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A Year Of Bad Sex


Today we have another post from a fiercely independent APW reader who waited to have sex till marriage. If you haven’t read the past two APW pieces on this subject, you should catch up now. It’s been fascinating for me, watching the conversation unfold on APW in a way that is rarely part of the cultural dialogue. Today’s piece is about battling through a year of bad sex, and I think it’s relevant to all of us, no matter what our struggles are. Marriage is complicated, and sooner or later we’ll find ourselves facing a problem so complicated and intrenched that we have to find a way to save ourselves and each other. And that’s what today’s post is about, at its core.

A Year Of Bad Sex | A Practical Wedding

We were virgins when we married at 25 and 27. We looked forward to our wedding night, talking about the magic, and reading (yes,of course, reading—because that’s how we approach most of our lives) in preparation.  I had a bit of penal fear, a bit of religious confusion, and some raging hormones. I talked through it with a counselor and was told not to expect a Hollywood moment. I asked exactly how much semen would squirt out and what exactly happened to it afterwards. You know, the essentials. I went into the bridal chamber expecting that it would be short, painful, and yet special. And it was.

What I wasn’t expecting was that it would continue to be short, unfulfilling and all together frustrating. I asked my counselor what I was doing wrong. Her answer was “expecting too much too soon.”  I asked friends and got answers ranging from “Couples reach the height of sexual satisfaction six months into their sexual relationship” to “See, I told you that you should have figured out if you were sexually compatible first!” There was no rushing it if it was the former and there was seemingly no solution for the latter. Because it was short and unfulfilling to me, my husband retreated. Our first month of marriage boasted a half dozen sexual encounters. I felt like a failure as a wife and a woman.

What I didn’t know was that my husband was struggling with premature ejaculation. A month into our marriage, he paid a visit to a doctor, picked up a prescription, and the length of our encounters dramatically increased. It was still awkward though, and we found ourselves on a once-a-week schedule in plain old missionary. I was bored and I didn’t know what to do.

Then my mother-in-law suffered a severe medical emergency and was in the ICU for weeks on end. I hoped to heaven that our first year would indeed prove to be the hardest. Needless to say, a depressed, apprehensive husband was not in the mood for over a month. Again, I felt like a failure.

I thought that if I was just a normal woman whose birth control zeroed her desire, then I wouldn’t feel so alone, neglected, or frustrated. I was embarrassed that my drive was high and that birth control did nothing to curb it. I began to look forward to my husband’s short business trips so that I could finally get some relief on my own. It also made him feel even worse as he began to accuse me of favoring my vibrator.

Around our one year anniversary, we had several fights about sex. I understand why men complain about this. Couldn’t he just tickle a clit every once in a while? Home girl needed some maintenance or else we needed to buy stock in battery companies. It was a vicious cycle. I complained, he felt less inclined to indulge me.

In a particularly bad conflict, I looked at him and calmly said that I thought about getting into my car and driving to my parents. That I felt unfulfilled in our marriage. That I was sexually unsatisfied. Up until this point, I had not communicated these things in such direct terms. Through some other conflict, I had realized that we have miscommunications frequently. I came to the understanding that I needed to be explicit, that hints weren’t cutting it. I believe that this direct approach hurt him at the time, however, I also believe this was the turning point of our sexual relationship.

A few days after the conflict, we had to put our cat down. From that point on, our sex life looked unexpectedly up. The loss drew us emotionally closer. He took my words to heart and began initiating sex. Holy moly, I even pulled out a sex deck and we’ve tried a few new positions.

They say that couples all fight about at least one of the following: money, sex, and children. I thought it was a generalization. We don’t fight about money or kids (we have enough of one and none of the other). It never occurred to me that after saving ourselves for our five year long distance dating relationship that our sex life would be the problem. Perhaps there are some couples who don’t fall into the money/sex/kids trap, but for me it was a long year of learning to accept that we did. We’re working on communicating our needs clearly and before the situation spins out of control. Our love life isn’t perfect, but we’re closer to finding a balance that satisfies both of our needs.

Photography: Moodeous from the APW Flickr Pool

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  • http://www.dearwedding.wordpress.com andee

    So wonderful and brave! Thank you for sharing your journey. It takes courage to very directly say what you need/want, especially about sex. I’m glad you guys broke through that barrier and I’m sure it will benefit you in every area of your marriage!

    • ElfPuddle

      and even braver to share with us.

      Thank you!

  • Annearky

    “It never occurred to me that after saving ourselves for our five year long distance dating relationship that our sex life would be the problem.”

    That would honestly be the first potential problem I’d think of. You’ve never shared a living space, you don’t see each other for long periods of time on a regular basis, and you have no idea of each others’ sexual likes/dislikes/rhythms. This is why I am teaching my future children to live with and sleep with potential partners before they marry them.

    I think you and your fiance are the polar opposite of me and mine, though, so take my ramblings for what they are worth. :P I’m glad things were able to resolve themselves! Good sex is a very, very, very important thing.

    • Liz

      I’m gonna do a bit of a preemptive strike here. Let’s make sure that we aren’t commenting on the value of the author’s choices. The person who wrote this post already mentioned butting against the “this is why you should have had sex first” criticism, and I’m sure doesn’t need to hear it from us! Annearky, I realize your comment wasn’t pointed directly at the author, but could be taken as a value judgment of her decisions. Like I said, preemptive!

      • Annearky

        I’m sorry. What was I supposed to have said?

        • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

          I think what Liz is pointing toward is that for those of us who wait to have sex with our partners and then find that we need time to work out how to have a fulfilling sex life together, hearing “Well, clearly you should have just cohabitated/had sex with one another first to figure all this out before you got married,” sounds an awful lot like, “Tsk tsk, now you are doomed, and by the way, your thought process sucked. No good sex for you ever! Nyah!”

          Obviously, that’s not the intention (at least I’d hope not!) when people make these sorts of comments, but for the couple who waited, who still see the value of their waiting and wouldn’t have done otherwise, it’s just not helpful to hear. They need suggestions on how to communicate better with one another, practical stories about how long it took other people to get compatible, cheerleading for how to keep loving each other while they’re figuring out this piece of their marriage. I feel like our APW sex talks often degenerate into waiting vs. not-waiting, when the reality is more that most of us, waiters or not, *will* have bad sex with our life partners at some point (post-baby? when one of us gets depressed? menopause?) and it’s really good to have dialogue about what to do when that happens.

          • Liz

            This.

          • ElfPuddle

            Hitting “Exactly” just isn’t enough.

            THIS. THIS. THIS.

          • lau

            I think we all understand that harsh judgements of people’s choices, especially in light of the extreme bravery shown by this post, are just not on here.

            At the same time, Annearky was just expressing her surprise that a couple who had never cohabitated or had sex would not consider that there may be problems in their initial sexual relationship, because, had she made that choice, it would’ve been one of her main worries. I don’t see a problem there.

          • Liz

            Hi, Lau! This is in response to your comment, though I can no longer reply you directly.

            My caution wasn’t directed at that section of Annearky’s comment, but at the “This is why I am teaching my future children to live with and sleep with potential partners before they marry them.” As already noted, this wasn’t directed at the poster, but has undertones of “if you hadn’t waited, this would have been avoided.” I wanted to make sure we don’t bring the comments to that point.

  • Cass

    I deeply sympathize! I find myself in a similar situation, except reversed roles. I’ve got a physical problem, and my husband is the one who desperately needs a sexual relationship.
    I agree that opening communication is the best first step to the problem. We’re all smart adults here. Once we figure out what we need, we’ll find a way to achieve it.
    For me, my physical problem turned into a psychological problem. Though now we have a (even if imperfect) solution to the physical problem. So for the time being, I’m working on not being scared of sex.

    • Anon

      I’m in EXACTLY the same position Cass, so you’re not alone!

  • Chelsea

    After reading this, I’m wondering if kids, money and sex are the things that couples fight most about because they are the thing that you go into a marriage with the least amount of experience with: you probably don’t have kids, probably haven’t tied your finances to another person before, and until relatively recent times, were inexperienced sexually.

    If that little theory is true, then maybe you are a step ahead of a lot of people because you’ve already gone through one of those “This is all new to us!” fights that the rest of us will encounter down the line, when we face a major financial disagreement or the kids come.

    Anyway, this is just a long-winded way of saying that even if you feel like you’re atypical in having to face this particular issue, I’m willing to bet that we’ll all eventually face a problem that makes us feel embarassed by our inexperience. I’m sure the skills you and your husband learned are ones that will serve you throughout your marriage, and ones that everyone should (will?) learn one way or another.

  • http://www.fancynotion.blogspot.com/ Kerry

    I think this post is wonderful.

    It speaks to a much larger peer group than just those who wait until after marriage for sex. I think that a lot of us who didn’t wait expect “married sex” to be X Y or Z. A lot of us expect “baby-making sex” to be X Y or Z, or “after baby sex,” or “anniversary sex” or “weekend sex” or “in my old room at my parents house sex” or “Halloween party sex” to be X Y or Z.

    The expectations never stop coming our way. Partners who can learn how to communicate disappointments and talk through step-by-step tutorials toward making it better, will have lots of opportunities to use these skills.

    Well done, you.

    • http://www.thefamiliarwilderness.com Erin

      Exactly. Because a bad year (month, night) of sex doesn’t necessarily have to be the first year of sex. Bodies, abilities, desire — these all change throughout our lifetimes, and that bad year could crop up five years from now, when we think we’re pros.

      • Jeannine

        Precisely–I just have to echo what Erin and Kerry are saying here. I think although the details of this post specify that the writer and her spouse hadn’t had sex together before marrying, the bewilderment at bad sex and the work they’re doing together is a much broader situation–my spouse and I had lived together and figured out the sexual compatability stuff (ahem) before getting married. However, shortly after the wedding, we moved states for my new, incredibly stressful, job, I changed birth control methods due to insurance, and all of sudden, something that seemed figured out just wasn’t anymore.
        I guess what I’m saying is that you never know when something–whether it’s sex or anything else–in a relationship is going to go south. How the writer is dealing with this is so brave and illuminating for a number of possible contexts.

    • Chelsea

      When my husband and I were dating, we once got into a stupid tiff because we didn’t have “Eek we just got stuck outside in a rain storm and now we’re back inside but our clothes are all soaking wet” sex. Lesson learned: if your expectation includes the phrase “in the movies…” it’s best to just chuck it right now.

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com/ Morgan

        I just got a dirty joke from one of my field guys at work that involves the wife asking for movie sex, and the punch line (after a fairly graphic pron-esque description) was that they clearly watch different movies.

      • http://www.dearwedding.wordpress.com andee

        Ahh man! I love this story! Damn movies.

  • Anon

    Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. Thank you for writing this, because I know there are many women out there in sexually frustrating relationships of all kinds. To Kerry’s point,it’s not just virgins who might be surprised. Even within a long term relationship the sex can change. I was extremely shocked when my husband’s witnessing of our daughter being born suddenly ruined what had been a decent sex life. After viewing all of the drama/violence/etc. of child birth he just couldn’t see me as a sexual person anymore and it was a terrible blow to my self-esteem. He felt bad about it too, and we hid behind a baby in our bed for a really long time. It was so sad, and shameful, and when I would complain or cajole, or seduce, he wasn’t unkind, just uninterested. I fell asleep many a night with hot tears running into my ears and a painful lump in my throat. And somehow in marriage, we just don’t dish about sex like we do about plain old boyfriends…. so it can be very isolating.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      Not that it’s worth anything, but *hugs*

    • ElfPuddle

      *hug*

    • Class of 1980

      I’ve read about your situation before re the childbirth issues. You might want to consider writing a post about how you fixed it … or how he learned to change his outlook.

      • Lettucewed

        Yes, I would love to read this. I was just saying to my fiance how I’m not sure if I would ever want my partner in the birthing suite, but what I didn’t say is that it’s because of this. It’s not something he and I need to really worry about right now, but thoughts from the other side are always appreciated.

        • Alana

          Seconding (thirding?) that I’d love a post on this from anyone who has been through it! It’s on my mind a lot now we’re thinking about having kids in the not-too-distant future. Maybe on the rumoured spin-off family site? :)

  • Marisa-Andrea

    I will say that having sex before marriage and living together doesn’t necessarily make for great or even better sex in marriage. Sex is complicated and sex in marriage can be even more complicated. What I find so interesting is that our culture doesn’t seem to prepare us for bad or not so great sex in marriage and what little discussion there is about it seems to be rooted in gender stereotypes (e.g., only men complain about lack of sex or bad sex in marriage). And then if you can have the discussion and say the sex is bad, that spells death for your marriage. My own marriage is fraught with problems in the bedroom that only cropped up in the last 2 years yet we have an amazing marriage. Bad sex in marriage is hard. But what’s even more difficult is thinking that everyone else has is so great and you’re alone.
    That’s why I love this post — an honest post about sex in marriage and one of the many reasons why sex can be pretty tricky (i.e., medical problems that we may not even be aware we have).

    • Anon for this

      Hitting the “exactly” wasn’t enough. Yes, THIS.

    • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

      Exactly, exactly, exactly.

    • Josephine

      I find that sex tends to be worse if I’m analysing it to assess how it’s going. As in, “we used to have great sex and then it wasn’t as good, what if it doesn’t change? What if it isn’t good this time? What if we’re doomed?!”.

      And then I made myself not think that. And if the thoughts come into my head I reassure myself that we are in this relationship and if it’s bad we’ll make it better – we have time. That was enough to help me relax again, be turned on more often (not to mention generally more relaxed in life because I wasn’t worrying about doom!) Oh, and the sex got waaaay better.

      In other suggestions: use the vibrator with the husband. It generally takes some pressure off if you are (individual body permitting) more or less guaranteed an orgasm.

      Sex really is 90% in your head, you just have to learn to shut yourself up sometimes.

      *general APW disclaimer – I know not everyone is like me, but hopefully some people are and will find this post interesting/non-offensive!

      • Not Sarah

        “Sex really is 90% in your head, you just have to learn to shut yourself up sometimes.”

        This. I think that this is the most difficult part about sex for me, ever. I have a really hard time to stop analyzing everything too.

    • North

      YES. And even without kids things just vary over the course of a relationship and sometimes one person is just going to feel not amazing about how things are going, which usually means the other person will eventually feel not amazing about it.

      My main and only piece of advice is that I think everyone can benefit from having lots of sex that isn’t intercourse. Mostly the people who do this, in my experience, are either fairly young/new in their relationships and see it as a temporary thing. Or they’re queer. It’s one of the great things about being queer, that the roadmaps about what sex ‘is’ are less well-defined and you can worry less about having ‘real’ sex, but I think straight relationships can benefit from doing more different things — not just more positions — in bed. Getting each other off with hands/vibrators/whatever is a complete sexual experience. It’s especially useful if penetration is problematic, but it also helps if it’s just that sometimes you want to do something a little lower-intensity.

      • ANON

        Being a queer woman engaged to a hetro man, I wholeheartedly agree that my more fluid perspective on what sex is/can be has vastly improved our sex life. Communication, openness, and a sense of adventure all make a huge difference. I think it’s one of those lifelong learning situations.

  • Anon for this

    A brave post, and I can relate to much of this. I was a virgin before my now-husband and although we had sex before we got married, we have plenty of issues: the pill totally kills my libido, other issues that make it a no go physically on my end, and just not always finding our rhythm. It’s hard. But worth it. Thanks for writing it so eloquently and good luck.

  • Manya

    Quick (and possibly stupid) questions: are the vibe and the husband mutually exclusive? Could the vibe get in on the action without coming between you? I ask because (thank God!) my husband loves our vibrator… and really considers it to be “ours” since he uses it on me as much as I do.

    • Abby C.

      I think it’s pretty telling that this particular comment has 25 exactlies and counting (including mine!). Redefine your ideas of what’s ok! Really, is it possible for anything to be “wrong” in the bedroom as long as both partners are feeling satisfied and are sharing intimacy and love?

    • Anonymous OP

      I thought this would be the perfect solution early on. However, he’s not into it and resists it. There’s a jealousy issue there and also a sense that if he needs “help” that he’s failing as a man. I try to respect that and not keep asking for something that makes him feel badly.

      • Jessica D

        Yes! Has anyone else dealt with husbands who feel jealous of/are threatened by the vibe? If my husband would just use one on me, it would be much easier, and we would have much more sex. I can’t seem to get him to understand that using one doesn’t mean he is a failure. We have this complex anatomy, with things hidden everywhere and it’s so hard to explain that to someone who has this big obvious thing that works so easily!

        • Marina

          Try using it on his anatomy. ;) Specifically the frenulum and the perenium seem to be hot spots for some guys. Mine got the appeal pretty quick at that point.

        • Vilija

          There are also vibrators that are made to be worn that maybe your husband could try. This might be less intimidating because it’s probably not a competing phallus and might be less of a mental-block for a male partner. I think that some of the threat comes from the fact that most vibrators are so phallic and therefore seem like penis competition in the bedroom. Maybe something smaller or not penis-shaped might be a good place to start.

          Check out Toys in Babeland’s vibrators for couples:
          http://store.babeland.com/vibrators-couples

  • http://www.sizzlesays.com Sizzle

    I can relate to this and really appreciate you writing it. Thank you!

  • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

    Thank you so much for writing this. Every time you or someone shares their experience with sex here will help the rest of us confront our own struggles or complications with sex.

  • Anon for this

    Lurker here, posting for the first time. :)

    You know, I think the bigger picture to take away from this post is the power (and importance) of direct communication. With my closest girlfriends, I can get away with hemming and hawing, sort of half-way communicating my needs. And they usually get it. With my husband, though he loves me deeply and wants to make me supremely happy, I have to tell him. Directly. “I want to have sex. Tonight.” “I want to go on a date. Soon.” “Please bring me flowers sometime in the next two weeks.” When I feel discontent and I’m not direct with him, he can definitely sense that something isn’t right, but he can’t figure out what it is or how to fix it.

    The amazing thing is, having to communicate directly with my husband has given me a better understanding of myself. When I tell him directly what I need, I’m loving him by helping him love me. And in so doing, I’m loving myself by better knowing my own needs.

    Can I just say that I adore APW? I didn’t discover this site till after I was married, but wow are you guys awesome.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com/ Morgan

      Yes yes yes! Saying out loud what you need is so important. And can be awkward as all hell, especially if you’re talking about sex. No matter how experienced or comfortable with my husband I am, I still occasionally have to brace myself before asking for something in bed, especially non-vanilla things. He’s always on board, which helps, but man, talking about the dirty details can be squirmy. And fun. But awkward.

      Such a good point about carrying that through in life. You learning to state your needs out loud, and him learning to fulfill them, and vice versa? Excellent.

    • carrie

      There was a letter to Carolyn Hax, an advice columnist for the Washington Post, that touched on this a little bit. A girl came home sick from a work trip and BF asked if she needed anything. She replied that she would love some Kleenex and sherbet but it wasn’t necessary. So he didn’t bring them, and she was pissed. For some reason, we expect the important people in our lives to be mindreaders. I think the important people in our lives have a little bit of that, but we can’t expect for them to extrapolate our exact need out of our heads if WE DON’T SAY IT. There’s nothing wrong with saying it! It doesn’t make the sayer bossy or needy, it doesn’t make the hearer incapable. I also love how this helps us individually understand ourselves better. For me, it’s hard to say what exactly I want sexually even though I feel like I can say anything to my husband. But there’s something in there that makes me shrink back – and that’s something I work on by myself and with him.

      Also, Lurker, your comment is awesome, “I’m loving him by helping him love me.” It’s not about bossing our spouses around or wearing the pants or some other silly metaphor, it’s being clear about what you want and ultimately strengthening your relationship. Awesome.

      • Amy March

        But the continuation of that advice was that it can be lonely to go through life with someone who doesn’t have an impulse to care for you. If caring for you means showing up when you’re sick because he loves you and wants to be with you, and for him it means sending an ecard, there’s more of an issue there than you just telling it to him straight.

        I totally agree with the advice that, if you can, you should ask for what you need. However, I think there’s a place for telling someone who loves you- look- you need to step up your game on the affection, and when you only bring me flowers when I ask you to, and don’t take initiative to try new things sexually, it makes me feel you are uninterested.

    • http://intrepidbrytani.wordpress.com Brytani

      I love this comment and I do the very same thing. The funny thing is, though, that when I mention doing this to other girlfriends I often get a comment like, “isn’t that being too bossy,” or, “doesn’t that ruin some of the romance?” I think their ideas come from a place of expecting their husbands to surprise them…in a good way. Between me and my husband, this is a bad idea. Hubs gives very generously (in many ways) but he doesn’t usually do it in a way that thrills me and for awhile, I let that get in my head like, “does this man know me at all?” But I understood his heart and now I just tell him what I want. Every time. It makes us both happy and sometimes when I give him a few things to pick from, I’m still surprised. Expecting things always leads to unnecessary disappointment, I think.

      Also, “When I tell him directly what I need, I’m loving him by helping him love me. And in so doing, I’m loving myself by better knowing my own needs.”
      This!

      • Liz

        DOESN’T THAT RUIN THE ROMANCE. Gaaaaah. I feel like this thought is the crux of so many sexual issues in marriage. It doesn’t ruin the romance. It’s actually pretty romantic to be able to be so totally honest about what you want with one person.

        • North

          But sometimes it does ruin the romance, right? And I think then you have to talk about how you need the other person to surprise you, or to go along with you when you organize a surprise, or whatever. The way Brytani is talking about it — options! — seems like a great way to have the romance and the surprise and still be able to talk about how that works straightforwardly.

          • Liz

            Definitely. But nothing’s less romantic than resentfully waiting for someone to get it right. I was totally chiming in with agreement of Brytani.

          • Marina

            “I think then you have to talk about how you need the other person to surprise you”

            Exactly! This was a big turning point in communication in my relationship. At some point I said something like, “I feel loved when you do something for me that I haven’t asked for. I especially like it when you bring me chocolate and tea.” Now, every time my husband notices I’m feeling down and brings me chocolate and tea, I get a double romantic feeling of “Aw, he noticed how I feel and took initiative” PLUS “Aw, he remembered that thing I said ages ago.”

        • Seraph

          I think this Girls With Slingshots comic is apropos to the whole “but it RUINS it!” thing:

          http://www.girlswithslingshots.com/comic/gws-1228/

        • Moz

          *Hells yes*.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      For several months, I read everything I could get my hands on about relationships, whether I expected it to be good or bad, worthwhile or not. In all that reading, I read a few stories about mental abuse. Two were nearly identical stories, but from wildly different publications (one a deeply religious, very “socially conservative” organization, one a very “sex positive,” contemporary, secular e-magazine). They described an abusive husband who would yell and bang on the table at dinner, but never say what he wanted. His wife and children had to guess that the problem was he wanted a plastic cup instead of glass, or juice instead of water, or no ice. While they experimented in satisfying his whims, he’d just smirk at them.

      I thought about all the times I’d “dropped hints” or otherwise been passive-aggressive in romantic relationships – stuff like the Kleenex and sherbert already mentioned. Here these men were doing their darndest to make me happy, and I couldn’t help them out by putting what I wanted into nice, short sentences. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the woman with the Kleenex and sherbert was being abusive. That’s a crazy-common story. But we need to recognize, it’s a problem story. We should make it less common.

      • Jessica D

        Women and men have different ways of communicating, and we need to be aware of this. When men want something, they take it or ask for it directly. When women ask for something they are nice about it, are indirect and/or act as if it is unimportant. When you are communicating with another woman, that’s fine. When you are communicating with a man, just be direct and be very, very obvious. They don’t do subtlety well. They won’t think you are being a b*tch, they will just think you are asking them to buy milk, or for more sex or whatever.

    • Arachna

      Hmm. I’m actually one of those people who have zero problems telling people exactly what I need from them, emotionally or otherwise. (I’m not unreasonably or unusually demanding, promise!).

      And since I’ve read all of this advice on how to communicate exactly what I want clearly – I was so frustrated and upset and sad when I learned that lots of people, when told directly what you need or want – will not do it. And it took me a while to stop being unreasonably angry about it. It’s not that they don’t love me, it’s that it a. seems weird to them or b. they can’t perform on command or c. it’s just really something they can’t do or whatever (not things you’d usually think are a difficult thing).

      So just a note that sometimes even perfect and clear communication is not a perfect solution. I do think that overall it is a helpful thing in our relationship that I often clearly articulate my needs and desires.

      • Tiffany

        Oh, man. THIS. If I could ‘Exactly!’ this about eleventy times, I would. This was a big issue in my last relationship– I would try very hard to be very clear about what I was feeling or wanted, but that didn’t necessarily translate into the problem being solved, or my ex being able to be clear with me in return.
        So, just to elaborate on Arachna’s point, it certainly helps to communicate your desires clearly, but that assumes that you know what your desires are. And that your partner knows what they want. And can talk about it. Even if they’re afraid of upsetting you.
        One thing I’d like to ask the original poster, and other people in this situation, is did you end up seeing a counselor? And did it help?

        • Anonymous OP

          We’re currently seeing a counselor now as some other issues have arisen since I wrote this post (death in the family, huge move, etc.). Though we haven’t spoken specifically about sex yet, it’s a topic I want to broach. I also believe that some of our sex issues are symptoms of other problems. He isn’t very verbal about his feeling towards me, so I resort to physical affirmations. I’ll try to come back and update after we’ve done enough sessions to see results.

    • meredyth

      I couldn’t just “Exactly” this because it is EXACTLY what I am dealing with in myself. Example No. 1: This morning he tried to do something nice for me which just ended up hurting. Hurting my parts and hurting his feelings when he realized I was not enjoying it. So often I don’t verbalize things because I don’t want to hurt his feelings and I think “well, it isn’t so bad, perhaps soon he’ll change it up and I won’t have to tell him that I dislike what he’s doing” and he seems to enjoy everything I do so I don’t want to be the killjoy with lady parts that require a manual to figure it out. I don’t know how to kindly say “hey, do it this way” without killing the mood and making him feel like a failure. But in reality, NOT saying something made him feel like more of a failure and his feelings were hurt.

      So for the author of this post, I’d like to add something to your next year of better sex: Communicate! It will save all sorts of things from being hurt.
      ANON FOR THIS: “When I tell him directly what I need, I’m loving him by helping him love me. And in so doing, I’m loving myself by better knowing my own needs.”
      THANK YOU. That says it perfectly.

  • Caro

    Oh man, communication and sex is HARD. We’ve had many sex/communication snafus.

    When we first started being sexual together, I used to fake orgasms. He’d be like “you almost going to come?” and I’d think to myself uhhhh no. This feels good and all, but it isn’t gonna get me there, and I’d fake it. I felt under pressure to orgasm, and felt like what he wanted was me to orgasm. After a really huge fight and a lot of communication (“hey babe, it can feel good and doesn’t have to be an orgasm”), we were able to start again and communicate about what I needed.

    When we met and were dating long distance, I was the randiest, horniest, highest libido gal around. Then we moved in together, and POOF! it disappeared, and I didn’t know why. I was still attracted to him, but the sex drive (for myself or him) was flat gone. It took about two years to realize that when were long distance, the phone sex fed my libido and fantasies and desires. But when we were together all the time and not having phone sex, I had no words feeding my fantasies and libido. So I’ve started a buying collection of “one handed reading.” Seriously though, it took me two years to realize that I need my mind getting into it on a regular basis (with or without his help) to be interested at all.

    Also, he’s been chronically fatigued for a few years, and so so often, the conversation goes something like this: him: “I’m horny.” me:”Me too.” him: “Yay!” me: “Whoa, wait, horny means I want foreplay for half an hour and then sex, not sex right now.” him: “I’m too tired to get you in the mood. It’s so much work. I’ll just jerk off.” me: “RAWRRR!!!?” It’s a work in progress. Or, um, a not-working-but-in-progress. (the one handed reading mentioned above helps, as it increases the instances of me initiating at like, 5 o’clock, rather than the discussion taking place at 10 pm.

    • Marissa

      him: “I’m horny.” me:”Me too.” him: “Yay!” me: “Whoa, wait, horny means I want foreplay for half an hour and then sex, not sex right now.” him: “I’m too tired to get you in the mood. It’s so much work. I’ll just jerk off.” me: “RAWRRR!!!?”

      I can’t count how many times this has happened to me and my boyfriend since we moved in together! It’s so incredibly frustrating. For him, sex is like an emergency that needs to be dealt with immediately, while I need a more encompassing sensual experience. We’re still at the ‘In Progress’ stage as well. I’ve tried communicating to him what I need from this, but when he’s tired coming home from work and just wants release, it doesn’t work out.

      • Marina

        Me toooooo. For him, being tired means he wants to have quick sex and then be done. For me, being tired means it’s gonna take me longer than usual to have an awesome sexual experience. So we’re both tired and horny, but still need different things. What a bummer, right?

    • Seraph

      Your boyfriend is essentially me. I used to be very horny…now, even though I’m feeling it, I usually don’t want to bother dealing with the time and energy it takes, especially given some quirks in his sexual response.

      I quit the job that was sapping my energy and that’s helping…but it also means I had to move away from my boyfriend. Not-exactly-working in progress, indeed.

  • http://onwardfulltilt.blogspot.com/ Caitlin

    There was a group of us talking in the comments last week in my wedding grad revisited post about lack of sex and the feelings it brings up, this is so timely. Thank you for sharing, it is still the thing so few people talk about with each other and yet obviously affects so many of us. I am so glad you shared this and happy to hear that things are looking up!

  • SaraW

    You know, the line that caught my attention most was this one: “I complained, he felt less inclined to indulge me.” I know that feeling. I’ve said those exact words so many times (and thought them even more frequently), but you know what? That’s unfair to yourself… so deeply unfair. I speak from a very similar personal experience. My husband and I had a very similar sexual dynamic when we were dating, and my sister finally convinced me to visit a couples counselor together with my partner… we went not to address sex per se, but to address the attitudes underlying that sentiment, and what I came to realize were the unhealthy assumptions about what we each deserved in the relationship. He and I both came to understand, through that experience, that him taking the time to stimulate me sexually in the places and ways that I needed was not “indulging me” (as though I were asking for bonus attention!) it was just the basics of sex. Is it reasonable to expect that my partner will be sexually satisfied by me stimulating him in a spot five inches south of his penis? No! Our sex includes activities that bring him to climax, so why should I feel that I’m seeking special treatment when I ask for reciprocity in ways that bring me to climax as well? Ultimately, this theme of reciprocity and fairness reached way beyond our bedroom and really helped our relationship blossom over the years into a mutually satisfying, egalitarian marriage. I wish the same for you, brave poster, and for everyone else. We all deserve nothing less than that.

    • North

      This is FABULOUS:

      He and I both came to understand, through that experience, that him taking the time to stimulate me sexually in the places and ways that I needed was not “indulging me” (as though I were asking for bonus attention!) it was just the basics of sex. Is it reasonable to expect that my partner will be sexually satisfied by me stimulating him in a spot five inches south of his penis? No! Our sex includes activities that bring him to climax, so why should I feel that I’m seeking special treatment when I ask for reciprocity in ways that bring me to climax as well?

      • Em

        I think I just let go of a bit of guilt I didn’t know I had.

  • Anon and on and on

    Something about these threads makes me want to confess! So here I go… sorry if it’s a hijack. I guess it goes under the general theme of we should talk about this shit with someone, right?

    My fiance was the first person I ever slept with (fully, if you know what I mean — and remains the only person I’ve slept with), and he’d only had one partner before me… like much earlier in his life. So we were both pretty inexperienced sexually by the time we got together. Like others have said, we didn’t wait for marriage, but it’s not that different a situation.

    The good news, I guess, is that shared sense of “being behind” in this area of our lives or being new to it made us feel very much like there was no pressure to be good at sex… so when it was good, or at least okay, it was a relief and a way for us to feel like we were in it together.

    The bad news is that while sex for him remains good and easy, it turns out I’m a much more complicated being — in that I have a lot of trouble feeling satisfied by either regular sex and my vibrator. Don’t get me wrong, I like both a lot. But neither gives me mind-blowing orgasms. They’re middling at best. And my sense/expectation (damn expectations) has always been that sex for me isn’t supposed to be that way. And I’m settling or something.

    So what I often want to do is have more sex. Lots more, in order to see if we can improve that, to see if I can figure out what I’m missing, to keep trying things, to keep trying. And my fiance, understandably, has felt some pressure to be “better” somehow, which I think makes him less inclined to have sex in general.

    I feel like we have so much time (aka, our whole lives) to figure it out that I work hard to not add pressure to the situation by bringing it up all of the time. On the other hand, it’s definitely the area of our relationship I feel least secure about. And there’s that whole thing that if the sex doesn’t work, then the marriage can’t either. Obviously, I don’t believe that. I’m getting married. And I can’t wait to get married. To him. My resolution is to always just keep communicating, keep saying what I need, keep asking. But it’s hard… (That’s what she said.)

    • Liz

      I think what’s been monumental in my relationship has been defining what makes “good” sex. Good sex isn’t always simultaneous orgasm, you know? Sex can be totally fulfilling if you’re just… em… cheesy, sorry… exploring each other? Getting to know each other? I think maybe if you can make this clear to your husband- that orgasm isn’t the definition of “good” and that you’re enjoying the process of figuring out the way there- perhaps he’ll feel less pressure. It sets up much less of a “orgasm = success, no orgasm = failure” mindset that can be inhibiting. Just a thought!

      • Anon and on and on

        Upon writing here, I immediately initiated an awesome talk with my fiance, in which we went over all of this… frankly, honestly, like I thought we’d been doing. But not enough. What I feared was happening (and what Class of 1980 gets exactly right below) is that his worry for me and my satisfaction was absolutely demotivating when it came to sex. We sort of came to the agreement that all sex is going to be good sex if we remove the expectations, since it does so many other good things for our relationship (including my feeling good about taking care of him). Obviously, this dialogue will always need to keep going, but thanks to APW (as always) for inspiring better communication and those difficult conversations.

        • AJ

          Me too! My husband has insomnia and lots of joint pain (he’s a body builder), so taking the time to stimulate me to orgasm can be daunting to him. I finally convinced him that I’d rather have sex and not get all the way there (sometimes!) than have no sex at all because my slow-to-warm-upness gets in the way. Our sex life has definitely improved since then, and acknowledging that sometimes I have to get started on my own was a big help, too.

          • Samantha

            As the wife of a carpeter, I can totally relate. Being “toppy” (as the gays say) is not my natural state, but I’m pretty resigned to doing all the “work”/being the “aggressor” when we do have sex. It’s awesome, but not my favourite.

            We’ve struggled with this for a while. Apparently, my brain ties feeling attractive and desirable to being pursued, thrown around, etc. No easy answer here.

    • Class of 1980

      Some advice …

      Men tend to take ALL responsibility for whether or not their partner is satisfied. We know that it doesn’t depend on only one person, but when it comes to that aspect of sex, most men don’t think that way.

      You really need to emphasize that YOU are still learning how YOUR body responds. He can’t do that for you, but he can help you learn.

    • anon for now

      IF I’m having orgasms, they’re also middling at best. I describe it more as a “release of pressure” — I just have a feeling that I’m done. So even though sex can be fun for us, I sometimes just feel this awful sense of letdown.

      Also, we did live together prior to marriage and had great sex for the first 1.5 years of our relationship. Then I moved away for three months. and when I came back, we started reading books together before bed (Harry Potter killed my sex life :-p). Almost two years later and we’re still finding that communication and work is necessary to keep our sex life going amidst the craziness of our lives.

      I can say that I’m looking forward to the day where our sex life cycles back up again. And maybe someday I’ll have a “real” orgasm :-)

  • Amy

    I am so glad you posted this! My husband and I also waited for marriage (got married four months ago) and it has been the exact same thing you are talking about. Painful and unfulfilling. However, I AM one of the people on BC that makes my sex drive sometimes non-existent (hoping to go to the doc soon to try a different method). But even when it is there, sex has not been great. At all. I also feel like a failure as a wife, like I’m doing something wrong, and I’m worried it’ll never look up. Reading this has given me some hope that it WILL get better and that communication really is key.

    • Anon for this

      Amy, I hear you. I was exactly where you are 4 months after my wedding (we waited). My married friends told me to give it two months before the sex would be good. And honestly, it took more like 6 months till it really worked well, and a year until it worked well consistently. Birth control rocked my world too, and sometimes you just have to try something else. But you know? After all that time and some pain and awkward moments, we learned so much about communicating. It’s not like it’s all perfect every time now, even though we’ve been married two years. But it’s way better.

      I just want you to know that you’re absolutely not a failure as a wife. What you’re going through is 100% normal, and just the fact that you’re here, reading, caring, and interacting makes you an awesome wife. Seriously.

      • Liz

        And after that, it just gets better. Our best sex has been post-baby. So there’s that for ya.

        • Abby C.

          I’m very glad to hear THAT about post-baby sex. (No baby yet on our end, but it’s on the horizon.) So yay! Thanks Liz!

          One thing I think more people should be aware of is that sex lives of most people have a natural ebb and flow. Due to a combination of work-life-home-stress-health issues, there are just simply going to be some times when your sex life is not always the greatest. You’re tired, s/he’s tired, s/he’s stressed, you’re stressed…it happens. Change happens. But as long as you commit to working through it, sex life will get better.

      • Ann

        Yes.
        My husband and I also waited until marriage, and though it was certainly not awful at first, I can tell you that now, 7.5 months later, it is still slowly getting better all the time. People warn you that the first time might hurt, or just generally be a bit of a letdown if you have high expectations, but I don’t think anyone ever bothers to tell you that it can take some real time to go from everything just working okay to actually being really good or even really great. Luckily we have our whole lives to learn and enjoy and get better together.

    • Crystal

      It is not normal to have painful sex. Even though it is new to you. BC isn’t the only thing that can cause painful sex. There is a condition called vulvar vestibulitis, or vestibulodynia that some women are born with. I suffered for over 4 years of marriage with painful sex 99% of the time and at first I thought it would get better or go away or my gyno would find a solution for me. but it took alot of self-awareness and researching to find a doctor who knew the problem. I had a surgery to remove the painful vestibule tissue and now I can have pain-free sex.

  • Shawna

    Just thought I would say, this discussion has been great! I am a nurse practitioner and have a fair amount of knowledge regarding the different types of birth control and how they work. If people are interested, I’d be happy to discuss them or field some questions. As a disclaimer, I can’t give specific advice about anyone’s specific condition (I wouldn’t feel comfortable and besides, its illegal). But, if you have a question like “I’m curious exactly how an IUD works anyway” then I’d be happy to oblige.

    • Moz

      If you’re in a steady, monogamous IUDs are the greatest thing ever. I cannot praise mine enough, it totally changed my life. No kidding.

      • Dawn

        Out of curiosity are you on a hormone based IUD or the copper kind? I’ve researched IUDs just because they seem to be the only non-hormonal birth control out there (other than condoms and we’re on the “we never want kids not ever” plan so we have to double up on protection) and I’d love to get off the hormones (which seem to be causing all sorts of problems for me right now) but it seems like the people who love them are on the newer hormonal kind while people on the older kind have horror stories about how painful they are. So, Moz, can you give more detail about yours? And Shawna, any insight from a nurse practioner?

        • mirena user

          I’ve been using the Mirena IUD for close to two years now and I love it. I chose that method because of its effectivesness in preventing pregnancy (a huge concern for me) and the lower hormone dose. My periods are much lighter and I have almost no pms/cramping. Two of my friends also using the Mirena hardly get any periods.

          My gyno advised against ParaGuard (copper) IUD because of the potential for heavier periods. Mine were heavy enough already, no thanks. There are obviously risks associated with IUDs, so the best course of action is to talk to your doctor.

        • Shawna

          I can speak both personally and professionally. I have the Mirena and LOVE it. But, I am not opposed to the Paragard. I am married, but got it in while we were living together before we got married. I got fed up with having some sort of different side effect from each of the types of birth control pills I tried (and also tried the Nuvaring). We used condoms for awhile so my body could chill out. But, that got old (can’t lie). So, now I have the Mirena. I have a very light period every month. Otherwise, my body feels pretty much the same as it did when I was off birth control and we were just using condoms. It was painful when they put it in (I have a very tiny cervix). But, I survived. I then had cramping and spotting every day for about 3 weeks. It was annoying, but nothing I couldn’t handle with some ibuprofen. Then I went to my regular cycles and it’s been pretty great ever since.
          The Mirena does have a low-dose hormone. But, I wouldn’t let that scare you off just because other hormone based contraceptives haven’t agreed with you. It has progesterone only, no estrogen. And, it works locally on the uterus only. So, it does make periods lighter. But, in lots of research they have checked the hormone levels in the rest of the body and found Mirena doesn’t have an effect. So, it shouldn’t alter your sex drive, mood, etc. It is my personal favorite.
          But, I do know patients who have the Paragard and love it. I don’t think it’s all horror stories. Paragard is copper so has absolutely no hormones at all. That’s good news if you have a family history of certain cancers, or of strokes, or if you have high blood pressure, or some other reason that you need to avoid hormones all together. It does tend to make the periods heavier (which can’t be super fun) but I think they are still manageable with tampons, etc (whatever you usually use). Another big advantage is that its cheaper. So, if you don’t have insurance to cover it, or insurance won’t fully cover it, then it’s something to think about. Plus, it lasts 10 years instead of just 5, which is also nice.
          General pros of IUDs (applicable to both): VERY effective, don’t have to remember to take it, put it on, etc… just get it put in at the doctor office and then good to go for the next several years. If you are not wanting kids anytime soon, this is a great option. And, just in case you change your mind, you can get it taken out (takes about 10 seconds to remove) and then you are back to being fertile. Also, either one can be used while nursing.

          Dawn, if you are wanting something permanent and without hormones, but want to avoid surgery (getting tubes tied), you could consider the Essure. It’s two little devices (plastic, I think) that are inserted through the cervix into the fallopian tubes. Your fallopian tubes then grow some scar tissue (takes a few months) and this closes them off and you have permanent birth control. Remember, permanent. So, if you want the option to change your mind, then an IUD is a better idea.

        • Shawna

          I would also like to throw in a comment that no birth control can guarantee, 100% that you won’t get pregnant, short of having your uterus removed.

          As I mentioned, I have the Mirena. It’s about 99.9% effective. That is incredibly effective. I never recommend that anyone who has an IUD use a second form of contraception. But, please keep in mind that if you are sexually active and have your uterus and ovaries, it could happen. I got pregnant (and then had a miscarriage) a few months ago. I was shocked. And, as a medical professional, I was always thaught that with the pills or an IUD, if you did get pregnant and have a miscarriage, it would happen so early on that you would just think you were having your regular period. NOT THE CASE. I knew my body felt different, I had heavy bleeding, and I passed some clots (which were fetal tissue). It was overwhelming. So, even though we have all be “warned”, I just wanted to re-itterate. And I don’t think it should be a “warning”. I still have my Mirena, and I still rely on it without using condoms or spermacide or anything else (after all, my chances of it happening again are the same as my chances of it happening the first time… very, very unlikely). I don’t think you should listen to horror stories. And I don’t think you should be terrified. But, I think it’s something to discuss with your partner. The same way you should discuss having a will in case you both die. The chances of both of you dying simultaneously are small, but still, good to have a plan. The chances of getting pregnant while using one of the types of very effective contraception are very, very small (assuming you use it correctly). But, a plan should be discussed. How do each of you feel about abortion? Adoption? Whose insurance would cover it? Do you qualify for state medicaid if you get pregnant? Etc.

          • Anna S

            THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

            I have been considering an IUD for a long time but a lot of the information I find online is scary/sounds like a sales pitch/just not specific enough. I really, REALLY appreciate getting some actual, serious, detailed answers.

            Straight talk: I am for it.

        • Dawn

          Thank you for all of the input. I have a whole host of reasons for wanting to not be on hormonal birth control so I just wish there were more non-hormonal options. I’m actually in the process of being switched to my third type of birth control pill in 18 months since the last one I was on made me stop having my period entirely and I don’t buy the whole “there’s no medical need to have a period” thing — obviously it’s different for everyone but I definitely feel different when I’m not having a period and all sorts of other health issues crop up that are resolved as soon as I start having a period again which has made me very hesitant to try some of the BC methods that tend to stop your period. But the Paraguard seemed like a possible alternative until I started reading too much on the internet about the pain (evil internets!) And I’ve looked into Essure but I just have a visceral reaction against it that I can’t seem to get past (something about the idea of putting something in my body to make it permanently form scar tissue — rationally I get that it’s probably a great option for me but something is holding me back right now).

          Long term the plan is for him to get a vasectomy but right now he’s a little hesitant (which I do not blame him for but at some point the fact that my body doesn’t seem to like hormones is going to trump his squeemishness) so in the meantime we need condoms and another form of protection. We have had the discussion of what to do if I get pregnant but it’s still something we will avoid at all cost (to the point of just not having sex if we’re not doubly protected). Honestly I’m not 100% sure that him having a vasectomy will be enough to reassure us that we don’t still need a backup form. Ha, this is what happens when you have two neurotic people in a relationship who always focus on the worst case scenario.

          • Shawna

            For women who have bodies that really don’t do well with hormones, I think Paragard is a great option. I don’t know why the internet has such bad things to say about it (then again, I find that many women are a little freaked out by IUDs in the first place).

            Sounds like maybe he should get the vasectomy at the same time you get a Paragard– both be brave together). That’s my personal opinion (certainly not the doctor in me speaking).

        • Moz

          I also have the Mirena. Great stuff. I got one because my periods were insane and lasted for weeks and the IUD totally got rid of that.

          Hope we haven’t drifted too far from the topic….

        • AJ

          We’re on that path, too, and hormonal BC made me absolutely crazy, so my husband got a vasectomy. It’s pretty drastic, but we’re definitely sure about not wanting kids ever, so it was worth it for us. Have you and your husband considered that route?

          *Edit*
          I just refreshed the page, and saw that you’re planning a vasectomy. If you have any questions about that, I’m here for you :)

          • Dawn

            Ha, now I feel like I’m completely taking over this post to deal with my own personal birth control woes. We’re also definitely 100% sure about not having kids and the main thing stopping him from getting a vasectomy (other than his insurance apparently not covering one — but then again I think we’d both be willing to chip in to cover the cost depending on what it was) is that he just in general doesn’t like doctors and also has the very natural reaction of not wanting anyone cutting him up ‘down there.’ But I’ve slowly gotten him more used to going to doctors in general so that gets us one step closer.

            So, how was it for your husband? Did he do the no scalpel kind? How long did it take? How painful was it? How was recovery? Tell me everything you can! If you’d like to respond privately, my email is dawnrc1974 at gmail.com (or I also totally understand if you’d rather not answer too many questions).

            I started visiting this site a couple of years ago for ideas to keep my friend sane while she was planning her wedding and then I just stuck around and I’m nowhere near getting married and yet APW is still so incredibly helpful for me.

        • JT

          Catching up on reading the comments, and I noticed that it seems like everyone who responded about having an IUD has the Mirena. I have a ParaGuard IUD and my period definitely has not gotten heavier and I have had less cramping than in the past. I will admit that it hurt significantly more than I expected to have it placed, but the temporary pain was certainly worth the long term benefits- I’ve had my IUD for more than two years now. I think my body seems… happier? haha… that sounds silly, but I’m happier and my body just feels better without having the hormones.

  • Katie

    Thank you so much for sharing!
    I’ve had some very similar struggles at times in my relationship and it was wonderful to hear the perspective of another woman with the same challenges. (This is why I love APW). I also just wanted to applaud you for finding that communication. Sex is a tricky topic. I was raised in a sex positive environment but my fiancee was not and we (unfortunately) are still finding it difficult to have that type of open conversation…

  • Kat

    I’m a lurker but I finally had to say something along the lines of, Thank God, other women are dealing with this.

    My boyfriend and I–neither of us virgins and both fairly experienced, actually–used to have lovely, frequent, getting-to-know-you sex when we first began dating. We both immediately decided we wanted to be together forever and dived headfirst into seriously crazy commitments like moving in together, starting a small business, etc., etc.

    It should not be surprising that almost immediately the sex fizzled out. We were working 90+ hours per week on grueling schedules and my libido (I’m younger than him) was raging while his was just so-so.

    I felt like a complete failure every time I initiated sex, cutely asked for sex, or brought up sex in conversation, because it all Turned. Him. Off. Completely. We’re getting married (I want to get married to him, just as soon as possible, I love him like crazy!) yet my big mental obstacle to feeling 100% secure about it is the lack of sex. If we should just had more, if it lasted longer, you know the drill…

    It’s getting better but, oh, man. It’s HARD.

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

      It’s really hard. And there is no arena to talk about sex-within-marriage. In fact, there’s very little “how to make sex better” conversation other than cheesy books or Cosmo, none of which is very helpful. (In my experience. If there are good books, point ‘em my way!) Mostly, there’s just no ability to talk about it for fear of judgment or mockery or gossip.

    • Anonymous OP

      One of the biggest blows to me feeling secure and loved in our marriage is him turning me down when I ask for sex. The odds are about 50/50 when I ask. It feels very bad when I work up the courage to communicate my need directly and then am turned down – I feel undesirably, whiny, etc. This is something I’m still working on because I still don’t handle it very well.

      • AJ

        I’m in a similar boat. My sex drive is quite a bit more active than my new husband’s. It’s taking me forever to realize that his lack of desire isn’t directly linked to his attraction to me. I’ve always been pretty insecure about my desirablity (is that a word?) and the mainstream perspective is that if a man doesn’t want to sleep with you, there’s something wrong with you as a woman; at least that’s the message that’s always been in my head.

        It turns out that he’s tired all of the time, sore most of the time, and spent a decade involved in a very conservative religious lifestyle, the other members of which “encouraged” him to basically squash any sex drive he had. I’m working on realigning my expectations, but it’s been a struggle.

        • Dawn

          Wait, are we the same person but you’re just a bit further along in your relationship (see birth control discussion above)? I’m in the same situation and it’s taken me a couple years (and really I’m still not completely there) to realize that my partners less active sex drive is not a reflection on me but rather his stress levels and exhaustion (and I think perhaps a bit of psychological issues due to being petrified of having kids). Someone else mentioned love languages and one of mine is physical touch. Luckily my boyfriend is amazingly affectionate outside of bed so that keeps me sane. Usually.

          I think it’s always difficult when sex drives are different but I think sometimes it’s harder when it’s the woman with the stronger drive since it’s goes against convention.

          • AJ

            We just might be! We talk about it CONSTANTLY, though, and we both want to make each other happy, so we’re working things out. It might always be an issue, but hopefully we’ll work something out that makes us both happy in the long run.

            Communication really is the most, MOST important thing.

          • AJ

            Also, I sent you an email, let me know if you didn’t get it :)

  • Alana

    I guess all this is really ringing bells for a lot of us! My fiance and I had LOTS of sex in the first year, then it started to taper off. Now he is working early mornings and is, I think, often too tired so it’s down to about once a week (and a few solo excursions each). It doesn’t feel like a problem, as I have never really felt an ‘appetite’ for sex, I just always like it if it’s suggested, you know? So I don’t feel frustrated or unsatisfied. And the relationship is solid gold amazing, we both feel powerfully in love, so sex doesn’t take a disproportionate status.

    In a previous relationship, however, I had become convinced I had a high libido because my then-boyfriend had some sexual insecurity issues and I felt constantly rejected and ‘pushy’ (though I had been a virgin when we met, and certainly was still shy, objectively). With hindsight, the reason sex took on so much importance was that there were other huge gaping holes in the relationship and I was looking to sex to make me feel loved and wanted. It FELT like I was sexually unsatisfied, that I was high-libido, but really I was just not getting the affirmation, affection and connection I craved in the relationship more generally. Plus, it’s always so easy to feel insecure sexually, and that tends to spiral.

    I’m not at all trying to cast aspersions on the relationship of the original poster, who seems to be going through a specific and understandable period of adjustment (with all the attendant pressure and vulnerability). And I can only speak for myself, so this is really just thinking out loud. But for me at least, sex assumes greater or smaller importance based on the relationship more generally. Admittedly, I don’t think I’m a particularly high libido person, so this may well be different for other people – sex for me is more about the pyschology than the physical relief. But if your relationship is good and you feel loved and wanted, try not to overanalyse the sexually lean times, or take them to heart so much. It’s definitely tempting, and sometimes I freak out a little that our pre-marriage sex life is somehow ‘not good enough’ (according to some external standard). But then I think… but actually, we are fantastic together, this isn’t a symptom of anything deeper, it’s just the temporary effects of lifestyle/BC/stress/getting used to each other/whatever. On the other hand, if you don’t feel loved and wanted enough, maybe think about ways outside of sex that you might not be getting the affirmation you need?

    • Abby C.

      “With hindsight, the reason sex took on so much importance was that there were other huge gaping holes in the relationship and I was looking to sex to make me feel loved and wanted. It FELT like I was sexually unsatisfied, that I was high-libido, but really I was just not getting the affirmation, affection and connection I craved in the relationship more generally. Plus, it’s always so easy to feel insecure sexually, and that tends to spiral.”

      YES. I have so BEEN THERE. It sucks, and I’m sorry other folks have been through it, too. ::hugs for you!::

      • Anonymous OP

        Thank you for your thoughts. It rang true to me and sorry to go all 5 Love Languages an you all, but one of mine is touch. Touch is decidedly not one of his. I find myself initiating sex sometimes, when all I really need is positive touches, snuggles, etc. However, since he’s not a touchy person, I go for sex. It’s a good realization, but I’m still trying to figure out what that means in the day to day of our relationship.

  • Moz

    Thank you for this incredibly generous post. I hope things get better for you guys on the sex front.

  • Esme

    Well done, this is really honest. Good luck to you: keep communicating and having fun!

  • Sophie

    Hi everyone!

    Just a quick shout out to survivors of sexual abuse, anywhere on the spectrum, at any point in your life. It hasn’t turned up in this conversation so far but I know someone other than me around here must be dealing with the strain this puts on an intimate sexual relationship, in my case a pre-marital one. Sucky sucky sucky mc-suckerson!

    • marianne marie

      I am. I don’t think I can post about it publicly …which really, just makes me admire this post all the more as it’s so brave of her, as someone else said, so generous. I wish I could be that generous and wish there were posts here in A Practical Wedding about the fallout especially of Child Sexual Abuse, not only on the sexual front but how that destroys families hence the effect on the engagement and wedding process. I know that I’m dealing head on with these issues after over 15 years of therapy and it’s still not easy.

      • Sophie

        I wish there was an APW like space for survivors to talk about relationship issues. Maybe there is? I definitely haven’t found one though.

    • Jessica

      Thanks for opening up that topic, Sophie. I was avidly reading the whole thread and hadn’t even realized what was missing — and then read your post and thought oh right, of course. That.
      My husband and I have been married 2 1/2 years and we now have a 1 year old, along with the accompanying interrupted sleep. We have a lot of the other sexual problems that other women are writing about: not having sex enough; feeling rejection from the other when intiating; lack of good communication about sex. Often when I say clearly what I want — usually more kissing and a sense of sexual play or flirtiness, which seems to have up and died about six months before we married — it just isn’t responded to, because directly asking him for something makes him paradoxically less inclined to give it. He acknowledges the irony of that, and even apologizes for it both to me and our therapist’s office — but it is still so, and doesn’t seem to be changing.
      But on top of it all, we have my past — an abusive relationship in college with a man who raped me, also a rape in high school, also possible other, early childhood stuff but not anything I remember (that age-old questoin, so does that count? Probably not. Probably not, except that I feel that it does) — to content with in bed.
      We can be right in the middle of a really lovely experience, or often, right at the end of having made love (or fucked, whichever, but it’s usually a powerful moment), and then I start sobbing. Just uncontrollable, terrified sobbing. I feel about 5 years old and really scared and I am so utterly bereft. I can’t control it at all — it is a wave of sorrow and fear that is about a thousand times greater than the great orgasm and happiness and sense of closeness that I was just having moments before. I don’t think about specific memories, although some positions trigger it more than others, and I do understand why. It happens maybe once every 5 or 6 times we have sex. It used to be more than that, but now we have sex less. And though my honey understands this isn’t about him, and knows my past, and though he lets me cry and says the right things now (that took some time) and then we talk about it a little bit later but not much, which is what I want —– it still makes him feel like crap.
      And who could blame him? I mean, it’s crappy. It is really fucking crappy, to be robbed of your present joy with your partner by some aggressive sexual bullshit from 12 plus years ago. But who can fight the body memory? I can’t, anyway. Perhaps it’s even therapeutic, I have suggested to him. I dunno. You’d think it would eventually stop.
      What I do know is that when we fight about sex, I say things like “we haven’t had sex in a month, and I really miss you” and he says “I know, we should have it more, but when we do have it, it doesn’t go well,” and my heart breaks at that. “Go well?” I say. “But it was great until that crying thing, and you know I think that means that I was feeling really close to you and my body just gave up that body memory.” “Yep,” he says. “Only… I don’t like to make you cry.”
      Which really infuriates me all over again, that rape has made my honey feel like he’s likely just to make me cry, so why bother. That someone who violated my body 15 years ago and should well have been forgotten has just been resurrected here in my bedroom, in the middle of my marriage.
      Sorry for length – I wrote this hoping it would speak to someone else out there. And you’re right – these issues need a site! Thanks for reading.

      • Sophie

        I’m so late responding! But EXACTLY EXACTLY EXACTLY.

        Have you read “The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse”? I found it pretty amazing to hear my story in so many other women’s experiences.

        I finally went to therapy specifically to discuss my issues with sex (I’ve been in general therapy my whole life :) last fall because it was close to ending my relationship. I’ve had “textbook” victim of sexual assault/abuse responses to all things sex starting with my first boyfriend but… no memories of anything. So, like you said, I’m stuck with that age old question around early childhood stuff.

        I’ve finally decided to try writing a post on this topic. I hope I can do it!

  • Marina

    Probably the thing I’m most glad I got out of pre-marital sex in retrospect was the non-sex sex–the experience of having to ask myself “What do I feel ready for?” as the only indicator of how “far” I should go. Now, my husband and I definitely have our issues with sex, but I feel like we also have those years to rely on and fall back on. I know how to be sexual with him even when we’re not having sex, and that’s part of our relationship. I just have to learn to pay attention to that “What do I feel ready for right now?” feeling instead of the “I should want this” feeling. ;)

    (Just so it’s clear: I am not saying pre-marital sex solves or would solve any problems–my husband and I definitely have lots of issues!–just that one of the tools in my sexual toolbox is something I think I specifically got from not waiting til marriage.)

  • Becky

    Wow, well done EVERYONE! Meg, you should start another blog just about sex, clearly we need a place to discuss!

  • cm

    Our sex life got a lot better after we BOTH read “She Comes First.” If the focus is on me first then we both end up satisfied. I find it helps to get yourself ready…either by reading something cheesy and romantic, or erotic… Sometimes he does want to stop because he’s too tired to put in the effort it takes to please me. Sometimes I’m disappointed. But mostly we have a lot of fun and it’s incredibly important to keep communicated the whole time.
    If he does finish first, he still has fun making use of toys.

  • Crystal

    I had 5 years of bad sex. I had vulvar vestibulitis and had to have a surgery to remove painful vaginal tissue. I have been married for 5 years and I am still trying to find out what is so great about intercourse. I almost got divorced because of marriage problems most likely stemming from lack of sex. I did feel like a failing wife, who couldn’t even love her husband. Anyways anyone who is medically unable to have sex please seek out a really good sexual pain specialist.