Question: My partner and I have been together 10+ years. We get along, have fun, and love each other immensely, but we no longer have sex. Part of the reason is that we each have experienced some medical issues over the past few years, but we also just don’t seem to have much sexual desire. It isn’t as if one of us is asking for it and being turned down. Neither of us initiates or even mentions it. It’s as if we haven’t done it in so long that we’ve sort of “forgotten how.” I don’t mean forgotten where things go; we’ve forgotten how to get into the headspace of physical intimacy. We’re at the stage of thinking seriously about having kids, which – for starters – requires sex. But I would like it to be fun and sexy, and not just about making a baby.
Personally, I think part of the reason sex is awkward for me may be because I have never had an orgasm. Sex feels good, I enjoy it when it’s happening, but I generally feel “unfulfilled” at the end, as if I’ve come close to the pinnacle and missed it. I feel ashamed around never having climaxed and guilty for not making my partner feel as if he has “done it right” for me. Can you possibly give us some advice on how two committed people in a long-term relationship can get back into the swing of it?
Dr. ZZ: When long-married couples are polled about keeping the sexy times going in a long-term relationship, they generally say similar things: You just have to do it. If you wait until you are in the mood, you never will. Approach it like exercise. The moments when you would rather wrap yourself in the cozy blanket and be by yourself without touching someone, whom you may find rather irritating or possibly misshapen, may be the very moments when you can actually reach out instead, cop a feel, and get things going.
It’s easy to have fun, sexy times when you’re dating. Everything’s new, there’s the thrill of exploring a new partner and having them explore you, and you don’t have a decade of history weighing you down. After ten years of unsexy day-to-day life, replete with doing the dishes, taking out the trash and getting the car repaired, etc. – not to mention getting each other through surgeries, which no doubt forged a stronger bond between you but probably didn’t do much for you romantically – it’s harder to recapture that thrill.
There is a profound satisfaction that comes from being together that long and caring for each other that deeply, but satisfaction and passion are not the same thing – nor are they mutually exclusive. Clearly you still care about making each other feel good, but if sex has fallen off your radar, it’s going to take some effort to get it back on. This can – and should – be fun, but you can’t just sit back and wait for it to happen on its own.
What I’m about to say may sound like cheesy advice column hokum, but seriously: schedule a date. Many couples have standing once-a-week or once-a-month dates when they devote themselves to having a romantic time with no worrying about work, or what needs doing around the house, or anything else. It’s time to simply get out of your usual routine, to take pleasure in each other, and to reconnect with why you fell in love in the first place.
Maybe you could go out for a nice dinner or simply stay at home with a bottle of wine and good music. Aim for the sorts of things you did when you first started dating, and do regularly whatever is going to put you in a happier, more romantic head-space. The idea is not to approach this with any pressure to have fun, sexy times now, but as a mutual opportunity to have fun and focus on making each other feel good. Then, once you’re having a bit of a cozy, romantic time together, and you’ve let yourselves relax a little, it becomes time for one of you to make the first move. Cuddling, kissing, and foot rubs or back rubs can be a great lead-in. Start there, and let your fingers wander.
Or you could try something more direct, like taking your clothes off and going for it. Watch some porn if that gets you in the mood; find ways to surprise each other. There are all sorts of ways for this to happen, but again, you need to make it happen. (It takes effort on both your parts to make this work.) If your husband isn’t moving things towards sexiness, then you need to take the lead yourself. Go for the gusto.
If this doesn’t work the first time, don’t worry. Have another date. The whole point is to enjoy yourselves, which brings me to the other part of your question: your inability to orgasm. If I could magically solve this concern for you, I absolutely would, but no advice columnist has that power. If it is a problem for you, I suggest that you consult with a therapist about it. What I can suggest, however, is when you’re trying to get back in the habit of having sex with your husband, don’t view orgasms as the goal. There’s no surer way to kill a sexy mood than to worry that you’re doing it wrong. Don’t let anyone else’s narrative of how sex is supposed to go get in the way of your fun. Feeling good is what you’re after, and wherever that relaxed, cozy feeling takes you, it’s all good.
Dr. ZZ has a Ph.D. in Counseling and a doctorate in Natural Healing. Drawing on a background of over thirty years as a professional therapist, she offers self-help in the areas health, relationship and personal growth. All queries are answered by email and, if they appear in print, are subject to editing. Please email your questions : <email@example.com> All identifying information is kept strictly confidential.
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