You Need Help: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Welcome to You Need Help! Where you seek advice and we try our very best to give it. This has traditionally been done by way of individual Formspring accounts, Autostraddle’s Tumblr and a Formspring Friday column, which has all been very fun and insightful. But, because Formspring has a character limit and we’re wildly optimistic w/r/t our time-management skills, we thought we’d go one further and let you use our ASS private messaging to share advice-related feelings, too. For more info on sending in questions, see the bottom of this post. Let’s get down to bossing people around on the internet! Today we’ve got someone whose love interest has a different level of sexual desire than their own.


just not tonight

Q: Any advice on how to handle having different levels of sexual desire than your partner? Besides…you know… that whole communication thing?

I’m glad that you at least know the answer and of course that answer is COMMUNICATION! But to expand on that theme and make it a little more accessible, let’s keep talking. Everyone’s experienced both sides of this situation at one time or another, and neither side is a coveted one. Sexual desire is so nuanced and tied to so many external / internal variables that it’s beyond naive to expect that you and your partner — no matter how close / connected / in love you are — will always be on the same page. It’s also just as naive and unfair to think that you’ll always get what you want. Whether ‘what you want’ is a serious fingerblasting session or a quiet hour alone with Storage Wars, relationships are about existing on a middleground with someone else. The impressive, important thing about the middle ground isn’t that you were able to reach a compromise with this person — it’s that you actually wanted to. You’re both invested in the middle ground being not just a place you can get to, but also a safe, honest, happy space once you’re there. That’s a relationship. If getting to the middle ground leaves you extremely uncomfortable, sad, angry or full of resentment, you are not in the middle. What you’re doing won’t even be worth it. That’s the sucky ground and you just can’t exist there.

So! In practical terms, let’s say you want sex and she doesn’t. It takes a lot to let yourself be vulnerable enough to make your needs known and it’s commendable for sure, but that doesn’t mean she’s necessarily obligated to do anything about it.

Things you can’t do:

Get mad
Hold it against her

Things you can do:

Remember a time when you didn’t want sex
Look forward to the future

But hey guess what! Sometimes, even when you don’t necessarily ‘want’ to cuddlefuck, and maybe you’d rather finish that book, you’ll do it anyway. You’ll do it because you love this girl and two weeks ago she let you have her last tampon because you forgot to grab one before you left the apartment and yesterday she brought home those cookies you love and this morning she called the garage to check on your car because you were too busy having an anxiety attack to do it yourself. That’s not coercion and that doesn’t make you a hero or her a jerk — that’s the middle ground. I mean, you’ll do it because you know she’s done it for you. Also there’s a good chance you’ll shift from “I’m not really into this but I love her so!” to “WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS??” at some point, and pretty quickly.

Conversely, there’ll be times when you just cannot even. You’ll be nice about it — maybe even apologetic? — but you just won’t be able to bring yourself to have this sex. And it’ll be ok because she loves you and she’ll remember when you made sweet potato fries at 3 a.m. and made sure her white v-neck was clean and she’ll know you love her too. The most important thing of all the things is trust, I think. Because you have to trust her when she says that she’s not rejecting YOU; she’s saying no to a specific act at a specific time. She’s not saying she doesn’t love or isn’t attracted to you. If you trust that she has your best interests in mind, it’ll be super easy to give her the space she needs to take care of herself — even if that means you don’t get what you want. This is a very sappy answer.


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Laneia is the Director of Operations and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here.

Laneia has written 922 articles for us.


  1. Something that works in my relationship – be completely forward and blunt about it. “Hey, baby, we should have sex tonight.” It’s kind of comical and also gives the less-into-it half of the equation a chance to get used to the idea/into the mood.

    Not saying it will work in every relationship, of course, just that it works in ours!

  2. I have added “eat your feelings” to the things you can do list. Food is never as good as sex but maybe it could work. Also, I guess I have to stop pouting. I had this on the wrong list. I thought pouting made me look cute and therefore would lead to the sex. I also added “attempting to take her anyway” to the things NOT to do list. (unless there is a express agreement about this kind of funtime role play)

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