Where’s the Sex?

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  1. Julie Gillis says:

    Joanna. Rrrow.

    • I must say that I regret not mentioning how important it is for new moms to work out after their doctor gives them the go-ahead. Not to get skinny or to hit some beauty ideal, but to start feeling alive, human, strong, powerful, and in-your-body once again. That, for me, was a HUGE part of feeling hot again.

  2. Marcus Williams says:

    Thank you both. That was great.

  3. I can assure you that it is very much the same in the LGBT community. My partner and I (both women) have a different level in sex drives…mine being probably 2-3x higher than hers (I grew up with a very sex-positive outlook and I think hers is more conservative/reserved). We do not have children, but we are going through another type of those “all consuming” experiences with her attending law school full time in another city (we see each other somewhat regularly though). She’s in her 2nd year now and it seemed like near the end of her 1L year and beginning of 2L year her sex drive just nose-dived and ceased to exist, which was frustrating for me because we only had so much time together before I’d have to go back home. Working in the legal system myself I understand the rigors of law school and the fact that it will consume 100% of her attention, time, energy, etc., but that didn’t make it any easier on me when my sex drive is all like “um, hello? Aren’t your forgetting something??”

    Open, honest communication was/is definitely necessary to navigate through those feelings (she had the same feelings of guilt, worries that I would leave her when it was the last thing on my mind…in fact, we got engaged after she went to law school!, etc.). I had to work on making sure I didn’t start growing resentful, and she had to work on recognizing that even though I understood why it was happening, it wasn’t easy for me to go weeks without sex. I even thought that she might be falling out of love with me or wasn’t really attracted to me anymore even though she would say that wasn’t true. Really, just a lot of what you talked about resonated with me even though our situation is entirely different but has parallels with one partner having been “taken over” by something. Interestingly enough, our sex life just went wild recently after she told me one night that she had masturbated the previous night because she was missing me, which sent me from zero to turned on in about three seconds, which then turned her on because of my reaction, and presto. That was the best 4-day weekend and she cannot stop talking about sex. :) I guess the point behind this long(ish) comment is “yes! It happens to us too!!” ;)

    • Good to know, and that does give people hope. Sometimes you do just need a kickstart, unfortunately it seems like the horny one can’t be the one to decide how/when that kickstart happens. Glad you guys are back on track a bit.

      Sexuality is a wild, wild ride filed with lots of peaks and valleys. Congrats on your engagement!

  4. Thank you, Joanna and Julie!
    Your article has been both revealing and comforting: for a male (like me) it’s almost impossible imagining what women go thru during those times. We really need all these infos.
    And your positive, open, compassionate and loving attitude towards your husbands warms up my heart.

    People like you make me feel hopeful about the future of mankind. :)

  5. NickMostly says:

    Thank you for the dialog, it was quite enlightening. Reading this gives me hope that my wife’s libido will also one day come roaring back. Even if it takes another seven years to return, this article reminds me that there are other parts of our relationship that have grown stronger, and can sustain us.

  6. “These things need discussion. [...] What if someone had cancer? What if someone just flat out lost interest? Do you divorce?”

    I’m watching for TGMP’s smart writers to take this on. I love my wife ever so much, and we’re happy being grandparents together, but we’re barely closer to fixing our low-or-no-libido dilemma than when were new parents together. More “discussion” in the culture around us would have helped—at least we wouldn’t have felt so desperately freakish and alone. In my long, mostly futile, effort to understand and cope, I even looked into the discussions of the Asexual movement. Now there’s a topic ripe for the TGMP treatment!

  7. “These things need discussion. [...] What if someone just flat out lost interest? Do you divorce?”

    I’m watching for TGMP’s smart writers to take this on. I love my wife ever so much, and we’re happy being grandparents together, but we’re barely closer to fixing our low-or-no-libido dilemma than when we were new parents together. More “discussion” in the culture around us would have helped—at least we wouldn’t have felt so desperately freakish and alone. In my long, mostly futile, effort to understand and cope, I even looked into the discussions of the Asexual movement. Now there’s a topic ripe for the TGMP treatment!

    • I’m not entirely sure how to broach asexuality. I’d love to be able to go back in time to determine how issues such as this were dealt with in the past. Or if they were issues. Maybe this is a thoroughly modern problem. If marriages back in the day (100 years past) were completely DADT kind of deals (with mistresses and brothels to serve needs of men), maybe there was no worry about marital sex at all. Maybe she got herself a new fangled vibrator from the victorian doctor and he saw ladies of the night. No one felt terrible?

      In today’s world not only are we to commit to each other for the family, to each other for perfect love, but also never stray. It seems like we are all strangling ourselves somehow. I don’t know the answer, but it’s clear from talking to many long term married men the lack of sex is not good. And also from talking to many long term married women, the lack of sex is not good.

      When people first get together and are in the throes of lust/love-there are physiological changes in the brain-adreneline, norepinephrine, increased dopamine. We are hyper horny pleasure seekers. It’s kind of like sex-crack.

      That wears off and endorphins (soothing hormones) are produced. Maybe it’s just plain impossible to recapture the sex crack with an “old” partner, not only for the cultural reasons (we stop truly seeing them as separate, as “the lover” and start seeing them as an extension of the self) and the brain numbs you out with bio-morphine.

      New lovers hike the sex crack back up. There are some anecdotal indicators showing that if you get the sex crack going with one person, it can layer itself back over the old one.

      We place wild and possibly impossible expectations on each other to be perfect for each other for all time. Also, the worse the economy gets, the harder it is to feel unstressed, to have money for sitters, or to have family to take kids for a weekend. We as couples, as you pointed out, are isolated and isolation only enhances a sense of desperation.

      Is non monogamy the answer, as Dan Savage and others posit? I don’t know. I do know we don’t have a good cultural narrative for sharing, compersion, lack of jealousy that would help build a culture of safe and ethical non monogamy. We have a TRUE LOVE FOR LIFE narrative. The stories we tell ourselves are find the man and happily ever after, but as we can see, that’s not always the case, at least not sexually.

      The stories a culture tells itself are important to note. The ability to tell new stories is often difficult, it’s fraught with cognitive dissonance. Often new story tellers adopt old stories (LGBT communities seeking heteronormative marriage rather than queer partnership structures) because the fight is so hard.

      Not because the forms are abnormal, but because creating a cultural “truth” is hard work.

      I don’t know, Daniel. I do know there is sex out there. It’s just not the sex I think most people have built a powerful fantasy about.

      • I love your comment. :)
        @Julie G: “We have a TRUE LOVE FOR LIFE narrative.”
        How true. And how misleading is that narrative… how delusional and far from real life (in most cases, at least).

        It looks like Nature has programmed us to fall in love and being hopelessly attracted just for a limited time; 2-3 years tops. Science tells this, and we see it all around…
        But everybody likes to think it happens to somebody else, but they… oh no, they will be SPECIAL instead. ;)

        So, what to do instead?
        Dropping the old romantic delusion? Stop fooling ourselves? Finding new ways to live relationships, accepting our limitations?

        Who knows… I agree with you, we need a new paradigm, a new sentimental culture.

        • I think the same thing happens with kids. They say that the oxytocin high from a new relationship lasts a couple of years, and that’s true in my experience. I imagine the “terrible twos” come from that fading love thing that happens in couples.

        • Crescendo63 – I have a theory that there should be a 10 year renewal deal on marriages. Every 10 years you both get to opt whether to continue with monogamy or not. By then your kids are often big enough to be managed outside the nuclear family. Of course there would be hurt, but it wouldn’t be considered this massive travesty if people decided a different course such as polyamory, “don’t ask don’t tell”, or even a breakup. Or even continuing the monogamy!

          This is my fantasy, at least. I realize it’s a long-shot. ;)

          • @Joanna Schroeder: “there should be a 10 year renewal deal on marriages”.

            Nice one! :D
            I had the same idea years ago, but I opted for a 5 years period.
            I change quickly; in 5 years I could become a different person (and my partner as well).
            That kind of agreement would be much more honest; but people – on average – cannot handle that level of reality.

            I think promising “I will love you forever” is quite silly and even deceitful; it’s something we cannot control and cannot foretell. It’s mostly beyond our own will.
            Besides, we now know even scientifically that “falling in love” is designed to last 2-3 years tops. Yet, no couple want to consider this (well, maybe a couple of neurobiologists ;) ).
            Instead, since most people choose security over truth, they tell each other fairy tales and believe them.
            Oh well. :)

  8. MODERATOR: Please delete my first post. The second is improved. And don’t post this meta comment, of course. Thanks!

  9. wellokaythen says:

    For monogamy to work with children or without, both partners have to recognize and accept their differences (up to a certain point). If you’re the lower-libido partner, it’s important for you to recognize that the higher-libido one is making a sacrifice because of you. This is not about keeping score about who has made the bigger sacrifices in the relationship. You don’t owe the higher-libido partner more sex, but some validation of how difficult monogamy can be for him/her would go a long way. It’s very rare for two partners to find monogamy equally difficult. Usually one is giving up more than the other.

    And, let’s recognize that there are periods in which asking your partner to be monogamous is essentially asking that person to be celibate.

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  1. [...] Where’s the Sex? In a conversation inspired by Charlie Capen, Joanna and Julie ponder the problems and promise of sex after parenthood. [...]

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