I was amused recently while talking with my husband about the differences in creative gifts for men vs. women. We were inspired by an old episode of Modern Family, and basically my hubby was saying that no matter how much some guy wants a GPS watch, he would probably be happier with a night of great sex. I brought up that I found it sweet and amusing how every now and then on a certain Unnamed Community Site, someone will post a question asking for suggestions for creative things to do for their boyfriend’s birthday on a budget, and she’ll get lots of responses from women detailing the wonderful creative things they have done, or have had done for them.
A scavenger hunt of places that were significant to them as a couple.
Notes detailing things she loves about him.
I am guilty of this too. And they sound fantastic to me. …But in the back of my mind, it’s still sweet and wonderful, and I’m sure he would appreciate the effort, but he would probably be just as happy with the sex.
So anyway, we concluded that really gift giving for men really just works like the fortune cookie thing. You take a lovely gift, and add “in bed” to the end of it.
Scavenger hunt…in bed!
Notes detailing things she loves about him…in bed!
Getaway weekend…in bed!
Night of dancing…in bed!
Eighteen holes…in bed!
See? It works! …At least as long as you’re not giving a sweet little puppy. Or a goldfish. Or lama. Animals in general are probably out of the question.
I generally avoid talking about any of the complications in my own sex life here. I think that it is one of those areas that still comes with a fair dose of embarrassment and guilt, and as such I naturally avoid sharing it with a selection of random strangers (unlike my butt, which is apparently fair game). I would happily share my most embarrassing moments (mostly not actually that embarrassing), or how much I masturbate (varies), or what my nipples look like (um…nippley?) before admitting that anything might be less than perfect in the bedroom. That sort of thing has “FAILURE AS A WOMAN” stamped all over it. …Or that may have been my ass again. I’ll check.
At any rate, it hurts me to have to say that we’ve ever struggled, because we are so very perfectly matched in that area. Once upon a time we lined up more beautifully than I had ever thought possible. In fact, we both had the exact same favourite fantasy, except in opposite roles. How disturbingly perfect is that?? We had a rich and awesome sex life. Plus, we have a strong and healthy and wonderful relationship in general, so I don’t like to say anything that might tarnish that perfect picture.
The truth is, though, that there have been challenges. And maybe other people are having challenges too. And maybe if I write about them those people will feel a little less alone. Our major issue was the self-perpetuating cycle of expectation and rejection. The depression definitely whacked my sex drive down some, and I’m happy to try to get into things to make him happy, but my own desire has been pretty low. I can go about two or three weeks between sessions without feeling the burn, maybe more depending on which meds I’m on and/or whether I’m in the extra deep pit of withdrawal.
When all of this first happened, I know that my now-husband was hurt by the change. We didn’t have an official diagnosis yet at that point, and I’m not sure I even knew then about any link between sex and depression anyway. I know it wasn’t on the radar. I just knew that I was really tired, and run down, and stressed, and that I was working myself to my breaking point almost every day. …Which in and of itself is plenty reason for a lady not to quite be in the mood. I was happy to oblige him, but he could tell that my heart just wasn’t in it the same way. We were still pretty new at this point too, in the grand scheme of things, so we were a little less graceful in our communication than we would be now.
And then he got upset once. And that’s all it took. Suddenly, sex with him went from a completely safe and free and open and judgment-free zone to somewhere with quotas, and expectations, and in which I could be judged and found lacking. He never meant to hurt me. He forgot the conversation right after it happened. I never did. I don’t know if it’s the same for other women, but sometimes an especially painful word or phrase will hit me just so and get seared into my memory, to be replayed for a while. This was one of those times.
We’ve had a lot of discussions about it since then, but I’ve never been able to fully shake that feeling for good. And I’m not sure that it isn’t partly true anyway. I know that it upsets him when we don’t have sex as often as he would like. I know that he gets frustrated sometimes. And as much as he tries to be supportive and understanding, sometimes that leaks out. We are way to perceptive with each other to be able to successfully conceal our emotions. And every hint of disappointment I pick up just makes the problem that much worse.
There was a lot of anxiety there for a while. More than I think I’ve had attached to almost anything else in my life. He would get frisky, and I would get scared. Not of him at all or anything, but of…I don’t know exactly. Judgment maybe? Performance anxiety? The knowledge that he could be mad at me in association with what we were about to do? I would try to push through it as often as I could, but when that emotion was intense, he didn’t want to take advantage of me that way or put me through that. We wanted sex to be a pleasant thing again. Eventually, he stopped initiating all together, for fear of being shot down. I ended up trying to make sure that we made it there at least once a week, whether I wanted to or not. I’d pick the best moment I could find, and if I couldn’t find a good moment I would just make my move when time had run out.
I felt awful about it. He felt awful about it. And it fed upon itself.
We are better now than we were then, but I can’t say that there isn’t still some tension around the issue. At the moment, we’ve decided to try…um…physical recreation…as often as possible, the theory being that maybe at the least it will lose some of the stress that’s now associated with it. Plus, that could be fun. So far, I’m finding that it makes it easier to be more frequent, and a little calmer, but not more interested. It feels good, but most of the time just isn’t worth the effort (which feels really sad to say). I think the libido is just one more casualty. And now there’s a whole new ball of stress and guilt around it because we both know that it isn’t what it should be. I am proud of us for finding ways to stick with it even through the queasy-tired-craziness of late. In the back of my mind, though, I had hoped that it would make more of a difference. I was hoping that I’d want to have fun again, and things could be closer to what they used to be. I’m sad to find that so far they’re not. I don’t know if there’s anything more we can do at this point. Maybe this is just our reality until I get well. I never thought that we would be those people, with the bedroom issues.
At any rate, this is a difficult thing to put out there, but part of the point of this platform in the first place was to try to be open about the things that I would most want to hide. I do think that airing them out helps some, and keeps them from taking on too much power. So there it is, internet. My libido has tanked. I’m super guilty about it. And there’s tension surrounding what should naturally be a fun part of our relationship.
It’s a puzzle.