Reader question #74: Guest Post! Keeping it sexy in a long-term relationship.

Dear Captain Awkward;

I have a question about sex. As in, how do I have it? More specifically, how do I have it with my husband?

We’ve been together 10+ years, we get along and have fun and love each other lots. But. We don’t have sex. We used to, when we started dating, we did it all the time. Then that faded, and though I think our relationship is stronger now than it was then, we also don’t have sex anymore.

Part of the reason is that we have each experienced some medical issues over the past few years (surgeries for both of us, some in the groinal area, that required recovery time) but also we just don’t seem to have much sexual desire at all. I personally get an urge right around when I ovulate but the rest of the month I am just fine without.

Let me be clear: it isn’t that one of us is asking for it and being turned down. Neither of us initiates or even mentions it.

I think the biggest thing is that we haven’t done it in so long (like, so long that our condoms have expired!) is that we’ve sort of forgotten how. I don’t mean where things go, I mean, I think we’ve forgotten how to get into the headspace of physical intimacy that goes beyond cuddling, snuggling, hugs, kisses, and foot/back rubs.

We’re at the stage of thinking seriously about having kids, which – at least to start with – requires sex. But I would like it to be fun, and good, and not just about making a baby.

Personally, I think part of the reason sex is awkward/embarrassing for me is that I have never (to my knowledge) reached orgasm. Sex feels good, I enjoy it when it’s happening, but I do generally feel “unfulfilled” at the end, as if I’ve come close to the pinnacle and just missed it, but never (in solo masturbation, oral, hand, penile, vibrator, etc.) have I climaxed, and so I feel ashamed of that, and guilty for not “being able to” or making my Partner feel that he hasn’t “done it right” because I didn’t come. (Not sure I would know if I did, though – it seems obvious in the movies and in books but we all know they are not to be trusted in these areas.)

Can you and your readers give us some advice on how two committed people in a long-term relationship can get back in the swing of Adult Sexytimes?

Thanks,
If You Have a Clever Nickname I Would Be Happy To Use It

Dear Clever Nickname:

I don’t know how to keep the sexy good times going in a long-term relationship, so your question is helping me learn new stuff. I polled my long-married friends and they all said variations of the same thing:

  • “You just have to do it.”
  • “If you wait until you are in the mood, you’ll never do it.”
  • “Just do it over and over again until you get bored with it. Like exercise.”
  • “Just do it.”
  • “The moments when you would rather wrap yourself in the cozy blanket of being by yourself and not touching someone you find kind of irritating and possibly shaped wrong? Those moments are actually when you can/should reach over and cop a feel to get things going. “
  • “Go out of your way to do something nice for the other person and see if that gets everyone in the mood.”

The extremely kind, talented, and gorgeous Mistress of Fine Arts answered at length, below.  Two things before I turn it over to her:

  • It is interesting to me that all of the people who responded were women (even though I asked men and women), so I’d be particularly interested to hear from men in the comments. How are you keeping it sexy inside your relationships? Conventional wisdom says that women are the complicated ones, with our weird moods and our sexual gatekeeping, and if we just took our tops off or put our hands on your junk (which we might do more if you would clean the house more) it would be nothing but Sexy Times, All The Time, but I’m pretty sure that men are more complicated than that.  Spill it, brothers.
  • The pressure to have (or incur) an orgasm has killed many a mood. There maybe be medical problems that you want to talk to your doctor about, but it might also help you to think about Julius Meinl. Not Austrian banker & billionaire Julius Meinl (THAT WILL NOT HELP YOU). Let me explain.  When you order a fancy coffee drink at Julius Meinl, they bring it to you on a silver tray with a doily and a little glass of water, and they also bring you a little gingerbready-wafer cookie on the side. For a while, they ran out of wafer cookies, and at brunch one day we were like “Uh, where is our fancy cookie?” and the waiter said they’d run out and we said “Okay!” and drank our fabulous fancy coffee and ate our delicious brunch. No cookie! Brunch still delicious! Coffee still fancy! Brunching partners still vivacious and delightful!
So now, with that terrible metaphor burned into your brain, here is the Mistress of Fine Arts.

Dear Clever Nickname:

It’s easy to have Sexy Fun Times when you’re dating. Everything’s new, there’s the thrill of exploring a new partner and having them explore you, and you don’t have a decade of history weighing you down. After ten years of unsexy day-to-day life, complete with fretting over whose turn is it to do the dishes or take out the garbage or get the car repaired, etc., not to mention things like getting each other through groinal surgeries, which no doubt forged a stronger bond between you but probably didn’t put you in the mood for romance – it’s a lot harder to recapture that thrill. There are profound satisfactions that come from being together that long and caring for each other that deeply, but satisfaction and passion aren’t the same thing. They’re not mutually exclusive, though, and it’s terrific that you guys still have physical intimacy of the non-sexual kind. Clearly you care about making each other feel good.

But if sex has fallen out of your repertoire, it’s going to take some effort to get it back in there. This can – and should! – be FUN effort, but you can’t just sit back and wait for Sexy Fun Times to happen on their own. You need to make them happen. And what I’m about to say may sound like cheesy advice-column hokum, but I speak from experience: schedule a date. Seriously. My husband and I have a standing once-a-month date, where we devote ourselves to having romantic time with no worrying about work, or what needs doing around the house, or anything else. We just take pleasure in each other, and we reconnect with why we fell in love in the first place – and this carries over into the rest of the month. It’s done wonders for our marriage.

So, make a date with your husband. Get yourselves out of your usual routine a little. Maybe you want to go out for a nice dinner. Maybe you want to stay home with a bottle of wine and good music. Do whatever’s going to put you in a happier, more romantic head-space. What sorts of things did you guys do back when you started dating? Try doing that. Try doing that regularly; this shouldn’t just be a one-time thing, because that will put too much pressure on you both. The idea here is not to approach this as a “we must have Sexy Fun Times, right now!” kind of thing, but a mutual, “we want to have fun and make each other feel good” sort of date. (It *is* mutual, right? You don’t mention in your letter whether your husband also wants to rekindle the sex life, or whether he’s happy with the status quo. If he’s happy as things are, you may face an uphill battle, since it takes effort on both your parts to make this work. That said, very few people are likely to be put off by hearing the person they love say, “I love you and I want to make you feel good – in your pants.”)

And then, once you’re having a nice time together, and you’ve let yourselves relax a little, well, someone has to make the first move to tip things over from Nice Relaxing Times into Adult Sexytimes. The cuddling, kisses, and foot/back rubs that you guys usually do can make a great lead-in; start there, and let the hands wander. Or you could try something more direct: take your clothes off and go for it. Watch some porn if it gets you in the mood. Find ways to surprise each other. There are all sorts of ways for this to happen, but again, you need to MAKE it happen. If your husband isn’t moving things towards sexiness, take the lead yourself. Go for the gusto.

If this doesn’t work the first time, don’t worry about it. Have another date. The whole point is to enjoy yourselves. Which brings me to the other part of your question: your inability to orgasm. If I could magically solve this problem for you, I absolutely would (and I imagine my services would be much in demand), but no advice columnist has this power. If it really concerns you, I recommend that you consult with a doctor and/or a therapist about it. But what I *can* suggest is, when you’re trying to get back in the habit of having sex with your husband, don’t view orgasms as the goal. There’s no surer way to kill a sexy mood than by worrying that you’re doing it wrong, and really, if sex feels good and you enjoy it when it’s happening, nobody’s doing anything wrong. Feeling good is what you’re there for, and wherever that good feeling takes you, whether it’s to a distinct climax or to less defined happy times, it’s all great. Don’t let somebody else’s narrative of how sex is supposed to go get in the way of your fun.

Good luck,
MFA
28 comments
  1. robiewankenobie said:

    i talked to theLeon about this last night. because we have been having sexy sex for a long damn time. and we’re pretty much convinced that it’s awesome. i also called mamawankenobie who had a pretty hawt time with papawankenobie for a gabzillion years.

    • discuss it. have you discussed it? out loud? not just hedged? if no one is mentioning it? that’s part of the problem. he might be afraid of making the first move. not rejecting someone out loud doesn’t mean that they aren’t feeling rejected.
    • make sure you are having fun together when you’re not having teh sex.
    • surprises. fun for the partner. fun for you. anticipation is sexy.

    • let go of the guilt. did you have a good time without the orgasms before? then don’t use that as a “grade.” tell your partner that he isn’t being graded. if you want to explore the orgasm thing, that is another matter…see below
    – therapy is a good thing if you need it. really. honestly. i didn’t have therapy for this issue, but crazy person therapy was really helpful. if you don’t like your therapist? try another.
    – check out the medication situation. some meds really suck the life out of a libido.
    – go to a specialist.
    – go to the library.

    • slow it down. slow it doooooooooooooooooown. the fooling around thing without a goal? you never know when you might get carried away. mix tapes? where each person gets a song to tease with? festive.
    • sleep nekkid, or wear fancy nightware.
    • inch toward it. do some ass grabbing in public when nobody is looking, for example. what are the things that you did when you first got together? my guess is that there was at least some flirting going on, even if you hopped into bed together at the very beginning.
    • you mentioned personal sexy time. do you enjoy personal sexy time when you have it? are there things you want to share about what makes it good with your partner?

    It’s great that you’re handling this now. Because just let me tell you – once there are babins? Man, alive. That can make things complicated for people. That’s a whole ‘nother post. How to have the sexy sex after babins.

  2. CommanderLogic said:

    Just a P.S. Before embarking on any or all of the advice laid out above by The Cap’n and Mistress or below by the inevitably brilliant commenters, you’re going to have a probably kind of awkward conversation with your husband about how you’d like to get back into the groove. This conversation should take place at home, maybe after dinner on a weeknight, or after breakfast on Sunday. Avoid right-before-bedtime because that doesn’t give either of you any time to process or go for a walk/coffee/etc. by yourselves if things get weird.

    Here are some things you can say:

    – “Hey, I think you’re very sexy, and I would like us to start having regular sex again. I miss you.”
    – “I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I just need to say it out loud to you: I want to have sex with you. And I want you to want to have sex with me.”
    – “This is really hard for me to talk about, so it’s probably hard for you too, but I miss having sex with you, and I want us to start again. Do you want that?”
    – “Do you feel like it’s been a long time since we’ve had sex? Do you miss it?”

    Be clear that this conversation is not about having sex right this second, but about a) explaining what you need and b) finding out what he wants. Because that’s where you have GOT to start. You’re in this game together, so he has to know that there’s a game even happening.

    If he’s in the game with you, if he agrees that Sexy Times should be in the offing, then ask him how he would like to address that. If he doesn’t have any ideas, then you can bring the advice in this column to the front.

    If he wigs, or feels attacked, you back off and say something like this:
    – “I’m sorry you feel bad, and we don’t have to keep talking about it now, but please think about what I said. I love you.”
    – “I know this is super weird to talk about, but we have to talk about it. Not now, but I really need you to think about it.”
    – “I’ve been thinking about all this for a while, and I know I kind of just sprung it on you, so I get that it’s harder for you to have this conversation because you weren’t prepared. Do you need some time to think it over? Because I understand that! This is wiggy!”

    Then readdress in a week.

    Finally remember: Sexy Times is not just Ye Olde In-and-Out. Making out is totally Sexy Times, and can be an end of itself. Just getting undressed for bed can be Sexy Times. Take a shower together. Be naked together. Be clothed together, but feel each other up under those clothes. Tell him to touch you. Sexy Times are EVERYWHERE. ❤

  3. Tradtional Married said:

    I have a similar problem; haven’t been married nearly as long as yall, but sex is An Issue for us. Mostly because i don’t like it or really ever want it, and he likes it and is convinced that if he is more romantic or does different things in bed I’ll start to like it. But it’s gotten to the point that I’m wondering if I’m asexual. But if that was the case, I would “know”, right? Not just wonder? Before we got married (we were abstinent until then) I liked kissing, but I don’t even like that anymore. Is this A Thing? I have no idea what us wrong with me.

    • JenniferP said:

      That’s a difficult question and a sad situation. Is it that you are asexual, or is it that you are not attracted to your husband, or that you haven’t spent a lot of time developing your own sexual needs and desires and don’t know them that well? Could be any of those, or some combination of all three, but I’m going to take the idea that something is “wrong” with you completely off the table.

      My suggestion would be to read the entire archives of Scarleteen and to really figure out masturbation. Knowing what makes you feel good and turns you on is valuable information. You can work it into sex with your husband at some point or not.

      I think this picture of Clive Owen wants you to take a hot bath, alone with your thoughts, later.

    • Helpful Anonymous Person said:

      You might find AVEN helpful. I’m a Luddite, so I can’t embed the url. It’s http://www.asexuality.org/home/

      There are lots of threads in which sexual people describe sexual attraction and other-oriented arousal for the benefit of asexuals and those who are trying to determine their place on the sexual continuum. It may help answer some questions for you and it may not. If it should turn out that you feel that you are asexual just remember this: there is nothing wrong with you and you are not broken.

      • Tradtional Married said:

        Thanks! I’ll definitely have a look at AVEN.

        The second one on the captain’s list is what resonates for me, I don’t think I’m not attracted to him? Thinking about having sex or masturbating honestly makes me nauseous. He’s said that he hopes that after being married long enough, I’ll feel differently. I’m not really sure about that, but he is becoming a really considerate person so maybe he’s right? Previously we had agreed to have sex at least once a month (which made me feel horrible, because I didn’t like it at all and simultaneously felt really bad that I was “denying” him it, or whatever) but recently he realized that was kind of mean on his part? and now he agreed not to pressure me to have sex at specific times like that, and I said I would work on trying to like it. This is not working. I feel horrible about it, because he’s really nice, does half the housework, makes me coffee, is nice to cuddle with, and here I am this frigid person not wanting sex. Quandry :/

        • robiewankenobie said:

          i guess what i’m missing here is: do you not want to have sex? or do you not want to have sex with HIM?

          • Tradtional Married said:

            I’m not completely sure, since he’s the only person I’ve had sex with, but I think it’s that I don’t want to have sex. I mean I don’t find myself wanting to have sex with other people either.

        • JenniferP said:

          Your posts here are always fascinating to me. I was raised strict Catholic, as in, your sex education consists of DON’T DO IT OR YOU WILL GO TO HELL, EXCEPT WHEN YOU ARE MARRIED YOU CAN DO IT, but fortunately I also had public schools and comprehensive sex ed and I babysat for people so could ransack their house for their sex manuals and also I decided hey, maybe my religion/parents/etc. are kind of totally wrong about that (I hope? Because, hell). But I was naturally curious about sex and really horny.

          Anyway, I’m going to tell you:

          Stop using the word “frigid” about yourself.
          Or wondering if all this is your fault.

          There is a reason people fuck before marriage. It’s to figure out if they are sexually compatible. You and your husband chose not to do that, for whatever reasons of your own. If he never had sex before marrying you, there is a high probability that he is just not good at it and it involves a lot of goal-oriented poking about. If you never had sex (and had abstinence-only sex ed, which is honestly, I can’t even be respectful about it, TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY VALUELESS AND BANKRUPT AND BAD) no wonder you have weirdness about it! The whole message was “Don’t ever do that, your parts will fall off and you will catch a million gross diseases, you will go to hell, nice girls don’t ever want to do that, eventually you will endure that in order to make a baby and please your husband, oops, now you’re married, time to please your husband which you’d better magically figure out how to do right now or else you are ‘frigid.'” Bullshit. If people told you that, they were wrong, and it was bullshit.

          If masturbation – touching your own self in your own time – makes you nauseous, that seems like a topic for a therapist. That doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with you, just, hey, it’s your body, it’s the only one you get, it’s a neat body, it would be cool if someone could help you relax with yourself? If once-monthly sex with your husband involves a lot of goal-oriented “time to put a baby in your babyplace!” poking about, he can help you by shutting that down. Maybe make an agreement that you’ll kiss and cuddle and touch each other but your pants will stay on until you are ready to take them off. Consent is sexy. Patience is sexy. Connection is sexy. Maybe you’ll find it.

          • Kathleen said:

            I was raised strict Catholic and I had an excellent sex education. Don’t lay the failure of the adults in your life on the doorstep of an entire faith.

            Just saying.

          • Finnegan said:

            @Kathleen: To be fair, when the adults in question are for a great many people the *entire Roman Catholic Church*, and as someone who endured a church-dictated sexual education I speak very much from experience on that point, it can be hard to distinguish between Catholicism in essence and Catholicism in majority practice.

        • k said:

          Thinking about having sex or masturbating honestly makes me nauseous.

          Oh girl 😦

          It’s therapy time. See someone yourself… but maybe consider seeing a sex therapist together, too, because you two are each others’ first partners and thus had little time to develop a sense of your own personal sexual needs before hooking up with one another. If you were both raised in the restrictive environment you describe in your comments, it’s gonna be super tough to know and talk about what you want sexually.

          Also, you’re not “frigid”, it sounds more like you haven’t unlocked your own sexual self quite yet. If my only experience of sex was a once-monthly unfun procedure that I got nothing out of, I probably wouldn’t want to have sex with anyone either.

          This isn’t a switch that is going to flip after a certain number of years of marriage. You were taught to bury and suppress a part of yourself, and it will take effort from both you and your husband to UNbury it.

          Good luck, and don’t forget, the rewards can be awesome. Particularly if you’re under 30, you probably haven’t even hit your sexual peak yet and you potentially have a ton of fun ahead of you!

        • That One Anon said:

          I know some have recommended therapy in order to be certain whether this is actually a matter of asexuality or simply social repression, and I don’t think that’s a bad idea.

          However.

          If you find that sex/masturbation/physical intimacy of a genital kind still does not appeal to you? That is perfectly okay and fine. Asexuality is a perfectly valid way of being and there are plenty of people who experience it. It doesn’t mean you’re broken and need to be fixed. Your account of wanting to please your significant other but just -not- liking the whole sex thing reminds me of a friend of mine. She isn’t particularly sexually repressed (she writes porn for the social interaction/curiosity aspect) but she just does not have any personal interest whatsoever, not even in masturbating. It has caused tension b/w her and the boyfriend.

          If I were you I would not just check out the AVEN wiki, but also the forums. There have been some asexuals who have married sexuals before and they make it work. You may find advice on creative ways making things work. For example: if you want to help him out/make him feel good, there are other ways than letting him put his Zippity Doo Dah in your Zippity Aye. Maybe you would feel more comfortable offering him a handjob and thinking of it as an ‘intimate massage’ or favour. Then he could return the favour by giving you a normal back massage. It may take some of the pressure out of the equation and means you don’t have to bring your own physical sex into things, thereby maintaining some boundaries. (Let me say that if this too makes you uncomfortable, I’m not saying you have to/should do it. It’s just one way I thought of approaching the issue. Others who have experienced this first hand would have better advice, I’m sure.)

          I really do wish you the best. I know this sort of thing can be difficult.

        • There is nothing wrong with you, first off. If you do not want sex and you are comfortable with that, that is fine. The only issue might be a mismatch in your libidos, which is equally unhealthy for you and your partner. I firmly believe no one should be having sex they genuinely don’t want to be having, especially out of a sense of obligation – however, that does mean you should think compassionately about your partner’s needs and how they can be met in ways satisfying and acceptable to both of you. Best of luck with a tricky dilemma. We’re all rooting for you.

  4. I have had a pretty low sex drive and a not very active sex life for several years (maybe five or six) now. There are a lot of reasons for this – I’m a trans guy and have dealt with varying levels of body dysphoria that make sex weird or problematic, plus I dated someone during this time who had sexual expectations that were impossible for me to meet and this made me anxious about performance. On top of that, I had a panic attack during sex once (I would list this as one of the worst moments of my life in all seriousness), and for about three years after that incident I was terrified of it happening again, which made any sex at all uncomfortable and was a huge distraction. It’s hard to relax and focus on pleasure when your brain is thinking “are you going to freak out now? How about now? Maybe in a minute you’ll tense up and start crying!”

    I’ve been with my fantastic partner for almost nine years, and they’ve been super-supportive through this. It’s really important to me to make sure that they know the issue isn’t one of my attraction or dedication to the relationship waning, and I’m really invested in a lot of nonsexual physical contact, so there has been a lot of snuggling, hair-petting, curling up in bed together, etc. during this time and that’s been good for both of us.
    I really think that after so many years of being afraid of having sex, followed by a lot of changes in both of our bodies, I was worried that I had lost my sexual “skills” and felt pretty clueless about how to make things work – and my sexual communication skills had dropped off too. I was upset about not having sex, but I also found myself not feeling interested most of the time. Or, I’d be at work or in some other place where I couldn’t have sex that moment and think “We should have sex tonight,” but I’d get home and find reasons to distract myself and never initiate it. My partner’s sex drive is also not really high and they were being very respectful and not pushing for sex because of the problems I was having; I was glad for this, but I do think that if they’d gently tried to initiate sex more often, the process of figuring out how to make sex work for us may have started sooner.

    A few things have changed for us. I’ve talked a lot about what was making me worried and tried to talk about specific things we could both do to make the process of initiating/having/talking about sex together easier. We don’t have an official system for it, but we do try to say “hey, let’s have sex at x time” and then stick to it. My partner initiates sex more often, which can be nice. I’ve also found it extremely helpful to have the space for sex to happen or not depending on how we feel at the time. It puts less pressure on me if we decide we’re going to hang out naked together; that can turn into naked snuggling or into sex, and either is pretty great. Slowly, things have gotten better; we’re having sex more often, and it’s great when it happens, but I’m less upset by the fact that neither of us have super-charged libidos right now. It is what it is, and I’m finding ways to make things better while accepting our feelings and desires at the moment.

    A stumbling block I’ve found is that sometimes I’m not in the mood for sex until actual genital contact occurs, and it can be tough for me to say “sure, let’s go” before I’m really into it. I am pretty sure that moment will happen, and then it does, but I have to get over that moment of disinterest. We talk about consent all the time and I never feel pressured to continue with sex that’s not working for me, so this works out ok for me, but I can see it being uncomfortable in a relationship with a different dynamic.

    I wish I had more useful advice to give, but even though I’m happy with how things are changing for us and I think it’s improving, I do still feel like I’m dealing with this issue.

    I absolutely think Captain Logic’s point about talking to your husband, and how to talk to him, is well-made. I have talked with my partner about sex many times, and it’s an ongoing thing. We’ve even gone over some particularly thorny issues over email because I get really emotional sometimes and have a hard time talking about tough stuff when I’m all weepy; I can write it down and feel much more eloquent that way.

  5. My husband and I have been together going on four years, but only married for six months. We’re both older folks, with other marriages behind us and a kid apiece to show for it. And teh sex when we were dating was mad, insane, woah how on earth are we capable of this? kinds of sex. Almost embarrassing, really, in its riches.

    Then marriage, and responsibilities, and things kind of fizzled. But we’d both promised to talk about the little stuff before it became the big stuff… so when we noticed we were turning off the light and well, just going to SLEEP? We talked about it. It was awkward, at first–he brought it up and I didn’t want to talk about it. Which is why I pushed myself and talked about it.

    And what we discovered was a simple thing, really: we had nowhere to escape, anymore. When we were dating, each of us felt the other’s home was a refuge, a place to set aside whatever was driving the hampster in its wheel nuts inside our heads. Married? You’re trapped together in the nicest of ways, warts and all. It’s hard to believe the other one finds you sexy after you let one rip in the middle of the night. It’s hard to leave behind the mortgage and the job and focus on getting sweaty and risk looking ridiculous, with arms akimbo and heaven knows what else good sex makes you look like!

    But that’s what love, and marriage, is. So do all these other wonderful suggestions (playfulness, I dare you to grab his behind in public!) and do it. Just, get it out in the open. He’ll most likely be relieved. And if he’s not, you guys have some more talking to do. Maybe with a Paid Friend. Injuries in the groinal area can make someone feel weird about using it again. Heck, I split my chin open when I was four and I still don’t believe that scar isn’t going to open back up, sometimes.

    as for orgasms, shoot, honey, you’re a girl. And there’s an amazing thing about being a girl: we really don’t have just one kind of orgasm. So if it feels good, keep doing it, and make sure he knows it feels good. I was so focused on having an Orgasm that I almost missed all the other wonderful ones that were going on. It’s a joy. Find yourself a urologist-gyn… someone who specializes in dealing with women’s plumbing and how it relates to sexual function. They are out there. Ask your GP, for starters. You don’t have to sit back and accept this. You also don’t have to make yourself feel bad because you’re not screaming your fool head off and writhing around like a garden hose.

    Don’t let the lack of obvious fireworks make you think you’re doing it wrong.

    Sex is sweaty, messy, funny, awkward, touching, and deeply moving. Commit to putting yourselves out there, and let him know there’s safety in your embrace. And take time to make the everyday fun. If he’s doing the dishes, for god’s sake don’t distract him then, but make sure he knows how much you appreciate it the second that last dish is in the drain board.

    go easy on yourselves. You’ll get your mojo back. Talk, play, be vulnerable, and when you fall off the edge, know you’ve got each others’ backs.

  6. wondering said:

    Hi! I recognized a bit of myself in here. Not the not having sex bit, but the not orgasming bit. I don’t have great advice on how to fix that, but I can assure you that it can get better on its own.

    Funny story – despite my (and my partners’) best efforts, I simply didn’t orgasm. I wanted to, we all tried, but it just didn’t work. Sex could feel really good, and I could feel myself get close to…something, but that was all. For me, clitoral stimulation either felt meh or omigawdthathurts! There was no happy medium. And of course then I was worried that maybe I had no idea what they should feel like and wouldn’t recognize it if I did have one.

    And then I turned 40 and something changed. I became more sensitive? less sensitive? hormone levels changed? I do not know., but somewhere along the line I definitely started getting the big O. So, all I can suggest is: keep playing, keep having fun, re-start the sexy times, enjoy what you have, and one day your body will probably catch up.

  7. Going Anonymous for this one. said:

    Hey Clever Nickname, I don’t know much about maintaining sexiness in a long term relationship, but I do know a bit about learning to orgasm late in life. And now I will overshare! Not because I think you should run right out and orgasm, but because if you are interested then this story is here for you.
    I was 24, had been having sex for five years, and also wasn’t sure what orgasms should feel like but was positive I wanted to feel it. And, like, I really set to work on this. I had just moved to a new city and wasn’t seeing anyone, so I had plenty of time on my hands. (Ahem.) I picked up a copy of Natalie Angier’s Woman: An Intimate Geography, which taught me things I had never imagined about the clitoris and how much is going on below the surface. This drastically changed my technique. The second most helpful resource for me at that time was Go Ask Alice, which offered pretty much the same advice given above: do what feels good, period. Don’t worry if it feels good enough.
    And the first time I felt like naming a feeling “orgasm,” honestly, it was kind of a small thing. But it felt lovely, so I didn’t judge.
    Then I started dating someone. Between the heightened arousal of having a sexy partner, and trying out all sorts of new things with him, I discovered what Christina said: there are all different kinds. And as you’ve guessed, very few look like what you’d see in the movies or read in a trashy book. (But then, mine wouldn’t necessarily look like yours either, etc. That’s why you can’t measure it against anything but yourself.)
    So, now I’m 30. Six years, different partners, major changes in hormonal balance (and consequently, libido), but as long as you know how to listen to your body you’ll be all right.
    Hope this helps someone, sometime.

  8. Karen said:

    Here’s the thing: Married people who have a great sex life may talk about their sex life around you. Married people with lousy sex lives may not mention it at all. This can lead you to believe that you’re in an isolated situation, but trust me you are not.

    This is tangential. But here’s my advice, maybe you don’t need it: Whether or not you increase the sex you are having, make sure you keep up the flirting and affection. People need to feel attractive and desirable, even if they don’t want to actually have sex at that moment or ever.

    During the periods of my marriage when I wasn’t interested in sex, I found myself avoiding any kind of intimacy, anything that might initiate the conversation or question, anything that might be leading him on or creating some kind of implied invitation or promise. So, that ends up with: Not touching him. No compliments. Avoiding the intimates department at the department store. Not even bending over to pick something up when he was in the room (seriously, ridiculous as this sounds, it is true). I’m not always aware how much I’m doing this, but I do it all right.

    While it might be effective in not triggering the WHOO WHEN IS IT SEXYTIME talk, it is otherwise a really shitty strategy. It robs you & your partner of feeling good. Don’t do this to yourself. Grab his ass occasionally. Kiss him. Rub his shoulders. Make sure he feels your affection and appreciation, and let him do the same to you. It doesn’t have to mean you go galloping back to the bedroom to get it on. It means you love each other, and want to show it. Make sure you preserve that part of the partnership.

    I hope the other stuff resolves. It is not uncommon.

  9. nadyezhda said:

    Since it sounds like you’re looking for thoughts, I have two quick ones: 1) are you on any medication that might be affecting your libido? Yes, you can choose to be okay with being asexual, but…it does help to make the choice when you’ve had full information/experience to choose from and if medication’s dampening things maybe there are alternatives. 2) My guess is that your SO would probably not mind if you chose to explore things on your own for a while, which can really take the pressure off. Then once you know what’s going on with your own body, what you like/don’t like, you can communicate that to him. I really hope he’s supporting you and helpful and not pressuring you at all. You’ve already got so much going on that it would be easy to get discouraged. Don’t let that happen; I like the commenter above who pointed out that this is your own body and you shouldn’t be afraid of it. Talking to your doc sounds like a good way to start. Good luck.

  10. Lynet said:

    My relationship is (comparatively) new, but, having just moved in with my partner, one of the first issues that came up was that (for me) there needed to be some distinction between ‘sexytimes’ and ‘not sexytimes’. Previously, just being with my partner meant ‘potential sexytimes’ and I would react accordingly. But when I was living with him, I couldn’t stay switched on like that all the time, and I found that I was switching off all the time, instead. [Interesting, if not relevant to this problem: my partner had the opposite reaction and would be switched on all the time. Once we talked about it, we realised it was different reactions to stimuli rather than different levels of desire, it was interesting.]

    This is one way in which dating your SO could help you — it gives you a specific time and place that is ‘potential sexytimes’. It gives you both a reason to switch on a little, just in case you decide to go there. My completely-not-expert advice would be for you both to take it as slow as if you were just starting to date, in the sense that neither of you takes it any further than you want to. I think you should both just designate the monthly date as a potentially sexy situation, allow yourself to act on whatever feelings you might have, and do what feels good without worrying about where it’s going. Of course, if the pair of you do decide to go ahead and have hot, sweaty sex on the ‘first date’, go right ahead…

    • k said:

      Oh wow, this happened to me in my last live-in relationship. Thanks so much for explaining it this way! Now if I do end up moving in with my current bf, I have a good way of talking about it!

  11. maggie said:

    Another personal story about orgasms — for some time I didn’t think I was actually having any. They’re not generally the BIG EXPLOSIVE FIREWORKS!!!!! kind, they’re a lot of smaller waves of intensity.

    So, just to say that they can come in different flavours, and it’s really not “wrong” if you aren’t having the kind that you see in the movies. As other commenters said, if it feels good, then it is good. Experiment, and don’t pressure yourself!

    Good luck!

  12. lynn said:

    What I have to say might not be at all helpful…but I’ve been in a similar situation…so…here goes.

    I was married for 11 years. We’re divorced now…but we faced both circumstances you mentioned (our sex life started to deteriorate about four years in, I was rarely having “orgasms,” the “orgasms” I did have were quickly followed by acute pain, and sex started to become a chore for me). Part of the problem was that he was determined to bring me to orgasm, but he was a little impatient. That made sex superstressful for me. After a while, I started faking orgasms.

    The good news is that I now have amazing orgasms (almost always) during sexytimes alone and with my new partner.

    My suggestions are as follows:

    1) Be careful with the talking…with my ex-husband, talking made things worse. That might have been because we weren’t right for one another. I don’t know. What I do know is that his pride/self-esteem/identity were partially bound up in our sex life, so anything that sounded like a complaint or a criticism made him insecure and angry (and thus less open to changes and less desirous of sex). I’m not saying don’t talk. I guess just be careful how you frame things.

    2) Explore your own desire nature…read sexy stories…watch soft (and/or hard core) porn…fantasize…and if you feel like it…have sexytimes with yourself. Once I was able to bring myself to orgasm, cumming with a partner was much easier. Then I could tell my partner how to touch me and where…and I learned my quirks…which parts of my non-nether-regions to touch during to help me along. I also learned that I LOVE role play and dirty talk (and kissing…I used to fantasize just about kissing)…and all three helped with my next (and current–for almost a year) partner.

    3) This is probably the most important suggestion…come to an agreement with your spouse that no one is to assume intercourse will happen (come up with a mutually agreed upon sign of readiness)…then play. When you’re reading in bed or what-have-you, pull him on top of you and smooch (rubbing up against another person can be quite stimulating)…grab/touch him in a naughty place while you’re in the kitchen or living room (or out in the world)–or grab his hand and put it on you (in a naughty place)…pretend you’re teenage virgins about to have sex for the first time…or strangers (role play is FUN) …and simply touch more often (can’t stress this enough)…hold hands…while you’re watching TV or waiting for an elevator, slide your fingers along his shoulder and/or neck or his belly or chest (over or under the shirt) and encourage him to do the same (more non-sexual touching). You’d be surprised how much this can help in terms of getting you both in the mood. People have all kinds of non-genital erogenous zones.

  13. Carlist said:

    so I’d be particularly interested to hear from men in the comments

    …yeah, what ABOUT those menz, anyway?

    Sorry, but feminism 101 taught me that there are few things more stupid than seeing a woman with a problem and assuming that what she really needs is a male perspective. I think the support of her sisters is enough to see her through this.

    • JenniferP said:

      I find this comment to be completely bizarre. Why would you not actively seek male perspectives on how to keep a sexual connection within a marriage to a man? Many women have commented here with suggestions – date night, therapy, talking about things – and men have been mostly silent, but I have to think that it affects them when sex goes dark inside a marriage and I have to think that the ones who are happily and long married have found ways of addressing this with their spouses. I’d like to know all about that!

      I have never, ever, ever on this blog uttered the words “What about the menz?” Men read this, men write in with questions, men give great advice and support in the comments. Men: Welcome.

  14. machined said:

    My wife asked me to respond as she said there weren’t any male responders, and we have a pretty good sex life If I say so (and she does too). Firstly I think there is a LOT of great advice up above. Secondly guys can also lose their libido with it having nothing to do with their attraction to their partner. Part of what works for us is spending a healthy amount of time naked with each other, touching each other liberally, and generally indulging each others fantasies whenever possible. The other part is communication. We feel extremely comfortable telling each other what we enjoy and want the other person to do to us (or themselves…). We’ve been together for three and a half years, and with the above items I’m sure we”ll keep each other in orgasms for many years to come.

    (oh, and we make out a lot too)

    • JenniferP said:

      Thanks for this!

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