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I Want Your Sex…Why Don’t You Want Mine?

By Amalah

Hi Amalah,
I read your blog, your column, your everything and I totally trust your advice. Hence this letter. It’s something that I don’t feel like I can share with my friends so hey, why not unload on to a total (but perfect) stranger (bring back Balki Bartokomous) and the interweb?
My situation is this. I am in a relationship with a lovely, lovely man. We are both 33 years old. We have been together for three years, living together in sin for nearly two. The problem is is that there is not a lot of sinning going on. Our sex life is practically non-existent and every night we go to bed and he gives me a pursed-lip kiss like we are a married couple from the 1950s. This is not my choice and I promise, not for lack of trying on my part. It hasn’t always been this way – we used to have a great time between the sheets.
This has been going on in earnest for about six months (yes! six months!) and I put my foot down and insisted that we go to a sex therapist in February. This has helped in that we are no longer arguing about the lack of sex, but still – no sex.
We have had a tricky time over the last year or so due to an ongoing conflict over where we live. We live in his home country and I want to move back to mine with him, which he says he wants to do. We have the visa and everything. I realise it is a big deal and that’s something that we have talked about a lot in our therapy sessions so we’ve kind of worked through that.
I am at my wits end and feel as though we are entering the world of friends instead of hotness and I don’t know what to do. Please don’t suggest the foxy lingerie (been there, no luck), watching porn together (he is not interested – yes! A man! Not interested!), non-sexual massages (our therapist suggested that and we have done it a total of three times at my suggestion, not his). He says he loves me, he wants to be with me, he wants to have kids together (yes! I’m not sure how that will happen either!) there’s nothing he wants more than to have a fulfilling sex life with me…but it’s hard to believe when he isn’t making any effort and I am beginning to feel a little resentful that I have to be the one to suggest things. Because it’s not hot when you have to beg, right?
I’ve been down the road of Is He Gay, turned left at He’s Having An Affair, lingered at Maybe It’s Me, I’m Hideous and now I’m beginning to think Hello, He Has Depression. What should I do? I want to support him but I also want to be with someone who is going to rip my clothes off every now and then. It would make the next few decades together kind of fun.
You have been married for awhile and I get the impression that you and Jason still have a glint in your eye for each other, which is awesome. Is it something you have to work at sometimes or if it doesn’t come naturally (oh dear, you know what I’m saying), does that mean that you’re sexually incompatible? Is it normal for a guy to not wake up with morning glory, as Oasis say? Could it be something physical, as well as mental?
I feel as though I am in the man in this relationship trying to persuade his uptight, frigid wife into sleeping with him and it is driving me bananas. He says everything will be fine when we move because he’ll be less stressed, but I’m not so sure. I figure leaving your job, your family and friends and moving to a new country isn’t exactly rancho relaxo.
If you can offer any advice, insight, wisdom that would result in me getting laid, I would be eternally grateful. Yes, I know I sound like a pig but lack of sex is making me that way. Are there any other women out there who have been through something similar and have you been able to get through the other side? I really don’t need to hear any ‘Oh, my Barry can’t keep his hands off me, if he had his way we’d be having sex morning, noon and night’ stories either.
Faithfully yours,
Hot and Definitely Bothered
P.S. I’m sorry this is so long, I think you get the drift that I would really appreciate your help. Thank you.

Oof. OOF I SAY. This is…an interesting break in the moisturizer talk, don’t you think?
So first of all, let me say that I really admire the steps you’ve already taken to help the situation. Sometimes I get these loooong life dilemma problems that basically boil down to “I’ve tried nothing and I’m out of ideas, help!” More people should treat questionably-qualified Internet advice columnists as the last resort that we really are.
But the fact remains that you’ve taken all the right steps and still haven’t gotten anywhere. So, long hard look time — were you EVER satisfied with your sex life? Did he EVER demonstrate the kind of healthy libido that would jibe with your own? Do you really have evidence that this is, in fact, a temporary problem that can be resolved? And I mean OTHER than the early days of newness and infatuation and wheeeeeeee-sex-with-someone-new-and-shiny phase that wears off for all of us eventually? Was there ever a period of just normal, healthy, regular, mutually satisfying sex, particularly during the time you’ve lived together?
If you answered “no” to more than one of those questions, then I would guess we are looking at flat-out basic sexual incompatibility here. Which is no small thing.
Since you DID mention that things used to be great and fun, and if you can really and truly answer all those questions with a big YES, and if this really is a recent phenomenon of six months or so, then my money would be on depression and/or anxiety. Which is also no small thing.
First up, in the interest of covering all the bases, the sexual incompatibility option. For some reason a lot of women prefer to blow this off, like they’re afraid to end an otherwise decent relationship over something trivial. Except that sex is not trivial. It’s the rest of your life, and if it’s driving you batty at 33, it’s going to drive you batty at 43 and 53 and so on. It’s not fair for you to sit there and hope that YOUR libido will drop with age and childbirth so that someday, somewhere, you’ll be okay with your non-existent sex life. It ain’t gonna happen, and if your guy really IS okay with a non-existent sex life now…well. Is it a deal-breaker or not? Are you prepared to live with the very likely possibility that this will be as good as it gets?
If it is and you’re not, I’d advise being honest with him (possibly in a therapy session?) before the big move. Obviously you’ve been jumping up and down and waving your arms and screaming at him that THIS IS IMPORTANT TO YOU, but maybe he needs one last reminder of just HOW important it is before he rearranges his life because you haven’t been clear on the end result of your doubts.
And sadly, from where I’m sitting (on a plane! en route to San Diego! holla!), there are only two possible endings: you put up with things as is and stop pushing him to “change” (ah, that common folly of us women!) or you break it off because EFF THIS, you deserved to be desired and regularly ravished and there is nothing wrong or superficial about that.
If it’s depression, on the other hand, it’s time for a different sort of confrontation. You make excellent rebuttal points to his “I’m just stressed and will be less stressed after the move.” Stress is a constant, and depression and real anxiety are generally not cured by a change in scenery. The lack of…ahem…normal morning-type male reflexes does suggest there’s something physical going on, although (to me) it further cements the theory of severe depression or anxiety, which can most definitely manifest in a variety of physical ailments.
Since joint therapy does not seem to be getting at the core of…whatever it is that’s bothering him…firmly suggest he see a therapist on his own. Regular psychotherapy. Medication. Something. But again, this needs to be dealt with ASAP, for both of your sakes. Otherwise, nothing will truly change, and you’ll very likely be experiencing bed death every time life gets stressful or the seasons change or whatever his depressive trigger is.
Uprooting to a different country would probably wig the best of us out, and I’m wondering if he’s bottling up his real feelings and fears about it. You seem like a very open and direct and “let’s FIX this” sort of person, so perhaps instead of focusing on some presumed sexual incompatibility, your therapy and discussions should focus on really getting to know and understand how the other reacts to conflict and how you each approach problem-solving. I suspect you two are very different in those areas. The more you try to “fix” him, the more he may retreat inward for whatever reason. He might need a different kind of support.
He also needs you to stand your ground, because this is your life too. Tell him you’ve tried everything and you’re truly, honestly, all out of ideas. You love him, you want to spend your life with him, but not. Like. This. Whatever the issue is — depression, anxiety, erectile dysfunction, crippling panic and doubt — it is time for him to root it out and confront it. And if he wants to make the move with you, he needs to make some kind of effort before it happens. No more hitting the mental snooze button with the “things will be better after we move” excuse.
Good luck. I think most couples end up going through similar things at one point or another (hello, first trimester of pregnancy), but not to the extent you’re describing. That’s not a phase, that’s real dysfunction, and I hope you two can work it out.

Published April 18, 2008. Last updated April 18, 2008.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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