Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Couples' Counseling

I haven't talked much about the biggest problem that Matt and I have in our relationship. I've mentioned it a few times here and there, but I haven't gone into much depth for one primary reason: we don't know how to solve it.

You see, our biggest difficulty is that Matt wants to have sexual intercourse more frequently than I do.

It's difficult to get at the route of the issue. I think there are several different issues at work. On my end, I think I respond to stress differently than Matt does. The more stress I have in my life and the busier I am, the less I want to have sex. On the other hand, the more stress Matt has and the busier he is, the more he wants to have sex.

I also know that I have issues with control (meaning, I like to be in control), so I wonder if I subconsciously relish the control I get from being the one who always decides when we have sex.

I also wonder if I just have a low libido. I once read a book all about a woman who had a low sex drive. She opted to start putting a hormone ointment on her vagina, and her sex-drive skyrocketed.

On Matt's end, I think his "language of love" is physical touch, so I think he feels unloved if I don't want to have sex. If it's been a while since we've had sex, he can start to get pouty. These moods feel "desperate and demanding" to me, which makes me less inclined to have sex.

Those are the only possible causes that come to mind, although I'm open to myriad other possibilities that we haven't considered. The situation has been exacerbated lately with my pregnancy, and it will only cause more tension when we move into the later stages of my pregnancy and when we have an infant.

We started looking into couples' counseling a while ago, as part of our pre-conception planning, but we realized that our insurance doesn't cover therapy, so we kind of lost steam. Then last month, my midwife asked, "What's stressing you out the most?" I explained our situation, and she said that we should seek help. She recommended a person to help us with this specific issue.

I'll definitely keep you updated about how it goes! I'm nervous, but I'm eager to deal with our problem in a proactive way. I think it's easy for small fissures in a marriage to become deep cracks.

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Anonymous said...

Hi sara!

hope all goes well at the counselling.
Its really cool that you can discuss this.
remember that post you commented on, about the lady "playing twister even if sometimes she didnt quite feel like it at first" i think that always reminds me to "jump on the horse" when i dont feel like it.

haha but my boyfriend gives me this look, when i know he wants it, and then i realize oh crap he wants to have sex, quick get in the mood, and then it doesnt work.

but anyways good luck with the counselling!

Bess B. said...

My boyfriend and I are in a similar situation, but with roles reversed. He reacts to stress in a similar way you do- he becomes more sexually distant. This is very hard for me to understand because sex is a great way to show affection and love, and it's also a great stress reliever. I tend to get worried when we're in a dry spell- worried that I did something, that he doesn't love me, that he doesn't find me attractive, etc. It's not rational for me to worry like that, knowing that he reacts to stress this way, but I seem to do it every time anyway.

al said...

my fiance and I have the same problem. Good luck!! Please post anything you find that helps.

Princess Christy said...

I know it can be hard to feel "unloved" so I understand Matt's point of view. I am interested to hear how the counseling goes!

Amy Jo said...

My husband and I have the same problem! I look forward to hearing about what you learn and if the counseling was helpful.

Anonymous said...

This has been a recurring problem for my fiancee and I, except reversed - I want it more often than he does. Stress and self-confidence issues hold him back, whereas for me I have a stronger urge to connect when I am stressed and feeling self doubts.

This is the #1 source of strain in our relationship, because when we head into a "dry spell" as another commenter mentioned, I start feeling like there is something wrong with our relationship, worrying that we'll never get it right, the problem will escalate, etc.

This leads to secondary problems where feeling pressure from me makes him even more anxious about sex.

The one thing that has been successful for us (in addition to open honest communication) is scheduling sex. It sounds less than romantic at first, but it actually works because he knows when to plan for it, and doesn't have to worry about whether I am expecting it from him some other time, since we've already agreed we won't. This takes some of the pressure off. It also alleviates my worries, because I know that there is an end coming to our 'dry spell', and I don't fret over whether we're ever going to have sex again. Looking forward to it also helps me get in the mood.

Ms Bear Cub said...

I love reading your posts every morning, and this one in particular resonates with me. I too don't understand why my sex drive is low - and my husband definitely has a higher sex drive. What's the deal? I wish it were different. When we move back to the states, we plan to do couples counseling (as a preventative measure), so I'm very interested to hear how things progress with you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this! So many couples have a libido imbalance one way or another. You really highlighted some key factors, I relate to the "different responses to stress" point and the "feeling unloved when there is less naked" point. Best of luck finding counseling!

Jennie said...

My husband and I have a similar problem. What we realized is that he can do things that make me more likely to have sex, even when I'm stressed (or especially when I'm stressed).

This is what we did:
He bought 'Massage for Dummies' and started reading. Then we bought oils and a battery operated back massager (which didn't really do it for us in the end).

Next we scheduled ourselves to give each other massages at bed time about 3 times a week. Not every time led to sex (we're human!), but it often did. I think it's because the one-on-one time and the massage made me forget about my stress and I was more easily able to get in the mood for sex.

It's worth a try! If it doesn't work, at least you get 3 massages a week out of it!

Melissa said...

Yep, I'm in the same boat with everyone else, but thankfully it doesn't put a strain on our relationship. When my fiance and I first started dating, we were equally driven to hop in the sack as often as we could possibly find time for. Shortly after I started birth control, and since then I have had virtually no libido. Now, on or off any pill or patch, there's little change. My doctors just keep telling me that there's no chance the pill could have caused this and it's all in my head :-/

However, we are still very cuddly, and he is very understanding of my issue. We just take advantage of whatever rare time I actually feel any inclination towards having sex.

I'm sorry to hear that this causes so much stress in everyone else's relationship, but glad to know I'm not alone out there.

Megilon said...

I think counseling is great especially for healthy relationships as a preventative.

My husband and I have a similar problem but for us it is the opposite. I want it more than he does. Usually it is stress related if he is stressed he isn't interested. But we talk about it. And I'm very satisfied because we have connection in other ways. And I've also learned timing is everything...

I think the key is to get both sets of feelings out in the open so you can discuss it.

Autumn said...

I'm a huge fan of being proactive about seeking counseling, early on, not when things are in crisis. Just having a third party you both respect give his or her opinion on what's bugging you can help. My partner is also more open about talking about certain things with the counselor than when it's just us (I think that may be because I'm bossy and interrupt him a lot, but I'm better about listening when we're with the counselor). Our insurance doesn't cover it either, but it's the best $100 we spend every month or two.

Christy said...

Can't wait to hear how it goes because that is the exact situation my husband and I are in as well!

Victoria said...

Thank you for writing about this. My husband and I have a similar issue. It's so hard, too, because I always feel like I'M the one with the "problem," and there's something wrong with me. While it's not a serious problem in our relationship at this time, it's on my radar as something that could show up to be a bigger deal in the future (especially once we start to talk about adding a child to the mix).

Anonymous said...

I read this post and totally thought you went all ninja in my subconscious and lifted aspects of my relationship. To say I can relate would be an understatement. Apart from the pregnancy status, I have been experiencing this very thing with my partner, and it's not just difficult for him, it affects me, too. I sometimes think they don't realize how painful it is for us on the other end - I hate feeling like I can't flip a switch and be a sex kitten at a moment's notice, and I hate knowing that it's MY lack of libido that hurts his feelings and makes him feel insecure. I wish he knew how much we wish to fix things and that we'd change it if we could.

I can also appreciate the courage it took to admit a problem like that, and applaud you for sharing. I hope you'll seriously consider keeping this topic fresh and sharing your progress and suggestions as you work toward a healthy connection with the mister. Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Hum. So I'm curious in a "I'm not sure what discussion we're having" way. Like, dry spell 7 days or dry spell 3 weeks? Because dry spell 7 days... that's just being a grown-up, I think, and having real life stressors and exhaustion. Dry spell 3 weeks moves into the, "Who cares if you're in the mood, you just have to bite the bullet." (pregnancy somewhat aside, and medical issues definitely aside.)

Men and women *tend* to have different sex drives, yes? And men *tend* to be in the mood before they start and women tend to get in the mood after they start. Plus, yes, the stress issue effects men and women differently. So, I think in a sense it's important to realize, this is NORMAL, we're not alone.

But beyond that, I think you have to say, but this is how I express love for my partner, and mood or not, we have to make this work.

That is my rambling perspective. I'm pro therapy, but I think I'm saying tangentially (and kindly) that I'm also pro just sucking it up, too. It usually works out to be pretty fun, and when it's not, well, you made someone feel loved. Worth it.

Julie said...

thanks for talking about this- like many of the other women who posted, I too experience similar issues in my relationship. It can really make me feel like there is something "wrong" with me and can feel really lonely sometimes. Best of luck to you as you work through this!

Rachel W. said...

My husband and I are in the same boat but with the roles reversed. I tend to want sex much more than he does. Our solution: taking advantage of morning wood ;) My husband is always in the mood first thing in the morning and since I am usually ready for anything we take advantage of the situation. The only problem is that it is not always satisfying for me because I like a lot of kissing, and well morning breath tends to ruin that. Maybe you can tune in to a time of the day when you feel the most sexy. I read once that even though sex is associated with the bed and nighttime, not that many people feel in the mood at the time. Afternoon tends to be the time when most people are raring to go!

Rose said...

I can totally relate to this, too. Just wanted to recommend a book that my partner and I both really enjoyed and that might be interesting reading for you too!:

Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch

Anonymous said...

big applause to you for two for proactively seeking a solution. This particular area of help can be both hard to tread on, and fun to explore.
Good luck, I hope you find new avenues of communication and methods of practice. Please do share your counselor's advice, and your experience. I'm sure we could ALL benefit from a little help!

Ms. Bunny said...

I think it is enormously brave of you to talk about this issue publicly. I also want sex less than my partner, but he is very understanding about it. Luckily for us, it has not become an issue. Stress also makes me really disinterested in sex.

Some other thoughts about what it could be: are you taking any prescription medications on a regular basis (obviously not birth control, but I know that's been known to knock out sex drive), are you taking time to do mental and physical relaxers (hot baths, massages, listening to soothing music), and lastly, are you comfortable with sex in general? This is incredibly personal to ask, and I mean it completely rhetorically — are you comfortable with your body and do you know what are the best positions/tricks to turn you on and get you off? If you are not in tune with what makes your engine rev, it's always harder for a partner to do so. And then it's more likely that your interest in sex will be lower.

Just a few things to ponder and chew over. I also think seeing a therapist could help a lot. Some will do pro bono work if the couple cannot afford it.

Married In Chicago said...

Just wanted to chime in and say that scheduling sex has always worked for me and my hubby. Plus - even though it sounds a little ho-hum, I've found that when I'm looking forward to it I'm actually more excited and aroused. Also - I've noticed that the more we have sex, the more I want it. (Sort of like sugar!). So if we schedule it at least once a week, a second or third time usually ends up happening on its own.

Sarah said...

My husband and I have been attending monthly counseling sessions since well before we were married- sometimes we have an issue to discuss and sometimes we don't, and the "non-issue" times are sometimes even the most helpful because we really explore deeper things there. I cannot recommend it enough if you can find an affordable option. I see it as "marriage maintenance" and I think it is awesome! Like you, control is DEF something that comes up for me, and its really helping me learn how to let go and learn how to be "taken care of." If you find the right therapist it will change your life and you won't regret spending the money!

(PS I'm expecting too, due April 9, so our EDD's are pretty close!)

Anonymous said...

My husband and I have this same problem. I can go for months without thinking about sex... he has it on his mind every day. It boggles my mind, actually. But it really stressed him out, to the point he couldn't sleep. That's when he finally approached me to talk about it. I knew it had been a problem, but not THAT much of a problem!

So far what has helped is scheduling, toys, and massage/intimacy. I need the schedule, because I will forget. I have an alarm set on my cell phone to go off twice a week. And I am also a control freak who kind of needs to be the one initiating things.

The massage helps in the intimacy department. We can relax together, talk, laugh, and maybe we'll move on to having sex but even if we don't then it's still been a good evening spent with each other. Massage bars are really nice, because they're not as sloppy as oils.

And, well... toys. This is more for him than me, but he's found that they, um, work better if I'm involved. It was a little weird at first, but it does take the pressure off of me to have actual sex while still helping him out. And sometimes that's all that matters.

A combination of all this is what is slowly working for us. It doesn't work all the time, and we're in another dry spell at the moment, but that's mostly because it's been too hot to want skin contact. But we just got the air conditioner replaced, so...

Anonymous said...


this blog had a similar discussion.
Very interesting stuff I thought.

My Husband and I don't have this issue except for when I had a miscarriage and lost all interest in sex. But that was short lived.

My philosophy is, even if I'm not in the mood after a couple of great kisses I will be.

Hoppy Bunny said...

I am in your boat. Here is a new idea I had to try to fix the situation: on days when he wants it, I ask him to sext me throughout the day (you know--those dirty little texts that is all the rage with kids these days). I am hoping this will put me in the mood by the time I get home, or at the least give me a chance to warm up a bit to the idea before I get tackled by my amorous guy. It takes me much longer to rile myself up than it takes him, so the head start is my strategy for now.

michelle said...

just wanted to throw this out there: you might find yourself more interested in sex as your pregnancy progresses. one of my best friends is 6 months pregnant and keeps mentioning how horny she is. and i've heard for someone there's a permanent change in libido. whatever happens in your case, i hope you two find a happy medium :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this, it's hard to talk about I know, this is one of the bigger problems for me and my husband too, although the causes for us I think are different. We talked about it some during our pre-marital counseling, but had other things we were talking about too, and didn't focus on it. I'd like to go back and talk with a counsellor more about, but we can't afford it right now.

Anonymous said...

I am in the same boat as you Sarah! I'm getting married in a year. My fiance is very sexual and I'm not. I can't help it! I'm saving myself for marriage because that's my beliefs. After we do get married and start having sex it's going to be tough on us too. We both have to learn to meet each others needs. Him and I will build upon those needs as well. I think you and your hubby will be able to do the same. If you both work together on the issue and talk about you feelings I think you will both make it! You guys look like a cute happy couple! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Just to echo many people, foreplay, ladies, foreplay!

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