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(If you are a low-desire person, here are my tips and suggestions for you.)
After writing my last post, I received a bunch of messages from high-desire partners asking me what they can do to help and support their low desire partners. As a person who has spent more time on the low-desire end of things, it’s difficult for me to give adequate advice because that hasn’t been my experience.
But I do know what it’s like to be a low-desire person in a sexless relationship while feeling both the tension and the sadness from my high-desire partner about our current situation.
There were many times where I felt my husband didn’t understand or that he wasn’t supporting me as I worked through the issues that exacerbated our dry spell. There were many times where I had wished that rather than try to fix me, he had listened and held space for what I was going through.
So from that place, I wrote a few tips. I hope they are helpful to you.
. . .
If you are a high-desire partner in sex-starved relationships, here’s what I suggest:
1. Stop trying to fix your low-desire partner. Your impulse to fix is noble but is likely putting even more pressure on them to find a solution—which only goes to create more shame and frustration within them, thus giving you even less of a chance of sex happening anytime soon.
2. Instead, collaborate with your partner on ways you can maybe help them feel a sense of safety in both approaching the topic of sex and eventually being sexually intimate with them. Some questions that might help:
- Is there anything I can do make you feel more comfortable to be intimate with me?
- Is there anything that I might be doing that could be stifling your desire?
- How can I make you feel safe to trust me? How can I make you feel safe to be vulnerable with me?
- As we’re going through this period of inactivity, how would you like to be supported?
Assure them that they are safe to be completely honest with you.
3. If it’s been a while, do a gentle check in with your partner. Let them know that you’ve noticed it’s been a while and ask them where their head and heart is around it. Listen. Allow them to vent and be seen in what they’re going through. It’s important that you make them feel safe to express where they’re at without any judgment or blame.
4. If your partner is open to it, come up with ways together where you can get physically intimate other that don’t necessarily involve sex. Things like kissing, cuddling, holding hands.
Make sure you make it very clear to your partner that there is no expectation that sex will occur because of this affection.
5. If you think it’ll be received well, send them a link to this article and see about starting a dialogue with each other about it.
6. Consider getting into therapy with each other. There are likely a lot of moving parts in this that might require a neutral third party to help you both unpack. Getting some professional support will allow you both a space to step back and have someone else hold you during this rough time.
I recommend using AASECT’s directory for help in finding a sex-positive therapist in your area.
7. If nothing else, consider opening your relationship. Having mismatched libidos is one of the more popular reasons people choose to open up. This is not a solution for everyone, but if you’re curious, check out Opening Up and The Ethical Slut for more about what ethical non-monogamy looks like.
. . .
The last thing I want to say—
You have every right to be frustrated. You have every right to feel sad, to feel longing. Feel what you feel, and also try not to hold what you feel—your frustration, your sadness, your anger—against your partner. This is not being done maliciously.
Give them space. Give them grace. Let them know how much you love them, how much you accept them as they are—even now during this period of inactivity. Let them know that you’re in this together.
Things will get better.
And if they don’t. . . it’s 100% OK to think about transitioning out of your relationship. Your sexual needs deserve to be met. Your sexual desires deserve to be actualized. Just as it’s important that your low-desire partner takes care of and honors themselves, it is equally important that you do the same.