Do sex drives ever INCREASE after 3+ years in a relationship?
November 25, 2014 11:09 PM   Subscribe

My SO and I have been growing together more and more in the last three years. However, one thing seems to grow less and less, and as we move closer to thinking about marriage, I am a little concerned that our sex drives are mismatched for a very long term relationship. I am 23 and she is 21. I've heard a ton of anecdotes about women "waking up" sexually around 25. Is it realistic for me to think that that could be a possibility?

So, we've been dating 3 years. She is 21, I'm 23. That means we started dating at 18 and 20. We were each other's "first times" and we used to have a much higher frequency of relations, but that has decreased dramatically lately. She says that it is hard for her to get in the mood when we are stressed out, but in our lives that seems like a common occurrence. Sometimes she says she doesn't feel loved because I don't do nice things for her [It feels like I do all the time!]. Sometimes I tell her that I don't feel loved because she doesn't vocalize her love physically [She probably feels like she does all the time!].

There a few other issues that are concerning to me.

-She doesn't enjoy giving/receiving oral sex.
-She doesn't enjoy masturbating. She has never orgasmed during PIV. So just never at all. She is not interesting in exploring that aspect of our sex life.
-She does enjoy sex.
-She may feel some form of guilt from religious influences, but we have talked about it and that is not a driving factor in the decision.
-She is on ADHD medication Which does have a symptom of decreased sex drive, but she is afraid to go off of it because she is in challenging coursework. [I would never ask her to do that anyway!]
-She doesn't mind that I masturbate but prefers me to keep it around once every few days. [I usually keep this to myself anyway].
-The only time she seems in the mood is after a few drinks, which is sad for me because I would prefer her to consciously 100% awareness and decision making, want to have sex.
-She dislikes sex for sex's sake, but does like emotional, making love, bonding sex. I also prefer this sex but I understand the need for the second.
-I have vocalized my dislike of this situation and she usually makes it feel like we aren't close enough or haven't been getting along well or that "it should be the icing on top of a perfect day/week/relationship" and "she doesn't want our relationship to only be about that" and "all you ever think about is sex and that makes me feel worthless as a human [I probably bring it up once a week]"... All of these things are completely reasonable but I don't know the answer.

I have a lot of anxiety about this relationship's future. I love every second of being with her, but I'm concerned that our incompatibility here might be an issue moving forward in life. I have been holding on that it might improve, and that she might find her groove and start wanting me.

Anyway, is this completely unrealistic? Should I wait and see if her going off her medication and us becoming even closer than before changes things? Am I wasting both of our time?

Thank you so much for your help, and have an excellent day!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Wow, there's a lot here but I'm on my phone and I'm sure others will chime in. I will say though that I'm 32, been sexually active on a pretty regular basis for 14+ years, had a handful of partners before my spouse who I've been with for almost 8 years (married 7), have a healthy sex life (good attitude, enjoy it, etc) and *never once* have I orgasmed (or come anywhere close) from PIV. Some women just don't. Let it go.

You're not inherently wasting your time if you can proactively work on this together. Huge waste of time if you wait for something to magically change for no reason (eg at 25).
posted by jrobin276 at 11:20 PM on November 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

lots of women don't orgasm from PIV. that is normal.

many women don't like giving oral sex for a variety of reasons. some more common ones include: it feels degrading; bf does not keep his junk clean; gf has never done it before or feels she doesn't know how to do it well; gf is scared of bf coming in her mouth. have you discussed WHY she doesn't like giving you head? it may certainly be that religious thing you alluded to.

many women don't like getting oral sex for a variety of reasons. some more common ones include: they are afraid they "smell down there" and are embarassed; they have never had good head given to them and think it's pointless. have you discussed why specifically she doesn't want you to go down on her?

it sounds like she has a lot of issues around sex. religion can have a lot to do with it. maybe she was abused/raped/assaulted and hasn't told you about it.

if sex is super important to you in this relationship, you either need to talk to her to figure out what her issue is, or decide to end the relationship. you can't wait for a few more years to see if she magically gets turned on at some random age.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:44 PM on November 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

This sounds like a fundamental problem. Honestly, I have been in a similar situation before and it can be really damaging to your self confidence. As I understand it, she has never orgasmed, or is this wrong? I think there are three ways to go about this

1)you could persuade her to go to attend some couples therapy about her (and your!) issues, to see if your sex life can improve
2)You can accept the way things are going to be
3)You can move on from the relationship.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:10 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't know if i've ever written a post like this before, but holy shit, you guys are so young. Yea, i'm only a year or two older than either of you, but i think it's so silly to go to couples therapy or try and make some long bet on working out this type of thing.

Just break up, seriously. She'll work out what she wants from sex, when she wants it, and all that on her own time. Meanwhile, you can find someone else who is more aligned with your sex drive and expectations, etc.*

Really though, i think if you're having that much anxiety about this and were bothered enough to make an ask post, just move on. Go your separate ways. Pressure, anxiety, and disappointment just radiate from this post and i bet she's feeling some of that too.

For whatever reason right now her sex drive is just relatively low. It might be medication, it might be how she is, who knows. Everything you've written here though makes it sound like, incompatibility though. And this is a totally legitimate dealbreaker.

*which i don't think are that weird. people got hung up on the PIV orgasm thing, but you basically brought up most of the ways she could with you involved, or solo, have an orgasm and they've been ruled out. i get what you're getting at here.

I mean i could write some thing about men getting hung up on wanting to give women orgasms to prove their sexual prowess, or even just out of totally coming-from-the-right-place "but i want her to enjoy it too!" stuff when the woman in the relationship is saying it's fine, but a lot of times those situations do have weird vibes beyond the male sexual inadequacy stuff.

posted by emptythought at 3:02 AM on November 26, 2014 [21 favorites]

Do sex drives ever INCREASE after 3+ years in a relationship?

Staying in a relationship because you've anecdotally heard that your partner may change in a few years is nuts.

Seems like you two have some compatibility issues, and it's being reflected in your intimate life. So your choices are to get competent help and sort this out, or to move on.

Based on your ages, I vote move on. But yikes, waiting it out a few years because you heard she may change her mindset because of biological urges is really silly. Breaking up over incompatible sex drives is really normal.
posted by kinetic at 3:33 AM on November 26, 2014 [17 favorites]

This isn't an issue of low sex drive or her not having found her groove yet. This is a mismatch between your attitudes about sex and the role it plays in a relationship. It's not likely to change dramatically, if at all, and it's not a simple issue with hormones or brain chemistry.

She's not wrong, for the record. Aside from wanting to limit how often you masturbate (it's your body and your decision), everything about her seems perfectly normal. We tend to assume that sexual openness is healthy and good, and that disliking common sexual things like oral indicates some sort of issue, but people are allowed their preferences and limits.

Work it out together right now, accept her as she is, or move on. Assume she's not going to change on her own.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:04 AM on November 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

The decision to work on things or move on hinges on whether or not your girlfriend is happy with your sex life as is. If she's happy with things and has thought through her feelings around sex, its role in a relationship, and the kinds of activities she likes, then it's highly unlikely she is going to change her mind and she doesn't have to. You're just not sexually compatible. It happens to the best of people.

However, if she's not happy with her sex life then there's an opportunity to work on things. It sounds like you've had a lot of discussion, but it's hard to tell what those discussions are like. Bringing up your dissatisfaction with your mutual sex life once a week seems like it could be pretty demoralizing and definitely not a turn on.

If they start out something like, "I'm kind of frustrated/unsatisfied and would like to..." then that probably comes across as you putting pressure on her to meet your needs and implying that she sucks in bed and that sex with her is no fun.

If they start out something like, "I want to understand more about what you like during sex, tell me more," or "Are there things you'd like to try?" or "What does 'great sex' mean to you?" or "What would you like more of when we're intimate?" Then the conversation is about you trying to truly understand her point of view and what she finds pleasurable.

Do you two experiment with sex toys? Have you thought about your own technique? Do you really know if the things you're doing with/to her get her off? Do you talk during sex about whether or not what you are doing is pleasing? Are you open to having her give you pointers? Do you ask her to?

One things that can change over time is a person's ease and comfort in talking about sex and their preferences. Your girlfriend is very young and may not be comfortable expressing herself about what she wants in bed. Working on that; helping her feel safe about telling you what she wants and how she wants it could make all the difference in your sex lives.
posted by brookeb at 4:24 AM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

If she never orgasms with you and has no desire to try, it isn't going to happen. It sounds like she, in fact, does not enjoy having sex with you very much and like she is completely unmotivated to change that fact. I'd stop asking and focus on other things (and masturbate whenever you feel like it). If you can be happy in this state, okay. If you can't, move on.

For the record, the single most important thing you can do to encourage a woman to want to have sex with you is to make sure it's consistently enjoyable in a sexual way. A lot of women do like the other aspects of it but if it doesn't feel sexually pleasurable and often lead to orgasm, it'll eventually feel like a hassle. So there's another route you could take here, and try to figure out if there's anything sexually enticing you could offer/do/buy. Maybe a vibrator could help with orgasm. Maybe she has a fantasy that does it for her. I highly doubt this would work or that she would be interested at this point in your relationship, but on the small chance that she expresses a desire to change things I'd focus on turning her on and getting her off.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:17 AM on November 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

So, some things will change over time (not at the magical age of 25 - if anything I was having less sex then because I had just graduated and started working away from home). Tiredness is a huge factor - I had barely any sex drive when I had a two-hours-each-way commute and was leaving the house at 6am and getting back at 9pm every day, but when I got rid of that things improved immediately. If she's saying she's too tired, look at whether there are things you can do I make her less tired. Can you tidy up, can you help with the chores more? Is she depressed? Are you making her feel attractive and secure and loved? How are things on vacation? Does she want more sex when she is rested, and away from everyday stressors, and in a romantic setting?

We only have your word to go on, and I am mindful of previous Asks where the poster has failed to mention initially that their girlfriend works three jobs, or is post-partum, or has some other REALLY OBVIOUS reason not to have much energy for or interest in sex. However if you honestly can't see anything that could be improved (or if she can't), I would assume that this is how she is. If anything things will probably get worse if you have children. If that's a dealbreaker (and everybody has different thresholds, but no sex at all would be a dealbreaker for most people) then you should split up.
posted by tinkletown at 5:21 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

You are very young and your experiences are only with each other. If you were equally passionate about each other, and you were both on the same page about exploring sexuality and open to different experiences, I'd say, hang out if you're in love. But BOY is that not the case here.

Everyone's sexual needs are different and when you're in a long term relationship sometimes you compromise on stuff. For example if one of you is into a particular kink and the other just isn't, sometimes the partner may opt to do the kink on Birthdays and Christmas, but not all the time. Or the kinky one may decide that it was fun with other folks, but it's not necessary for a rich and fulfilling sex life if it makes the other partner unhappy.

What you are describing are some pretty fundamental issues in your sex life. If your girlfriend was open with you, she'd be willing to explore, and you'd both talk about what you do or don't like about something, and you'd figure stuff out to make your sex life fulfilling. And yes, sometimes you just fuck for the release and it's not all champagne, roses and strawberries. Sometimes you do just get a quick one during the commercials.

At any rate, you're not happy sexually, and sex is important to you. She may have issues with body shame (and we all did in our early twenties,) or she may have sexual hangups. For whatever reason, she's not interested in dealing with these issues, and she may never be.

So think long and hard about marriage and partnership because what if it never changes?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:26 AM on November 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Would the relationship be worth hanging onto, for you, if the current situation with sex never changed? If not, move on now. Becuause that's a whole lot more likely, bordering on probable.
posted by supercres at 5:42 AM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would really prefer ways to try to talk through this assuming we didn't break up. It doesn't feel like a deal breaker right now, but I would love tips in helping to fix the situation. Ways to approach her anxiety and nervousness, her hesitations because we aren't married, her lack of interest exploring her own sexuality without me (I bought her a vibrator, unused, and she is too shy to use it), and that she doesn't like to feel far away from me like during oral, or things along those lines.

She's open to change but I'm not sure how to approach the situation gently and unselfishly. I can't just say "I want you to masturbate"...
posted by bbqturtle at 5:43 AM on November 26, 2014

Sounds like she is not very sexual (especially if she's never had an orgasm, and isn't particularly interested in trying) and has some hang ups about sex. You definitely have mismatched sex drives, and this is one of those things that you can't really change, and does end relationships.

The only way your sex life will get better is if she's willing to discuss it, and work on things. And it doesn't sound like she is. It sounds like she romanticizes sex in a kind of unrealistic way. I think her age and inexperience are also working against you. Unfortunately, I don't think you have much chance of things getting better in this relationship. You need to decide if you can live with that. Personally, I think 23 is too young to settle for an unsatisfying sex life , especially when you've only had one partner, and don't even have those years of experience to look back on fondly.
posted by catatethebird at 5:45 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hi there, I'd like to chime in with a slightly different point of view. Your girlfriend sounds like me at 21. I'm in my early thirties now. I'm way, way more into sex than I was at 21, when basically it was a chore to keep my boyfriend happy.

21 is barely adult, and I know I was a bundle of neuroses at that age. As I've gotten older I've become more comfortable in my skin, more sure of what I want in a sexual relationship, and gained the confidence to ask for it.

I will point out that it took the better part of a decade, and only really accelerated after I met my now-husband when I was 26 and felt completely sexually safe and accepted in a relationship for the first time.

How does this apply to you? Dude, you are both SO YOUNG. I'm rooting for you, but you have to understand that while you will both age and get more comfortable in your own skins, it might not mean you will become any more compatible. My husband and I have an adventurous and good sex life now, but we have vastly mismatched sex drives. We accept it but it's still hard.

Are you willing to wait until you are 30 (or beyond) to find out if this will happen? Are you willing to be a loving and supportive partner who doesn't push or goad as she slowly discovers herself as a sexual being? There's no good answer to your question, but I hope I can give you some things to think about.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 6:05 AM on November 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

Metroid Baby is right on the money. From my own years of experience and from talking to other people, it seems like the frequency of sex hardly ever increases, unless a couple is trying to have a baby or something. Early on you probably have sex about as frequently as you're ever going to, and then as the years go by you maintain that (if you're lucky) or the amount decreases. People think they'll have more sex when they move in together, or when they get out of school, or when the baby is older... and it just doesn't happen. You've got to plan for this probably being as sexy as it gets for you.

I will say that she's entitled to zero say in how much you jerk off, especially if she knows you're sexually frustrated and she's not prepared to help you out. If you're going to stay with her, she's gotta be prepared for you to jerk off as much as you gotta, to make this work. If you're jerking off regularly, maybe poking her less often will seem fine.

If you haven't talked about sex fantasies with her, I'd suggest trying it. Maybe she has some unexplored kink you can fulfill, and maybe that will really get her going. Ideally she has a secret fetish she's always been too ashamed to explore, and you can instantly reduce her to screaming fits by wearing argyle socks or something. In my own life, sharing weird kinks for the first time is an incredible bonding experience. But that only works if she's got secret kinks to share, and she's willing to share them. Don't badger her about it, but the next time you're both feeling relaxed and sexy, maybe explore the subject.

(But be prepared for a blank stare and the possibility of awkwardness. Some people have no weird fantasies and just like plain vanilla sex, approximately once a week. These people are called replicants.)

(Also, Anonymous, it looks like one of your comments isn't anonymous. Can the mods help him out, there?)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:06 AM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

For the record, the single most important thing you can do to encourage a woman to want to have sex with you is to make sure it's consistently enjoyable in a sexual way.

This is fantastic advice. Tattoo it to the inside of your eyelids and make it your mantra -- get the quality side of sex fixed first, and then worry about the quantity. That doesn't mean hassle her to be more experimentive or to start having orgasms, it means doing the things that work for her right now (which sounds maybe like a certain kind of romantic and very intimate sex?) both physically and emotionally, and getting that completely right before starting to push the current boundaries.

she doesn't like to feel far away from me like during oral

There are other positions and ways to solve this, but again, first make sure things right now are working for her before mixing it up too much.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:08 AM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

A few things stand out for me here:

1) Don't discount the effect of her meds, particularly if she's also on hormonal birth control (and you don't mention BC at all here, you are using it, right? If not, that's a stress factor for her). It may very well be that this isn't something that can be talked out because it might very well be that her body simply isn't sending out the chemicals that say "ooohhhh, sex".

2) You seem to be very focused on how you want sex to be for her. Let me tell you, there is nothing in the world that is more of a turn off than a guy who wants sex to be a certain way for me. It's fine if she doesn't enjoy oral, or if she doesn't want to masterbate. That's her choice. It doesn't mean she's doing it wrong. It may very well mean that she doesn't find those things pleasurable right now.

3) She is actually telling you how to fix this, but you're not really listening. You write "She dislikes sex for sex's sake, but does like emotional, making love, bonding sex". This may be because of point 1 above, which is that she simply isn't having the physical drive for sex right now due to her meds.

My advice to you is this: for a month, stop talking about sex with her. Just assume you're not going to have PIV sex for a month. (If it helps, pretend the doctor told her not to have sex for a month, because this a realistic thing that happens with women sometimes.) Instead, listen to what she's telling you about what sex is for her -- it's most pleasurable when it's an emotional connection, not a physical one. So, focus on that: be loving and attentive, but more than that, make it a point to be physical with her (hugs, kisses, backrubs, caresses, snuggles, tickles, hand-holding) with no pressure about taking it any further. Make it a point to be in the same space with her. Enjoy just being with her. Foster that emotional connection that is important to her, and let sex be the natural outgrowth of that, vs. something you do because your hormones are telling you to (because hers may not be).

Finally, yeah, this For the record, the single most important thing you can do to encourage a woman to want to have sex with you is to make sure it's consistently enjoyable in a sexual way. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you two have only ever been with each other. It is possible that you're doing something during sex that she finds actively not pleasurable (maybe putting pressure on her for oral? Maybe making her orgasm a big goal, such that it feels to her like she's "failed" if she doesn't orgasm? Maybe something else...) and she's just tired of experiencing that but too embarrassed to tell you straight out?
posted by anastasiav at 6:23 AM on November 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

You are fooling yourself if you think the answer to this issue is to just stick around in the hopes that she goes through a sexual renaissance in a few years. You should be working under the opposite assumption-- that this situation will not ever change. People are giving you a lot of advice on how to approach fixing the situation, but given that you have already have brought up your dissatisfaction and she reacts by saying things like:

... we aren't close enough or haven't been getting along well or that "it should be the icing on top of a perfect day/week/relationship" and "she doesn't want our relationship to only be about that" and "all you ever think about is sex and that makes me feel worthless as a human [I probably bring it up once a week]"

I can't say I have a lot of hope for this ever improving; it looks like you are fundamentally mismatched in terms of sexual compatibility. I know you probably don't want to hear about breaking up, but seriously, you are so young! There are dozens upon dozens of women who wouldn't have to down a few drinks to be interested in having sex with you, or guilt you for your sexual interest in them.
posted by fox problems at 6:27 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you do think you can work on this with her, the first thing is to have a discussion where you are both on the same page. It seems like now, your discussions are more like "this bothers me" and her saying "it bothers me that that bothers you." I still think she's just not open to discussion, so you have to start slow and work on getting her to be more comfortable about sex. Have a discussion that is back and forth, not one-sided. Both of you need to tell each other what sex means to you, and what you think a good sexual relationship would look like. I think you need to get her to understand that this is important to you and might be a dealbreaker. If you can do this without making her feel judged, maybe she would be more open to working on things. Unfortunately, I don't have a script of the magic words for that discussion.
I think many of the suggestions people are giving you are too advanced for her level right now. Sounds like she doesn't know what she likes sexually, and doesn't know her own body. It's significant that she's never had an orgasm. If she gets to the point of wanting to work on things, that's the first thing. It makes sense she's not that interested in sex when she never gets the payoff, and doesn't even know what she's missing. There are plenty of books and advice for women to learn how to orgasm - and you do have to learn. I think a lot of women just expect it to happen by itself, and don't understand you have to actively be trying.
But even if you can get her to the point where she is willing to try, I think you'll still find that there is a fundamental incompatibility, and your sex drives will never match up. And it really sounds like you've got an uphill battle to her even acknowledging and wanting to work on the problem.
posted by catatethebird at 6:42 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

The thing that really sticks out to me is the idea of sex as icing on the perfect week/day/relationship just because if that's how she really sees it no wonder you guys never have sex.

I don't have much advice for dealing with that, but if you guys really wanna work on it I'd start there
posted by KernalM at 7:34 AM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

You've listed about 5 different reasons why she's not having sex with you, including nervousness, you're not married, she finds you initiating sex to be dehumanizing, she's shy, she's stressed...she is not seeming interested in working on these things which is what makes it seem like she is not motivated to have sex with you. there is also a strain of religious guilt / shame that she seems to expect you to participate in by not masturbating too much.

The only thing you can control is yourself, which is why I strongly suggest taking a big step back, not initiating sex with her, and dealing with your own feelings about things as they are right now. If she is anxious but does not want to work through the anxiety, you can do literally nothing about it. If she doesn't know what turns her on and is not interested in finding out, you can do literally nothing about it. I would caution that marrying her is not likely at all to improve this problem, despite her stating that she has anxiety about having sex before marriage.

I'm sorry. This is a terrible situation to be in. It's extremely sad and I'm sorry that I cannot give more positive advice.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:22 AM on November 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yes, her sex drive may increase in the decades to come. And guess what? Yours will probably decrease, not so much mentally, but physically, starting around age 40. You think all that stuff about erectile dysfunction won't be you? Ha.
posted by Rash at 8:28 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's entirely possible to be a person who prefers vanilla sex and not be less than fully human, I'd just like to say. I passed my Voight Kampff with flying colors.

It's also possible to start out enjoying vanilla sex and end up hating not only all sex but also yourself because people insist to you that liking vanilla sex is wrong and bad and dumb. And it's not only possible but LIKELY that if you grow up in an environment that shames all premarital (or just all non-procreative?) sex, you will find yourself between a proverbial cock and a hard place where even doing the super-basic thing you don't even like is bad bad bad, and now your boyfriend wants you to do WHAT?

What I'm saying is, your girlfriend's reluctance to discuss or engage, sexually, comes from feeling judged and found wanting on all sides by all people. There's no safe room for her to figure out what she, personally, her as a human, wants to do with and have done to her body. So she's just going to deflect, dodge, avoid because it all feels rotten.

I actually feel like as such, the suggestions to take sex off the table from your side are the most on-the-mark. But tell her! Say to her, "I understand that there are a lot of things about sex that aren't fully comfortable for you. But I do know that there are other things about it you enjoy. I want you to get the chance to embrace those things you do enjoy. So for [time frame] I am not going to say anything at all about it. But I will enthusiastically say "yes" to you any time you ask."

See what happens! Give her some safe room.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:31 AM on November 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

Agree with the others that it sounds like mis-matched sex drives and also what role sex has in a relationship. Here's my anecdote, might be helpful - my last relationship suffered in a similar way. I'm a woman, and my then boyfriend and I didn't have much sex. It was the opposite though from you - I was the one wanting more sex. He wanted it very little. He didn't like giving or receiving oral. I honestly hated going down on him too. It just, wasn't fun with him. He wasn't open to it, and he also didn't keep himself clean enough. We had very vanilla sex, and it was disappointing. There were religious issues in the mix too that made sex weird. I tried to discuss with him on multiple occasions and have open communication. In the end, the relationship didn't last, and the sex (or lack thereof) was part of the reason it ended. We tried to make it work for 9 years.

I'm 29 for reference. My sex drive hasn't increased/decreased as I got older that I've noticed. I started having sex when I was 19. The only things that affect it are BC pills (decreased it), stress/depression/fatigue (decreases it).

My current boyfriend and I have an amazing sex life. Our sex drives are much more aligned, as is our thinking on what role sex should have in a relationship. It's been such a huge difference and I'm so happy that I ended that last relationship. My current bf is open to almost everything, and we enjoy giving and receiving oral, and all sorts of other fun stuff. We experiment with new things, and at 2 years, we're still going strong. The sex quantity has decreased some since the beginning of our relationship due to stress in our lives, but overall I consider our sex life fantastic.

I would suggest you try openly communicating with your girlfriend. But if she isn't open to discussing these issues, you may want to consider moving on. You are both so young too. It's okay to break up for mis-matches sex drives. People do it all the time. Better now then when you are married with a couple kids.
posted by FireFountain at 8:32 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

"I have vocalized my dislike of this situation and she usually makes it feel like we aren't close enough or haven't been getting along well"

Well, there you go. Even if her physical sex drive increases (this surge is more stereotypically a mid-30s thing), that's not going to fix what she's already told you is wrong with the relationship.

Also, the way you bring this up is making her feel "worthless" and you still do so once a week? You haven't told us what you say or how you say it, but please find a different way to engage her on this topic. Or drop it.

Small sexual differences can be negotiated in a healthy relationship. But you sound fundamentally mismatched to me. Sexual incompatibility is a really common and totally reasonable dealbreaker so you're not a bad dude if it's a dealbreaker for you.

You are both so, so young. It takes most of us a few years/partners to figure out what works. You both deserve something that works and it doesn't seem likely that's going to happen with each other.
posted by kapers at 9:34 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

-She doesn't mind that I masturbate but prefers me to keep it around once every few days.

This is come bullshit. Don't let anyone, even your SO, every tell you what your sex drive "should" be or how often you can masturbate.
posted by I am the Walrus at 9:46 AM on November 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Hey one more thing I thought of, regarding the masturbating issue. With my current bf, sometimes I'm just not in the mood but he is, and I like to be part of his masturbating if I can. As in, I'll let him (if he so desires) to use my boobs or ass, or have me lay there naked next to him, whatever, so that I feel part of it too. Not to say I don't let him jack off whenever he feels like it, and he often does it alone and it's totally fine for us. Anyway, often me being part of his masturbating leads to sex anyway b/c it turns me on when he masturbates in front of me. Have you tried to see if your girlfriend would be interested in being part of your masturbating sessions? She may be open to that, who knows.
posted by FireFountain at 9:59 AM on November 26, 2014

She's going to have to want this change and you'll both have to work towards it, and even then it might not happen. But to answer your question specifically, no, it won't just happen by itself. This doesn't seem like a subconscious thing.
posted by destructive cactus at 10:23 AM on November 26, 2014

Look, this is shit advice and I know you don't want to hear it, but I feel pretty strongly that it's the correct advice.

Your girlfriend needs to go out into the world and live her own life as a single person, discover her own sexuality on her own terms, and probably have sex with other people.

This isn't to say that you guys shouldn't (ever) get married, are incompatible, or that you should break up.

But basically everything you're describing is classic "I'm 18 and very inexperienced and I've swallowed a lot of high school sex ed ideas about sexuality". The only cure for that is to get out there and live. It is very, very hard to do this -- especially if you're female -- if you're still with the guy you lost your virginity to, who you've been with your entire adult life. It's possible that at some point things could change and she could open up without ever leaving this relationship. But it's not that likely, especially if she's not the one driving that change.

It's also very possible that this is just who she is, and she would never change even if given the freedom to get out there and figure herself out a little more.

I guess a better way to phrase my advice is that you have to take her as she is right now. There is no indication that she is going to change. There is nothing you can do to get her to change. Your choices are to be happy with your girlfriend's lack of interest in sex, or to break up with her. Neither of those choices is a bad idea, really. It's just what it is.
posted by Sara C. at 10:28 AM on November 26, 2014 [23 favorites]

Pressuring people to masturbate is a great way to get them to think of masturbation as a Messy Chore Adults Get Stuck With (like cleaning the bathroom, or getting an oil change).

(Also, did you mean to reply non-anonymously in this thread? Might want to talk to a mod about that . . .)
posted by yarntheory at 11:04 AM on November 26, 2014

This is my third attempt to write this reply.

I got married at 19 to another 19 year old. I do not agree with the advice that you are too young to put up with this much in a relationship. I don't think you learn to deeply love anyone by quickly DTMF on every relationship that doesn't immediately go smoothly. Like real friends, real love does not abandon you at the first sign of trouble. It stands by you when you need it the most.

Sometimes she says she doesn't feel loved because I don't do nice things for her [It feels like I do all the time!]. Sometimes I tell her that I don't feel loved because she doesn't vocalize her love physically [She probably feels like she does all the time!].

There is an old saw that says "Women give sex to get love. Men give love to get sex." Although you need to do your best to make sure she has a good time when the two of you do get in bed, getting a woman to want to bed you mostly happens outside of the bedroom. You feel like you do nice things for her all the time. She does not see it that way. I think you need to figure out what kinds of nice things she is looking for.

The young man I married at 19 was my best friend for about a year before I slept with him. I basically dragged him off to bed after his girlfriend dumped him. Within a week or two, I let slip that I was thinking in terms of marriage. Her are some of the things he did that won my heart and kept me hanging in there for a long time:

For starters, he was my best friend. I could talk to him. About anything. Any time.

When my mother was treating me like a hypochondriac and refusing to take me to a doctor, he quietly interrupted our fight and said "I can take you. You have a military ID and I happen to have my mother's car tonight. You are 18, so you don't need a parent to sign for you anymore." My mother quit acting like I was a hypochondriac.

He bought me an entire series of books to replace the books "borrowed" by a toxic relative who never returned them and then laughed in my face when I tried to bill them for the replacement cost.

When I was at his home (ie his parents' house, because we were teens) and I had diarrhea while on my period and the toilet stopped up and I was utterly mortified and felt humiliated, he got a plunger and took care of it himself and told no one. (I don't think I have ever told that story before to anyone in more than 30 years.)

When I took an interest in D&D, he told me where I could find a group. It happened to be his group. He was not there the weekend I showed up. This mutual hobby became a new source of bonding. He bought me my first D&D dice that Christmas. He was really socially awkward and he ended up just wrapping the actual dice in gift wrap, not putting them in a box or anything. And it was totally lame and I thought he was really cute and sweet.

He bought me flowers the day before Valentine's because he didn't always have access to a car and, again, not being the most savvy about social graces and various domains of knowledge that go with it, he laid the flowers on top of his bookcase overnight -- directly under the heating vent. They were dried out and pathetic by the time I got them the next day. I stripped off the worst of the leaves, trimmed the bottom, and stuck them in water with a little aspirin (because I had better social graces than him and knew more about the related areas of information). The flowers perked right up. I thought he was sweet to go to such lengths and also to feel so bad about how they looked by the time I got them. But they looked fine after I cleaned them up a bit.

He wrote me the lamest poetry ever in the history of the human race. It came from his heart and it expressed his feelings for me as best he could. It was horrible, terrible, pathetic poetry and I was very touched.

For the first many years we were together, when money was always tight but we both loved to read, we often bought each other a bookmark with a nice saying on it as a gift. They were about a dollar at the time and we had hundreds (if not thousands) of books and there were never enough book marks. It fit our budget and it was something that was important to both of us.

He stuck it out with me the first 10 or 11 months of our relationship until I finally had an orgasm with him -- my first from anything other than masturbating. And I cried afterwards and married him like six-ish months later, sure that he was the man for me forever and ever and ever and I never wanted an orgasm with anyone else, til death do us part.

After we got married, he went along with my flakey-assed choice of birth control, because it was what I wanted, and when I then turned up pregnant due to failure of my flakey-assed form of birth control, the first thing I asked him was "are you mad at me?" and he was nice about it and did not throw it in my face that I was unexpectedly pregnant, a few years before we really wanted kids, because of me being a flake. He was already in the Army by then and we knew we wanted kids together, we just planned to have them later. And he never ever brought it up again. Ever.

He was there with me in the delivery room for the birth of both of our sons. He went to some trouble to rearrange his work life to make it possible to be there at that time. He held my hand and counted for me between breathes. When I had my first baby and there was so much blood everywhere that he was afraid I was dying, he took his cue from the fact that the medical personnel seemed unperturbed and did not have a freak out in front of me. He ran off to get me Burger King food after that birth and about an hour after our first son was born, I was wolfing down a hamburger. It was half gone before I thought "What is strange about this?" and then realized, oh, yeah, I had been throwing up for eight months and hardly eating. I was a bag of bones. I was starving.

When I was having our second baby and out of my mind with pain and trying to shove his fist into my mouth and chew on it, some nurse came by and crabbed at me to not do that, I might hurt him. And he waved her off and said "Honey, you are doing fine. You haven't drawn blood yet." And that was how I learned that I clawed him bloody with the first birth. He never again mentioned it. In more than 2 decades of marriage, it was the only time he brought it up and he did so to make me feel better, not to criticize me.

When things weren't working in our early twenties, he tried couples counseling with me and therapy for himself. He didn't really like it. He was very introverted and didn't like telling all this personal stuff to a therapist. I let him off the hook and told him he didn't need to go. I didn't care if he saw a therapist. I just wanted our problems to get better. He stopped therapy and began trying a lot harder in our relationship and things were better and some of those improvements were immediately apparent.

He only wanted two kids. I wanted three. We stopped at two because of my health problems. I was not well enough to have a third child and raise all three of them and all that. But had I not been so sick, he would have given me a third child because I wanted it and he loved me.

I did get more fun in bed over time. He kept his mouth shut and didn't talk to his friends about our sex life and he made it safe for me to have sex with him -- safe to accidentally get pregnant, safe because he was faithful and not bringing home STD's, safe emotionally because I was a mess who had been molested as a child and he never talked about our sex life to anyone. I talked to other people. I needed to talk. I am not an introvert and I needed therapy, but I would have been mortified had he talked to other people about what we did in bed.

So, over time, we did work things out in bed. And we did have a situation you sometimes hear about in songs or whatever, that what we did was no one else's business, just ours, and we tried things that we told no one else about and it was okay because I was his wife and he protected me and kept me safe.

Which is a long way of saying that you are approaching this from the wrong direction. YOU are the one that wants sex. Trying to tell her to want sex or to enjoy sex more is doing it wrong. You need to make her feel loved and cared for, safe and protected. And adored and beautiful in your eyes. That's how you get a woman to put out. Men look for sex. Women look for relationships. This is probably deeply biologically rooted in the fact that women are the ones who carry the baby when a baby is the result of sex. We want to know our lives will not be ruined for giving you want you want.

Men I have known who had the best time in bed were men who understood that and were good to their women not just in bed, but in ways that made him indispensable to her overall quality of life. They supported her educational goals, supported her career, supported her when she was pregnant, and so on. I knew a guy who was something of a player who kept trying to pick up his best friend's leftovers and I finally told him one day "You have it backwards. His sex life isn't great because of him picking hot women. His women are hot because of how he treats them. If you want more out of a relationship, you need to put more into it." And he eventually stopped picking up women at bars and, instead, got married. I guess he decided I was right.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 1:51 PM on November 26, 2014 [23 favorites]

She doesn't mind that I masturbate but prefers me to keep it around once every few days

this is completely insane and you should run.
posted by rr at 6:24 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

What people will do with you/to you sexually and permit you to do to them is a manifestation of their personality and, as such, largely forged much earlier in life. They are a part of one's own constitution. That is not to say that people don't change sexually- everyone does as they have more experiences and find out what they like and dislike, but all of that happens within a space where the boundaries are tied to much deeper parts of ourselves. Given that you have been in this relationship for 3 years and your sex life has consistently operated this way, it is because you are running into her boundary- the chances of this spontaneously moving to accommodate you are slim to none.

A few other comments that you may consider:

She may feel some form of guilt from religious influences, but we have talked about it and that is not a driving factor in the decision.

If she fundamentally feels some guilt about sex, that necessarily affects the "decision" to participate in sex. How could it not? Also, in close, passionate, loving relationships, sex is more of a product or expression of the relationship than it is a cold, rational decision between people.

-She doesn't mind that I masturbate but prefers me to keep it around once every few days.

This is no one's business in the entire world. The thought that anyone would even think that they are entitled to have a say-so over you in this department should be wildly offensive to you. You are a grown ass man- don't let anyone else say anything like this to you ever.

-I have vocalized my dislike of this situation and she usually makes it feel like we aren't close enough or haven't been getting along well or that "it should be the icing on top of a perfect day/week/relationship" and "she doesn't want our relationship to only be about that" and "all you ever think about is sex and that makes me feel worthless as a human [I probably bring it up once a week]"... All of these things are completely reasonable but I don't know the answer.

None of that is reasonable, in fact, it is highly manipulative behavior on her part. "all you ever think about is sex and that makes me feel worthless as a human" Most people who enjoy sex feel more valuable as a human being having it with someone they love- not less. Stop and ask yourself how her statement makes you feel. If you bringing up sex once in a whole week makes her feel worthless, is she really valuing you?

-The only time she seems in the mood is after a few drinks, which is sad for me

Yeah man, and you should feel angry about this and want better for yourself.

You started by asking if your girlfriend will have a sexual Renaissance and, I think between my response and many others here, we have spoken to the chances of that happening. What is completely certain is that there is a world full of women out there who have none of these hangups and attitudes. Don't sell yourself short. Your best years are ahead of you. I promise.
posted by incolorinred at 11:50 PM on November 29, 2014

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