I've lost interest in sex with my boyfriend, and find things increasingly uncomfortable in that department. What should I do?!
February 28, 2012 6:01 PM   Subscribe

I've lost interest in sex with my boyfriend, and find things increasingly uncomfortable in that department. What should I do?! I'm a 28 year old female, and have been in a long term committed relationship with my current boyfriend for about 3 years now. I'd been a virgin up until about 2 and ½ years ago. My upbringing was uneventful, and I've never had any traumatic experiences that I can recall involving sexuality, however I have always felt embarrassed about sex related things, which is why before my current boyfriend I always just made out with whoever I felt like.

Conversely, I don't really seem to hold sex in a high regard emotionally, and am convinced that had I lost my virginity earlier in life I would have had a lot more casual sexual encounters, especially during my college years. My boyfriend and I have been living together for the past year and a half now and in the past year specifically I have pretty much completely lost interest in sex. It also seems like the part of me that is uncomfortable or embarrassed by sexual contact with my boyfriend has gotten worse in this time period. I had been on birth control but am not currently taking it, and I did see a brief spike in my interest in sex, but it may have lasted for about a month before things went back to how they were before. Even before when things were better, it was always pretty standard stuff sexually speaking, anything beyond that would tend to make me close up. I've always been very, very self conscious with regard to that and have never really be able to fully let go. If it makes any difference I am on Effexor XR as well for anxiety related issues. Everything else in our relationship is great, aside from normal doubts, we get along great, have fun, have similar values and interests, and he's the first person I've been in love with, or in a serious relationship with. He's very supportive with all of the crazy things I decide that I want to do for a living. I know that he is not happy with our sex life even if he isn't voicing it, and I don't want screw things up just because of dumb ole sex, but I also can't bring myself to force things. Is there something wrong with me? Is this at all normal? Would something like sex therapy help or make things worse? Is there anything that I can do that would help with something like this at all?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Talk to him about it.
posted by John Cohen at 6:06 PM on February 28, 2012

You might also want to talk to your doctor about this. The Effexor XR could be contributing to or causing the problem.

Also, like John Cohen says, talk to your boyfriend about it.
posted by k8lin at 6:15 PM on February 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

talk to your doctor and get your testosterone levels checked. it's not just the "male" hormone, it affects desire.

a few things could be going on. he's the only guy you've had sex with. are you turned on by other dudes? if you are, that could rule out the hormone issue.

my best guess is that you see the relationship as more real now, there are higher stakes, so you have more anxiety about sex, which is shutting you down. try taking PiV sex off the table for now. just use your hands on each other, or oral. also: (a little) pot or alcohol to loosen the nerves. once things pick up, back off on the pot and alcohol and reintroduce PiV sex.

other possibilities, not necessarily mutually exclusive:

- you naturally have a low sex drive
- now that the novelty of sex has worn off, you've realized your boyfriend isn't the type of guy who does it for you
- you don't know what turns you on or gets you off. experiment
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:24 PM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Would something like sex therapy help or make things worse?

How could it possibly make things worse? You're already not enjoying sex and think it's "dumb" and "embarrassing"--sex therapy can only help.

Do you have orgasms? By yourself? With your boyfriend? Do you expect to have orgasms just from penis-in-vagina thrusting alone (most women, perhaps as much as 70%, never do) and think you're somehow broken if you don't?

I really think that a sex therapist could help you figure out why you find sex "embarrassing" and why trying new things makes you "close up." Sure, it's possible you might just have a low libido, but it sounds like you've got a lot of psychological baggage about sex and sexuality just based on the way you worded this question.

Also worth exploring if the Effexor is affecting your libido, sure. Some people do experience that as a side effect. But look at all the issues you've laid out in the question--whatever's going on with you is unlikely to be simply physiological.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:28 PM on February 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

I agree that you should talk with your boyfriend about it, but I really think you need help from a professional to sort out the static in your own head. Sex isn't something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. Getting that bug out of the code is going to make your life so much better (even if you do turn out to be someone with a super low sex drive or even asexual).
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:30 PM on February 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

It sounds like your anxiety is extending into everything in your life. You may want to look into other ways of regulating your anxiety that aren't strictly related to your medication. You could try exercise (this really helps burn off anxious energy for a lot of people), meditation, talk therapy, a support group, or a drastic reduction in caffeine in your diet. Or you could ask about switching medications.

You also need to find a way to get comfortable with your own body and sexuality on a personal level before you can comfortably involve your boyfriend... I'm not sure if this is an issue you have or if it's strictly related to contact with your bf that you have sexual issues.

But yeah, sexual therapy would hardly make things worse. If you suspect he's unhappy about it, getting everything out there and being proactive about changing things would probably be a great idea he would welcome.

Cause even if you dumped this particular boyfriend, say, your problem may very well occur if it's an issue specific to you. Yeah, sexual attraction fades somewhat after awhile in almost every relationship, which may or may not be occurring in your case because he doesn't do it for you sexually. Honestly, though, it doesn't seem that way to me because the level of discomfort you're describing sounds like a personal thing. Unless he's stressing you out or shaming you, of course, which it certainly doesn't sound as if he is.
posted by devymetal at 6:36 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree totally with Sidhedevil (as usual).

Anecdotally, I'd say it's not uncommon to have really mixed feelings about one's sexual past, especially when you are closer to one extreme or other of the sexual experience bell-curve. Someone who has had sex with only one person is not going to have been able to learn through experience what different people are like and how you respond sexually in different situations; someone who was with lots of people isn't going to know what it's like to have only been with one person.

So yeah, definitely talk with your partner -- I mean, you aren't even sure that he's bothered by this situation, right? But also find a therapist or someone like that to talk with, because you need to get this stuff figured out on your own terms, not just on your relationship's terms.
posted by Forktine at 6:37 PM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

When I first started with sex, oh about a century ago, I had to learn to like it, had to learn to have orgasms, had to learn to feel sexy and aroused,had to learn not to be disgusted (I know, ridiculous right) at genitals (both mine and his) and body fluids. It was work. It was worth it. I won't recommend you the text I read because metafilter laughs up at its sleeve at it (the Joy of Sex, an archaic, hairy manual from the olden days) .

I can't imagine at that time being comfortable with a sex therapist (omg, sexy slutty person - yes, this is my perception, not a reality - it might be a reality actually, I don't know) but even with my years of experience I have found that this website offers great advice about all sorts of things from women who are not intimidating.

I do support help from a professional if you will feel comfortable with it, and do talk to your doctor about the effect your antidepressant has on your libido (very common side effect).
posted by b33j at 6:41 PM on February 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

It's worth noting, by the way, that this happens to everyone who has a long-term relationship. Sexual desires ebb and flow; that's just how it is. We're humans, and there are a lot of things our bodies do that we can't control. The key to a relationship isn't having the same libido as your partner all the time; it's making sure you can communicate with them about this stuff and work it out together.
posted by koeselitz at 8:25 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Level of desire changes naturally during a relationship.
Both antidepressants and hormonal birth can affect libido.
Also, hormonal birth control can affect who you are attracted to (such that you are no longer attracted to them when you go off of it).

What you're going through could be any of these, some combination of these, or something completely different.

Consult your physician and your therapist. Best of luck.
posted by yeolcoatl at 10:00 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, dear. I went through this. It turned out, after several agonizing years, that I was with my boyfriend out of a deep obligation due to our virginity swap and that in the mean time we'd really outgrown each other.

While it could be a variety of factors (and probably is), you need to do some deep soul-searching. What are your fantasies? What's your idea of great sex -- and does it involve your boyfriend? How is you relationship -- really? I was in the habit of whitewashing our relationship and blaming myself for our problems (which was, on the surface, just a lack of sex).

I'd mention the effexor to your physician, but get in depth with this dilemma with a therapist.
posted by mibo at 6:11 AM on February 29, 2012

It's worth noting, by the way, that this happens to everyone who has a long-term relationship.

I have to question this as an absolute. I can honestly say that although my husband and I have had fluctuations in the frequency of our sexytimes over the course of our 14 years together, we have never had an extended stretch of zero sexytimes. And we've dealt with some pretty anti-sexytimes shit, between caregiving for our parents and my own years of chronic illness.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:21 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've read some interesting things about fish oil boosting female libido.

But yeah, I think mental stimulation is huge. Do you play games with your boyfriend? Read and share books? Have adventures? Whenever my libido went down the tubes in a long term relationship, it's because I was just plain bored and did not have the grist to generate passion. For me, it meant the relationship had run its course. For you, I'd suggest trying to get more mentally engaged with your boyfriend. Get in a happy fun place with him. Then see if you can enlist his help to work on being more sexually comfortable.
posted by griselda at 10:48 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

crazymeds lists "loss of libido and a host of other sexual dysfunctions" as a common side effect of effexor, mention it to your doctor
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 12:33 PM on February 29, 2012

Definitely talk to your doctor about the Effexor affecting your sex drive.
posted by Silvertree at 5:44 PM on February 29, 2012

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