Doctor’s Note: I’m on vacation this week. But rather than not have any updates or re-run old articles, I’ll be posting extra “Ask Dr. NerdLove” columns. The regular publishing schedule will resume on June 16th.
Doctor, please help us.
My husband and I are about to reach our ten year anniversary and are in the midst of preparing for a 2,000 mile move. I say both of these things first and foremost because I want it to be known that we are a lifetime couple with no plans of leaving one another.
However, in the past two years, my husband has been feeling neglected. We have sex almost every day, and on the days we don’t, I am made very aware of it.
His work schedule requires him to wake up between 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning. Mine requires me to be awake at 4:30 in the morning. About 90% of the time we don’t have sex, it’s because it is so late at night and I only have about 5 hours to sleep before work.
I am writing to you because we are having sex at least 5 times a week and it is still not enough for him. Any time we do not have sex, he holds it against me for hours, sometimes days.
The problem I am running into is that the more he gets upset or angry with me over these “missed encounters”, the more that sex becomes an act of duty, not intimacy.
I have tried explaining to him that when he gets angry, it lowers my emotional and sexual confidence to a point where I feel like I will never succeed. I have also told him that his reactions to our not having sex are far stronger than his reactions after we do. His response was simply that not having sex is “not an option”. For him to be happy, he must have sex two times a day, and he does not understand why I don’t just “fix the problem” and do as he asks.
I have never asked a friend or a family member about this as I do not want them to judge our relationship. But I need to know what “enough” sex is. Or maybe I need to know how to increase my sex drive or how to plan a sex schedule. Maybe all I need to know is that I am doing an okay job as a wife.
I just need someone to help me because I don’t want to lose my best friend down the line because of unchecked anger or latent resentment.
Any advice would help.
The problem isn’t how often you’re having sex, TB. The problem is the way your husband is acting. Because… well, holy shit he’s acting like a dickbag right now.
Let’s start off with the obvious: you’ve been together for damned near ten years now and you’re still having 5 times a week. That’s not just impressive, that’s downright rare. I know couples who’ve been together a tenth as long as you have who’re having sex five times a month.
The pesky thing about relationships – especially monogamous ones – is that passion tends to fade over time. This is known as the Coolidge Effect; humans have reduced interest in sex with the same partner (or partners) over time only to have that passion renewed when confronted with a new partner. When we partner up exclusively with someone for the long term, we have to confront the fact that our sexual desire for one another can diminish. Despite how this sounds, this is actually something of a feature not a bug; that initial rush of passion and desire (ideally) turns into something deeper and more emotionally intimate and prompts increased bonding on the emotional level. Moreover, there are many ways of rekindling that spark with one’s partner and bringing that “new relationship energy” rushing back.
What can I say? Humans are complex beasties when you get under the hood.
So it’s important to acknowledge for the sake of perspective that the two of you are already having a lot of sex, much more than most couples who’ve been together as long as you two have.
Now in any relationship there’s almost always going to be an imbalance of libidos. Even with two high-libido people, one person is likely going to want it more than another and it’s important to find a compromise that works for both parties. Sometimes that means defaulting to the preferred schedule of the person with the lower sex-drive. Sometimes it means that the person with the lower libido lends a helping hand (or mouth or vibrator or what-have-you) on occasion without having full-on sex. But the important part is that it’s done in a respectful and loving way, with both partners in mutual agreement. As you say: sex is a matter of love and intimacy (not to mention getting one’s rocks off) not a matter of duty and obligation.
And your husband, TB? He’s pretty much being the opposite of respectful and loving. In point of fact: he’s being a little shit over this. It’s one thing to want more sex than one is getting – some folks want tons and tons of sex and that’s just fine – it’s another entirely when the other partner turns it into a matter of emotional blackmail when she or he doesn’t get their way. And that’s exactly what your husband is doing right how: he’s trying to pressure you emotionally into doing what he wants without any regard for how much this is hurting you. And the fact that he gets angry when you try to explain that to him… well, to be perfectly honest, that’s kind of a huge goddamn red flag.
Look, I’m going to come out and say it: this is at the very least borderline abusive behavior if not actual abuse.
And here’s the part that really gets under my skin: you’re taking what is very much his problem and internalizing it into something being wrong with you and holy shit, TB, you are not the one at fault here. I want you to understand this. This isn’t about you not being a good wife. Hell, you sound like you’re going above and beyond the proverbial call of duty here. The problem isn’t your libido. The problem isn’t his libido. The problem isn’t about a sex schedule. I mean, with your wonky work schedules, you’re still finding time to have sex five times a week (and I’m really hoping this is sex you’re both enjoying and not something you’re doing to get him off your back). The problem is the the way your husband is treating you over this.
I mean, let’s be honest here – there are plenty of ways the man can get his itch scratched without pressuring you in ways that make you want to curl up and die inside. If he needs to get off twice a day, he could easily spring for a Fleshlight or a Tenga Cup and pound away for those times when the two of you are busy. It’s an easy way of satisfying one’s needs when their partner isn’t available. But that’s not the issue.
The issue is that he’s turning this into the club that he’s beating you over the head with.
I’m going to recommend is that you look into some couple’s counseling. You need to be able to express how you feel about this without your husband getting angry and shutting you down. Having a third party may well help facilitate this and hopefully will help the two of you find a way to make things work for the both of you.
You should also look into some private counseling for yourself because you’re internalizing his problems and blaming yourself instead of him.
If he won’t go to counseling and won’t compromise… well look, you say you don’t want to leave him. OK, fine, I’ll try to respect that. But you need to recognize that the way he’s treating you is not healthy. Not for you and not for your relationship. This isn’t about anger or resentment, this is about behavior. Relationships are about communication and compromise… and he’s not doing either.
Right now he’s hurting you. If he’s not willing to talk to you, to listen to your concerns and to work with you, then he’s showing you he doesn’t respect you. This is not how a friend and lover behaves. This is the behavior of someone who just wants to use you.
Like I said: counseling. For the two of you and for you by yourself. And if he isn’t willing to work at this… well, you have some decisions to make.
Good luck, TB. And please check back in to let us know how you’re doing.