Extreme reaction to "Sorry honey..not in the mood"
December 24, 2011 10:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm having exaggerated and irrational reactions to occasionally being turned down for sex by my partner when I am already physically aroused. Our relationship is stable otherwise, and our sex life is actually just fine.

My partner and I have been dating for about a year. Our relationship started semi-long distance, and when we saw each other we would have sex about 2-3 times a day at least and it was *very* enthusiastic sex. I think this was a pretty normal combination of falling-in-love sex along with not seeing each other very often. We've since moved in and spend most of everyday together. We now have sex about once every 2-3 days. My sex drive is a little bit higher than my partner's (I'd prefer every other day), but it really isn't an issue...for the most part I am happy to retire to my room and get some solo action.

However! There are a couple of days each month coinciding with my menstrual cycle during which my body is so completely consumed with the desire to have intercourse (with a penis, not with a toy) that I start acting completely crazy and emotional if I can't get what I want. If my partner is not in the mood, I feel so low that my stomach is in knots and I start crying. I vacillate between anger, depression, and self-hatred all while trying to hide from him how upset I am (because it seems to be such a ridiculously selfish reaction on my part).

Recently, he expressed not wanting to have sex at my mother's house because literally everyone in the house would be able to hear (creaky floors and bed, zero sound-proofing---you can literally hear someone sniffing their nose across the house). Rationally, this makes complete sense to me, but I still was launched into a 4 hour bout of crying. The physical feeling of being aroused continues even while I'm upset which makes me feel utterly humiliated. Masturbating makes me more upset, because it isn't what I want. I feel like a cat in heat, and it is not fun!

Mostly what concerns me is how selfish my reaction is. It really feels over the top to me, and I cannot imagine how frustrating it must be for my partner. He is incredibly sweet and caring on all counts, and never rude in his refusals. In fact, he usually follows up his "I'm not in the mood" with a lot of physical affection. How can I learn to control this reaction? General advice on how to stop crying when you seem to be stuck?
Is there some explanation related to the hormonal activity that is triggering the arousal (this is occurring during the 2-3 days after my period ends)? Is this something to see a therapist about? My mental health is otherwise in good shape.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Hormones trigger a "MUST HAVE SEX NOW" reaction right before/around ovulation, since it's the best time to get pregnant. At the same time, you have some strong hormone action that is probably making you moody. I don't have any good advice for you, other than assuring you that you're not crazy for reacting like this.

I'm assuming you're not on hormonal BC. It can help with regulating your hormones and mood swings, since it regulates your hormonal level.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:22 AM on December 24, 2011

You may want to talk to a doctor. Some women go through extreme changes during certain parts of their menstrual cycle. It sounds like maybe you're one of those women, and like you find these experiences unpleasant. A doctor could help you figure out if there's a physiological explanation for what you're experiencing, or if you should see a therapist.
posted by meese at 10:29 AM on December 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hormones are crazy. As someone who also has crazy hormones (though not this particular reaction), have you tried working out like a madwoman? I'd have really physical and unwarranted reactions to things that sometimes just going insane with exercise will help... send those hormones to somewhere else? The timing is interesting for your cycle, though, because I would assume you're not ovulating if it's just a few days after the end of your period.
posted by verbyournouns at 10:43 AM on December 24, 2011

Seems like there's a couple of things here:

1) Mood swings based on cycle: I think birth control is the answer for this, right?

2) Being upset when being turned down for sex: Talk to your partner about how much this bothers you. He may not have any idea. Sometimes guys can be rather dense unless you spell things out for them.

3) How to stop crying: Every time you start feeling this way, exercise instead of masturbating. Or something equally mindless that you can do besides thinking -- play video games, walk the dog, I don't know.
posted by empath at 11:12 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming you're not on hormonal BC. It can help with regulating your hormones and mood swings, since it regulates your hormonal level.

This is certainly true, but don't assume that all is lost if you *are* on hormonal BC, because it can also have the opposite effect-- just as it can flatten things out, it can intensify them and make you even more volatile during your period. Birth control can fix this kind of mood swing, but it can also make them much, much worse. If you are on the pill, you may want to try a different pill, or you may want to try another method of birth control entirely.
posted by dizziest at 11:40 AM on December 24, 2011

> Sometimes guys can be rather dense unless you spell things out for them.

Sometimes people can be rather dense unless you spell things out for them.

Honestly, this sounds like something you need to figure out, not put on your partner to figure out solo. Rejecting sex at times when it would not be an issue for you (as a couple), such as when you're not at your parents house, sounds like it's probably partially hormonal and partially psychological. I suspect you don't need drugs or therapy, though: you are in control of how you react to this physical response. You just need to practice that control.

Do you have a meditative practice, or a physical hobby such as jogging or painting, or some other way in which you turn off your conscious brain on a regular basis? If not, you might consider finding one -- the same mental effort (or non-effort, or however you want to describe it) can be effective when dealing with discomfort in other circumstances.
posted by ellF at 11:57 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

This sounds like a completely hormonal/physiological response, especially since you're able to describe it in such a detached way. It doesn't sound like anything is wrong with you -- but a therapist will undoubtedly take lots of your money pretending it's something you can "work on."

Despite what popular culture beats into your brain, there is a huge, huge, huge variety when it comes to what is and is not sexually normal that is embedded in your genes and you shouldn't be ashamed of it. Nature's weird and doesn't care about what you want.

Instead of trying to fight it, I would tell your fellow all about this in the very same manner that you have explained to us, making clear that it is a need, and it doesn't have to be of epic quality, you just need it. Some people are of the mind that if you can't do something right, you shouldn't do it at all. He might be of this mind. Explain to him that you totally don't care about that.
posted by Feel the beat of the rhythm of the night at 12:24 PM on December 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is there something you would do when you got like this and your partner was not present?
posted by medea42 at 1:08 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

In fact, he usually follows up his "I'm not in the mood" with a lot of physical affection.

Maybe you should try taking space from him immediately after he turns you down. I can imagine that little touches and physical affection when you're feeling extremely horny might compound the frustration and desire. Maybe you could go for a run or something.
Also, it can be really nice to just be held as you masturbate. That may be an option for compromise.
posted by whalebreath at 1:49 PM on December 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, it can be really nice to just be held as you masturbate.

Yeah; it sounds like part of what's going on is physical / hormonal (your body telling you to go get laid), but another part -- evidenced by the lack of satisfaction you get from masturbating -- seems like it might be more mental. Maybe you and your partner could compromise a bit; if he's really not willing to have a quickie with you when your body is dying for it (and I second others who have advocated talking to him and letting him know that this doesn't need to be Epic Sex) then maybe he could at least hold you or give you the physical intimacy that masturbation isn't giving you, while you give yourself the orgasm itself. That way your body gets the orgasm and all the happy-chemicals it releases, and your mind gets the intimacy of being with or at least near him at the right moment.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:25 PM on December 24, 2011

Nthing the idea of 'ask him to hold you', or if not, maybe even lying with his back to you (reading!) may change the experience psychologically. I don't think that the wall of 'respect different cycles of desire' has to be this absolute thing, because of the different emotional undercurrents. Sex is never a given, of course, but when you're in love you do not want your partner crying for four hours (imagine him doing that! wouldn't you be like 'yeah, of course I'll hold you!'... well, I don't think it's just me, anyway). Something about the gender politics of modern relationships seems to get in the, well, simple love relationship, which means 'I'll do whatever I can for you'. Which doesn't mean giving in, but letting you suffer? No way he wants that.

It really depends on whether you think you may enjoy these times if you could share them with him somehow. I mean, I get the same hormonal response/reaction (and this didn't used to be so prominent before I went on-- and left-- the Pill). Even knowing I could stop it if I wanted to (maybe) with more birth-control isn't necessarily worth it to me 'cause of the other downer effects the Pill has on me, at least. Anyway, it's not that hard to enjoy being horny, so I wouldn't want to 'fix it' unless I absolutely had to. In any case, if you want to just 'fix it' and not work around it, you probably can.

Honestly (let me climb onto my soapbox for a second), I would encourage you (and everyone) to not think of sex in relationships as a 'yes or no' question, acceptance vs. rejection, where one or the other always has to be withholding or allowing. Both are kind of icky ways to relate to sex, in my opinion, even if 'the woman' isn't the one holding this sort of power. I think it's an icky power to hold. So ideally, sex would be many things: something on the level of a massage when achey (which you can 'give' to someone), something like an in-depth conversation/dance (a thing you do together), a seduction, a physical release, a way to give attention, a way to give affection, a way to relieve boredom.... it can be anything. The way this would work is by redefining what 'sex' would entail: can watching you be 'sex'? Can talking on the phone or sharing random fantasies aloud be 'sex'? Can being humped while sleepy be 'sex'? Can kissing and touching you affectionately while you get yourself off be 'sex'? And so on and so forth. Rather than an event, let alone an effect to be orchestrated as allowed or disallowed, sex can be a spectrum of being sexual with one another. So, like, you can be 'not in the mood to get naked' but still French-kiss with all the dripping innuendo and sexuality of an outright blow-job, or whatever. It can happen.

Well, something to think about.
posted by reenka at 3:15 PM on December 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

'Sometimes guys can be rather dense unless you spell things out for them.' I agree with Empath on this one. As a guy, I'd like to think I was considerate and sensitive, but I'm so dense when it comes to things like this. I can be completely oblivious to my significant other having such emotions/feelings. I'd much rather they spoke to me about it as I don't think I'll ever catch on to emotions/things like that.
posted by sockpim at 3:26 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Feel the beat: making clear that it is a need, and it doesn't have to be of epic quality, you just need it.

Pressuring/guilting him into sex will not improve results in the long term.
(It would be really unusual to read the above kind of advice if the genders were reversed.)
posted by Triton at 5:24 PM on December 24, 2011

I think you should go to a doctor to get your hormone levels checked out. It is completely normal to have the hormone changes during your cycle affect your levels of desire, but this seems extreme. It could indicate a problem with your endocrine system.
posted by apricot at 6:08 PM on December 24, 2011

Sexual-needs mismatches are common. There's a difference between "guilting someone into sex" and "making it clear what, and how serious, your sexual needs are". You owe it to yourself to respect those needs. Most of the time you don't need much from him, and are ok with whatever mood-matching is possible. A couple days a month you need sex. Explain it in this way -- without guilt, without a word about him being in the wrong -- and ask if he can be willing to get himself in the mood, for you. Couples do things for each other.

As Greta Christina put it: you don't have to start out in the mood. You just have to start out being willing.

As for your mom's house, maybe don't visit on the days just after your period?
posted by ead at 9:37 PM on December 24, 2011

Crying for four hours because a boyfriend doesn't want to have sex in a highly inappropriate place is way more than a sexual-need mismatch. Crying for four hours over anything save the death of a loved one means something is out of whack. Go see a doctor.
posted by shoesietart at 4:04 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

This doesn't replace seeing a doctor and/or therapist to see if something's out of whack, but there's some evidence that taking high-ish (50 mg/day) doses of B6 vitamins throughout the menstrual cycle helps with hormonal emotional problems. (The scientific evidence isn't awesome, but there *is* some evidence.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:04 PM on December 25, 2011

I would really recommend hormonal birth control if that's an option. It sounds like you're experiencing really serious emotional side effects of changes in your menstrual cycle, and the right pill can go a long way to leveling out that type of misery. That's my gut reaction anyway.

Beyond that, I would also ask you to think a little more deeply (and if possible seek out a therapist or objective, trusted source) about where these feelings are coming from if they seem more than hormonal or if they persist after you address that issue. Do you feel emotionally rejected in the relationship? Do you need more physical affection? Are you suffering from depression or anxiety more generally that is triggering this?

It seems important to talk to a doctor. I personally would see a gynecologist first for this kind of thing, because they tend to be well-versed in hormonal issues (more than maybe an average PCP) and can recommend steps from there, including an endocrinologist, or talk therapy, etc.

I hope things get better.
posted by araisingirl at 9:15 PM on December 25, 2011

Sounds like PMS-level hormone reactions to me. I think the thing causing all the muddle is that it is relatively uncommon in many circles for women to a) acknowledge a stronger sex drive at all b) during their period.

So, here you are, totally and awesomely owning your sex drive, and then getting turned down at a time that you are most likely to react to disappointment in an out-of-proportion way, which may trigger a little residual ghosts of the sexual shame we women get raised with, which makes you feel even more pissed off and rejected, with a bonus scoop of frustration because you kinda know that your reaction is not rational, but oh great this is exactly the sexist basis for "hysterical" for fuck's sake, vicious circle, vicious circle, vicious circle, etc.
posted by desuetude at 12:50 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

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