How can I keep my boyfriend and I from becoming "just roommates" now that we live together....and how can I stop obsessively worrying about our sex life?
September 1, 2011 11:23 AM   Subscribe

How can I keep my boyfriend and I from becoming "just roommates" now that we live together? And how can I stop obsessively worrying about our sex life?

My boyfriend and I had a great sex life before we moved in together. Now a few months in to cohabitation things are less hot than they were before. While there are definitely some other factors at play here (work stress, etc) I think part of this may due to us becoming too comfortable and familiar to each other and the other part of this is probably due to my obsessive worrying about this.

We've been together about a year and a half and moved in after about a year and we are both in our 30's, btw. Unmarried, no kids.

I guess I have a few questions.

1) Is it possible to re-heat a relationship? I would really like to believe it is. But I have heard lots of when-it-starts-to-get-less-hot that's-it-it's-over stories....I would really, really love to hear some stories about the opposite -- about couples who felt things needing a little livening up and then were actually successful at livening them. The internet seems to be full of advice about this stuff but most of the advice seems silly and obvious (stuff like "buy a new sex toy and get some lingerie" are all well and good, but this doesn't really seem like a long term solution).

Also (and actually this may be the bigger issue here):

I'm worried I have doomed myself by worrying about this so much -- in past relationships I have lost interest sexually at around the 1 year mark. But in most of these relationships the relationship was mostly over by this point. (The only time the interest came back was after a guy and I broke up...then we messed around for a while as exes which was way better than anything that had ever happened during our actual relationship. I can only assume this is because it was "forbidden" ). And so all along in my current relationship I've been sort of like obsessing over the fact that this (the slowing down of sex stuff) might happen. This is the best relationship I've ever been and this is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with and so from early on I think I put extra pressure on all of it like "oh no what if something goes wrong at some point?!". Even when things were completely fantastic sexually I would sometimes obsessively google "how to keep the spark alive" like, to prepare for the future. So I guess my other question is:

2) How do I stop obsessing and worrying about this? Because the worrying is, I think, another big part of the problem. Worrying does not put a person (or at least me) in the right frame of mind of sex! But it's a self-perpetuating cycle -- the more I worry, the less I'm interested in it. And the less I'm interested, the more I worry. (Like, sometimes when we're kissing I'm like "do I want to have sex now?" "what about now?" and just asking that question sort of ruins it). I am, it is worth mentioning, an anxious person and a really big worrier in general. But maybe that's obvious.

By the way, just so no one thinks I'm being totally unrealistic here --
I do know that as a relationship deepens the initial sizzle might fade a bit and it is replaced by other even better things (like a deeper more meaningful relationship). I definitely love my boyfriend more than ever (romantically! not just platonically). I'm not expecting to be swinging from the chandelier every night or something.

I have brought this issue up with my boyfriend a couple times -- his main concern here is just that I'm worrying about it, but doesn't want me to be worried. He thinks anything that's going on is just a phase and we'll get past it. He is super open to discussing whatever and doing anything I want him to do but he seems to be more easily turned-on than I am so this is less of an issue for him. In a certain way I feel like further discussing it (at least in the way we've discussed it so far) will make things worse, not better.

What do you think mefi? Any thoughts or suggestions would be really, really appreciated.
posted by KarenKaren to Human Relations (19 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

I am a huge proponent of scheduling sex - I know it sounds kind of old-fashioned, but it totally works for my relationship. It doesn't mean there's no spontaneity at all - we still have non-scheduled sex, but it takes off a lot of pressure and worry - "we're just tired tonight - we can save it for Sex Night."
posted by muddgirl at 11:27 AM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

1) It is entirely possible.
posted by krilli at 11:34 AM on September 1, 2011

A lot of what you write reminds me of a past relationship. Changing the positions, location, time of day, toys, etc. did not work. We worried too much. We moved in together. This is a great step for us.. why are we worse off?

We were getting along great until the sex fell off, then we started questioning the sex. Trying to identify the problem, we questioned every aspect of our relationship. Then the subtleties of the blame game started.

I can identify with this post up to the point of still having post-relationship sex with him because now I want it.

It sucks but you've got all the answers already. I've got all the answers already. Yet I still worry when that illustrious spark naturally becomes a cooler sizzle.

One thing that has worked is to take time off. If I feel pressured to have sex, I'm even less interested. (Unless it's done right - and that effect fades as well.) Agree not to have sex for two weeks. You always want what you can't have.
posted by at 11:36 AM on September 1, 2011


What happens when you don't want sex on Sex Night?
posted by at 11:37 AM on September 1, 2011

I think that when you're cohabitating, it's easy to spend ALL of your time together, which means you have less of a chance to miss and therefore build up sexual excitement for each other while you're apart. Make sure that you still have lots of activities, hobbies, friends and distractions that keep you out of the house and independently stimulated (in every sense of the word).
posted by argonauta at 11:38 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

this was something my husband and i actively discussed in the beginning. our solution? both of us concentrate on keeping our day to day sexually stimulating. i don't mean that we're fucking on the counters every other night - i mean, we touch each other a lot. i squeeze his ass, he runs his fingers through my hair and tugs a little, we squeeze each other's thighs while watching shitty tv shows. we try to remember how it was in the beginning when we just couldn't stop touching each other.

for me, if there isn't charged sexual energy around, i'm never "in the mood." i found that when we constantly trade lust and desire in the hallway, at the front door, when we go out, i am in the mood way more often. it's like constant foreplay. it helps keep things hot. sometimes we have to schedule it. "hey, i've noticed we aren't kissing as much." so now we make sure to kiss every single night before we sleep. if one of us leaves the bed before we've fallen asleep, we kiss again. it's like a game now. giggles+constant physical affection is what seems to work for us.

i don't pretend this will work for everyone. i know for some, distance is what gets their motor running - but for us, it's considered, concentrated closeness.
posted by nadawi at 11:51 AM on September 1, 2011 [28 favorites]

What happens when you don't want sex on Sex Night?

If we're not up for it, then we don't have it - it's not scheduled marital rape. But one of the nice things about having a sex schedule is that we can anticipate it, so it's more likely that we'll be in the mood on that day than on non-schedule days (for example, we don't stay up too late playing WoW, or we watch a snuggly movie instead of engaging in separate pursuits, etc.)

It doesn't seem like the OP is having a libido problem - just that sex has naturally become a lower priority. If low libido is the issue, then scheduling may be less helpful.
posted by muddgirl at 12:02 PM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

which means you have less of a chance to miss and therefore build up sexual excitement for each other while you're apart.
This was the case for me. Once my girlfriend realized that I wouldn't go away and she didn't need to call me all the time and spend every last minute with me and nag me because we weren't sleeping close enough together -- all of which actually *added* stress to our relationship instead of relieving it so that I could feel more free to be the sexual person I naturally am -- our sex life came back. With a vengeance.

She's the kind of person that wants/needs contact every day; I'm fine going weeks or months without talking to a close family member. This disconnect hurt our relationship because it stressed me out that I had to fulfill this need of hers.

Scheduling sex totally wouldn't work for me.
posted by SpecialK at 12:07 PM on September 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

something else that made all the difference in this relationship. we don't mix sex and sleeping. we choose to have sex. we don't schedule so much as a day or two ahead of time we say something like "i'd really like to roll around" then the other person gets to start thinking "hey, it would be fun to roll around!" and then we do that in the mid evening, bliss out for a minute, and make a delicious dinner and cuddle on the couch until bedtime.

i understand why people have sex when they lay down for bed, but for us, that just conflates a lot of things - like, i've gone to bed because i'm sleepy. now i have to find the energy for sex and the come down and then go right to bed? man, that sounds exhausting. i found in my earlier relationships when sex usually happened as we went to bed, if we were having any anxiety about sex, then we started having anxiety about bedtime. that just became a repeating cycle.

for us, stating our needs out loud instead of hoping to just fall into sex helps neither of us feel "rejected."
posted by nadawi at 12:15 PM on September 1, 2011 [14 favorites]

(as you can tell, we're childless - i totally get why my methods wouldn't work if there were kids in the house)
posted by nadawi at 12:15 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

1. Have a date night. Make an effort to go out, together. No phones, no random stuff. Dress up, get fancy if appropriate. Wear something you know he likes, or something that makes you feel particularly sexy. Getting out of the usual routine might be helpful.

2. Redefine sex. Pulling directly from Dan Savage here - give yourself permission to just fool around, without penetration being the goal. Tell him "Hey, I'd just like to make out with you tonight". Don't let kissing automatically equal penetrative sex - then you won't enjoy the kissing if you're worried about what it leads to. Offer a handjob, or a blowjob, or look into mutual masturbation. Offer to hold him, or do whatever, while he masturbates - just because you don't necessarily feel like penetrative sex doesn't mean that you can't do what you *do* feel like (making out, whatever) and then he can finish himself off. (or you can do what he feels like, and then you can finish yourself off)

You can be intimate, and have that connection, without penetrative sex.
posted by needlegrrl at 12:48 PM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Even if you do everything right, the sex in a long term relationship will sort of ebb and flow. There will be dry spells when you aren't that interested. There will be other times when you can't keep your hands off each other. It just goes around and around like that; perfectly normal.

But I have heard lots of when-it-starts-to-get-less-hot that's-it-it's-over stories....

Right. But that's just because those catastrophic relationship-ending dry spells make good stories. The ordinary non-catastrophic ones, the ones that get better on their own and everyone's happy — well, those happen all the time too; you just don't hear about them.

I mean, most people don't notify all their friends of the normal little fluctuations in their sex life, right? "Oh, yeah, we're humping lots this week. How about you two?" "No, this week's been pretty much a non-humper back at our place. How 'bout this weather though, eh?"

Now, sometimes a dry spell does become a permanent sex drought; or sometimes, in a relationship that's already failing, a few weeks without sex will be the last straw; and then, yeah, one partner or the other might get all resentful and start telling everyone. "I'm leaving because that frigid motherfucker stopped putting out. I've got needs, you know?" But in my experience most dry spells don't go that way. They just sort of quietly and naturally turn back into... well, uh, "wet spells" I guess you'd call them — and unless someone was a fly in the wall in your bedroom, they'd never know what had happened.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:09 PM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

A while back I asked a "lack of sex question" regarding me and my fiance who is now my wife. You can view it at It's now about almost 2 years later. What has happened since? Well I can tell you that we have sex about 1 to 2 times a week. But usually just once a week on the weekends. Overall our relationship is very good. Do I wish we were having sex more? Yes. But I've also come to realize that it may not be realistic to expect sex 4 or 5 times a week...the way it was when we first met. It was all the time when we first met. I don't even feel the need for sex more then 3 times a week. My biggest problem in our sexual relationship at this point is that when I initiate sex and she turns me down, I feel like total crap. Since we kind of know we're gonna have sex on Friday or Saturday night, she's usually in to it. But when she's not I just get upset. I don't get mad or anything, but I become depressed. You and your boyfriend are ahead of the game by talking about sex and being very open. I'd say that the answer to your first question is yes and no. I think that from time to time the frequency of sex will always change. But if you work hard and really put an effort into sex, you can keep the spark alive if you want to. I say yes and No...the no because I don't think a relationship can ever maintain the same level of sexual desire that exists during the first 6 months. I just don't think it's possible. In answer to question 2, you just have to try not to worry about it as much. Instead worry about finding new ways to please your husband. Don't worry about the sex dropping off. Stay focused on the positives. Finally, keep in mind what I've said about rejection when initiating sex. For guys, being rejected by their girlfriends or wives is perhaps one of the worst things they can experience in a relationship. It does horrible things to a guy's self esteem. So if you find yourself starting to reject your boyfriend more often then not...that's when the problems start to arise. I'm not saying you have to be in the mood for sex every time he initiates it. But if you start making rejection a habit, it will cause problems. Do you best to be enthusiastic more often then not. Even better, initiate sex on your own. Guys love that. Hope this helps.
posted by ljs30 at 1:51 PM on September 1, 2011

You might need a hobby.

I'm not kidding.

There is more to a relationship to sex. If it's THAT important to you to have it all the time, then don't be in a monogamous relationship.

Monogamous relationships go through peaks and valleys with sex. If you're not ready to handle that (and this post suggests you are not), I suggest breaking it off before you do what most people that can't handle the peaks and valleys of sex in a relationship (and that is cheat).
posted by PsuDab93 at 2:49 PM on September 1, 2011

I think one of the best things you can do to keep your sex life alive and healthy is to keep your relationship healthy. Nothing kills sex faster than unspoken resentments and anger--I know this from very painful experience. And if you aren't communicating well, sexual issues can't be resolved and grow into huge nasty problems. So concentrate on keeping the warmth and affection between you, continue to work on communicating with one another, and you can deal with any sex issues that come up.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 4:04 PM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

I've been married for 10 years. Here are some things that help us keep things fresh when we feel like we're becoming roomies:

Avoid seeing each other naked (besides of course during sexy time). Keep nakedness special and exciting. Don't go to the bathroom together, don't watch each other getting dressed, etc. This actually becomes a fun little game, and really does rekindle that "ooh this is naughty" feeling when you have intimate time.

Have his/hers shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, etc. He should have his smells and she should have hers. This strengthens that line of separation / keeping things special / keeping your identities separate.

My wife hates the idea of scheduling sex; she finds it creates too much pressure. Instead we schedule dinner dates, board game nights, massages, and chat time where we sit on the couch together with the TV off. Basically we schedule activities that usually lead to intimacy, or at least open a space for it. (BTW - our favorite 2-player board games so far are "Lost Cities" and "Dominion.")

Best of luck.
posted by blahtsk at 4:38 PM on September 1, 2011 [11 favorites]

So, gf and I have been together for almost two years, and leaving together for a little over a year. We are definitely 'more comfortable' together and less 'honeymoon-all-about-the-sexin' than when we first went out, and I wouldn't trade that for anything. We still have lots of fun, though its more of a 'we know each others bodies pretty well, so lets experiment with each other and see what we might not know we like'

You are in the awesome position of being with someone who is GGG and willing to communicate. Communication is a good thing, especially when it comes to sex. Even if you're worried that it will 'make it worse', if youre in this for the long haul, getting these concerns out into the open so you can bounce them around (heh) is a good thing for your relationship. Trust your boyfriend not to get frustrated and walk out. You live together, and part of that is that you've committed to dealing with and addressing each other's occasional crazy enough that its now required that you talk stuff out rather than having 'well i could just leave' on the table.

I think the important things here are severalfold. In no particular order, and mostly stream of consciousness:

Yes, the worry is what's getting you in trouble. So much of what makes sex pleasurable is the 'losing oneself' in the moment and getting out of your head, so when you get up there, it can freeze you up. It's totally fine that this is happening, and happens to a lot of us, especially those predisposed to being cerebral anyway. My advice is to TALK TO YOUR BOYFRIEND when this happens. If he's an observant sort, he can probably tell anyway. Make it a code word if you like, but learn to feel comfortable with the "I'm enjoying this but I'm going up in my head too"... he can either reassure you, or you can decide how far you want to go or not go that night, or do something unexpected to jolt you out of your spinning.

Do you meditate? Meditation is basically the repeated practice of training yourself to refocus down into your body when you go up into your head. Super helpful.

Nothing about what you've written screams 'relationship is doomed!'. For us, this is the longest relationship either of us have been in (and the first one where we've cohabitated for any significant length of time), so at this point we're in "uncharted territory," so we're kind of feeling each other out (heh) with regards to how our sex life plays out now that we see each other all the time and share a bathroom.

In the short-term, are there fantasies you've always had but never gotten to make reality? Does he have any? Any unusual positions, locations, etc you want to try? This is what LTRs are for: a safe, trustworthy partner to explore your kinks with.

Don't worry about your relationship 'losing heat'. This isn't a zero sum game. The circumstances have changed a bunch, and now you get to adjust and explore what makes you two hot in this new situation. It may be totally different than the kinds of things you were doing when you first went out, or it may be the same stuff but on the kitchen table instead of in the bedroom, or on the table with a video camera.

Have fun and relax. Your sex life is a part of your relationship to be explored, with peaks and valleys and times when it will suck and times when it'll be awesome. It's not a plate on a stick that you have to keep juggling. Even if you dont have sex for a month, that doesn't mean you'll never have sex again, especially if there are a lot of stresses. Just make sure you're checking in with each other and talking about it.
posted by softlord at 4:59 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sex sends many messages.

No sex sends many messages.

At the front end of a relationship, Nature wants you to obsess. Sadly, you are human and can't obsess all the time, so you tire. The clock ticking in the room demands to be ignored. Background stimulus fades. Novelty repeated becomes routine. This is what it is.

As the sex imperative drops, it drops below the line of other 'work' kinds of activities, like housework, career tasks, exercise, shopping, travel. At some point, they become more important. I think at this point is where trouble starts. One partner or the other eventually recognizes that washing clothes is more important than sexual needs.

If you are willing to work weekly to insure clean clothes, you should be willing to expend an equivalent energy sending those non-spoken messages of value, specialness, love, tenderness, caring, fun that sex sends. If you aren't willing to send those messages by making sex as important as for instance, gardening, you ARE asking for trouble.

Couples in this state deserve what they get; indeed they get what they are asking for; aloneness leading to relationship deterioration, and eventually either chronic dissatisfaction or dissolution. Metafilter is packed, packed, packed with this topic in many forms. Same story, different typists.

As they say "This isn't rocket surgery, Einstein". The human is a rather silly beast, and not that hard to understand. I applaud your worry, and urge you to expend the effort to 'tell' your mate how wonderful you think he is and hope he shares the sentiment.
posted by FauxScot at 7:09 PM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

I obsess over this shit too, to a ridiculous level; my husband's a saint for listening to me like clockwork about 4-5 times a year fret about my neurotic fear of the fizzle, the 2-year slowdown (we've been together a lot longer than that but), the poisonous crap evo psych has curdled my brain with despite my knowing better, etc. I've been getting better this year, I guess partly because it has become such a cycle and he's always reassuring and lets me voice my fears and then tells me why we won't let it happen with concrete actions in mind, mainly mixing things up a bit temporarily (new visual stimulus shared together, doing it differently whether that's positioning or location or timing).

I think the big thing though is, if you want to have sex a lot, you have to be willing to prioritize (whether that's scheduling, being more upfront, making sure to get enough sleep or leave work at the door or not watching TV every night, whatever). And if you're like me, even temporarily doing so to reassure yourself may quickly paradoxically make you realize it's not that important to do it so much, to either of you, at least not always at the expense of whatever else you're giving up time or concentration-wise, and that's ok as long as you're on the same page about it. It'll be there when you get back from your big project or whatever. That said, I do think it gets real easy to slide too much either way, and the longer you tune out sexual possibility the more dormant your body/mental response to the idea of having it later (at least, that's how it works for me). So it's sort of a balancing act, and the common denominator is checking in/assessing your satisfaction both with yourself and your partner regularly.

I will say I've noticed if you want to have it all the time, you have to get used to the notion it will not be mindblowing or over an hour long every time; you have to start seeing how there's a time and place for the quickie, or the sleepy sex where you don't see stars, etc. It's still great bonding time. Hell, if your partner is the type that's ok with it, you can even do the make out without sex--fondling, perhaps a momentary bit of oral, and just cuddle (some would just find this frustrating; discuss first of course).

That reminds me, since it achieved this for me too: I also realized part of why I wanted sex all the time was I wanted physical touch as comfort and the reassurance of knowing my partner still saw me "that way." We've talked candidly about this, and having to actually come out and say so made me realize it myself (funny how talk works), and once I'd said tha aloud I was able to recognize that and so now if we're both tired after a long day and know we only have 6 hours to sleep before work the next day, instead of fretting about doing it and feeling unsatisfied I get him to cradle me in our sleep and we tell each other why we love each other that day and it's as good that night as doing it would be. Maybe I'm not explaining this well though. But if part of it is more the need for reassurance (there'd be times I didn't even really want to do it, I was just as tired and not at all horny, but the fact we weren't doing it upset me because of what I thought that "meant" about us) and your partner gets that and is great at expressing his sexual appreciation/lust for you in other ways (verbal, non PIV physical affection if you're up for that) that are still genuine, that can help.

And this is maybe a little contentious but prioritizing a physical existence, carving out a routine time each week or day or whatnot where you are all in your body, not distracted by work or other more abstract stuff can help. A favorite physical activity that really gets you in touch with your body so you live fully in it has helped us a ton. For lots of people this also results in the bonus of more energy and self confidence due to increased health/better figure, so it's gravy.
posted by ifjuly at 8:13 AM on September 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

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