, we were never able to resolve this problem. She fundamentally couldn't get beyond the idea that if I truly loved her, I'd want to have sex with her as often as she wanted. It was part of her whole sense of being valued as a romantic partner as well as being deeply involved in her sense of self-worth. It's not the core of how I see a romantic relationship, and so I was never able to really understand how much my lack of interest deeply unsettled her."

I definitely feel like I am have trouble fundamentally getting beyond the idea that if he truly loves me (as above), he'd want to bone my brains out constantly. We do have amazing sex.. 2-3 times a week. I could have sex 2-3 times a day, on an off day. I am so in love with him, and so attracted to him, that it's almost like I can't help but want to feel THAT close to him so often. All of our feelings are supposedly mutual (yay!) but this sexuality difference makes me doubt it at times, when I know I shouldn't be.

I would appreciate a different type of response than "unpack this with a therapist"; I went for a few years, and after analysis of formative and past relationships, I know exactly why I feel this way about sex in relationships. What I need help with is getting past that. I've been through Feeling Good and some other CBT work and have found it helpful, and try to exercise techniques when I find myself feeling put out or unloved. I'm trying really hard, and am willing to try harder; I don't want to have this be a thorn in what is otherwise a dream relationship. I know that he loves me, and I tell myself that I believe him, but when he's not "feeling it", I feel so incredibly put out. I've been very careful not to react poorly when I'm turned down, and take him at his word that he is tired (demanding physical job), or whatever else the reasoning might be. I'm trying SO hard to be understanding and know that it isn't personal, and he loves me for other reasons, but it's still hard to make myself believe it. He is extremely demonstrative, both verbally and physically. I feel so incredibly loved any other time. But after he goes to sleep on a no-sex night, I'll masturbate, and then get bummed because I wanted to connect with HIM, not my fingers.. then the voice in the back of my head starts up, and I end up feeling unwanted and sorry for myself, awake in bed. I want to silence that little voice for good. It makes me feel needy, bratty, greedy, ungrateful.. especially since I receive so much love and attention in other ways.

So, formally, I ask you guys: have you been in this situation? What did you do? Talk to your partner about it? I'm not ashamed to, and we communicate exceptionally well, but where and when to start? Have any CBT hacks for me? I've been undecided about bringing it up with him and making it A Thing, or just rolling with it.
posted by ElectricGoat to Human Relations (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
have you considered finding things that aren't sex that can give that bond? giving him a back massage, or snuggling over a bottle of wine, or having him cuddle against you as he falls asleep/you masturbate (this last one is one of my favorites - i get an orgasm, cuddles, and it's a lot quicker/easier than sex)?

as far as unpacking the "he truly loves me (as above), he'd want to bone my brains out constantly." - maybe consider this issue from the other side - lets say your sister or cousin or female best friend had a male partner who thought she didn't love him if she didn't want to have sex with him all the time - what would your advice be to her? we're raised to think that men always, always, always want sex and i think that can fuck with our heads when we try to rationalize a guy not wanting to have sex. turning it around might show you that some of your stumbling blocks are about the sexual expectations of men in our culture.
posted by nadawi at 2:03 PM on February 26 [8 favorites]


I definitely feel like I am have trouble fundamentally getting beyond the idea that if he truly loves me (as above), he'd want to bone my brains out constantly...So, formally, I ask you guys: have you been in this situation? What did you do? Talk to your partner about it? I'm not ashamed to, and we communicate exceptionally well, but where and when to start? Have any CBT hacks for me? I've been undecided about bringing it up with him and making it A Thing, or just rolling with it.

First, the reassurance: the relationship between wanting-to-have-sex and caring-about-a-person isn't a 1:1 linear thing. I've been very strongly (physically) attracted to people I did not respect and could not stand to be around, and to people I loved and cared for more than anyone else...and I've been not at all physically attracted to people at both extremes. That's not unusual. Also, I've had lower sex drive than all but one of my partners over the years, so my experience might be a bit helpful to consider when I say:

The most attractive and sexy of the people that I loved most of all definitely had me in bed as often as my body and mind were willing and able...but not more than that.

I've been sexually active for almost 30 years now, and nobody has ever magically been able to give me a stronger sex drive than the frequency in which I enjoy it.

Incidentally, it might help if you remember that the idea of "men will always want to have sex with anyone at any time" is as much bullshit as [insert your own least favorite trope about how all women behave.] Even if you don't feel it emotionally, it is very true rationally, and you should try to keep that in mind.

But! What made things better? I won't claim to have the perfect answers, but here's what has worked for me:

1. Withholding orgasms. I can focus on my partner more, my partner can focus on herself more, and I can deeply enjoy the pleasure that comes from everything leading up to an orgasm. So much so, in fact, that I'll be able to sleep well and feel satisfied, but wake up just as aroused as I was the night before (for example), and so now I've doubled the amount of sex I have in a week. And really, any guy who says sex isn't any fun if you don't orgasm is perhaps doing it wrong. Admittedly, partners have to get used to it at first -- a few have expressed concern that if I'm not having an orgasm, I'm not really attracted to them -- but it's really the opposite: if I wasn't really attracted, I'd want to have an orgasm as quickly as possible and get it over with (or just not have them as a partner, which is my preferred approach to people I'm not attracted to.) Withholding means enjoying each other's physical (sexual) intimacy for a long time, every time.

2. Having a partner who is comfortable with expressing their attraction. For example, one who casually slips their fingers under the back of your waistband as you're walking in public, or who otherwise expresses a lot of casual, non-sexual physical intimacy. When your partner is flirting with you regularly (without pressure) you're much more likely to be responsive later when the opportunity to be alone arises.

3. Willingness to talk about it in an appropriate way. When you say "I feel like you don't want to have sex as much as I do, and that it means you're not attracted to me or you don't care about me", that's going to be a somewhat productive conversation. When you say "What's wrong with you? Why won't you have sex with me? Don't you love me? Don't you think I'm attractive?" is going to be more provocative and confrontational, even though the core content is the same. Saying "I express my love through physical intimacy, especially sexual, and I get that you don't, but I want you to know that it's important to me that you return my attention and affection, even if it doesn't turn sexual every time" is your best bet, because you're making it clear you understand the difference, that there's nothing to blame, and that there's a solution that works for you if he'll participate.

That's it, really. Only the first one is about controlling/extending my own libido to increase the frequency of (and incidentally the pleasure of) sex; the rest are about communication (verbal and non-verbal) and selecting the right partners for ourselves.

Hope this helps. I don't know how you initiate a conversation with him on the first item -- that might be a tough sell, it was something I started doing for my own pleasure with the other benefits coming as side-effects -- but the rest are things you can initiate right away.
posted by davejay at 2:13 PM on February 26 [3 favorites]


ElectricGoat: Talk to your partner about it? I'm not ashamed to, and we communicate exceptionally well, but where and when to start?

Yes, of course! Don't do it in bed, or immediately before or after sex. Maybe over dinner or breakfast, or whenever you generally have a chance for face-to-face connection. Make sure that you focus on your feelings, and your desires, and be prepared to have some suggestions as to things he can do to help you feel better about this, and be willing to discuss compromises that will take some of the stress off of him. I suspect you don't want, for example, him to have sex with you every time you ask. Is there a number you'd be happy with? Are there things he can say that will assuage your anxieties? Are there other things he can do that will satisfy you? One thing that you didn't really talk about is who is (or isn't) initiating sex. Maybe if he were to initiate more it would solve some of your problems.

In the end, it's not fair to him to keep in in the dark about such a major problem. He can't be a mind reader, so give him the chance to make it better before it becomes such a large problem that it threatens your relationship.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:14 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


You will not be able to just roll with it indefinitely. Period.

A conversation is needed, and he will have to take your concerns VERY seriously if things are really going have a chance to improve. In my experience, the partner with the high libido cannot realistically do anything about suppressing it, while there are some steps that the one with the lower libido can take, whether they be physical or mental (ideally both).

Good luck.
posted by eas98 at 2:44 PM on February 26


You want to bridge the gap between two people, one who wants to have sex 15-20 times/wk and the other who wants to have sex 2-3 times/wk? Honestly, I don't think that's possible.
posted by 99percentfake at 2:48 PM on February 26 [5 favorites]


In my experience, the partner with the high libido cannot realistically do anything about suppressing it, while there are some steps that the one with the lower libido can take, whether they be physical or mental (ideally both).

As someone with a lower libido than my partner, I think this is pretty insulting to folks with lower libidos. Working it out doesn't mean that the person with the higher demand libido wins, any more than the partner with the lower libido wins. You have to come to a compromise, but it's not a matter of, "Your partner needs to step up with the sex."
posted by xingcat at 2:48 PM on February 26 [19 favorites]


I feel like there's a taboo in our culture around actively trying to adjust our sex drives to be more, well, convenient, but I wonder if that wouldn't be possible in this situation. For you, not him. Because the fact is that having sex 21 times per week is difficult and frankly sounds like such a huge time commitment that it might even negatively impact ones personal and professional life (if not mucous membranes), and it's massively mismatched with your current SO. Hard physical activity, as you've noted in your SO, is pretty notorious for decreasing sex drive. Have you tried replacing ~18 of the sexual encounters per week that you wish you were having with, say, ~18 miles of running? Or weightlifting? Or Zumba?

I don't think it's pathological to feel hurt if I want to have sex and my partner doesn't. It's a deep seated, evolutionary response and I think it would be really, really hard to unpack and reverse than with CBT. I think your best bet to achieving happiness with this scenario (which sounds to be so ideal otherwise) might be to lower your sex drive instead.
posted by telegraph at 2:52 PM on February 26 [2 favorites]


I have a really high sex drive too and have had this problem in relationships. The thing that has worked best for me is to change my thinking. My sex drive -- like hunger for food, or thirst, or a pain in my knee -- is my responsibility. I may want to eat a particular food, but that doesn't mean that it has to be served by someone else. I don't have a right to it. This lack of entitlement has helped me feel better about not getting sex when I want it.

I've also tried to decouple the whole "he'll want you if you're sexy" thing. Men have variable sex drives, as do women. It says NOTHING about you if he does or does not want to have sex with you.

I also think about all of the things I can do when I'm not having sex with a partner. Like focus on deep fantasies he doesn't share, going at exactly the perfect pace for me, being able to be selfish, etc. There are definitely advantages to having sex with yourself!

But it definitely sucks, and it's completely understandable that it bothers you.
posted by 3491again at 2:55 PM on February 26 [4 favorites]


Well, he's 41. He hit peak libido 20 years ago. There's not much you can do. Even if he's physically still able to have sex 3 times a day, he's not going to be into it. It has little to do with you, and more to do with age and biology.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 2:56 PM on February 26 [5 favorites]


Men have a refraction period. Think of it as a pool of Lust that gets slowly (or not so slowly!) filled. When it is full or close to full, time to sex it up! When it is suddenly emptied, (IE, orgasm) the sex it up desire fades sharply. Age and physical exertion drain it faster and make it fill slower. I'm generalizing some here, but that's the usual basic physics. So, I think the urge for sex is probably bang on average for a gentleman his age. It has nothing to do with you, or his desire or love for you. I do agree yall need to work this out, but I really don't think its personal or emotional or anything.
posted by Jacen at 3:05 PM on February 26


to expand on my earlier comment - i'm basically suggesting expanding what "sex" is if you guys haven't already - 20-45 minutes of penis in vagina sex after a long day can be pretty exhausting, physically and emotionally - but what if he fingered you in the shower for 5 minutes first thing in the morning? or played with your nipples while he watches tv and you masturbate? or even 90 seconds of intense kissing and groping initiated by him? is the orgasm the end all be all (either yours or his) or is there wiggle room to give you that connected/attraction feeling you're missing with a lower buy in from him?
posted by nadawi at 3:19 PM on February 26


My two longest relationships were with guys that had lower libidos, and one of them made me feel unwanted, but the other didn't. Why not? Because he showered me with physical affection whenever we were alone, even though his desire didn't push him to go much further usually.
posted by herbaliser at 3:24 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


But after he goes to sleep on a no-sex night, I'll masturbate, and then get bummed because I wanted to connect with HIM, not my fingers.. then the voice in the back of my head starts up, and I end up feeling unwanted and sorry for myself, awake in bed.

Very practical suggestion, but why are you waiting until he's asleep before you masturbate? Why not masturbate in front of him? He might not necessarily want to join in, and of course if he's actively trying to do something else (talking on the phone, working, etc) and you're distracting him by getting off two inches away, that could be a problem but -- I've been in a similar situation to you with a couple exes, and I have never found that any of my boyfriends disliked watching. Afterwards you can have the post-coitus cuddle and it definitely feels intimate.

As someone said above, you also might want to experiment with holding back on your orgasms on purpose. At least build "rest days" into your schedule. If it feels like your decision rather than his that you aren't going to have sex on a particular day you might feel better emotionally, and if you know holding back for a day or two is going to result in a built up anticipation and better orgasms/better sex (slightly) later it'll probably feel worth it.

I think that if both of you are fundamentally secure about sexuality/attractiveness, then it's more of a logistical issue and that you can work it out by expressing (sexual and non-sexual) intimacy in other ways. But if either of you are insecure about sexuality/attractiveness in general then those other issues (low self-esteem or competitiveness or whatever), definitely can blow up the relationship and sexuality can become a flashpoint.
posted by rue72 at 3:29 PM on February 26


As someone said above, you also might want to experiment with holding back on your orgasms on purpose.

Quick clarification (assuming you were referring to my comment): withholding my own orgasm is something I do, as the lower libido partner. Personally, I can't speak to whether the higher libido partner withholding orgasm will be particularly helpful.
posted by davejay at 4:05 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


I've been on both ends of this spectrum.

One thing that helped me (emotionally) when I had the higher libido in a relationship was that I framed my masturbation as a being pretty good thing -- meaning, here's a great opportunity for me to be selfish and 100% in control, as opposed to a kinda sad thing I have to do because there's no other option. Sometimes I'd even think of it as "I am doing this man a favor, and he is going to owe me big for this."
posted by sm1tten at 4:57 PM on February 26 [3 favorites]


Yes, we used to argue about this a lot. A LOT. We finally sat down together and said, "This is not working for us, how can WE fix it?" For me, it was really important that it was a we thing, not a "You don't..." sort of thing.

I needed to unload my cultural indoctrination that men always want sex. I really, really had to dig down and find every one of those deep roots and pull those weeds out. As nadawi says, think if you changed the genders - how would it sound? That how I think about it in my head.

He offered that he would always, always, whenever I asked, be up for "helping" even if he wasn't up for sex. For us, that means both of us participating in bringing me to climax - for instance, him playing with my nipples and kissing me as I use a vibrator. No, it's not the same as PIV sex, but we do still share intimacy and bonding and snuggles afterwards and I still feel loved. It's about the closest we can get to a 50/50 compromise.

I wish you luck. This can be difficult to navigate, but what worked for us was focusing on trying to find something that worked for both of us.
posted by RogueTech at 7:18 PM on February 26 [4 favorites]


I don't know if this will help, and I can't quite figure how to word it eloquently but here goes: My first live in relationship we had good sex two or three times a week, which I thought was pitifully rare, and did things like buy lingerie and read Cosmo for tips (I know, I know but I was 20). My second (my marriage) had very little sex, none for the last ten years. I used to amuse (bemuse?) myself by thinking how I would be very happy to have sex 2 or 3 times a month - let alone the feast I had with my first.

I have to agree with the other posters that yes, I struggled with the "he'll want you if you're sexy" and the "men will always want to have sex with anyone at any time" bullshit mentioned above by others. It's not true, and we have to watch out for it. Now, 3 years after my marriage when sex is intermittent, and not within a relationship, I find myself warming to guys who spend time cuddling and talking with me over guys who fuck like rabbits. When I'm with the cuddlers, I feel cared for, respected, maybe even a little loved.

So, maybe it's about reframing in your mind about what enough sex is, and what to do when you're horny and he's not (either take care of it yourself, or distract yourself from the idea.) and what love and desire is (not frequency of sex).
posted by b33j at 9:15 PM on February 26


I'd be surprised if there were many men in their forties who could have sex, especially if with orgasm, 2-3 times per day, day in and day out. I think they would be completely spent. His 2-3 times per week sounds extremely normal to me. In his mind he may or may not want to have sex with you more often, but whether his body can actually do it is another question. But even if he doesn't want to have sex with you more than 2-3 times per week, that absolutely doesn't mean he's not crazy about you. Rather, it just means his libido needs time to recharge.
posted by Dansaman at 10:13 PM on February 26


Because the fact is that having sex 21 times per week is difficult and frankly sounds like such a huge time commitment that it might even negatively impact ones personal and professional life (if not mucous membranes), and it's massively mismatched with your current SO.

Have you ever been in a relationship in which you had sex 2-3 times per day for longer than the the first few weeks or months? Or after high school?

My guess is not. That is a lot of sex. That's an hour a day of sexing each other up. I don't have an extra hour per day to do anything. I'm not trying to shame you or your libido, but I do think that you are the partner who needs to compromise more. I think having sex everyday is having a high sex drive, never mind three times a day. Oh, the chafing!

Your question kind of reminds me of an Ask on here a year or so ago. I can't find the link, but I remember the female asker wanting to have sex with her boyfriend multiple times per night and justifying it with, "If he loves me, why doesn't he always want to be inside me?" Sort of like your line: "I definitely feel like I am have trouble fundamentally getting beyond the idea that if he truly loves me (as above), he'd want to bone my brains out constantly. "

Because his emotional connection with you extends beyond sex. Because he has other things to do (and so do you). Etc. Etc. Are you really that horny, or do you just really want to feel secure in his affection? Because it is unclear from your question.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:57 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Nthing, very few guys in their forties are going to do multiple times a day. Even daily is unlikely. Every year it's going to slow down just a bit more, too. Something you're going to have to accept or move on from, I'm afraid.
posted by mattu at 5:58 AM on February 27 [1 favorite]


It’s not clear to me whether you’ve discussed this with your partner. It seems like you may have discussed how to balance your different libidos but not specifically why it bothers you so much. You definitely should do that if you haven’t already (without pressuring him to put out more). Together, you might be able to find ways that work for both of you to make you feel more loved. Also, just having the conversation might make you feel closer to him.

One of my problems, when I was in a similar situation, was that I kept feeling rejected. This sounds really dorky, but if one of the problems is that you feel particularly burned if you initiate sex and he says no, setting up a schedule of when you can count on sex might make sense. If you know it’s going to happen on Saturday morning and Tuesday night, it gives you something to look forward to and less need to initiate it. Meanwhile, that may give him more space to initiate with you, which might go a long way in making you feel more wanted.

Also, have you ever heard of “post-coital tristesse”? Just mentioning it because you said you often feel bad after masturbating at night, and it’s possible there’s a physical component to it. It happens to me occasionally after sex or masturbation, where I suddenly feel horrible, and I’m pretty confident it’s a hormonal something-or-other rather than psychological angst. It’s unlikely to be an issue for you but thought I’d throw it out there.
posted by metasarah at 6:13 AM on February 27 [1 favorite]


You want to bridge the gap between two people, one who wants to have sex 15-20 times/wk and the other who wants to have sex 2-3 times/wk? Honestly, I don't think that's possible.

Some solutions:

1. Polyamory. Normally I wouldn't recommend it, but you clearly have made the 100% good faith of effort of monogamy and you love him.

2. SSRIs or hormonal birth control that contains a lot of estrogen. Both lower your sex drive.

3. Him on Wellbutrin. It raises his sex drive.

Other than that, is there a number you'd be comfortable with? If he can step it up to 7 times, is that enough? What if some of those are quickies? What if he hangs out with you and kisses you while you masturbate, or uses a vibrator, but doesn't have to perform physically?

Figure out the parameters of what you want. I agree that the gap might be too big without medical or change-of-relationship-structure solutions.
posted by htid at 7:35 AM on February 27


Just to ask, are you initiating sex with him? Because there have been times where the partner I was with wanted sex and I didn't, but when asked I was more than willing to put out because I wanted them to be happy.

if you aren't asking, try it.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:34 PM on February 27


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