I want to accept my sex drive.
November 16, 2011 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Help me accept my sex drive and become okay with fulfilling my sexual needs outside my sexless (and open) relationship.


I've written a few AskMe's about my relationship in the past -- the first time was more than three years ago -- and despite insightful advice from several people, I'm kind of ashamed and embarrassed that I have not been able to make any changes in my life.

I'm a 37-year-old gay man. My partner and I have been together for eight years, and we have a good deal of love, but zero sex life. It’s not that we started out with great sex and it petered out; we just have never been sexually compatible. He has no sex drive. We’ve fooled around maybe once a year on average and on those occasions the sex has never been more than adequate.

My question is not about how to make us sexually compatible; after eight years it’s never gonna happen.

In almost every other way, we’re compatible. We “click,” we have similar interests, we make each other laugh, we enjoy being with each other, we love each other. But he has zero libido. Always has. We've tried several years of couples therapy (still ongoing); he’s on treatment for low testosterone; I’ve even tried taking the pressure off, and letting our sex life develop on its own. Nothing has worked. It’s just never going to happen with us sexually. And even if he did get horny, he’s not good in bed and I have no real desire to have sex with him.

Bottom line: he is cute from the neck up. But there is no sexual compatibility.

I know some of you might say, “You guys sound like best friends, so why not leave it there and break up.” The thing is, I have tried several times over the years to do that. My partner has even said that although he is very content with our relationship and would be sad if I broke up with him, he would understand my reasons for doing so. But even though I sometimes fixate on the idea of breaking up with him, I just can’t seem to actually go through with it. I love him too much, and the fear of what happens after the breakup is overpowering. How could I live without my best friend in my life?

On top of that, his job comes with an apartment, so we currently pay no rent and we live in an expensive city. If we broke up, I'd have to move out and pay rent again. I know, cry me a river. But this is a big deal to me. How could I be so stupid as to give up something like this - great substantive relationship, sweet guy, free apartment -- when the only problem is sex?

These are all the reasons why I want to see if I can maintain our relationship while having my own sex life.

Now for the meat of the issue:

I have a big inner conflict when it comes to sex. On the one hand, I really enjoy sex, and I have a pretty high sex drive. I’ve had lots of sex in the past. I notice hot guys ALL THE TIME. Faces, eyes, hair, jawlines, stubble, neck muscles, arms, backs, legs, feet, all turn me on. I actually think I have some mild sexual compulsive tendencies, although I’m generally able to keep it under control.

On the other hand, there’s this big part of me that sees sex as shameful. This part of me is very cautious. This part of me is very afraid to break any rules. This part of me hears certain messages American society drums into our heads about how sex is bad and sex is shallow. It seems like talk shows and advice columns are filled with people who have terrible relationships because they thought sexual attraction was the be-all and end-all of a relationship. I never wanted to be one of those people. I feel like your dick is a horrible judge of substantive relationship compatibility. So I have found someone who is substantively wonderful and will never cheat on me because he isn't interested in sex.

The other thing about my sex drive is that even though it's so powerful, it's also fleeting. Once I ejaculate, my sex drive just disappears, and I think, what was I driving myself crazy for, and how stupid would it be to leave my partner and give up FREE RENT IN AN EXPENSIVE CITY when I can just satisfy this occasional need without him?

Also, sex isn’t like food and water. Without food and water, you’ll die, but sex is not a requirement for physical survival.

Being gay makes it even more difficult. There’s a large portion of the country who thinks gay sex is immoral and disgusting. I’m ashamed to say that even though I’ve been out of the closet for years, I’m afraid of the religious right. I know that sounds ridiculous. Why should I care what the religious right thinks? I’m not even Christian! But for some reason, these “authority figures” have a big hold over my thinking. Maybe on some level I’m scared of getting gay-bashed or treated like a second-class citizen. There’s also STDs. And even condoms can’t prevent things like crabs. It took me a long time to come out of the closet because I was so ashamed of being gay and worried about the consequences. I think part of me still feels some of that shame and I don’t know how to make it go away completely.

My partner and I have an open relationship, which means I get to play around. It’s a don’t ask/don’t tell situation; he prefers not to know what I do. The thing is, in trying to fulfill my sexual needs over the years, I eventually got to a point where I was repeatedly having unfulfilling sex with strangers, feeling bad about myself, doing it again, etc., and not being able to stop myself. I finally got scared and disgusted with all of this last spring, so I went to a Sexual Compulsives Anonymous meeting, but it didn’t seem right for me. Instead, I’ve managed to successfully refrain on my own. It’s been more than six months since I’ve had regret-worthy sex.

But now I’ve gone from being a sex addict to being pretty much celibate, and it’s no fun. Don’t get me wrong, the celibacy is working much better for me than the sex addiction. I’m not disgusted with myself anymore, I feel like I'm in the driver's seat of my own life again, I’m more aware of my desires, and I am making more deliberate choices instead of impulsively drowning in empty sex. So it’s definitely an improvement.

But now I just jerk off a few times a week and it's getting old.

How do I find a middle ground?

My partner said that if I need to fulfill my needs and don’t want to do it with strangers, he would be okay with me going on “dates” with people instead of having sex with strangers off the internet.

How do I find people to do this while being honest with them about my relationship status?

And how do I do this without feeling guilty about it?

Before you ask, I do have a therapist, and we discuss my sexual attitudes a lot. But I can't seem to get past these hangups. So I want to get an outside perspective.

I know that happiness is a choice. I just don't know whether I would be happy in the long run if I broke up.


Why is it so hard for me to accept my own sexual needs? Why do I think sex is so shameful when at the same time I love it? How do I change this attitude?

How do I see sex as a legitimate factor in a successful relationship instead of just something that distorts a person’s judgment?

How do I accept that an absolute, utter lack of sexual compatibility is a legitimate reason for breaking up? How do I accept that I have the right to choose a good sex life?

(I realize these might all be aspects of the same question. I also realize that these questions might seem jaw-droppingly stupid or the answers blindingly obvious to some of you reading. But I just can't seem to get there.)
posted by chameleon to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: Not much help here, except to say: for someone whose sex life has been as empty as yours, you ARE NOT obsessing about sex. You have a normal, healthy interest in sex. Your drives are pushing you to think more about, because your life is lacking it!

On the other hand, there’s this big part of me that sees sex as shameful.

To quote John Waters, "Thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty!" IOW, there's a big part of a lot of us that sees sex this way. That part is dysfunctional, but fairly unremovable. It can, however, be tricked into helping us enjoy "naughty" things, and maybe even sans guilt! As it should be... salacious, naughty, fun, fun sex!

The other thing about my sex drive is that even though it's so powerful, it's also fleeting. Once I ejaculate, my sex drive just disappears...

So, I'm guessing you are a male human being, strictly from this evidence...

Also, sex isn’t like food and water. Without food and water, you’ll die, but sex is not a requirement for physical survival.

With all due respect, fuck that logic. Nice clothing and clean hair isn't a requirement for physical survival. For that matter, you can probably live on boiled oats, vitamin pills, milk powder, and the occasional bug... but who wants to?

Life is so much more than just surviving. Sex, for most adult people, is a HUGE part of that more. It's OK to view sex as an important part of a happy life.

Don’t get me wrong, the celibacy is working much better for me than the sex addiction. I’m not disgusted with myself anymore, I feel like I'm in the driver's seat of my own life again...

I won't sell this part short. You should feel in control of yourself... but you're doing it by strict self-denial, not by choosing a path towards happiness.

Therapy, of course, is my next... oops. OK, keep on it. Or find a new therapist, if this one isn't making you work hard enough on your issues (in your opinion). Do you feel like the sessions are work? Hard work? Profitable work?
posted by IAmBroom at 1:53 PM on November 16, 2011

How do I find people to do this while being honest with them about my relationship status?

I've seen plenty of people advertising on OKCupid who say flat-out that they're looking for friends with benefits and fun on the side and such, and they have a great relationship and they're not looking for a big relationship. It's a step above manhunt and other sites for arranging random hookups, though.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:54 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're asking a whole bunch of questions. In reverse order:

Your sex drive is legitimate. You see it as such by imagining that sex drive belonging to someone you respect a lot, and reflecting on how you would accept them if they explained it as a need of theirs.

Shame is part of what makes it hot, and is almost impossible to remove entirely. But echoing IAmBroom, it can be changed from the kind of shame that makes you paralyzed and self-loathing to the kind of shame that you and your partner both accept as a controlled ingredient in your hot sex life. This involves finding a partner who does not think you're broken for having some shame -- avoiding meta-shame from someone unreservedly "sex-positive" -- and is willing to work with you on finding ways of expressing yourself sexually that nudge up against your shame without drowning you in it.

Nobody knows if you'll be happy in the long run if you break up. But you can definitely try the middle ground first and see if it makes you happy. If not, maybe this isn't the relationship for you.

And finally, as for the middle ground: just say what you're after. You're in a committed, open relationship, and you want someone more than an anonymous fuck and less than a potential life partner. OKC is definitely friendly to people doing this sort of dating, maybe other sites are too. Be plain about your situation and needs and then describe why someone might be interested in you given those facts.

Who would be interested? Not everyone, but many people. Someone just out of an LTR and giving themselves space. Someone who has decided "single and dating" is the right structure for them long-term. Someone who is in the same sort of relationship as you. Someone with a spouse that travels a lot. &c &c.

Do read some of the literature on opening up more-fully than "anonymous fucks" though. There are risks at the emotional level. You can fall for someone you're dating.
posted by ead at 3:17 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It seems to me that you are being very hard on yourself here. (OK, I tried to reword that first sentence for several minutes, and I give up and am moving on...)

You seem to be, as far as I can see, perfectly normal in having A) a healthy sex drive, and B) frustration that things in this area of your life aren't working very well at the moment. You also seem to be pretty honest about who you are, what you want, how you feel, etc. which is fantastic (and puts you well ahead of many people out there).

From where I stand you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. You are taking mature, reasonable actions to address issues and get your (normal, healthy) needs met. You are trying to take care of yourself.

I could say more, but previous posters have already said it very nicely. Best of luck.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 3:35 PM on November 16, 2011

You sound like you have a healthy sex dive not an over active one. I too would find myself troubled in your situation and I am a straight lady who by no account is sex crazed. It is so great that you have been honest with your SO about your needs but the disparity seems insurmountable. There are a lot of couples who find that opening the relationship provides that extra thing (whether satisfying a fetish or supplementing sex drive) which brings them closer and increases their compatibility. It doesn't sound from your question that this is your situation though.

I know it will hurt and be terribly difficult but I think you need to find a way to break up with your SO and find someone compatible.
posted by boobjob at 4:32 PM on November 16, 2011

I'm not qualified to touch the sexual aspects of this question, but your (repeated) mention of your partner's free digs as a reason to stay with him really stuck out at me. So .... If that wasn't just a joke, I would advise you to try to evaluate your relationship entirely independent of that perk, since it is something that you can obtain in other ways. In his shoes, I would feel used, and in your shoes I would feel (have felt) both trapped and like a user. You may be trading your self respect or your happiness for rent money.
posted by Metasyntactic at 5:07 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

I second okcupid. I havea straight male friend who does this. He has two girlfriends and still looks for other people. He is completely open to both girls and sometimes has a three-way with both. His girlfriends hae other girlfrend/boyriends too. This is normal for many people. But you have to be careful of this some people can't handle open relationships. You have to be 100% okay with this yourself. It is perfectly normal and there is nothing wrong with it, but it is not for everyone.

So make an online dating profile, and mention you are in an open relationship and have fun. To be safe I would talk to your doctor about std testing. It is a serious risk and you might want to get tested regularly for your safety and the safety of others.

I am sorry that our society has such a negative view on sex, open relationships and on gay relationships. There is nothing wrong with any of it as long as you treat others with respect and kindness.
posted by Jaelma24 at 5:47 PM on November 16, 2011

The reasons you mention to stay with your partner are all negative: breaking up is difficult and uncomfortable, you would feel guilty if you left him "just" because of sex, you would feel stupid for giving up free rent.

If you have some concrete positive reasons to stay in this relationship, then stay and figure out how to open it up. If not, then go.
posted by sadmadglad at 7:34 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think the reason you really stay is this:

"...there’s this big part of me that sees sex as shameful. This part of me is very cautious."

Staying with a partner who isn't into sex, with you or anyone else, has allowed you to run from your fears. Even if this partner is your best friend in the whole world!

I think you should move out and make a go of it on your own while continuing therapy. It sounds like you could possibly get back together, but really, you need to stand on your own two feet.

I bet you could find someone else to have meaningful sex with, eventually, if you just give it a great big chance coupled with the confidence supporting yourself brings.
posted by jbenben at 9:14 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Why can't you guys just declare yourself roommates and best friends, rather than official romantic boyfriends? Because that's what you guys are except for the label. If he was your roommate/best friend, you could go find actual guys who want to have an actual relationship.

It sounds like it is killing you on some level not to have a real romantic relationship. You're trying to work yourself into knots, compensate with stranger sex, go to therapy, etc., anything to try to get over a biological human urge to have a real boyfriend. This would be a lot simpler if you just stopped trying to do anything but the one thing that would solve your problem. Hell, what would your "boyfriend" be missing out on? You don't have sex, you make out on a yearly basis. You can be best friends and roommates just as well without the title.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:14 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think you should ball up and get on with your life. You don't like meaningless sex. You can't have the kind of sex you want with your boyfriend and if you started having the kind of sex you want with other people (deeply connected, emotionally intimate) it'll pretty much make your primary relationship even more questionable.

Say you don't want to do that.
If you want to have a secondary relationship that's going to be built up and made into something that will support your needs for emotional and physical intimacy for at least a while- you might need to amend the don't ask-don't tell rule. You're going to run into problems running a double life- you'll have to have sneaky dates so no one finds out you're messing around on your BF (unknown to them that you have his permission). AND- how is Mr. Secondary going supposed to be emotionally available when he can't be 100% sure you aren't just stepping out on your primary. Secret relationships tend to be emotionally shallow and energy zapping.

And say you start dating, and the dude is totally perfect and wants to marry you and have a million white picket fences and he fucks your brains out six times a day...are you committed to your current boyfriend in a way that would make you stay with him even if you were offered that kind of greener pasture? Because I'm betting that opportunity will seem to come up...
posted by Blisterlips at 2:42 AM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

I know some of you might say, “You guys sound like best friends, so why not leave it there and break up.”

Yep. Free apartment be damned! You can't make huge life decisions based on a free apartment. How would you feel about looking back over your life, lying on your deathbed, and realizing you made super important decisions about a relationship based on saving money?

...how to make us sexually compatible

MDMA. For real.

Once I ejaculate, my sex drive just disappears

That's how it works... you'll replenish.

Why is it so hard for me to accept my own sexual needs? Why do I think sex is so shameful when at the same time I love it?

I don't know you so take this with a grain of salt, but it sounds like some sort of abuse history is in play. The shame and guilt, ESPECIALLY guilt immediately following orgasm, the sexual compulsion, the inability to love someone AND want to fuck them, all these things point to an abuse history. I would talk to your therapist about that and see what's there, because this is what I'm getting from the whole thing. DISCLAIMER: I wrote back before reading the other answers, so if I said duplicate things, just take it as an affirmation of the other person's advice :) Good luck! Peace, I'm outta here.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 6:01 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Shame is part of what makes it hot, and is almost impossible to remove entirely.

For real???
posted by jitterbug perfume at 6:53 AM on November 17, 2011

For real???

Aaaand this would be the aforementioned "meta-shaming" from someone who wants you to have a sexuality that has no dark parts?

Yes for real. Self-conflict and not-very-pleasant feelings (fear, shame, pain, guilt, anger, revulsion, humiliation, sorrow) are very common ingredients that get integrated into the arousal patterns of people. If you haven't had the displeasure of being turned on by something you are troubled by, lucky you. Lots of people are. The conflict magnifies the heat.

He wants to erase this pattern from his mind entirely, to disassociate sex from shame. IME these things don't get erased, especially not if it's been a persistent theme all through his sexual development (as it has). You can add secondary patterns, new people, new behavior, etc. and you can learn to control the most-triggering situations, moderate the response to a manageable level. It's currently dominating his life and that's clearly bad. But I've never heard of someone erasing a troubling pattern of arousal. They remain latent even when under control.

If you happen to know of a technique, I'm all ears. Or maybe I misread what you were objecting to?
posted by ead at 9:42 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

You love him and are afraid to leave a good thing. How important is the exemption from rent, in comparison? From an objective party, the financial motive seems to override your emotional needs.

I also see no evidence of you being a sex addict. It sounds like you have a high sex drive. Coupled with a sexually constricting relationship, I can see it leading to feelings of ambivalence, frustration.. all the emotions you expressed in your post.

Sex is a healthy, gratifying part of a relationship and there is no substitute. Your psych will be better suited to help you work through your individual issues but I think your feelings of shame have made you complacent in a dissatisfying relationship.
posted by aca.int at 3:00 PM on January 21, 2012

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