Saturday, August 05, 2006

Doing What Works

We seem to be getting better at dealing with this clashing libidos issue. I have been thinking about what works.

Now when I say what works, I unfortunately don't mean what creates a searingly erotic relationship in which we are constantly just tearing the clothes off each other. That's not really going to be on the table, with my partner's health issues.

Things that didn't work

We spent many years exploring many options that didn't work, including:


  • Pretending for a long time that there was really no problem because, well, nice girls don't want sex more than their partners do. Unfortunately, denial only ever works in the short term.
  • Trying to make myself more attractive, losing weight, wearing nice clothes, etc. No effect. He told me I looked great, "but then, you looked good before".
  • Ditto trying to be the "perfect" partner, endless cooking and cleaning and stroking of his ego. No effect, except that I felt like a fake.
  • Trying to seduce him with lingerie, inventive scenarios, etc. Nothing. Mutual embarrassment when it failed. Plus, it made the rejection worse when I had invested so much in the scene of the seduction and felt like I had put my ego on the line.
  • Talking about the issue, how it made me feel, reasons why, how to resolve, it etc. Talking made me feel better temporarily, and its still necessary sometimes, but it didn't actually result in more sex.
  • Whining, complaining, and weeping. Not a deliberate strategy, obviously, just a general meltown. But nothing. It turns out that whining is not an aphrodisiac - surprise! Oh, sometimes it did get me a pity fuck, which was just not worth the sadness and humiliation. Is there anything less erotic or satisfying in this life than a pity fuck?
  • Reading self help books about how to improve things. Some suggestions helped a bit, but the whole process really annoyed me, too. When he was the one with the problem, why did I have to be the one who was always working on it? What wasn't he reading the books?
  • Allowing my sadness and disappointment about this issue to seep into every aspect of my life and our relationship together. I got depressed.
  • Withdrawing emotionally. I felt sad and alone and couldn't even enjoy the positive aspects of our relationship.
  • Casual sex with someone else. Yes, I tried that, too. That didn't work either, but did lead to the final one.
  • Breaking up. Yes, I did this for three years. I missed him terribly. He missed me teribly. I enjoyed having sex with other people, but ultimately discovered what I wanted was not just sex, but passion, love, intimacy. Which I also discovered I couldn't have with other people as long as I was in love with my partner, and that love never went away.


  • Refusing to see that there was a problem.
  • Refusing to admit that there was a problem.
  • Telling me that he would initiate sex more often if I would stop being being so demanding.
  • Giving incredulous looks when the issue was raised as if to say, well, you're a nymphomaniac if you expect to have sex more than twice a year.
  • Making it clear that any discussion about the issue was torture and he would provide only his name, rank and serial number.
  • Linking the problem to things that can't be changed, like being older (apparently, men stop wanting sex in their forties).
  • Making promises that things would dramatically improve, trying for a few days, then lapsing back into the usual.
  • Refusing to see anyone about it or discuss it with a professsional.
  • Working quietly on his health issues, trying to get more exercise, etc, without also working directly on the sex issue.

Lately, we have been more successful. Sure, its an improvement from a pretty low base, but its still an improvement. I still feel good about it.

Things that help

Establishing the physical causes of the problem with health professionals. We get them treated as much as we can. But it also helps that I can stop torturing myself wondering why? Instead of thinking Its because I'm so ugly, its because he doesn't love me, I can think Its because his testosterone levels are incredibly low and he is sick. It does help.

On a more personal level, two major innovations have really helped.

The first is the Naked Date. Yes, most weeks, on a designated night, we take all our clothes off, put some nice music on, light the candles and get together. And the only expectation is that the other person will turn up. If he is too tired and sick, not having sex is okay. Occasionally, very occasionally, its been me who is too tired for sex. But we cuddle, we touch, we talk, and we enjoy being together. Its intimacy. Its closeness. Its effort on his part. And it brings us closer. It reminds us that we are more than friends and co-parents. Its one thing we do together that house mates generally don't do. Plus, I at least get to see him naked!

The second is that, after our baby was born, I tried a completely new tack. I sat him down and talked to him about how I had tried for many years to improve our sex life, and mostly it had failed. Because we weren't in sync. Because we weren't really working on it together.

And I offered him a life together in which sex had no part. The truth is that I didn't know what the impact would be, whether I could really do this, but I genuinely offered to try. Because I just couldn't stand to go on like this. Talking, trying, feeling sad and alone, and never seeing any result. My heart was in my mouth, but I just felt that anything was preferable to that scenario. He said that he didn't want that, and I could see that he didn't. And we agreed that, from now on, our sex life was his responsibility. It was up to him whether we had a sex life, and if we were to have one, it was mainly him who needed to work on it.

And funnily enough, the those two innovations have helped quite a lot. And I think this is mainly because, although our problem is about 90% due to his health issues, there is that crucial 10% or so that is about attitude.

I find I don't get so distressed about it if I feel that he is maintaining an awareness of the issue, that he cares about it, that he is working on it, that he is trying. When I see him turning up for our Naked Date, when I see him proposing a night of passion even if it gets deferred several times, at least my needs are on the agenda. When he doesn't make stupid jokes about insatiable women, and instead says "I'd like to, but not tonight, how about Wednesday?" it makes a big difference.

Because it addresses the key relationship issue that clashing libidos cause: resentment.


Blogger Digger Jones said...

This was good. My list is pretty similar, except of course finding stuff that works. The cage came the closest to upping the frequency, but I like the idea of just coming out and offering a totally nonsexual relationship. well, no, I don't like the idea. But at least putting an end to the uncertainty of the thing.

Naked Date sounds fun! but our dating history is disasterous. I think being alone, stood up and naked would be too humiliating.


7:08 PM  
Blogger loz said...

that's really excellent. I continually marvel at the solutions people can come up with for problems in relationships, and how addressing & communicating about issues just makes such a huge difference in & of itself. good luck :).

10:14 AM  
Blogger FTN said...

"I'd like to, but not tonight, how about Wednesday?"

The art of turning someone down for sex is something that every "low-libido" person in a loving relationship needs to learn. There is much less hurt feelings and resentment when you get a response like that than rolled eyes, or turning up the nose, or anything that says Get away from me.

And it's good that you are learning what works and what doesn't work! Writing those things down in a list can help.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

Digger - I hated the idea, too, but I think it needed to be discussed as a possibility.

FTN - yes, I couldn't agree more. And my partner has hugely improved in this respect this year, for which I am sincerely appreciative.

2:48 AM  

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