Can I/How do I fall back in lust?
December 2, 2011 2:39 PM   Subscribe

Can I/how do I fall back in lust?

I've been with my SO for four years, and for the last two of them, our sex life has badly stagnated. We go through periods of getting it back on track, but recently it's got down to once a month, if that. Neither of us make enough effort to initiate, too often one of us is up for it, the other brushes them off. Our advances have devolved into a sort of pseudo-comedic groping, which I think is because we've lost the ability to see each other sensually. It's as if we're best friends messing around but being kind of embarrassed about it.

I've started thinking seriously about seeking sex elsewhere and this has woken me up to the fact that I can't keep avoiding this subject. I love him, deeply - I've never known a man who I admired, respected, and loved so much, and I owe him so much more than to throw that away. But I don't know where to start. We've talked about it a few times and we always resolve to do better, but I just don't know how to get the lust back into our relationship.

Breaking up is not off the table. I miss sex, I really miss it, and I can't carry on like this indefinitely. But I want so, so bad for there to be another solution, as in every single other respect he is the man I would adore to spend the rest of my life with.

Have you been here? Did you manage to fall back in lust and if so, how did you get there?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
What does your partner say when the two of you talk about your sex life? If the answer is "we don't talk about our sex life," I think that's where you need to start. You can tell him just what you've told us, that you love him deeply and he's your best friend, but you miss sex and want to find a solution to the stagnation in your relationship. Then, listen to what he has to say.
posted by decathecting at 2:47 PM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

What if you both started a workout plan together? Maybe you both already are super fit and sexy, but if not, maybe if you each started losing weight and/or building some muscle, your new appearances would rekindle the physical lusty aspect of the relationship?
posted by losvedir at 2:47 PM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

This sounds so horrible and un-sexy, but have you tried "scheduling" sex? It's easy to reach a point where you're always too tired or too busy or too hungry get the point.

What if you both agreed to a certain time, say, every Sunday afternoon, to turn off the tv, put down the book, and be intimate? It might give you something to look forward to (you could even drop sexy hints/reminders in the days before the "session" to get both of your minds focused in that direction). Even if the first time feels forced, after that you might find that a little spark has been ignited again, and then eventually scheduling won't be necessary anymore.
posted by angab at 2:56 PM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Assuming this is affordable and possible - taking a leisurely week off somewhere far away from can be a good idea. Make sure you choose a destination where you can't do or go see a lot of stuff that takes your day away from you.

I recommend Miami South Beach. Don't get a car rental. Get something facing the sea (and with a kitchenette).
posted by justlooking at 2:58 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Can you spend some time apart in a non-breakuppy way? like you go on separate vacations?
posted by modernserf at 3:04 PM on December 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

Fake it till you make it? I really don't know. When I lose my groove - like getting out of the habit of cooking or failing to go to the gym - I reflect on my favorite things - meals or a class - and promise myself I will have one of them within the next week. That's usually enough to start the ball rolling.

Perhaps if you thought back to some terrific time you had and then when to the man and said, "Man, this may sound silly but I need you to indulge me. Remember when X,Y, and Z? Let's do all that again! I have a bag of Cheetos, a six-pack of beer from that poser microbrewery we liked back then and a Weezer playlist to set the mood." And then comedically grope your way through it, but keep that memory of how great it was in your mind as inspiration.

One thought though: are you sure it's on both sides? Are you sure that it isn't the case that one of you is having issues and the other is mirroring in an unrealized effort to keep things even?

I wish you luck. Sex is profoundly important to me and you are in an awful spot. When something is off, it's so difficult to refocus and reframe and get back on track.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:06 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Honey, I love you, deeply - I've never known a man who I admired, respected, and loved so much. That's why it's so important for me to tell you this: I miss sex, I really miss it, and I can't carry on like this indefinitely. I know we keep saying we should try to do better, but that hasn't worked. We need a plan. Military-style. Failure is not an option. Call it Operation Lusty Storm. Can we get a pad of paper and a couple of bottles of wine tomorrow night and put every idea we can possibly think of on the table... so that by New Year's we're starting out 2012 with a sex life that's as amazing as the rest of our life together?

(Oh, and by the way, I've been thinking all day about x-ing your y with my z until you *, and I'll do Annoying Chore A for the next month if you'll wake me up by doing that tomorrow morning. Or do you have a counter-offer?)"
posted by argonauta at 3:16 PM on December 2, 2011 [20 favorites]

Nthing scheduling your sex life. It sounds terribly unromantic, but if you make a schedule and stick to it, you'll be having regular sex. And having sex more frequently will, hopefully, rekindle some of the passion that you once had and you'll eventually find yourselves having unscheduled sex.
posted by asnider at 3:18 PM on December 2, 2011

There's always this...
posted by decathecting at 3:24 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

My husband and I fell into this pattern. I checked us into the hotel that was LITERALLY around the corner. I took a huge pampering bath from 6, he turned up at 7, we rocked the house for two hours and made the last seating at our favourite neighbourhood restaurant. We were home by 11 and slept in our own bed. It was awesome. I highly recommend the mini-vacation.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:35 PM on December 2, 2011 [6 favorites]

Your SO isn't turning you on now so what does turn you on?
You aren't turning your SO on so what does turn them on?

Sexual desires change over time. I don't think scheduling sex will get at the problem as you are just scheduling some uninspired hump-till-orgasm, mission-accomplished sex-as-obligation is going to do anything. It really sounds like your desires have changed and I am guessing that you two are not up on what gets each other going. If anything needs to be scheduled it is a sit down where you discuss this.

And, if you both were communicating all along and each of you can't provide what the other wants, well, that is what open relationships are for.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:45 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really think scheduling - a regular schedule, a mini-vacation, time apart with a planned reunion - is the reboot you need.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:29 PM on December 2, 2011

I have personally found that a racy movie, when watched together, can set the mood quite nicely.

In this context, "racy" can mean any number of things; the one movie that has that one actress he's partial to, which also happens to have that one actor you're partial to. Something french where everyone's being hunky and sultry. Something kinky-yet-giggle-worthy. Serious-art-house-film where everyone just happens to be naked all the time. Straight-out hardcore pr0n.

"Oh dear, Henry and June seems to be our Netflix selection today. I suppose we'll have to watch it before we send it back," has led to some fun nights.
posted by lekvar at 4:33 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been in a similar position, but I was mostly the one who lost my mojo and my partner suffered through months of rejection, which led to less initiation and the same kind of lame groping you describe. Basically, I realized that sex would make every part of our relationship better and decided to be much more receptive to his advances and begin initiating to take the pressure off him. This meant having sex when I felt bloated, when I was constipated, when I was tried, when I was grumpy, or any other circumstance I used to use as a reason to say no. I also communicated to my partner that sometimes I'm not down for full on intercourse and sometimes I want something less messy and/or involved, like mutual masturbation. I also keep a mental calendar of how often we engage in sexytimes and make a point to not more than 7 days without one of us getting off. It may help you to actually keep a physical calendar if you think you might forget (God knows the weeks blend together sometimes). I also started looking at sex-positive websites like sex is not the enemy to get myself excited about sex again. Sometimes if it's coming on 6 or 7 days with no sex and I'm not really in the mood, I'll browse sexy websites while we're sitting on the couch in the evening and by bedtime I'm wanting it more than he is.

I know this won't solve any initiation issues from his end, but I'd be willing to bet that the more you get things going (in a non-comedic pawing at him kind of way), the more he will reciprocate. Basically, lead the way by making sex a priority in your relationship. I hope that helps.
posted by Yo Mamma at 4:33 PM on December 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

You're asking for personal accounts, but, just in case, this book is pretty damn good and precisely addresses your conundrum:

A lot of the fake dialogues make me cringe, but stick with it.
posted by zeek321 at 5:10 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

One problem I see, and I see it everywhere: lust seen as totally separate from the rest of the relationship. Like, there's A, B, C, D-- W, and it's only X missing. So one minimizes it and isolates it from the rest of the relationship, which leads to a 'solution-oriented' thinking which implies there a 'fix' to this one thing while the relationship is okay and on-track otherwise.

Lust is not X; that is to say, it is a state of being rather than simply isolated hormones, but of course it's hormones too. Humans are such complicated creatures. There's tiredness, time-of-the-month, familiarity-related desensitization, different turn-ons and needs, etc etc, but at the same time, it's all blowing smoke. In a working sexual relationship, at least to my mind, the foundation isn't that it is or isn't that time of day/month, but you find this person hot. You want to screw them. Otherwise (your body reasons, rightly), why should you?

This may sound flip, but it's important, because you speak of "sex" as something you miss or are missing. But that's a bit of a smokescreen as well. It's not 'sex' that's relevant, it's finding someone (him) sexy. People talk about sex as a physical need, but you can avoid it easily enough if that's the case-- you can always eat less, sleep less, even breathe less (that's why deep breathing exercises are a revelation to people-- wow, you haven't really been breathing enough, you realize).

I guess my point is that you can listen to your body more, listen to what it's telling you, but you shouldn't try to fool or force your body to experience things it doesn't want to, 'cause that won't work. You can't suddenly decide you'd like to sleep with women, say, or the garbage collector, or anyone, really-- you can only decide not to pretend you don't want to. So in the best case scenario, there are things that contribute to repression: you/he have unspoken desires. You/he can't ask for what you need. You/he are not paying attention to a mode of attraction that's already there. Well, are you?

My other point is that lust is a global phenomenon that is not confined to the bedroom. It's not about groping. Forget about groping, fucking, sucking, etc. Lust is a state of mind. You can be extraordinarily lustful staring at each other across the kitchen table, watching him lick a spoon, or watching him watch you, or button up his top button, or watching a little sliver of flesh ride up under his shirt as he bends over, or watching his eyelashes fan over his cheek, or watching that little corner of the mouth as he smiles, or.... anything. Lust is in everything someone does. It's not about sex; it's about hearing someone make a sarcastic comment (say) and thinking you just want them to scream themselves raw in 3 seconds flat. You could be across the room, not touching, in a public space, but you notice that his pants are really well-fitting across his hips and ass and you have to take a moment to fan yourself, because damn, that's yours, that belongs to you.

It's a whole way of relating to someone. You could be totally celibate and be the most perverted, deranged lustful demon ever, or you can have tons of nice-enough sex and not even know what lust is, really; these things do not really intersect. Once someone is 'friend-slotted' or 'family-slotted', you love them to death but will never want to fuck them unless you have the particular kink that predisposes you towards attraction to people you know on that level on a daily basis.

Conversely and unfortunately, it's easy to have lust for people you don't even like; it's rare to want someone madly who's also your best friend, but well, that's the human condition. The reason for it is that these are two very contradictory feelings, sort of like loving to work for the IRS and robbing banks, all at once. Most people have the opposite of that kink. Incidentally, this is probably why it takes some people awhile to figure out they're gay. It's also why it take people awhile to figure out you just don't actually like-like someone you're very capable of being into due to other attributes. People think, 'well, it's ok if I don't like their ass, our relationship isn't about that'. But it is. Otherwise it's not a romantic/sexual relationship-- it's something else.
posted by reenka at 5:20 PM on December 2, 2011 [27 favorites]

Have you been here?
Sigh. Yep.

Did you manage to fall back in lust

Double sigh. Nope.

Trying to schedule sex just led to frustrating, boring, and not particularly pleasant sex. Taking time apart, I found that I didn't miss him sexually, just missed his companionship. It wasn't that I didn't love him but I just stopped relating to him in any sexual way -- it was both more than "best friend/companion" and less than "crazy in love/lust."

Are you still physically attracted to your partner? Because I feel like while the above suggestions may or may not work for you, your question made me feel like you weren't any longer. I don't know if those suggestions can revive a dead horse, so to speak.
posted by sm1tten at 6:14 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Neither of us make enough effort to initiate, too often one of us is up for it

If you miss sex, then take some responsibility both for initiating and and for not turning it down. If you are simply not interested in sex with your partner anymore, then it's time for you to move on, but if on both sides of the equation you're not putting any effort in, you can't expect things to change.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 7:18 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's a really good book called 'Mating in Captivity' by Esther Perel.

Some of what she says is along the lines of what reenka wrote above, and there's a whole lot of other interesting and helpful stuff, too, that I suspect applies to most people in a long term relationship.
posted by 8k at 4:36 AM on December 3, 2011

Along the same lines as justlooking, going to a bed and breakfast for a weekend for the express purposes of having a sexual, romantic weekend could help put the spark back in your sex life. Spending the weekend rediscovering what makes each of you tick sexually and physically could carry over afterward.

Plus, instead of scheduling your sex life on a week-to-week basis, this might take the pressure off of the idea that you have to have sex at a certain time on a certain day and make it a much more natural process where the two of you don't have to worry about work and obligations.
posted by gregoryg at 10:54 AM on December 3, 2011

It sounds like you're expecting sex to sort of come and sweep the two of you off your feet. Like you think it has to be compelling and passionate for both of you right away, and if one of you starts out feeling awkward or silly or just sort of going through the motions, then that's a Bad Thing.

So you're complaining about pseudo-comedic groping. But what's wrong with pseudo-comedic groping? What's wrong with absolute fucking hilarity? What's wrong with total awkwardness? All of those are totally acceptable ways of getting the ball rolling in my book. And once you get the ball rolling, a lot of the time you'll find ways to get back out of "silly" or "dorky" or whatever and into "lustful."
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:26 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's the plan.

You aren't allowed to have sex for a month. A whole month. But you must alternate nude massages every night. The first week, 15 minutes. The second week, 30, the third, 45, the fourth an hour.

Then you can have sex.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:35 PM on December 3, 2011

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