After I wrote a post describing the major problem that Matt and I are having in our relationship, I got a lovely e-mail from one of my longtime blog acquaintances, known as Ms. Loaf. I immediately asked if I could share her wisdom with all of you...
Congrats on your . I love getting to follow along and read about the choices you and Matt are making for your family!
I started typing a comment on your latest $2000 wedding blog about the sex issue, but decided I'd feel more comfortable talking about this more privately with you. This issue was one of the major reasons (aside from eventual infidelity) that caused my ex and me to break up.
Anyway, we went to couples' counseling for awhile (with a lesbian therapist who specialized in helping couples with sex problems) and I thought I could maybe offer some advice or at least an ear to listen or even just a "I've been there" sort of thing.
Here is what we did/what our therapist told us to do:
However, these disparities can also polarize us and bring our relationship to the brink of disaster. ... Here are some suggestions about what to do:
- have a date night every week where sex is mandatory. Unless you're sick or something, don't reschedule or beg out of the sex, just know that (or whenever), you're going to get it on with your partner. This taks the pressure off both partners that they must either ask for it or feel guilty about refusing. When you know you're definitely going to get it on once a week, you don't stress about it (or at least not nearly as much).
- For one month, try to have sex whenever the partner who wants it more wants to. What ends up happening is that at first, you have sex all the time. Then you realize that you don't have sex as often as you'd think, and that your libido levels aren't actually as different as you think.
- Women tend to get more turned on after they start having sex, even if they didn't think they were in the mood beforehand, so sometimes you just have to go with it and you'll end up being glad you did.
- We read a book on lesbian couplehood that had some really great points in it, and it talked a lot about women's sexual desire (as one might imagine it would) that might be helpful to you: "The high desire/low desire phenomenon is inevitable in relationships. While it is particularly noticeable in the sexual arena, he notes that it also exists in other areas as well. For example, one partner may be high-desire about saving money, having children, or taking vacations. This desire discrepancy is built in to the structure of relationships and ... we can't avoid it. These desire differences are part of how relationships invite--and even require--us to grow."
- "Get clear about who you are and what you want; For example, how often do you want sex, and how do you like to be touched?
- Communicate w/your partner. Even early in your relationship you will likely find some differences between you which you can explore. You can use the high-desire/low-desire partner concept to help understand the role each of you falls into. For example, the high-desire partner, by virtue of being in that role, will tend to feel like she is more demanding, exposed, and deprived. The low-desire partner will feel more resentful of being demanded of, inadequate (because in our sex-saturated culture, low desire is, by definition, defective), and guilty abut depriving her partner. These feelings are perfectly predictable given the nature of the roles. The intensity of feeling may vary depending, in part, upon how discrepant the desires are, how long the couple has been struggling with the issue, and how much emotional baggage has collected. But the basic feelings depend on the role. If the low-desire partner was in another relationship where she was the high-desire partner, she would have the feelings associated with the high-desire role.
- Hold on to yourself--to your knowledge about yourself, your feelings, and your own personal integrity--as you negotiate with your partner about how to address your respective wants and needs. This clarity about who you are, along with the capacity to calm and soothe yourself (instead of expecting your partner to take responsibility for your feelings), is the hallmark of differentiation, which is essential to intimacy. You both need to be able to be separate people in order to truly meet.
- Recognize that differentiation is a lifelong process of taking your own "shape"--of becoming more uniquely yourself by maintaining yourself in relation to those you love. It can be the key to expanding your sexual relationship and rekindling desire and passion. ... "A key point in this discussion of frequency--and a critical way that sexual desire and frequency concerns intersect--is the fact that the low-desire partner always controls the frequency of sex. No matter what the high-desire partner does, she cannot make her partner have sex--or want to have sex. This can lead to a sexual pattern that doesn't really work for either partner: The high desire partner learns to initiate sex more often than she really wanted it because she anticipates that she will get refused a lot. The low-desire partner is encouraged to remain passive because she can have all the sex she wants without ever taking the lead. In addition, the low-desire partner usually does not want her lover to lose interest in sex completely and at the same time feels guilty about thwarting her high-desire partner's sexual desire. In fact, the low-desire partner is training her high-desire lover to badger her for sex. She sends the message that the only factors that motivate her to have sex are her guilt about frustrating her high-desire partner or her fear that her high-desire partner will stop wanting her." -from "Lesbian Couples: A guide to Crating Healthy Relationships" by D. Merilee Clunis and G. Dorsey Green
My other big piece of advice is to take a cue from queers. Not to make an assumption, but most heterosexual couples consider sex to be only penile/vaginal sex. That's not the way queer people think about it at all. It's still sex if it's just hand jobs or oral sex, or really deeply making out. Being physically intimate with one another is more important than what goes in where and who has an orgasm, yknow? (Maybe you already know this, but I've had a lot of straight friends who didn't think about this, so I figured I'd pass it along).
There are tons of lists out there of how to spice up your sex life, so I won't type that up too, because I fear I've already either overwhelmed you or overstepped or something, BUT I did find homework helpful. Our therapist gave us specific sexual exercises to try at home--our homework for the next session--and it was very helpful. Once it was about switching roles--if one of you is usually more dominant in sex, have him/her be the more submissive one, etc. But one more cerebral exercise is a variation of something you and Matt already do--write each other sexy love letters. Tell each other what you love about the other's body, how much you like it when they do x,y, or z to you. Describe your favorite memory of lovemaking, thank them for being attentive to this that or the other thing when you're in bed. I know one of the scariest things for the high-desire person can be feeling unattractive to their partner, and so being told how sexy you are, how much your partner loves making love with you can be really emotionally fulfilling.
Okay....I hope that is kind of helpful or at least interesting. This can be such a tough issue to deal with, so I totally understand why it stresses you out, especially when you're pregnant and facing down parenthood, (which will make those date nights even more important!). Maybe those pregnancy hormones will help y'all out?
Anyway, just wanted to write because I've been there and I feel like so many couples face this problem, but it's not talked about. Good luck!