I want to have sex.
November 23, 2014 2:00 PM   Subscribe

My ex of three years and I broke up a few days ago. Initially he told me that the main reason was our different feelings about marriage (see previous posts), but upon further discussion, he said the biggest issue was our lack of intimacy.

I've had a low sex drive for as long as I can remember. It's at least partially physical (I've been on hormonal birth control for 8 years, I have anxiety and depression and am on SSRIs) but I believe there are also some mental elements. My ex and I were in couples therapy for a year and I knew that our lack of sex was an issue for him, but I didn't know we were in break-up territory, and frankly I didn't do much to try to improve the situation. I didn't even know where to start, so I just didn't.

I want to want sex. I am not okay with being this way, and I don't want to be in another relationship where there is no sex. I want to talk to my doctor about the physical issues and maybe explore sex therapy for the mental side. I want to do this for me and my future.

But I'm torn because addressing this issue could also help me have a future relationship with my ex. We are stuck living together for at least the next month, and have spoken about spending time together with the possibility of living separately but dating. But I hate this feeling that I'm going to have to prove to him that I'm trying and beg him to give is another chance. We love each other deeply and ant to be together, but I'm not going to change overnight.

So now what? If I embark on fixing my sexual issues, should I even try to do so in the hopes of saving this relationship? Should I do it just for me and hope that it benefits me in the future, and break things off completely with my ex? I hate feeling like I'm doing this just to make him happy.
posted by anotheraccount to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Should I do it just for me and hope that it benefits me in the future, and break things off completely with my ex?

Yes. Yes, this exactly. Best of luck.
posted by Specklet at 2:04 PM on November 23, 2014 [19 favorites]

Work on your sexual issues for you, not your ex. He had his chance, and decided he didn't want to deal with you any longer. You don't owe him anything now except basic courtesy.
posted by starbreaker at 2:04 PM on November 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also, ask your doctor about switching your antidepressants. I've found buproprion helpful for my depression, but it doesn't interfere with my sexuality.

Also, have you considered the possibility that your ex never really did it for you, or that men in general might not do it for you?
posted by starbreaker at 2:06 PM on November 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Have an open discussion about it with him? You are obviously willing to invest in both the issue and the relationship. Is he willing to invest in that too?
posted by hz37 at 2:10 PM on November 23, 2014

Should I do it just for me and hope that it benefits me in the future, and break things off completely with my ex?

You have to look at it this way, or you'll end up hanging a lot of un-useful expectations on the process.

And anyway, nothing that happens in the future changes the fact that he broke up with you instead of working with you or accepting you as-is. When it's not this, what's the next excuse? How many times do you have to "fix" yourself to suit him?
posted by Lyn Never at 2:14 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

If he was saying this was a problem during a year of couples therapy he was, in fact, working with you. What you might want to think about in terms of your next relationship (as this one's probably over) is why, when your partner says this to you in actual couple's therapy sessions, you ignore him and do nothing about it. If I was in your boyfriend's place I'd read that as a big signal that you didn't really care too much about the relationship.
posted by overhauser at 2:25 PM on November 23, 2014 [39 favorites]

A few points:

1. I know we don't get to hear his side of the story, and obviously sex is an important part of most romantic relationships, but I think breaking up with you over this without any advance warning (if that's really what happened) was a real dick move. In a healthy partnership, this is something that partners would try and work on together before ending the relationship.

2. While there are plenty of people in non-monogamous relationships who are happy and many people who are content after "opening up" their previously monogamous relationship, I personally don't know of (nor have I heard of) a case where one partner in a monogamous relationship ended the relationship, moved out, and then dated their previous partner while sleeping with, and dating, other people. I just don't see that working out, and you are the one who is most likely to get hurt (again).

3. As you note, part of your low sex drive is connected to anxiety issues. Being put into a position of dating your former partner (who would likely be sleeping with other people)is likely to ratchet up your anxiety big time. Working on this with a new partner, who may well have different expectations when it comes to sex, would seem to have a better chance of success.

4. From your previous question, it looks like this guy was sort of stringing you along when it came to marriage. Rather than simply saying, "No, I never, ever want to get married, and that's that," he kept telling you things like he was "warming up to the idea of marriage" "someday, but not right now," etc. If you were dating him, don't you think he would continue to string you along? Except he would be keeping you in a state of uncertainty about being in a monogamous relationship rather than a state of uncertainty about the future possibility of marriage.

Given all this, I think a clean break is the way to go. Wish him well, and start your new, healthy, exciting life without him.
posted by girl flaneur at 2:39 PM on November 23, 2014 [8 favorites]

You're allowed to not want to have sex. He's allowed to want to be with someone who wants to have sex. I don't understand the posters who are slamming this guy for breaking up with her instead of not working on the relationship. He went to couples therapy for a year and clearly told her it was an issue. Opening up about how he felt couldn't have been easy and by the OPs own admission, she did nothing. That's a pretty clear indication to her partner that she's not interested in working on this together. What more is he supposed to do and how much longer should he continue in a sexless relationship?

I don't think he deserves to get slammed for not accepting her 'as is', for most people, sex is an important part of a relationship. It's not about 'fixing' herself to suit him, they're simply not compatible if she's not interested in sleeping with him, or at least trying. I understand she has anxiety around this but he communicated to her; she clearly failed to communicate back on her end.

I don't recommend moving out and dating, I think that ship has sailed. If you want to work on your sexual issues, do it because you want to have sex, not because you want to keep him. It's a really sad thing to accept but sometimes love just isn't enough. I would let this one go. I wish you all the best.
posted by Jubey at 2:54 PM on November 23, 2014 [39 favorites]

I'm sorry to hear you broke up because break-ups are always hard and, after reading some of your posting history, I know you had a lot of hope and put a lot of effort into this relationship. However, it just seems like you two weren't well-matched in a number of ways, and I'm sorry that right now you're feeling like the one who did wrong when it's really about two people having different wants and needs. I want to validate your sadness and disappointment in the present while also saying that I really believe, based on reading some of your past posts, that you will be much happier in the long-term. I think that, even a year from now, you will be able to look back and see things with less sadness and more clarity.

I also see that you're 28 so you have your entire lifetime to find a well-matched partner and, if you're interested in having biological children, you still have lots more time for that, too! Yes, do take the chance to improve yourself for you and also figure out who you are and what you truly want in life and love. I'm excited for you!
posted by smorgasbord at 3:07 PM on November 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also, have you considered the possibility that your ex never really did it for you, or that men in general might not do it for you?

I will say (especially in light of the last comment of "However, it just seems like you two weren't well-matched in a number of ways"; I haven't looked back through question history) that by the time my ex and I (of 10 years!) broke up last year, I didn't like him all that much (and I didn't like me with him). Now that I'm with my wife, someone I genuinely like as well as love, and whom I communicate with well and who is good at compromising and who's an adult who takes care of her crap... well, I'd written off my sex drive last year, and I'm delighted to say that it's reappeared with vim and vigor. :)

So it sounds like there's a lot going on, but don't write off the importance of being with someone who is a genuinely good match for you. (I can't speak to the gender half of the statement, I'm a straight up Kinsey 3).
posted by joycehealy at 3:25 PM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Be careful of underestimating the affect of hormonal birth control and anti-depressants! You seem to bracket these effects in your description, but I really think that making some changes here could solve the problem. Each of those medications, on its own, can have a huge impact on a person's sex drive. Combined together, they could really account for like 95% of the problem.

If I were you, I'd think about your relationship with your ex in the following way. If you could have him back right now without doing any work, I'm guessing you would want him back. It's a bit hard to say because the language of your question feels a bit passionless.

Now, what if you could have him back, but it meant doing a lot of hard work? You would have to not only figure out what is impairing your sex drive but also rebuild the trust with him that eroded as a result of the fact that he communicated this problem for a year and you didn't do anything about it. Would you want to do that work? If you really think that work is something you would want to do, tell him. Once. Don't harp on it, just say, "I've thought about this and I want to work to fix our sexual issues and regain your trust." And if he's interested, he'll say so. And if he's not, you have to let it go.

He will probably not be willing to reenter this partnership with you no matter what you say. If that happens, you are right to realize that you still need to work on these issues for your next relationship.
posted by mai at 5:08 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, yes, do it for you. It's amazing to feel like a sexual being again after years under the fog of depression, hormonal birth control, and SSRIs.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:50 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not going to even comment on the emotional and relationship aspects of this. But I want to Nth the concept of getting off of SSRIs and onto something like bupropion (aka Wellbutrin and so on). I'm male, but my understanding is that both men and women suffer similar 'sexual side effects' from SSRIs, and I know I did, and I know that when I got off of them things went back to normal - and then when I went on Bupropion - if anything, there was a tiny boost in sexual energy.

I'm not a doctor, etc.
posted by doctor tough love at 6:00 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

From your explanation, it seems like you're doing this more to try to save the relationship rather than for yourself. It's really ok to be a person that doesn't want to have sex very often and it's also ok to make the changes you mentioned in order to want to have sex. You shouldn't have to change yourself just to be with your ex, though.

It's kind of telling to me that you knew this was an issue during the year you were in therapy, but are thinking about getting help now that the two of you are broken up. Were you ok with having a low sexual drive before you met your boyfriend? You say it's been low for as long as you remember, so maybe you're a person that's naturally like that and just needs a partner with a sexual drive that matches your own.
posted by Lingasol at 6:40 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do it for yourself, do it for yourself, do it for yourself. And not just your sexual issues. Do things that are fun--for yourself. Do things that are hard--for yourself. Do things that make you feel joy--for yourself. I cannot nth enough the idea of taking care of yourself for yourself and the dividends it will pay in the future.

It turns out that making ourselves healthier and happier not only make our lives better but also make us more attractive and appealing to other healthy, happy people, whether potential friends or potential partners.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:32 PM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I guess I am going to play devil's advocate here, because I am puzzled and chagrined by a lot of these answers.

It seems really weird for you to be all "I want to have sex! and I want to do it for me!" when the guy you say you love deeply and want to be with has told you that the lack of sex was a huge issue for him and tried the most constructive, responsible way of addressing it with you -- couple's therapy. And you did nothing. You apparently didn't "want to have sex" when it was an issue that was sorely testing your relationship with the man you love, so it's odd that you suddenly want it now.

But now that he has ended things, suddenly you "want to have sex" and you want it "for you."

I see this pattern in contemporary life, and I have never understood it. A parallel example would be a woman* who is in a marriage where her weight balloons out of control and her husband has tactfully broached the fact that his sexual attraction has diminished because he is less attracted to a plus-sized woman, but the woman does nothing about it, and the man ends the relationship because of attraction issues, sexual dysfunction that follows from the attraction issues, etc. And so, newly single, the woman loses a bunch of weight "for her" because she doesn't want to be in another relationship where she's overweight, or perhaps knows she cannot attract a man of the quality she expects, at her current size. So she loses a ton of weight, laments the end of the marriage, but wouldn't do that to save the relationship that she never wanted to end in the first place. So out into the dating market goes the new-and-improved woman who probably could have saved her marriage if she had just put that effort in before the marriage crashed and burned.

So, with all that being said, YES, I think you should try to save the relationship. I know it is trendy, self-helpy and popular to say that you should only do these thigns "for you" ... but dammit, saving a relationship in which you love the guy and want to be with him IS, in fact, doing something for you.

* Certainly the same situation occurs with genders reversed.
posted by jayder at 8:05 PM on November 23, 2014 [20 favorites]

So what do you fantasize about when you masturbate? I'm not asking or expecting you to answer in this thread, it's just that lots of people say that they don't have sex but when you get the low-down they *do* have sex, just no one else in the room.

I'm guessing that you're going to hear this question in any sex therapists office you sit in, as you together try to dial in what exactly is going on.

I wonder if it's a question that came up in the room you were in with that couples counselor. I wonder if it's a question that's come up in conversation with the guy who you're breaking up with.

If it's straight-up "and then Lance Romance looked at me deeply, and kissed me deeply, and caressed me here, and here, and then here and AAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE !!!!" that'd be an easy conversation to have, you could easy tell your guy about that. But if it has anything to do with S&M, black leather underpants, or an aardvark, or all of that, it might be a little more difficult to broach, there at the dinner table.

Probably I'm off base here, maybe not. If it's not ever been brought up, it could be something to talk about with an experienced, understanding, knowledgeable sex therapist, when you find yourself in that office.

Breaking up is hard to do. Who cares who's wrong or right, or if there is wrong or right; it still hurts. Small comfort I know but he's hurting, too; regardless it's him that's pulled the plug, you know he cares about you. It blows. I've gone through more than my share of break-ups this time of year, and it totally blows; I'm sorry you're going through this.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:10 AM on November 24, 2014

So now what? If I embark on fixing my sexual issues, should I even try to do so in the hopes of saving this relationship? Should I do it just for me and hope that it benefits me in the future, and break things off completely with my ex? I hate feeling like I'm doing this just to make him happy.

I think you just have to do 'you' for a while and actually figure out what you want out of a partner.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:25 AM on November 24, 2014

Ugh, this issue is a relationship killer, my condolences.

If you really want to keep your relationship, and this is his one main issue (according to the words that are coming out of his mouth), then you have to get on board, even if it's "hard" or "you don't feel like it"...that is called relationship work, it's not always easy and you don't always feel like it.

That said, I feel your pain. Because of reasons, my sex drive is not close to being where I would like it to be, or where my long-suffering husband wishes it would be. In my husband's perfect marriage, he'd get laid all the time. In my perfect marriage, he'd just read my mind and we'd never argue. We are not married to perfect people.

Truth be told, the onus is on me to get it together, HE is the one asking for his needs to be met, and I am the one that isn't meeting that basic marital need. He needs it. My husband has flat out stated that he needs it to feel loved, and I get that. He does everything in his power to make me happy, and he deserves a mate that will do the same.

I adore my husband, I would leap tall buildings in a single bound for my husband. So.

I overcome my initial feelings of blah (my hubs definitely deserves better than that), power through that selfish, lazy moment and give the poor guy some physical appreciation, just as good and as truly motivated as when I say how great he is.

Talking is nice, doing is better.

I feel like a better mate, HE feels I'm a better mate, it strengthens our bond, makes him feel loved, and I always enjoy it after I get into it, because I am CHOOSING to make that sexy moment happen, nothing is coerced or fake. I do love my spouse, and if he needs it, he needs it. I have plenty of needs that he takes care of without a thought.

It takes me a little longer, I'm not a blow-up doll! I'm a wife, and I try to be a good wife. Who am I to deny him his love? That makes no sense, I'd rather let him go to find a woman to fulfill him like he needs. That's love.

Either shape up for you and him and the universe in general or let him go. You could both be happier.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 5:49 AM on November 24, 2014 [8 favorites]

So what do you fantasize about when you masturbate?

This really is an interesting question for someone to ask themself. Because sometimes the answer comes back "I don't masturbate". Which - if you think of this clinically - is a telling symptom.
posted by doctor tough love at 7:01 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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