What happens when your sexual desire is alive and well – but you don’t want sex with your spouse? The one person you are supposed to have sex with is not the one lighting up your fantasies, and you may even experience repulsion or disgust at the idea of sex with your partner. First, remember you are not alone. This is a very common experience and it is totally normal in a long term relationship.
In this podcast we pull apart this complicated question and suggest action steps for figuring out how to proceed in your marriage when you want sex – but not with your spouse. This is part two of a podcast series – make sure to listen to part one, Episode #230: Sex Out Of Obligation.
First, reflect on how you arrived at the crossroads of wanting sex, but not with your partner? Perhaps it started with fantasy – most people have active sexual fantasies about people other than their long term partners. There is nothing wrong with fantasizing about other people, but is important to notice if these fantasies are taking you deeper into your sexual experience or taking you out of it. Never endure sex out of obligation – for more on sex out of obligation click here for podcast episode 230 where we explore that topic in great detail.
Maybe you’ve gone through a dry spell and find yourself in a sexless marriage. Again, this is a very common experience and it is important to know that periods without marital sex are totally normal within the context of a long term monogamous relationship. Did you have kids and your sex life was put on hold for a few years? Have you been through a medical crisis or other stressful life event? Try to be honest about all the factors that made your sexual connection disconnect for awhile.
No matter what your situation looks like, start by getting radically honest with yourself and your partner. Try to figure out why you don’t want sex with your spouse – what factors are putting the brakes on your desire? Are you holding on to anger, resentment or grief? Or do you simply feel more platonic love where there used to be lusty passion?
Go on a long walk or drive with your partner and start clearing the air. If this step feels challenging, bring in the support of a professional sex positive therapist. Sometimes, saying something out loud helps you release all of the tension it took to keep it a secret. Airing your grievances can help you get over them – or realize they aren’t that important in the first place. Sometimes couples find just by naming all the things that have been chronic annoyances they take the pressure off and remember all of the positive things that are working in the relationship.
Once you begin having more honest conversation, start talking about what you both want out of your shared sex life. Do you both want to be having sex? Or is the desire more one sided? These conversations can be painful but it is important not to take this too personally. Remember that many factors contribute to the desire for sex – stress, medical issues, financial issues and other big forces that may or may not be in your control. Your partner’s interest in sex is not a measure of your value or desirability.
Notice your willingness and desire to share affectionate touch with your partner. Do you feel good when you cuddle up on the couch? Are you willing to share the pleasures of couples massage? Do you like kissing? If these kinds of affectionate touch are still enjoyable for both of you, double down on your commitment to share more quality touch. Reconnecting with couples massage is a great way to express love, pleasure one another and share more affection without the pressure of sex. Many couples find that sharing massage is a smooth pathway back to an erotic connection.
If you have had lots of open and honest conversation and discover that you have evolved into a more companionate, platonic relationship, it may be time to talk about an open non-monogamous relationship. Take baby steps into this process. Start by reading Opening Up or The Ethical Slut and be honest about what you are both interested in. There is no one way to have an open relationship, only what is right for you. Do you want to go to swinger’s events together? Have online relationships only? Will only one of you have sex with other people, or both? How will you navigate sexual safety and preventing unwanted pregnancy? Again, if these conversations feel overwhelming to you it is a good idea to spend time with a sex positive therapist who can guide you through this process.
It is important to remember that we don’t often hear the stories of couples who make non-traditional sexual arrangements work. We hear about infidelity when it ruins a relationship, but rarely hear the honest reports of platonic marriages, companionate marriages and open marriages. If you want a sex life but don’t want to have sex with your spouse, it is important to explore your options and have honest conversations.
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