How can I help revive my partner's sexual appetite?
June 14, 2010 12:37 PM   Subscribe

My partner has recently gone through a painful divorce and totally lost his libido. How can I help revive his sexual appetite?

My partner's divorce is about to complete after nearly a year of painful negotiations over money and demands from a rather unreasonable ex-wife. He had been legally separated for a year and a bit (no kids) when we met.

Back then, he was adventurous and sexually active. Around that same time, he had decided to just ignore his divorce, let his ex continue to live in their (massive) house and moved into a much smaller place.

As our relationship became serious and he wanted to cut all the legal ties with his ex, he started divorce proceedings. That's great and I am relieved that this is almost over, but the problem is that, due to immense stress and worries over how much money she wanted from him (money he did not have) coupled with work-related pressure, his sexual drive totally disappeared.

Meanwhile, I am feeling neglected as a woman and - although I do not ever say this to him - sometimes secretly think it is unfair that given I stood by him during all this time, we can only make love once a month. And when we do have any, it is obvious that he is doing it just to 'relieve himself'. No more hot sex, oral, nothing. He just lays there and waits for me to 'do the job'.

I am becoming ashamed of my body and even though I considered quite sexy just a year ago, now I am starting to feel unattractive. Even if I wanted to have a lover, I wouldn't be able to.

Every time I bring up the issue, the shuts down and if I continue, he gets really, really upset.

I do love him very much, we have a lot of things in common and are planning to stay together for a long time to come. I want this relationship to work, but how can I help him go back to what he used to be?

I feel angry at myself for feeling like this (I never been married before, so I only have an approximate idea of how a divorce must feel) and it may well be that things will go back to normal, but all I know is that I feel a bit crap at the moment. Sometimes I fear this is irreversible. Again, I have no previous experience of situations like this and any associated ups and downs in libido.

How can I help him, help myself and improve our relationship now that we are both free to build our lives together? Opinions from divorcees particularly appreciated. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
are you sure it's related to the divorce? Some people just get less sexually excited as time goes by... how often did you have sex in the beginning? Did things slow down over time or was there a sharp cut-off?

If it is really important to you, you will probably just have to make that clear so that you guys have the conversation. Sexual compatibility can be mismatched in either direction (male or female can have the higher libido) and if that's just "the way he is" you want to know now so you can make informed choices for the future.

If it is a stress thing, then non-sexual baths, massages, cuddling sessions, sexy talk, or exciting evenings out are probably the direction to try. You don't want to pressure him, but make time with you extra fun. And do not take it personally at all! Finding the right mix of comfort and sexiness is a funny balance, and not everyone has the same ratio - but it doesn't mean he isn't in love with you, just that he might have different priorities than you do about how to express/experience that.
posted by mdn at 1:01 PM on June 14, 2010

It sounds like stress and depression to me. It is likely not about you in any way.
posted by caddis at 1:47 PM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

What caddis said. Are other areas of his life declining in the same way? Divorce sucks. It is very conceivable he needs to get a little help.

If he isn't willing to communicate when you bring it up there isn't much more you can do.
posted by Silvertree at 1:59 PM on June 14, 2010

Every time I bring up the issue, the shuts down and if I continue, he gets really, really upset.

This is Not Good. Perhaps you need to take a hard look at how and when you are bringing up the issue, but if there is an issue with your relationship that he is unwilling to even discuss, I think you need to ask yourself if that is the kind of person you want to be in a relationship with.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:11 PM on June 14, 2010

Divorce sucks. Especially bitter acrimonious ones that center around money. It probably isn't you, but it is impacting you.

I would give it a full quarter after the papers are signed, and then if things don't return to happy time, I might consider moving on.

Another way to think about this is that for a long time, you were the "mistress"...not in any legal sense, since they were already separated...but he got to think of you as a side project, as it were. Now, you're (rightfully) demanding center stage, and he may be thinking of you as a "wife" and not a playmate. (I've got no data to back this premise up, just anecdotally seeing other couples do the same dance.)

On a completely different tack: you should focus on you. Don't let anyone ever impact your feelings about yourself. Take stock; are you happy with you? If not, work on that...but sex (or lack thereof) shouldn't send you into a self-image tailspin.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:13 PM on June 14, 2010

Your personal concerns are completely valid, but if ever there's a time to cut someone some slack, this is it.

My own divorce dragged on for four years, and it was a small hell. It wasn't even economic, it was all about her inability to accept reality, which may or may not be relevant here. But, right now, it's not about you feeling unwanted, it's about supporting him (or not), about being there for him as a best friend (or not).

Should you keep your own emotional and physical needs in mind? Hell, yes! There may even come a time when you need to assert your rights in this regard. But my guess is that this is not that time.

Allow me to add that 'support' is not about you standing on the sidelines, cheering him on against the opposition. The last thing you want your role to develop into is being "on his side against hers." That's not your issue or what you should allow the focus to become. This is about the two of you building something stronger and more lasting than what he had.

For right now, it may be that the work of creating your new life together falls mostly on your shoulders, but that's what partnership is all about in my book. Over time, one will be stronger than the other. Ebb and flow. Helping each other, no matter the issue.

True, you can't know how things will develop. You will have to decide your own limits. So just invest as much heart and thought in this as you comfortably can. If things don't improve for you over time, you many need to re-evaluate.

Best wishes to you.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:43 PM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

The current situation absolutely sounds like the result of stress. He's coming to the end of one of the most traumatic experiences a person can have. So I would not look at this as how things will be from now on.

However, I don't think it's okay that he's both not taking care of your needs and choosing not to discuss that with you.

I am also disturbed that when he does have sex with you, it's just to "relieve himself" with you doing the work. To me, unsexy sex is worse than no sex. YMMV.

I think you need to decide on some new ground rules together. If he doesn't feel like having sex, how about some cuddle time or a bath -- something that will make you feel sensual and loved, without the sex that isn't ringing his bell. Or if the physical situation is going to go unchanged, he need to be willing to talk to you about it.

I agree that you should not expect a relationship to be 50-50 every day. This may be a time when you are providing more support than you are getting. But I also firmly believe that a relationship should never get to the point of 100-0. So while I encourage you to support him through this incredibly difficult time, please also figure out what you need to be okay in this relationship while you support him, and don't be afraid to ask for that.
posted by freshwater at 9:24 PM on June 14, 2010

I'm going to repeat what was said above and say "This is NOT GOOD." Sure, stress and depression can do a number on a person's libido, but your inquiries should not be met with anger. Sad to say, some guys come on really hot and heavy at the beginning, but once the deal is done and they have "won" you, then the sex stops. This is a control issue and it needs to be addressed NOW. If he won't have sex with you, then he needs to at least talk to you about it, if he won't do either, then I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend that you DTMFA. Been there, got the merit badge - and it won't get better.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:05 PM on June 14, 2010

Hey, wait just a second -

He just lays there and waits for me to 'do the job'.

So he's not even having any erectile problems or anything? He's getting off, he just isn't trying and isn't doing anything for you? I'm a guy and I think he's being a complete asshole, then. He doesn't have to be super into it to get you off.

I would twist his arm into doing his duty. Maybe he'll even like that. As far as I'm concerned you're within your rights to demand it. He can be all weepy and emotional or whatever now, that's reasonable, but his libido can catch up to yours later; it's not in any way burdensome or asking much for him to step up and perform here in what is a core part of any relationship. Seriously, snap your fingers at him and say, "Chop, chop!" and if he doesn't get with the program or whines too much, DTMFA.
posted by XMLicious at 11:14 AM on June 18, 2010

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