Sexual incompatibility happens in long-term relationships.
And yet, we act like it shouldn’t. We act like it’s not normal.
The time it most notably happens is when a couple has children. It’s the symptom of having babies that you think can’t happen to you. You think you won’t be like those ‘other couples’ that don’t have sex anymore.
Generally speaking, doctors will tell new moms they can jump in the sack six weeks after having a baby. Which is great, some women have uncomplicated births and they can do that if they wish or desire.
However, there are many of us (present company included), that had challenging deliveries. Complications may include, but are not limited to: episiotomies, c-sections, preeclampsia, postpartum uterine bleeding, etc. Some of these complications can really cause a great deal of trauma, physically and emotionally short and long-term.
With my first child, I felt ready to try having sex with my husband at around 3-months postpartum. I remember it hurting, and having to tell my husband to stop in the middle of it. It felt like my insides, up to my esophagus, were still quite literally ripped to shreds.
I remember thinking—I feel like Humpty Dumpty, will I ever be put back together again?
My husband respected my wish, but was visibly disappointed. He’d spout off the old worn out psycho-babble—we should just do it anyway. You’ll get in the mood.
I didn’t. Ever. Get in the mood.
Despite our dwindling sex life, I got pregnant with our second child, pretty quickly after delivering my first child.
I was extremely sick the first trimester (thank you morning, noon, and night sickness). And I was very tired from taking care of a one-year old.
When our second kid was born, it was like I’m not even interested in sex – BYE.
For a while our sexual relationship became tense. But we worked through it.
Mismatched libidos do NOT have to be the end of intimacy. It doesn’t even have to be the end of a marriage.
There are so many natural reasons our libidos go through ups and downs. And it’s not gender specific. Men can have low sex drives as well (although they aren’t shamed to the same level as women).
So many factors can cause low libido (not related to pregnancy or parenthood) including physical/chronic illnesses, external stressors, medications, fluctuations in hormones due to the female menstrual cycle, etc.
Through the course of a relationship (and a long one) there are going to be peaks and valleys of sex drive for BOTH partners.
So here are eight ways to navigate sexual incompatibility (yes, it’s OK!!) with your spouse or partner
If you need a break from sex for whatever reason, you need to speak up. If you’re not feelin’ it, say so. Even if that means disturbing the peace in your relationship. While it may be hurtful in the beginning, especially while working through the feelings of hurt and rejection, it’s worth it. On the other side of all that hurt, there is healing and a higher understanding of each other. Intimacy can take many forms, not just under the sheets.
Have your hormones tested. Not everyone that has low sex drive has “something wrong with them.” But, sometimes our hormones can get out of whack. An imbalance can really shift sex drive. Discussing low libido with your healthcare provider can be paramount.
Identify external stressors
Are you stressed from work? Are you exhausted? Unfulfilled in an area of your life? Have body image issues? Whatever it is – start to make a list and tackle your challenges. If sex needs to go on the back burner while you figure this out, so be it. But exploring low sex drive from the “what is stressing me out” angle is worth tackling, if not for peace of mind, but for overall well-being.
Identify turn ons
For me, when my husband is an equal partner in the household—that’s HOT. Like if everyone could just pull their weight in my house, and lighten my load—I’d be ready TO GO. I’m not saying ALL OF THE TIME I’d be ready to go. But, maybe more than I am now. It’s exhausting to work, take care of kids, keep up with school work and activities AND all be on top of all domestic duties. Not to mention – it’s not fair. If I’m stuck with Second Shift all of the time, I can guarantee a sexless life. I burn out. Just like every other human being. Housework is everyone’s responsibility.
Find other ways to be intimate (that don’t involve sex)
Holding hands. Having fun with each other (this does not have to be the clichéd “date night”). Exercise together—runs, hiking, yoga, etc. Go through old pictures together. Ask each other about dreams and aspirations. What’s on your bucket list? What’s on your partner’s? Ask for advice – people loved to be asked for advice. Do projects together, build something or paint something together. Do all of these things WITH NO EXPECTATION OF SEX.
Understand that sexuality is a spectrum
Human sexuality is a continuum with so many variations. This includes fluidity and normal, biological fluctuations in libidos. This includes non-binary behaviors in regards to sex organs, gender and sexual attraction. Generally people do not sit on a certain and same area of the sexuality spectrum their entire lives.
If you still feel like you and your partner cannot work through sexual incompatibility, it may be time to talk to a professional therapist. You’ll want a therapist who understands that the only possible “issue” is that the libidos are mismatched- not that the person with the low libido is at fault or has “something wrong with them” in need of fixing.
Explore an open marriage or a separation
If you want to keep the marriage together, consider an open marriage. Before you throw the book at my head, really understand that several couples do this—it’s just not talked about as much. Couples who do this are often shunned and shamed. Many would say what’s the point of being married?!But truly, before you judge, understand that marriage can take many forms. Everyone can define marriage however THEY SEE FIT. Many couples have open marriages and are really quite happy. If an open marriage is not your cup of tea, and it’s certainly not everyone’s, consider separating. Sometimes sexual incompatibility simply can’t be worked through for one reason or another.
Sexual incompatibility can be really difficult to work through.
The spouse not getting any feels rejected.
The spouse with low libido feels inadequate, feels guilty and can start feeling resentful if pressured to constantly have sex.
But if we start talking about it, if we start normalizing low sex drive and stop acting like sex drive determines the overall health of a marriage, we’ll reach a higher understanding.
You can have low libido and still love your spouse. You can have sex once a year with your spouse if you want to, and still have a happy marriage. It’s possible. With work. And understanding. If we expand our minds to encompass sexual ups and downs as natural occurrences in any long relationship, we can start to navigate the downs more gracefully. And with more compassion.
This post is republished on Medium.
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