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Ask Surly Amy: Normal Sex Life

Dear Surly Amy,

My marriage is kind of hittin d rocks right now. My husband doesn’t like talking about it especially the intimate part. I’d like to know if its normal for men to be romantic only when they want to have sex. I try to get him to play with me but if he is not in the mood for sex, he would stop me. When ever he’s in the mood, he expects me to succumb whether I want it or not. Is this normal or it’s perculiar to me. And how do I handle it cos it’s driving me crazy!

~May Marvel

Dear May,

First of all, I hesitate to ever use the word normal especially when pertaining to sexual activity. A happy sex life is more about consenting adults who please one another than it is about what is considered statistically average or deemed appropriate by societal standards.

What you need to do is have an open honest talk with your partner and tell them what you desire and need in a sexual relationship in order to be happy and fulfilled. It may be that you two have different desires and are not a good match for each other. And that is ok. That doesn’t even mean that you two can’t still have a relationship, it just means that the type of relationship you have now isn’t working for the both of you.

Having an honest talk with one’s partner is sometimes one of the most difficult things for people to do, but one of the most important. If your partner has trouble talking about it, consider seeking a therapist. Or ask him to write down his feelings. No matter what, you guys are going to have to find a way to discuss things or you will have a very hard time ever working things out. Communication is key.

Hope this helps.

~Surly Amy

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Surly Amy art by Jill. Photo by Surly Amy

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. No one should be doing anything they don’t want to. If you don’t want to have sex, your husband shouldn’t pressure you into it.

    You do not need to stay with someone who doesn’t make you happy, married or not, together for years or not.

    No partner will have the exact same sex drive or interests as you do (Sounded like maybe you’re kinky and he’s not? Not sure if that’s what you meant.) but you need to come up with a working plan together.

    I personally have a high libido. Sometimes my husband is amenable to getting in the mood, sometimes he isn’t. I try not to pressure him about it, because I love him and want him to be having fun instead of doing a chore.

    (Also the bit where it’s really gross and unethical to pressure someone into sex no matter who it is.)

  2. I agree that you need to have a conversation and figure out a plan on how to both get what you want without it being a chore.

    My first relationship started reasonable enough, but gradually he only showed affection when he was “in the mood”. Stopped holding hands, no more kisses on the cheek, eventually I couldn’t even touch him in public without him throwing a fit about me “owning him”. He had lots of other (big) issues. But of course when he wanted some, I was expected to comply. I stayed in that relationship many years too long, thinking I could change him. But he needed an army of therapists, not a girlfriend.

    I’d try to find out if there are other issues behind a guy not wanting to show affection. Depression? Stress? Societal pressures to act a certain way? Or maybe he’s just waiting for you to tell him what you want? Maybe the whole issues needs to be framed in a different way, that it’s not just about sex but about affection or general attention?

    I think a lot of people give what they want to get – so maybe in his mind, everything’s ok?

    Good luck – getting to the root of the problem might be more successful in the long run than “you need to change”.

  3. Dear May, I recognise a lot of what you are talking about and agree with Amy that communication is the key.

    We found that going out for dinner regularly was a good way to talk in a relaxed way and clear the air on a lot of things. Otherwise problems can build up to the point of explosion.

    The worst time to talk about anything is the moment one or the other partner comes home.

    Six o’clock with the sun going down after peak hour traffic and all the jobs you have been waiting to do and you are tired and hungry and you just want to relax –

    – while maybe your partner has had half an hour to chill out a bit and relax and think about things and wants to talk – this is a recipe for disaster because you are each in different frames of mind!

    I have been on both sides of this and I’ve seen it in other families too.

    You ask if it is normal for men to be romantic only when they want sex. I regret to say it is all too common and agree that this is not fair!

    As a first step, perhaps you could try going out together to do the things you both enjoy? The more you share the better off your relationship will be.

    In our case it might be a rock concert followed by a bite to eat in a cafe – romance follows naturally!

    1. I agree with not talking about things right after one or the other of you gets home. Take some time to relax first.

  4. Keeping a marriage going can be hard work! My (now) 21year marriage once went through a pretty rough patch over mismatched libido. But the ultimate problem was more one of lack of communication. Like many people, we were notoriously bad at talking about this issue, and things just kept spiraling downward. What brought things around was some joint sessions with a therapist who helped us learn some ways to talk things through. This was followed by weekly talks between the two of us where we talked about what we liked and didn’t like about each others’ actions from the previous week. An important part of these talks was to be active listeners. This meant that we had to restate what the other person had said, using our own words. This helped internalize the message and also reduced the chance of misinterpreting what the other was trying to say. This made a huge difference for us!

  5. My wife and I have been married over 26 years and it’s been my experience that regardless of the activity there is always going to be some level of disparity in interest or desire between spouses/partners. With my wife and I any disparities have mostly been about what else was going on in our lives like job stress, kid stress, not enough time, not enough money, not enough sleep. What my wife appreciates is not necessarily always what I may want or appreciate; however what we do know is that a big part of the dance is making your partners needs and desires a priority and finding enjoyment in making each other happy. And if what you want and like, or what your partner wants and likes, has not been communicated I wouldn’t hold out much hope of anyone being satisfied. A good cognitive based marriage therapist would probably be a great resource if there are barriers to talking about sex. My wife and I often have some of our most productive discussions on the phone during the day when we are somewhat distanced and detached from home stuff. I’ve wondered if the lack of facial expressions or body language that could be misinterpreted, is why we have such good phone se…, errrr, ummm, conversations.

  6. I would consider ruling out some sort of in health situation, BugLady comment talked on thing. If libido is low, for whatever reason (stress, ID, lowered testosterone) he may be frustrated and not responding to May Marvel well. (I say this because it sounds like he wants to have sex on his terms and this may be when he feels confident he can perform.) I don’t know if this helps, but something to consider and maybe ask him directly about.

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