How To Kill Lesbian Bed Death

Lesbian bed death! A hot topic in our community! Perhaps you don’t really think it’s a thing or believe it isn’t a problem localized to lesbians. Perhaps you fear it or find it funny. We’re not here to necessarily debate its meaning or legitimacy. We’re here because you are perhaps no longer having sex with your partner or your partner is no longer having sex with you. You’re stressed, sad, confused, horny, not at all horny, or any combination of these things. I know you are not alone, because the whole reason I’m writing this post is because there has been an uptick recently in people writing into Autostraddle’s You Need Help column regarding lowered libidos or sexless relationships. So I decided to put together a lesbian bed death survival kit of sorts. This can be a starting place to work through periods when sex drives have dipped in your relationship (by the way, this advice isn’t just for lesbians! Lesbian Bed Death is just an easy shorthand here). Read about other couples experiencing similar issues and the advice we’ve given them over several years of fielding these questions. Reading this article isn’t going to change things overnight, and I’m not a couples counselor or sex therapist — two types of professionals who your situation might benefit from! But hopefully by reading this, you’ll feel a little less alone and like you have some resources to guide you toward solutions that might work for you.

While the details of the situation vary, there are thematic throughlines in the questions we get from folks who aren’t having sex anymore with their partners. Partners who want to be having sex but aren’t often feel undesired by their partners as well as guilty for feeling like they’re “pressuring” their partner to have sex. Partners who aren’t as interested in sex often feel guilty for not fulfulling their partners’ needs and frustrated with themselves. Both can feel a sense that they’re stuck and that the relationship is doomed. We typically receive more advice questions from the former partner rather than the latter, but I think no matter what, if you’re the person with the higher sex drive or the lower sex drive in the relationship — or if you and your partner both have low or no sex drive at the moment — going through this toolkit can be useful for everyone involved.

Let’s dig into some of these feelings and the questions lesbian bed death can sometimes bring up while also looking at the options for working through it.

How to identify what’s causing the lesbian bed death

You obviously will struggle to work through a problem if you’re not able to identify what’s causing it. Lowered libidos can happen for a whole slew of reasons: depression, going on anti-depressants, the fade of new relationship energy, codependency, shifting desires, dysphoria — just to name a few! The reason you’re not having sex can provide a lot of information as to how to proceed with fostering intimacy again. It can also be key to figuring out if mismatched sex drives is a true dealbreaker.

In My Partner and I Aren’t Having Sex — How Can I Still Foster Intimacy?, the advice seeker identified a clear reason for why their partner wasn’t having sex with them: Their mental health was impacting their libido. They knew this was a reason outside either of their control, but it made them sad. A crucial thing I wanted to make sure this person knew was that their relationship wasn’t inherently broken and neither party was wrong for their feelings:

Both of these things are true, too: Your partner is not a bad person for having a lower libido (something that’s obvious and I know you already know). But you are also not a bad person for feeling sad about this change. Both of these feelings and experiences are valid, but that’s what makes it all so hard.

You often have to kill lesbian bed death at the root. If your libido has lowered recently, why? Are there things your partner could be doing to make you feel safer? Sexier? More motivated to initiate sex? Does the same person initiate sex every time? Should that change? Maybe the sex you were having is no longer right for you, and so what changes would you like to explore? It’s easy to stop having sex when sex starts to feel boring or obligatory. I know I’m out here constantly advising people to keep a journal, but I really feel like journaling helps us access feelings and questions in ways we otherwise can’t. So do it: Make a lesbian bed death journal.

How exactly do you identify the problem if it isn’t already obvious? Well…

You have to talk about it

I’m sure you saw this coming. Communication, communication, communication is basically our anthem over here in the advice world of Autostraddle. But it’s true! Lesbian bed death and not having sex in relationships in particular are relationship problems that tend to go un-talked about. It’s almost like people are afraid that acknowledging it makes it more real. Well, it’s already real! You’re already here reading a post on how to combat bed death, and it doesn’t get more real than that! By talking about it with your partner, you aren’t worsening the problem. You’re getting closer to fixing it, to making a change.

In My Girlfriend Doesn’t Want To Have Sex, the person seeking advice had an initial conversation with her girlfriend about a change in how much sex they were having, but when the problem persisted for longer than anticipated, she wondered if she should bring it up again. The short version of my answer was yes!

The hardest part of this is having to accept that the conversation could lead to really tough choices and considerations. It’s possible you might have to redefine/restructure your relationship in some way that works for both of you. It’s also possible she really does just need some time. But you’re never going to know without asking open, honest questions or without talking about your own feelings about sex and intimacy in a relationship. Addressing all these things as early in a relationship as possible is really important and will make it easier to have tough conversations down the road.

It also isn’t enough to just say you have to talk about it. That communication has to be healthy, productive, honest, and safe. Sometimes lesbian bed death can lead to arguing about sex, which can then make it so that we associate sex with conflict, deepening the issue. In Am I Being Unreasonable for Feeling Undesired by My Girlfriend?, there’s an emphasis on non-toxic and open communication about desire, sexual needs, and consent as a means for working through a dwindling sex life.

How to foster intimacy in ways other than sex

Sometimes, depending on the reason for your bed death, sex just truly is off the table for now. This is especially true in instances where there’s a medical or mental health reason for the dip in sex. But it’s possible to foster physical and emotional intimacy in ways other than sex, and sometimes this can also be like baby-stepping your way back into hot sex with your partner. Give each other massages. Make a point to kiss each other more often. Try sexting or sending each other nudes. That last one can be especially fun, because it often evokes the early stages of a relationship when people tend to sext more.

When does mismatched sex drives mean incompatibility?

This is a tough question to answer! It really comes down to how much sex means to you and what your priorities in a relationship are. While I want to be clear that not having sex in a relationship doesn’t mean you’re barreling toward a breakup, it is also important to accept that it can signal a deeper incompatibility. Often, we can ignore red flags or interpersonal conflicts at the beginning of a relationship when the sex is good and frequent. But what does that mean when the sex part stops?

In So Your Girlfriend Never Ever Ever Wants To Have Sex, really great and empathetic advice is given to someone who might not be in a relationship that’s working for them. Of course it is always okay for someone to turn down sex for whatever reason. But if you want to have sex within your relationship and you’re being refused that every time, it would not make you a bad person if you want to leave. I find that sometimes the insistence that relationships are about more than sex can have the unintended effect of making people feel bad or guilty for prioritizing sex in relationships. It is not bad to want sex, and if anyone makes you feel bad for it, then it’s worth having further conversations to see if this really is the right fit for you. Truthfully, no one should be making anyone feel bad in these situations; that’ll only make it worse!

This also comes up in Am I Being Unreasonable for Feeling Undesired by My Girlfriend?:

Part of being able to name and also sit with your own wants is recognizing when you need to take action and take responsibility for fulling those wants yourself. If you’re not getting what you want out of a relationship, and that’s becoming a deal breaker for you, then you can also say the relationship is no longer working for you, end it as kindly as you can, and instead look for one where you feel more desired and have your sexual needs met. That’s also completely valid.

What if you’re okay with lesbian bed death?

You’re not alone! In Is ‘Lesbian Bed Death’ Really So Bad?, a reader wrote in with an alternative view of lesbian bed death, namely that it actually kind of works for them! They don’t identify on the ace spectrum, but chronic pain and mental illness has sometimes made sex not a priority for them, and they’re on anti-depressants and so is their partner, which as aforementioned can impact libido. Does lesbian bed death mean your relationship is inherently doomed? No!

Again, this is just a starting place, a lesbian bed death greatest hits archive of advice we’ve given through the years. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution here, but perhaps even just knowing you aren’t alone in these struggles can help assuage feelings of shame, guilt, confusion, sadness, and loneliness that bed death can garner. Your welcome to share advice of your own in the comments or just share your story. Periods of no sex happen in most relationships! And not just for lesbians, obviously! The worst thing you can do is pretend the problem doesn’t exist. Face it head on the same way you would with other issues in a relationship that leave you feeling out of tune with each other.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 837 articles for us.


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