How can I maintain my calm and confidence in my otherwise awesome relationship during a sexual 'slump'?
November 28, 2010 1:15 PM   Subscribe

How can I maintain my calm and confidence in my otherwise awesome relationship during a sexual 'slump'? And how can I be proactive to make things better?

OOooohhh, lengthy post ahead... my apologies in advance.

I have been with my current boyfriend for almost 10 months. We moved in together fairly quickly (because I moved across the country to start my PhD) and have been living together for about 2 and a half months. We have an excellent relationship - good communication, excellent intellectual and emotional connection, and we used to have great sex reasonably often. We're both having difficulties enjoying our new city, in part because I'm always busy and he hasn't really found a community that he's connected with here.

My challenge is that our sex life has changed significantly in the past 1 1/2 months or so, and his desire to have sex is significantly less than mine. We've talked about it and understandably, his sex drive is low because he's not really happy or inspired here, doesn't have anyone to connect with outside of our relationship, and isn't working towards anything important to him at the moment - and I'm a stressed out student (not so hot...). I'm doing my best to accept this, but it is difficult for me at times, in part because I know he watches porn on occasion (by his own admission). Now, I sincerely have no problem with porn in general (particularly when our sex life is healthy and working for both of us), but I'm finding it challenging given our current situation. Aside from my feelings of sexual frustration (!!!!! I've been consuming porn too, but I much prefer to have loving sex with my partner), it bothers me that his limited sexual energy might literally be being spent with porn and not on us making efforts to connect when he is feeling sexual. I fear that porn might be replacing our sex life (yes, I acknowledge that this is rooted partly in neurotic fear, but it is still viscerally weighty). I sincerely have no interest in being a woman who feels threatened by porn, but given the context (that there is a disconnect in our sexual relationship), I’m having a difficult time feeling confident that our healthy sexual relationship is going to remerge.

I want to be clear that we’re an affectionate couple and he’s really lovely, so it’s not that there is a lack of intimacy and closeness in the relationship. However, when I try to initiate sex and he's not in the mood, I end up taking it personally and admittedly, I noticeably withdraw and I think this makes matters worse. The few times we have had sex lately have not been satisfying for me because my feelings on all of this have been hard to shake (it's not just about the frequency - I'm having a hard time enjoying it when it does happen...). It's maddening! We’re pretty open to talking about sex. I recently bought a book that I was hoping would provide some inspiration for us to just connect playfully in a new way, but he pretty much dismissed it as a ‘how to’ guide and that was the end of that (I've been hesitant to bring it into any conversations since then). How can I make an effort to bring in playfulness (through books, and whatever else) without making him feel like I’m suggesting that he is an inadequate lover (which he is not)? I feel like I might need that kind of lightness between us to take the pressure off. Are there any suggestions for how not to feel rejected if he isn’t game? All other areas of our relationship are great, but this is starting feel... a bit tangled. A healthy sex life is important to me and I don’t want this time to change the way I feel about my relationship.

How can I start to let some of my ‘issues’ go so I can lessen my weird expectations about how this is ‘supposed’ to go and really enjoy the moment when things click? Is it common to feel worried about porn in this kind of context - can porn 'take away' from a sexual relationship? And how can I talk about this without making matters worse by making a huge deal out of something that he and I have talked about and both feel will likely pass when we are in better places personally?

Thank you for your time!
posted by sassy mae to Human Relations (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

I don't want to be overly simplistic, but I think that if you fix the underlying issues, you'll fix your sex life. And conversely, there's no easy fix for the sex without addressing the underlying issues.

That means things like you finding a way to leave more of your school stress at the office/lab/library rather than bringing it home, he needs to find a social life and some meaning in his life, and so on. From your second-to-last paragraph, I get the idea that you think that this stuff will just fade with time, and it might (well, not the phd stress -- that just ratchets up more and more as your program goes on). But why wait passively, when you could be addressing this proactively?
posted by Forktine at 1:31 PM on November 28, 2010

I don't believe that porn detracts from a sexual relationship. In general, porn has two functions: for those who do not have a sexual relationship, it acts as a substitute for actual sex, and for those who do have a sexual relationship, it acts as an inspiration to better utilize that relationship. An actual person is more satisfying than a mere picture or video of a person. So wahtever the problem may be, I don't think it's the porn. I endorse Forktime's ideas.
posted by grizzled at 2:14 PM on November 28, 2010

You should really think of the time your SO spends alone watching porn as his "me time". It really has nothing to do with sex with you and is an entirely separate thing from your sexual relationship.

As far as fixing your sexual relationship, you both need to take Forktine's advice to improve your life outside of the bedroom. You sound stressed and your SO sounds depressed. Your sex life isn't going to magically get better without you guys addressing these issues, and books don't sound like the right way to go. Just stick together, love one another, and try to make it through this rough patch. If you can both get to happier places in life, I'm sure your sex life will become much happier as well.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 3:17 PM on November 28, 2010

You should really think of the time your SO spends alone watching porn as his "me time". It really has nothing to do with sex with you and is an entirely separate thing from your sexual relationship.

Agreeing with this. I know that for you it may feel like "hey there are times when I'm feeling into it, and during those times I go to my boyfriend, not to porn" but my guess [based on my myriad of past data points] is that's not how he's feeling. If your boyfriend is complaining that his libido is low or something then pointing out "hey you're still jerking off, just not having sex with me" may be appropriate, though I wouldn't use that wording, but otherwise it should be pretty much off the table.

Usually when these threads come up in AskMe, we see them in the other direction genderwise and the suggestions are often along the lines of taking sex totally off the table, finding other ways to share closeness/intimacy, for a fixed amount of time so that one person doesn't feel constantly hassled to have sex. Have date nights and other "let's relax together" events for just the two of you. It sounds like you've both got a few stressors in your life at this point and this may be making it tough for you to connect as a team. For some people this sort of stress can really affect their sex drive and for some people it doesn't. Your boyfriend may be more affected than he actually realizes, just not feeling into it and not realizing this is because he feels disconnected in life generally.

I sometimes have this problem, I get wound up in my day or little bullshit and can't really focus on my partner or even relaxing and blocking out time to just fool around. Over this holiday weekend while he was all "hey can I give you a backrub?" I was like "you know, what I'd really like is for us to plan out the rest of the holidays together...." but that was what was bugging me and I felt worlds more relaxed afterwards and more into snuggling and cuddling and whatever. Everyone's got their thing.

That said, you seem to be getting a little hung up on the porn angle of this which to me is no angle at all. You use porn and yet you feel bad when he does because you feel that you're not getting intimate enough with your partner and he maybe feels that he is intimate enough with you? If this is something that the two of you have been talking about, I'd take it completely off the table except as I've mentioned above. Having sex with a partner is a really different animal than a quick wank and the less the two things are equated the better.

And then there's the cautionary "He's just not that into you" option. It can be hard to have these conversations with a partner, but at some level this is something -- your frustration with the way your sex ife is going -- that the two of you manage and deal with. You don't ply him or cajole him, the two of you look at your comfort level with the amount you have sex and think about ways to address this. It's not the most fun conversation but the extent to which he can meet you on this can be refective on his general attitude. Ten months seems like a long time but in the grand scheme of things, it isn't. Make sure this isn't just a winding down of the honeymoon phase of your relationship and think about whether that's okay with you.
posted by jessamyn at 4:04 PM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ditto what SkylitDrawl said about porn watching being part of "me time." Since you guys have talked about the change in your sex life, and you've identified clear reasons why sex drive might be an issue under your current circumstances, I wouldn't be worried about porn replacing your joint sexual activities entirely.

If both of you feel that drive and frequency are an issue, make it a priority to book time for sex or plan for it. Sometimes that can feel like a chore, and it may not be an inspiring way to jump start things, but that usually works for my husband and me. If we're in a slump, we try to keep our frequency to a certain level just for the sake of making sure it doesn't disappear from our lives entirely for too long. Even if neither of us is feeling terribly romantic when we start having sex, one of us will usually comment afterward, "We should do that more often!" As long as neither of you is going into the situation with negative feelings, theoretically, you'll be no worse off after having sex than you were before it. It's not going to fix the underlying issues, which others have commented on, but it'll get you through the slump while you work on them.
posted by Terriniski at 4:14 PM on November 28, 2010

nthing a lot of the advice here. Being stressed and uninspired can lead to not feeling particularly randy.

A few other things though:

- Since you're both into porn (and acknowledging that "me time" is a separate thing and that sexuality is not a zero-sum enterprise), could you watch some together? Maybe you each pick a favorite clip and share with the other?
- I do think its important to recognize that theres an underlying issue and not be the 'whiny SO who isnt getting laid enough', but also, sex is FUN (whether its intercourse, or something else)... do you think he would turn down a no-reciprocation-required blowjob at this point? Yes I know thats not the same, but it could be a great reminder that, you know, its not a chore or anything.

Also, it sounds like you're very attached to the concept of a temporary ebb of sexual relations being BAD and WRONG and NOT HOW ITS SUPPOSED TO BE, when in fact it is something that happens sometimes. Trying to let go of the 'WE ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG'-ness of the situation will probably be beneficial to you, and to him (since i guarantee its on his mind as well)

Good luck!
posted by softlord at 7:53 AM on November 29, 2010

Consider and try the suggestions above, but also be aware that it might be the novelty of a new sexual relationship wearing off and his sex drive returning to its 'normal' level and not something fixable.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:45 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for your feedback, everyone.
posted by sassy mae at 1:41 PM on December 2, 2010

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