sexual tension lacking
July 8, 2009 9:04 AM   Subscribe

I am confused about my sex life... Lots of details inside.

I'm in my late 20s, married for a couple of years. I'm in love with my husband and we have a great relationship. We have always had great sex and though both of us are pretty vanilla we are also GGG. We want sex an equal amount which is great. I am very attracted to my husband.

I have always been into sex, but the thing is, I don't get turned on easily by him. I did in the beginning, and I know the reason I don't now is because he is so familiar to me, we get along so well, and there is no TENSION between us.

It is nothing to do with him per se, just the lack of tension between us. This has happened to me in all previous relationships. I find that when getting it on with someone new, there's so much tension between you and that's what I find hot. It's also the case when you are fighting with someone, there's tension there and that's what makes me want to have sex. With my husband, we get along so well, we never fight so there is rarely any tension between us. THis of course is great for a marriage and I have never been so compatible with anyone before, we are both so happy.

The thing is, it just makes it a little lacking in the hot and heavy department. He -like many males- is generally turned on by such things as the sight of me naked, or whatever, but I, like many females, find getting turned on a more complex process.

It's just the beginning part that I find difficult. Once we are more into it and going at it or whatever, then I am really into it, and there is nothing he does or doesn't do that I do or don't want him to do. He is a great and generous/attentive lover etc etc.

It is really just the lack of tension at the beginning that makes it hard for me to get into initially. What I find myself doing is closing my eyes and imagining that we are other people - people in a kind of awkward but sexually loaded situation. For example I will imagine he is a teenager and a virgin and I am an older woman seducing him on the train or something corny like that. All kinds of variations on this theme I guess - a power imbalance where the woman is seducing the shy/awkward/inexperienced man.

However I want to be clear that I have no interest in seducing a virgin on the train, or even in sleeping with anyone else. I had my generous share of sexual partners before I was married so I'm not "frustrated" or "curious" in that regard. I know that my man is a great lover and I'm not dissatisfied with him in any way.

Does this make sense to people, does anyone else experience this?? It is purely the fact that we get along so well and are so familiar with each other and so happy together than I can't easily get turned on by him.

I have thought about the possibility of "role playing" in sex, but for I don't feel interested in this. It seems too corny or contrived for me. I just can't imagine doing it - I imagine it would be awkward and not that sexy. I wonder if I have kinks that I haven't acknowledged or something, but I just don't know. I'm an avid listener/reader of Dan Savage. I wonder what he would say. (I've asked him many questions over the years but never "got published"!)

Anyway, I'm very curious to hear what anyone has to say about this. If you are too shy to share your dark details here email me

THANKS in advance!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

I was actually wondering if you might be a bit of a domme - powerplay scenarios involving a stronger woman seducing a vulnerable guy seems pretty typical. You could try engaging in a bit of light BDSM - tying him down, blindfolding, giving verbal commands about what he should do, etc. This puts the scenario in your control (which might be exciting to you, who knows) and also gives you a bit more time to get into things.
posted by Phire at 9:13 AM on July 8, 2009

You say you aren't interested in the idea of "role playing", but would you consider something involving role playing outside the bedroom? Maybe going to a bar and pretending not to know each other? It might feel less corny than pretending to be other people or creating a situation at home where you are surrounded by familiar things. Something like that could be a decent way to feel sketchy without actually BEING sketchy.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:14 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

All sex is role playing. And like all sex it is awkward as hell at first. You can either attempt to recreate this tension or you can go about your merry sex life without it. I think role playing and introducing new sexual elements that specifically create tension are just what the doctor ordered. It sounds like a little S&M could really get that tension going, from how you described it.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:15 AM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

You know who could help with this? A counselor trained in sex therapy.

Also, why not fantasize on your own, if you're not up for role play?
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:17 AM on July 8, 2009

Sorry, by "fantasize on your own" I mean "spin your own story in your head about what's happening while you and the husband are having sex."
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:18 AM on July 8, 2009

"Tension" as you put it really is a great motivating factor for being intimate. Usually this tension or excitement arises as anticipation, before you even get into the bedroom (or wherever), and is surprisingly easy to create: a whisper in your husband's ear when you're in public (that is, some place where you couldn't just go at it right there, where you'd both be left anticipating what could be to come) about what you'd like to do, an innuendo-laden text message or e-mail (even a chaste one that is SFW but that you both understand) when you're apart... Something that makes either or both of you say "aah, I've been thinking about doing this all day..."

Basically, I think, take the initiative to get the ball rolling. Don't be too shy or complacent to be the one to start.

On preview: kind of like what Sidhedevil is saying about fantasizing on your own... Get the imagination going and it will guide you in real life.
posted by penchant at 9:21 AM on July 8, 2009

Start foreplay outside the bedroom.

No, seriously. It is more mental than it is physical. Send a dirty text or something.
posted by kldickson at 9:22 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have thought about the possibility of "role playing" in sex, but for I don't feel interested in this. It seems too corny or contrived for me. I just can't imagine doing it - I imagine it would be awkward and not that sexy.

I'm with you on this, but I tried it anyway, and you know what, you don't have to stick with it for the whole show. When it starts getting laughable, then LAUGH, and drop the contrived stuff. By that time you're turned on anyway and can proceed "normally."

But you don't have to go that route. Kink can create all kinds of tension - especially bondage. You don't have to go out and buy contraptions or metal chains - hell, I've tied someone up using only pillowcases. From your fantasies it sounds like you'd want to be in the top role, so ask him if he's willing to be tied up for you. 90% of men will say yes to at least that much. There are about 10,000 ways to proceed from this point. DENIAL and ANTICIPATION are the best creators of tension.

Feel free to memail me; I don't have access to Gmail during the day.
posted by desjardins at 9:26 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have thought about the possibility of "role playing" in sex, but for I don't feel interested in this. It seems too corny or contrived for me. I just can't imagine doing it - I imagine it would be awkward and not that sexy. I wonder if I have kinks that I haven't acknowledged or something, but I just don't know. I'm an avid listener/reader of Dan Savage. I wonder what he would say. (I've asked him many questions over the years but never "got published"!)

Try it once. If it is dumb, what's the loss? But if it works, wow. And, um, . . . it works.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:26 AM on July 8, 2009

Here's an idea. Tell him to be prepared at any time.

Now, before he comes home one night, park the car out front of your place with the hood up. Then act like you don't know him but thank him for his help in looking at the car. I think I have an extra set of sparkplugs in the house . . .
posted by Ironmouth at 9:28 AM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Get him a collar, lead him around for a while. Put on the schoolteacher/librarian look and prepare to discipline the naughty student. Bust into the room in full pirate outfit, knife in teeth, and prepare to plunder his booty.

Role playing is silly, you have to have fun with it. Give it a shot, you might wind up liking it. Dress-up and acting can be fun, maybe you want outright BDSM. Perhaps a mixture of both. Try things out. Keep thinking, but start doing. Whether you just want him to act shy and nervous or whether you want him gagged and bound, you have to try things to find out, and for all you know, he may wind up enjoying it every bit as much as you do. Talk to a sex therapist if you feel too uncomfortable with the idea, but really, what have you got to lose?

Go have fun. Dirty, sexy, kinky sex-time fun.
posted by Saydur at 9:31 AM on July 8, 2009

I think this is extremely normal, especially for women. As I become more familiar with a partner, my libido goes down slightly; I always assumed it was long-term, regular exposure to his pheromones, maybe? Whereas when the relationship is new, just being in your guy's presence is a turn-on.

Try messing around without having sex; kiss, touch each other, tease each other with the caveat that it can't go anywhere else.

See how long that lasts before you have to give in and have sex. Knowing that you have the power to end things before sex can make you want sex that much more intensely after a little messing around.

Sometimes you get in a rut with a partner thinking as soon as you give each other a peck on a cheek you're required to be naked in 10 minutes flat and having sex. That can really deflate the buildup, as you've noticed.

Back off a little. Every type of contact doesn't have to end in a rote performance of "the deed." Once you're back in control of how you titillate each other, you might rediscover your desires.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:35 AM on July 8, 2009 [8 favorites]

I'm sorry, but IMHO you do not need "A counselor trained in sex therapy" or any other kind of therapy here. What you're talking about is well within the range of completely normal long term relationship experience, particularly for women.

The solution is to occasionally contrive tension. Start laying it on somewhere you know you're not going to be able to have sex for several hours, and keep laying it on. Seduce your husband in a bar and haul him into a bathroom right there. God down on him behind a tree in the park at nightfall - whatever. It is, by the way, 100% normal to be running sexual fantasies not about the person you're with - have a gander at Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden. It's old but it's pretty illustrative.

My broader point is that you are in no way broken, failing or abnormal; you're simply on a learning curve for a new phase of your relationship.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:45 AM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you're struggling to enjoy things-- well, you're already doing a form of role playing.

As others have suggested, let yourself create a miniature scene... and you might find that the actual pleasure you experience makes the sense of "contrivance" seem like a very small price to pay, or even makes it seem like an enjoyable luxury.
posted by darth_tedious at 9:49 AM on July 8, 2009

Public sex is the best, assuming you don't get caught. Of course, the tension of possibly getting caught can provide years of sex-inspiring memories.

Perhaps it might be helpful if you're more communicative with your husband about what gets the ball rolling before you have sex.

Role-playing, as mentioned before, can be good. Maybe a little hair pulling. A make-out session.

Just find what you really like, and what works, and ride with it.

Have fun!
posted by elder18 at 9:55 AM on July 8, 2009

For a tamer version of my last post: buy him a different cologne. Get him a haircut. New glasses. Sometimes all it takes is for one thing to change. I go crazy when I see my husband in a suit, because he doesn't normally wear one.

Taking this a few steps further - Take a day off from work in the middle of the week, and spend it getting waxed/manicured/whatever you do to pamper yourself and feel sexy. Rent a sportscar. Pick him up at work (preferably early, if he can come up with some "emergency") and drive him to a hotel, not telling him where you're going. Kidnapping is a pretty good tension-builder. ;-)
posted by desjardins at 9:58 AM on July 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

Everything DarlingBri said. Was exactly what I was going to say.
posted by desuetude at 10:08 AM on July 8, 2009

Naked oil wrestling.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:47 AM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding the hotel suggestion; make a dinner date with him beforehand and, well, you can come up with any number of scenarios that are subtly dominating. You're a private detective/computer expert/schoolteacher/librarian and you've found porn of his in his car/work computer/that his kid brought to school/that he checked out on his library card and is overdue, and you'd hate for him to get in trouble for it, for others to find out what a filthy, filthy man he is, but you're sure that the two of you can... work something out, especially given the nature of the porn. Your voice is low because you don't want the waiter or other diners to hear, but you use filthy words that he'd never expect to hear in a nice restaurant like this. You slide off your shoe and play a little footsie. You tell him to skip dessert, because he's it.

Before you leave the restaurant, you give him a bag. You tell him not to look inside (he'll find out soon enough what's in there, oh he'll definitely find out) and that he'd better not drop it because, well, it would be pretty embarrassing. On the way there he doesn't get to touch you, but you rest your hand in his lap during stoplights.

Once you're in the hotel room, he's on his knees from the second he walks in to the second he leaves, with the exception of certain positions.

Have fun.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:21 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

My sometimes partner and I have always enjoyed public sex. It ups the excitement level considerably because there's the chance you might get caught.

It also makes every place sexy, every moment a time when seduction can happen. That rarely used banquet hall at the cafe you sometimes frequent. His office, your office. Spare rooms in government buildings. Museums. Public parks. Balconies. Roofs. Mmm, memories.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 11:27 AM on July 8, 2009

I'm sorry, but IMHO you do not need "A counselor trained in sex therapy" or any other kind of therapy here. What you're talking about is well within the range of completely normal long term relationship experience, particularly for women.

That's one of the things therapists do--help people who can't figure out how to cope with the ordinary range of life experiences to come up with strategies for coping with it.

Saying "A therapist can help you with this" doesn't mean that you're "abnormal or broken"--it means that therapists work with hundreds of people and have seen the whole range of ordinary life problems, and have lots of good strategies for fixing them.

I don't know where the therapy-phobia comes from around here. If you can't use your shoulder properly, it's probably something quite ordinary, but the person you need to see is a physical therapist. If you can't use your libido properly, it's probably something quite ordinary, but the person you need to see is a sex therapist.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:29 AM on July 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

By your own description, you are already role playing.

Now, let him in on it.
posted by thejoshu at 11:36 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

My boy (of 10 years at the time) and I had a bit of this problem last year. We just noticed we didn't feel much of that consuming, sexual itch for each other the way we used to, and we wanted it back. We're also find role playing too silly for words, so that was off the table.

After a great deal of talking about it, we recognized that we both needed to do a better job of seducing both the other person and ourselves. I realized that I get turned on slowly, so a mental seduction needs to kick in before a physical one will even work. I also realized that a good aid in getting that mental seduction happening was for my boy to put some effort into making me feel like an erotic, sexually desirable creature who inspired lust. He started consciously complimenting my looks and body and really ramping up the casual romantic touching. He doesn't just do these things as foreplay, but as a part of our daily lives. It helps to plant the seed in my head that I am erotic and delicious and desirable, and that goes a long way to prime the pump, so to speak.

Similarly, I started getting better at turning myself on. I read erotic stories and fantasize situations, touch and smell my partner. Essentially, I turned myself into a teenage boy who thinks about sex a lot. All these things add up, and now we both feel much more of that sort of that tingly desire for each other because we're running off a full reservoir of sexual thoughts and energy.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:52 AM on July 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

Don't assume you "know" him. Your husband isn't the same person you married. He's got new interests and new experiences. Tune into that.

It might be a little difficult to rev your engine when you two are sitting in the living room doing what you do all the time. You are in your traditional spot on the couch, he's in the recliner. It's Wednesday, so you're watching Antiques Roadshow...where's the fun/tension in that?

Instead, go out an explore one of his interests with him. Learning about the other person is part of the tension of a new relationship. Don't get bored (or boring) and don't pigeon hole him.
posted by 26.2 at 12:06 PM on July 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

You don't have a problem, you are normal.

Get tied up! Do it outside just slightly hiden from public (buy some skirts!)!
posted by WeekendJen at 1:46 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

This has happened to me in all previous relationships. I find that when getting it on with someone new, there's so much tension between you and that's what I find hot.

Your problem is completely normal. Humans are driven by challenge and attracted to novelty.

We learn early that the things that come easily aren't worth having. Familiarity breeds contempt. Whether this is always true or good doesn't matter: it's how people are wired.

It's not a sex-specific thing, either. It's also what happens when you stop "dating" your boyfriend and settle down, right? No more "does he like me?" tension. No more "will he call? will he call?" No more "how will the evening work out?" anxiety.

Absent a time machine, you can't really "fix" this, because your relationship is fundamentally different now. Kink is great and all, and adding variety of any kind is usually good for maintaining interest-levels, but that's true of good sex in general, anyway.

The best you can do is to try to find something else in your new, safe, "boring" life that is different but also rewarding. It might not be sex-related.
posted by rokusan at 2:10 PM on July 8, 2009

Yes, what you describe is fairly normal. What you don't say, though, is I think pretty key. Have you communicated all this to your partner? I mean, really, really communicated it?

Because it takes both parties to create tension, and unless he's aware and on board, you are going to stay in the same comfortable but unsatisfying place you are in right now.

You say you don't fight, and that's probably overall a good thing. But are there maybe some arguments that you two aren't having, where the silence isn't doing you any good? Just enough of an argument once in a while to get you revved up isn't a totally bad thing, as long as it doesn't leave bad feelings. (I'll admit: I totally do this. I'll rile my wife up, pushing all her buttons, and when she finally loses her temper I'll carry her off to the bedroom. Obviously, like everything sexual, what's golden for one person is going to be a total libido-killer for another -- the point here is that tension can be deliberately created, and its benefits enjoyed.)
posted by Forktine at 6:18 PM on July 8, 2009

tickle-fight => wrestle => make out session => more wrestling/tickling => good circulation => win.
posted by mezamashii at 8:17 PM on July 8, 2009

I had the same idea as you about roleplaying for a while. And then I finally tried it and it was nothing like what I was imagining — real and honest and sexy and fun and not at all fakey.

It turns out I'd gotten all my ideas about roleplaying from adult novelty stores. You know, those joints that sell Sexy Nurse and Sexy Pirate and Sexy Stewardess costumes along with penis-shaped macaroni, blow-up dolls, whoopie cushions and dirty-old-man-themed coffee mugs? To look at their ads, you'd think there were couples out there who wander down to Adult Novelty Mart when they're in the mood, pick up Sexy Nurse Suit #17 and Sexy Pirate Suit #54, strut around waving their cheesy plastic props at each other and reciting second-rate Ren Faire dialogue until they're overcome by passion, and have hot, sweaty, itchy, badly-sewn sex until the break of dawn. And I was like, "Okay, that's just sick. I'm an open-minded guy and all, but there's no way I'd be into any of that roleplaying stuff. Besides, it sounds like way too much work."

Here's the thing: advertising is full of lies. Those costume-wearing plastic-prop-waving couples do not exist. The customer base for Adult Novelty Mart is made up entirely of
  1. girls planning bachelorette parties
  2. people trying too hard on Hallowe'en, and
  3. people who really just want to buy a vibrator or some lube or something but feel like they need plausible deniability, so they use 1 or 2 as an excuse. ("Oh, hi grandpa! Nope, no sex toys here! I was just in there buying.... this penis-shaped macaroni! as a gag gift! for my friend! who's getting married! Ha ha.")
Meanwhile, here's what actual roleplaying looks like when you do it for the first time:

A and B are a PERFECTLY ORDINARY COUPLE wearing NORMAL CLOTHES. They are sitting on a couch making out sort of half-heartedly. A has her eyes closed.

A: So I had this.... uh, crazy dream.... the other night?
B: (Perks up) Yeah?
A: Yeah, I was on this train. And the guy sitting next to me was this really young kid, like seventeen or something, and he's all clean-cut and innocent looking, right? And he's, um, kind of hot.
B: (Totally attentive now) Yeah?
A: And in the dream I kind of seduced him. (Blushes)
B: (Looks hopeful) Yeah?


B: That's... uh... (blushes) kind of hot.
A: (Perks up) Yeah?

(Clothing flies off. A and B proceed to have PERFECTLY NORMAL (IF UNUSUALLY VIGOROUS) SEX, but you can tell they're both thinking about that "dream" that A had.)

Costumes and props can come later. Nothing fancy, and for god's sake nothing from that horrible tacky Adult Novelty Mart. But maybe A notices that B starts dressing extra-preppy and schoolboy-ish when he's in the mood. Or maybe as the shared fantasy evolves, there's this part they really like where the housewife gives the schoolboy a handjob and hides it under the magazine he's reading, and hey, whaddaya know, A and B start keeping their old magazines in the bedroom. Dialogue can come later too, if they discover there's conversations they both fantasize about as part of the seduction. But frankly, all of those things are optional. The important part is just that one of A's fantasies just got ten times sexier because she shared it with B and B played along.

Anyway, that's an awful long response to correct a misconception that you might not even have. Uh, sorry about that. The short version is, don't worry about what you think of as "roleplaying." Just talk about your fantasies the next time you're having one, and if your husband starts talking about fantasies of his, see if you feel inspired to join in, and take it from there.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:07 AM on July 9, 2009 [12 favorites]

I am 100% with you on this, and will be watching this thread with a keen eye. Just last night I was thinking about it actually, the way when someone you're still not super comfortable with touches you it's like a pure shock of electricity--I was lamenting that no matter how attracted I am to my fiance and how healthy our intimate relationship is, I'll never feel quite that way again with him now.

That got me thinking, and I've wanted to try this before with boyfriends but never had the courage to propose it--but I wonder if agreeing _NOT_ to have sex for longer than normal--we can make out but no sex--might rev up the tension, sort of like a short-term engine jumping. Part of me is skeptical though that it might turn out for the worst--guy might just get more into porn and alone time and get comfortable with the lack of sex! Or he might hate me for asking. I don't know a solution really. I have a feeling it might depend on the guy.

Everyone's already jumped on the role-playing bit, but what about general vague dirty talk? I'm with you that role playing is just too funny and leads to giggles which kills the mood when excessive and all that. But you don't have to be super detailed or wear silly outfits or stay in character or anything--sometimes a well-timed murmur slightly out of character is enough to help things along. I'm with desjardins; I'd never do some kind of scene start to finish without giggling. But sprinkled here and there simply through dirty talk might help.
posted by ifjuly at 1:04 PM on July 10, 2009

And on preview: wow, that was a really awesome comment from nebulawindphone. Yeah, that, exactly. I think what makes that sort of talking to each other hot is that it reminds you you're not so familiar with each other there's nothing new to learn about one another, no hidden aspects and facets of each other to uncover. That sort of talking is exactly the sort of subconscious resort we go to to remind, refresh, revive ourselves...he may be your super-comfy husband/boyfriend, but there's parts of him you still have yet to know, thoughts he has, wishes, desires. Any morning after learning something new like that about my guy I just have a big grin on my face like we've just met and fallen in love again. It's good stuff. It simultaneously makes you feel new to each other and cements your bond, because you connect on these subtle levels--in the little things like picking up on a look or a certain way of dressing for the day as a sign of "I want you!"--that are invisible to a passerby.
posted by ifjuly at 1:21 PM on July 10, 2009

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