After years of his turning me down sexually and not wanting to touch me as I enjoy, now he's interested... and I’m not. Is there anything we can do? [NSFW]
This is long, sorry.
Loves me. Working; supports us both. Extreme introvert. Ongoing struggle with Dysthymia (now treated); diagnosed as on the Autism Spectrum just this week, but high-functioning enough to pass as neurotypical for 35+ years. Low sex-drive that fluctuates, but happy with that. Love Language: Quality Time. Affectionate, supportive, but "difficult to love" by his own admission. Has been getting what he needs out of our relationship. Trying to give me what I need; historically it hasn't held, but this time has worked better than the others.
Love him. Disabled (neurological & autoimmune illnesses), dependent on him for financial support, a visa, and sometimes as a carer. Managing most of the household tasks, Social Secretary for the dyad, etc. Ambivert. High sex-drive. Love Languages: Physical Touch & Quality Time. Passionate and demonstrative. Specifically need sensual/intimate touch from him if he's a romantic partner (sex with others feeds the general hunger, but stop me wanting intimacy specifically with him).
~15 years together. Love each other. Aligned in values. Live together well; make a good team. Agree on finances, goals, children (there won't be any), etc. Polyamorous since the relationship got serious - in part because of the libido mismatch - and happy that way. Enjoy spending time together, don't want the lack of touch/sex to break the relationship. Living as expats - I don’t get to stay in this country if the relationship ends
For many years, SomePartner and I have been… scraping by sexually, basically. He goes/went through periods where he isn't interested at all for 2-3 months; I'm an daily-or-more type by preference. We have been through repeated rounds of: me getting touch-starved and distressed; his turning me down while taking care of himself with porn and masturbation (I don't object to porn, though I prefer the actors aren't exploited, but that was hard to deal with when I was so unfulfilled); him telling me that it "wasn't worth" touching me in the ways I was asking for, that sex was "too much effort" (and we're not talking marathons or hours of foreplay here - usually 15-20 minutes total), that he "didn't see the point" of anything that didn't lead directly to him getting off, even holding me while I masturbated. Sensual touch, and sexual activity for my sake were out of the question - we had those conversations repeatedly. He sees no point in sensual touch himself - we snuggle, but about all he enjoys as "sex" is fellatio and penetration.
(And let me be clear, I'm not interested in having sex with someone who doesn't want to! But it hurts to be told there's no point
, especially when I was asking for relatively little.)
Literally half of last year we were having sex that didn't get me to orgasm; sometimes, I felt like he didn't desire me at all, just a convenient warm hole. He was sad that sex wasn't working for me, but didn't seem able or willing to change that. Similarly, I could put the "it's not worth it" comments down to poor phrasing and so on - if they didn't keep happening over and over and over again. So many variations on the theme make it hard to doubt the general gist of the message.
Sex, masturbation, pornography and so on are hugely sensitive topics for SomePartner, and carry a lot of shame. Trying to talk about sex with him, pre-Lexapro, would make him shut down on me; he'd be unable to look me in the eye for a few hours. So I got more and more apprehensive over the years about asking him to talk about it (or do it, since even gentle "it's totally fine to say no" initiation had the same results if he wasn't interested. And of course, then he got sad because I wasn't initiating! The irony...)
Finally, by the time SomePartner went onto the Lexapro, sex didn't seem to be doing anything for /him/, either, when we had it. This is hard to phrase gently - please know that I'm not saying this expecting him to be an athlete or model, but he's extremely unfit. His default physical state is tired, achy, and feeling like he's coming down with something. I'm disabled and in constant pain, and I'm the more physically active one. He often doesn’t leave the house for a week at a time because he works from home on a laptop, then spends his free time gaming online; I get out most days, exercise whenever possible, and socialise without him by his choice. (Date nights for the two of us happen occasionally, but almost always at my urging.)
So every time we had sex, it'd end with SomePartner sounding like he was going to cough up a lung, or cramping agonisingly somewhere, or otherwise in pain immediately afterwards. And the "during" part wasn't much better - he didn't actually seem to be enjoying it, and I… well, I get a lot out of enjoying my partner's enjoyment, so even sex that doesn't get me off can be amazing for that - but this wasn't managing even that part. For his part, he’d just pump away unexpressively, orgasm, and be in pain. He'd hurt me frequently without intending to, trying without enough lube, tearing my labia doing something I'd just warned him was hurting, or putting his weight on my bad hip and not listening when I yelped and repeatedly asked/told him to move. He wouldn't understand when I told him what hurt or asked him to do what felt good. I have trouble breathing if he's on top of me, and we can't use my favourite positions any more, because of his physicality. It… really wasn't good, but it was all I had, because anything else "wasn't worth it" to him.
We’ve been to five or six couple’s counsellors, including a sex therapist, without solving these issues. We’re making some headway with our current relationship counsellor. (I’m also in individual therapy.)
By the middle of last year, I was desperately trying to work out if redefining this as a chaste/companionate relationship was the way to save it. I didn't do well constantly wanting something I couldn't have, and although I've taught myself that his rejection/lack of interest isn't personal, I have a lot of trouble looking past the repeated "too much effort"/"not worth it" comments. Since our relationship was mostly okay apart from the sexual aspects, I wondered whether changing my expectations might make that part easier. I said as much during a counselling session with SomePartner; SomePartner, however, heard this as my threatening to leave him.
SomePartner started Lexapro about 6 months ago. And his libido disappeared. We haven't had sex this year, and to be honest, I haven't missed it. It's hard to be enthused about sex that isn't doing much for either of us, and about a partner whose default state seems to be "Bleh."
He got the infamous Lexapro anorgasmia, too. That actually helped the few times we’ve tried since he started the meds; since he wasn't going to get off regardless of what we did, he was investing a bit more in my pleasure, and better at listening to me when I asked for what I'd been asking for all along. More importantly, he was suddenly willing to touch me in ways that I enjoy, despite their not being explicitly sexual - so for the last few months I've been getting all I needed out of that intimate non-sexual touch, snuggles and him stroking my back and whatever. And that's been good - I really haven't missed the sex.
He's been apologising to me lately, post Lexapro, for "not being good" at sex & touch, and at learning when I tell/show him what works for me. And it's heartbreaking, because I don't think it's for want of trying, but I can only really say that for these last ~6 months.
(Also, last July I started seeing OtherPartner. I’m having great sex with someone who gets as much enjoyment out of my pleasure as I do out of his. So not only was my yearning for sex-at-all being met, but I've had intimate touch that worked for me in both relationships, and a wonderful equilibrium in my life. I wasn't asking SomePartner for something he couldn't give, and I wasn't using OtherPartner as a substitute, but overall I was happy and feeling loved and... it was all just good, even though (because?) SomePartner and I weren't doing this thing that kinda sucked for both of us.)
SomePartner’s sex drive is coming back. And I'm just going "Oh god, no. I can't. I can't
." Some of my reactions feel like those I get from PTSD, wild and desperate or wanting to just run & hide. He asked me a week or two back whether I was interested in sex with him at all, and I had to say... well, not yes. I feel awful about that, but I don't desire him that way now. I explained why - that it's hard to be enthused about sex that's not doing anything for me, and that the fact he doesn't seem to enjoy it, and that it leaves him in such pain, means it's harder still - and I thought he got it...
But a night or two later I went to bed to find him sitting there naked telling me that he'd been thinking about how nice it would be if I went down on him, and would I? And I just thought "FFS, why did you bother asking me if I was at all interested, if you weren't going to listen to my answer?" I do see the irony after being the one wanting/asking for so long. But I was generally more tactful about it, and respected his telling me his libido had disappeared.
He backed off when I declined, of course, and hasn't been consciously pushing the issue, but he's all handsy and the body language and the ways he's touching me have changed and I'm getting angry and distressed about it. I was sleeping yesterday and woke up just before he came in to nap himself; I ended up getting up, snarlingly frustrated, because a sleeping SomePartner was groping me in painful ways while completely unconscious.
And at the same time, he came to me the other day, all sad and small, saying, "So, if we can't save this, would you consider staying around and living with me? And just being friends and housemates?" He feels like we don't have much at all that we do together, and that we're not going to survive, and it's heartbreaking to see him so sad about that.
But then, I know how it feels; I was clawing at the walls last year feeling like either the relationship was going to break or /I/ was going to break, largely on account of the untreated dysthymia. And it still hurts that it took us getting to that point for him to fucking do something about it.
It’s a bitter, painful irony knowing that after years of rejection, of trying to be philosophical and not take it personally that SomePartner didn’t want me the way I wanted him, I’m now the one who’s shut down sexually, and he’s the one having to face the rejection. My libido remains active and high, but it's flatlined where he’s concerned and I don't know how to resuscitate it. Honestly, I don't know if I want to - I want to
want to, but that's not the same thing.
We’re in therapy already, but what else can we do?
How would you approach this? Is there hope for a companionate relationship? Can I reignite my interest after so many years of rejection and disappointment? Is it worth it given that his sex drive will ebb away again in time? Have you been here - what happened? Where do we find hope and a way forward? What do we do?
In case you can't tell, this is a painful and sensitive subject; please be gentle if you can? Feel free to PM, or you can e-mail me: someone.elses.story [at] gmail. Thanks, MeFites.