You Need Help: Rebuilding Desire and Confidence in Your Partner

feature image © Molly Adams for Autostraddle


Q:


My wife and I have been together for eight years, and the frequency with which we have sex has nearly always been a huge issue in our relationship. The shine fades eventually and gives way to pedestrian, phoned-in sex that we now have to schedule to make happen at least once a week and fight about regularly.

I am a femme bisexual female with a history of dating men and women prior to meeting my wife. She is a butch female who has only dated women (who were formerly straight before meeting her) since her senior year in high school. After yet another argument about our sex life the other night, she sat me down and said something that I’m not quite sure how to process:

“When I met you, I had no idea you had ever been with a woman, and I was used to being with women where I was the first women they’d ever been with. Knowing that turned me on and boosted my ego; like, we didn’t need to do anything kinky or crazy because they were already doing something taboo by having sex with me and I was the expert. Then I met you, and for the first time I felt like I was out of my depth. Your sex drive and suggestions or requests to ‘spice things up’ have left me feeling intimidated and I don’t know how to feel differently about it now.”

I am who I am and I certainly can’t go back and undo all of the experiences I’ve had, nor do I want to. How can I help her feel confident and in the mood again without sacrificing any more of myself?

Sincerely,

ACB

A:

Keeping the sex consistent and exciting in a long-term relationship requires effort, and scheduling weekly sex is a totally normal, healthy way to bring the thrill back. Anticipation and all of the practices that go along with it (whether that means shaving your legs or wearing underwear that doesn’t have any holes in it) can help long-term lovers feel ready to thrust like it’s 2011. Scheduling sex was a logical first step to reviving your sex life. Way to go! Now I’m going to ask you to dial it back.

You’ve reached a place where sex is synonymous with conflict, so scheduling sex probably isn’t serving your marriage right now. Make an agreement to take sex off the table for a designated period of time and stick to that. Use that time to enjoy each other’s company in non-sexual, intentional ways. Go see some weird performance art or prepare an elaborate meal or a take a axe throwing class together — anything that will put you and your wife in a new situation that allows you to find newness in each other.

Once you’re both ready to get back in sack, keep your wife’s inclinations in mind. She may love the thrill of “the straight woman chase,” but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or your level of experience. You can use your experience and openness to bring the “chase” into your sex life.

My #1 suggestion is to try role playing. You play the straight woman. Your wife plays the knowledgeable butch. You can add as many details as you like — maybe you’re a sorority girl and your wife is a college rugby player with a reputation for finger banging the entire team. Role playing might feel silly at first (and it’s totally normal to laugh!), but once the bits start bumpin’, it’s easy to sink into character and relish the full physical and emotional experience.

If you want to kick this up a notch, start your role play outside of the bedroom. Maybe you and your wife plan to meet at a coffee shop or bar and pretend you’re meeting for the first time. Whether you’re role playing characters or just being yourselves, you get to relive the butterflies of a first date and see where night takes you.

If role playing isn’t your style and you’re open to a new relationship structure, non-monogamy can create a space where you and your wife both get your kicks. You can get your sexual needs met with a cutie or two. Your wife can introduce a few more straight women to the wonders of gay sex, and the confidence boost of a new fling might bring some fire back to the sex you have together. Giving each other permission to at least go out and flirt with strangers can have a similar effect. There are a million different ways to practice non-monogamy. Check out Opening Up by Tristan Taormino to get some inspiration and guidance.

At the end of your question, you asked how you could help you wife feel sexually confident again “without sacrificing any more of myself,” and I’m wondering what you’ve already sacrificed. If your wife wants to play “lesbian teacher” in the bedroom, that can be a fun power dynamic for sexual exploration. If your wife is asking you to be a less confident or less capable version of yourself in other areas of the relationship, that’s a power dynamic that needs to change. Tell your wife how she can support you in being your fullest self. If you’re both feeling confident and supported outside of the bedroom, your sex life will reflect your respect for yourselves and for each other.

A fulfilling sex life requires communication and work. You’re on the right track!


You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.

Malic has written 3 articles for us.

7 Comments

  1. I want to know how things are outside the bedroom. For it to have taken eight years for this information to come out- that stands out to me. It’s an awfully long time to not communicate openly and honestly about something, and from where I sit it’s unlikely that this is the only manifestation of whatever that pattern is. My guess is that there’s something else going on here that isn’t going to be solved just by going on fun dates.

      • I totally hear this. It definitely sounds like there’s something else going on here, but I’m trying to answer the writer’s specific question about sex without making assumptions about other challenges this couple might be facing.

        It seems like a lot of folks are throwing out non-monogamy as a cure-all for any relationship issue these days, and I don’t always feel like its the best suggestion. In this case, I was thinking about how giving ourselves and our partners space to explore sexually and romantically with others (or even just talking about the option) can bring us back to who we are and what we need, reminding us that to be in a long-term relationship is to choose each other every day. We’re not stuck. We can make changes, whether that means changing how we communicate, changing a relationship structure or letting a relationship go when it no longer serves us.

        I hope these folks give themselves and each other space to figure out what they want out of this relationship in whatever ways make sense to them!

        • I definitely think there is some valuable advice here for people in long-term relationships in general, but in my opinion there’s a difference between opening up an already healthy relationship so that you can both explore different connections, and trying to fix a dysfunctional dynamic by turning to outside sexual experiences. I kind of agree with the commenter below that there may be some deep-seated insecurities in this case that could be worth examining more closely.

  2. I hope the butch person is open to reflecting on why she derives so much self-worth from only dating women she perceives as “formerly straight”. That’s…really something. No judgment here, as we’re all on our own paths in life, but I really think that deserves a little more exploration.

  3. Before I can even read the article… that cover photo! Is “Molly Adams for autostraddle” now giving the internet the stock photos it truly needs?? Has this been going on for a while and I just didn’t know?
    Also, where can I get that “dad bod” tee??

  4. I’m all for some fun role play but I don’t think reenacting the very dynamic that is born in this person’s wife’s insecurities would be healthy for either of them. This goes far beyond the sexual conflict, and I agree with another comment referencing probable communication issues.

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