Do You Worry About the Sex You’re (Not) Having?

An old friend once told me that when she or her longterm boyfriend wanted to signal to the other that they were open to having sex, they would wash their faces, brush their teeth and…wait for it…not put their retainers in. I honestly couldn’t type that sentence without laughing. In fact I laugh every time I remember it because a) it’s supremely unsexy, b) I’ve 100% done the same thing and c) how fucking millennial is that?

It’s also funny because it’s relatable. For how often we’re bombarded with sexual themes in our everyday lives, conversations about sex can feel super loaded (don’t you dare call that a pun). In fact, in relationships sometimes they aren’t conversations at all. They’re smoke signals, body language, pregnant pauses (okay you can call that one a pun). The air in a bedroom where it’s been a while can feel…heavy. Maybe because it actually matters or maybe because societal “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” are so loud it’s become increasingly difficult to listen to our own bodies and feelings. Granted, conversations around sex can also feel cathartic and fun and productive when you’re able to have them openly, without fear, in the vacuum of your relationship. If that’s your thing.

No matter the dialogue or lack thereof, quality and quantity of sex in relationships is just a Thing. It’s such a Thing!!!!!! At least that’s how I’ve felt in past relationships, with varying levels of importance and anxiety. Does that feel true to you? If you’re in a relationship, do you think about how or how often you have sex? Is it a source of stress? Joy? Conflict? Do you have to check in with your partner about it or do you guys leave it unspoken? Let’s talk about it, baby.

Collage by Emily Zirimis.

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  • confused

    and the point of the article was..?

  • There is something I worry about. Two weeks ago I dreamt I had a … thing … with
    Like: Stewart.

    • Haley Nahman

      Love it

    • Natasha

      Sex dreams are so weird. Especially when you have them with people you were never attracted to in the first place. And then.. boom. Now you’re attracted to them.

      • Well, here I am, an oldish, curvish, averageish lady, dreaming about a young, slim, beautiful actress I have seen only once: in Clouds of Sils Maria. To be honest, it grosses me out, to impose myself on such a nice girl, even if only in a dream.
        Also: I quite like the funny part. 😀

  • Adrianna

    I’ve been wearing Invisalign the past five months and it’s an easy way to signal “don’t poke me tonight”

    • Haley Nahman


  • anon.

    “The air in a bedroom where it’s been a while can feel…heavy.” –> So true. It’s like, you both know it’s been longer than one of you is happy with. I honestly could go four, five days without but my husband would happily do it twice a day, every day. When it’s been two or so days I almost feel bad climbing in bed and NOT having sex. Because I know he’s wondering if he did something wrong, if I’m ok, etc. Why do I have to be sick or angry to not have sex? He’s pretty respectful of me saying “I just don’t feel like it right now” but I know it’s hard to not take it personally. Sex is personal, we can’t escape it. But tbh whenever I have sex because I know he really wants to, even if I’m feeling indifferent, I actually feel really great. In my mind it can be an act of selflessness and really strengthening for a relationship. Sometimes arousal precedes desire. I don’t feel used, he’s not forcing me, it’s just my choice to put his desires above my own current mood. And it doesn’t take long for my mood to change 😉

    • R

      I’m the opposite. My boyfriend can go a week or more without doing it, but I feel undesirable and unsexy if it’s been that long. Not sure what to do about it…

      • Jackie

        I am 100% with you there! I’ve stopped trying to initiate with my fiancé because I feel so unsexy and rejected when he doesn’t feel like it, even though it’s usually for reasons he insists I shouldn’t take personally. Interesting that men are often represented as the ones with the bigger sex drive because it’s not the case for me haha.

        • Marion A.

          I totally relate to this. What happens when you the women become the “sexual aggressor”? It really sucks to feel rejected by your S.O. I think we’ve entered into a day in age were we need to rewrite sexual stereotypes. It’s crazy there is so many articles I come across discussing sexual liberation for women, but in addition to this idea (and maybe this is especially true in the South) there is a common thought that women don’t enjoy sex as much or want it as much as men. Lets not even talk about the common extreme difference in the numbers of sexual partners a man or woman “should” or “should’t” have had.

          • Aydan

            YES YES YES. My ex bf (broke up for other reasons) always thought that he had a high drive, then he met me. I am a need every day as much as possible kind of human and it was definitely a transition for him to realize yes he wants a lot, but that I needed more. The best thing about relationships like that where you’re open and talk about it is you’re able to say what you need and when, which allowed us to do things that were satisfying for me without tiring him out if he was uninterested at that moment.

          • Müge

            Yes! Same. And it’s bad for the men, they feel weak or “unmanly” if they want to have less sex than their girlfriends. Which sucks!! These stereotypes, so misleading. Right along with “the woman is the emotional one falling in love first”, and so many other sex and love related ones… Maybe write an article about it??

          • Aydan

            OMG that last piece “the woman is the emotional one falling in love first” <–the number of times I've been told that "don't get too attached" pfffffffff

          • Ingrid

            Yes Yes Yes to all of this. I feel like I always end up being the one that wants to have more sex after a while into the relationship. It’s so bs that men are the one that always have more sex drive. It might not help me that I always end up with people that are 10 years older than me so their sex drive might not be as it was before. Either way it sucks feeling unwanted and embarrassed for wanting to have sex every day.

          • Yep. Agreeing with all too. I have a higher sex drive, my boyfriend gets horny once a month, he gets horny for about a week running up to us finally have sex which I am unsatisfied with. but I find it hard to bring up I want to try new things and the way I want to orgasm has changed now, because we have it so little. When we have sex he is really satisfied and I just want to say I am not, but I’ve already expressed I wish we had it more so often. I tried explaining to him that I feel so rejected, for him to then tell me I am not the most attractive woman in the world. I didn’t want to be compared to other women, I’m so hurt by his that two years on I feel stressed about bringing up my feelings of rejection with him.

          • Bumble

            Yes same here! My boyfriend is on medication that lowers his sex drive so technically I know it’s not me but it’s not very helpful… and he feels bad because he knows I want it more and it’s been an issue for forever now. We’ve agreed I can always do it myself but it’s not the same :/ I really don’t know what to do about it…

          • At least we are not alone. I really feel like ending it sometimes because of this. He just doesn’t want any effort to try an improve this problem.

          • Marion A.

            I second this idea let’s see an article about love and sex gender stereotypes!!

      • Same, a week seems like forever to me (unless I’m on my period). If it’s been more than a few days I get that undesirable feeling too.

  • Adrianna

    I don’t live with my boyfriend so our sex life has always been on a weekend schedule. The problem is that he expects it, and sometimes the weekend falls on days I’m just not in the mood. (I noticed that I have no libido a few days before my period – I don’t even want him to touch me.)

    We learned what our “love languages are,” and his is very much physical touch. It’s both an inside joke and a starting point to discuss our perspectives.

  • SC

    Hmm. I think most people in LTRs don’t want to admit or vocalize that you just don’t have sex as often after a certain point and that it DOES change. Part of what makes sex “sexy” is the idea that it is new, exciting and is or could potentially be scarce. All of those aspects go away once you make a stronger commitment to someone. Conversely, we’ve all heard (and perhaps experienced) a lacking sex life being a symptom of relationship problems. When it’s something that affects those in happy relationships AND unhappy relationships, it becomes an even more complex thing to address. 😐

    • Jen

      “Part of what makes sex ‘sexy’ is the idea that it is new, exciting and is or could potentially be scarce. All of those aspects go away once you make a stronger commitment to someone.” I think that there are a few vocal couples who brag about all the sex they’re having all the time (or just lying), but I think the norm is more of a mix depending on individual circumstances.

  • Sunny

    It’s weird, I was born with a serious sex drive. I remember wanting boys to kiss me so badly when I was in kindergarten, so I was always suggesting we all play kissing tag. Unfortunately I was so nerdy the boys usually tried to kiss-tag the other girls. Anyway, in Jr high and hishschool I wanted to make out with anything that moved, and I usually loved it. I was religious (I am no longer) so I didn’t have sex but I got hot and heavy with dudes in my late teens and early 20s. Now my husband and I have been together for 9 years, married for 7. We had plenty of sex up until maybe a year ago? We went through a difficult time in our marriage because my husband became too obsessed with his work and he started to disengage from me, from us. We’ve worked through things and our marriage has been pretty great since last May, but the sex part never really came back. We are almost never having it. I’m not sure if it was the hard time? It feels worked through. Or if my hormones and body have changed and the timing is coincidental? Also, my husband is handsome, lean, smart and a gentle man. But recently gentle isn’t working for my libido. When I’m watching movies or tv I find myself crazy turned on by tough and built dudes. That’s rarely been the case for me in the past. I feel like cave woman instincts have kicked in or something?! He and I have open conversations about all of this. He does not have it in him to be tough/not gentle. He’s feel less of a sex drive over the last year too, and it has little to do with how attracted he is to me. I take care of my body and my appearance, and he and I have stimulating conversations, and good laughs together. We generally enjoy each other and trust each other. So should I be worried? Is this one more thing in my all ready packed life that I need to work through to achieve happiness or a better relationship? Or….? This is something that has so been on my mind and it is fantastic to have an outlet to write about it. I don’t have time to check for typos but I figured better to write something than not.

    • Natasha

      Thank you for sharing! I don’t have a lot of advice because I’m young and I really think sex is such an individual thing. But I just wanted you to know I read your post and that for what it’s worth, it sounds like you have a great relationship, and that as long as you both stay honest with and open with each other, there’s no reason why you can’t bring the sexy back in the future.

    • rachel

      A little late to the game, but as a person who has low sex drive (its a hormonal thing after a pituitary tumor when I was in high school), I have a lot of experience in this sort of thing. I really think that as long as you’re still enjoying each other in every other sense, you’re doing fine. Sometimes lack of sex can sour those parts too, and if that becomes the case it’s definitely time to talk about it again, but for now I think stress isn’t helping and you guys should try to relax.
      On another note, have you guys talked about role play? It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, but sometimes people feel a little more comfortable acting tougher/gentler/wilder/whateverer when they’re playing a character. Movie characters are a good way to jump in: would definitely recommend Danny Zuko and Sandra Dee 🙂 Best of luck to you both, you sound great together!

  • Aydan

    I am also thoroughly annoyed by the fact that people still have a hard time wrapping their heads around women who engage often in non-relationship consensual sex. I have friends who to this day still call say “oh you’re such a guy” “you have such a boy mentality about this kind of thing”. No, I am not a boy. I am a human that operates this way. There are plenty of humans who do and plenty who don’t — doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman!

    • Erin

      The number of times I’ve been told “I’m such a guy.” because I like having sex has been almost alarming yet sadly not surprising.

  • Lana

    My boyfriend wants to have sex every single day. So often if feels like our libidos just don’t match! He was bringing it up constantly which would just make me want it less. I’d start to feel so stressed about it. He now knows, the less we talk about how much sex we’re having, its better for him in the long run.

  • Carley

    I definitely have a really complicated relationship with sex. I’m in a 3-year relationship right now, and we barely ever do it. We did it semi-often at the start of things, but even then nothing crazy. He lives in Chicago (13 hours from me) and even when he visits, I don’t feel like jumping his bones. It just seems like such a …chore. Is there something wrong with me? I was like this with my first relationship too which lasted 4.5 years. We never had intercourse (we were young and thought we wanted to wait until marriage) but we did other stuff. But when we did, I’d feel guilty. So, soon, there wasn’t much going on at all. There’s no guilt in my current relationship that I feel, but WTF! A huge part of me craves crazy fun wild sex, but then i’m like — that’s the movie-watcher in you talking. Is that — crazy fun wild satisfactory sex — even a real thing?

    • gristle jay

      Oh yes, satisfactory sex is a real thing. It doesn’t happen automatically though. My opinion is that great sex happens when both parties are in tune with the other’s pleasure and try to please them. What could be better than lovers both doing what they can to satisfy each other (within their own comfort-zone of course)? I can’t think of a better situation. I think bad sex happens when people do it selfishly and when it’s just part of a routine, almost like it’s a need, which i don’t think it is. A bit of build up to the act doesn’t hurt either; a sexy text in the day or perhaps a little tease before going to work can plant a seed of thought. Foreplay starts outside the bedroom!

  • My ex and I had a really great relationship and were able to talk openly about the sex we were and weren’t having…often with a bit of humour that seemed to help. I went through a period where we joked that I had turned asexual. At the same time, I think it was important to actually address what was going on, humour aside. I’m grateful for being able to communicate with him so well, but ultimately the lack of sex and lust really did impact us (clearly, he’s my ex!) It felt like I was dating a friend. I really struggled with whether or not I was doing everything possible to make it work. On the other side of our breakup, I feel AMAZING. But sex – it is such a thing!!! An important thing. And I love that we could talk about it rather than just sending smoke signals.

    • Carley

      I relate to this 100% right now with my current bf of 3 years. It feels like dating a friend and we basically never have sex and when we do it feels like a chore and I feel asexual when he’s around. But there’s this part of me that craves passion/lust/etc. Do you mind me asking — was your sex life part of why you guys broke up? How did you bridge the subject of it actually being important?

      • There were other reasons that contributed to us not working, but I’d say that was up there on the list. I get your stress! I still think to myself that maybe I’m fooling myself to think that you can have the lust and the comfy kind of love. But I don’t know – of all the reasons I had to end things, the biggest thing was that my intuition was telling me he wasn’t the right guy for me. I had to finally just trust it. (Which took awhile). He actually brought it up the last time we were together (we were also doing long distance). He said the only part of our relationship that he thought needed work was our sex life, and he felt like I didn’t lust after him anymore and it bothered him. It bothered me too. Having the conversation was the easy part. Actually making the decision to let each other go was brutal. I wish there was an easy answer for you! Trust your intuition. Personally, I knew I needed more. Maybe I made a big mistake and the passion will always fade, but I’m willing to risk it to find out.

  • Kerryn Le Cordeur

    I’m in a long-distance relationship with a guy who is temporarily living with conservative parents who believe, at the age of 33, that he shouldn’t share a bedroom with his girlfriend under their roof. That means that our already sporadic sex life is even more dictated by us needing to be at my place and not at his. It is something that worries me a bit just because I think intimacy is an important part of our, and any relationship. Roll-on moving in together, in the same town!