I was having a conversation with a gal pal last week and as things are want to do, the topic of sex came up. I don't know what it is, but it just seems like women in general are very comfortable talking to me about sex. I was sitting at a picnic table reading my book, when said gal pal and friend came along and asked to join me. Without fail, I always seem to be at a critical part of the story whenever I have to put my book down for anything, but I did put it down.
We start chatting in general about work, boyfriends, relationships, and then sex. Reading that sentence over again, I think the unifying theme of that list is frustration. Apparently after living together for over a year, their sexual activity has become non-existent. She said "it's pretty bad when you can remember the exact time and place of the last time you had sex. Used to be that it was so often that recalling the last time and place was often mistook for another occurrence. Now, it's like this landmark event that occurred that I look back on as a moment in history, one that appears to never be repeated." I'm paraphrasing here, but you get the general idea of the direction of the discussion.
Being the quasi-investigative therapist type that I am, I go through the list of questions to try and discover the core issues with this particular case. First and foremost, I asked "Have you talked to him about it?" She says that she has brought it up multiple times with him usually sitting there quietly while she is left trying to figure it out with things like, "is it because I gained weight?" or god forbid, "is there someone else?" which she says brings out the obvious no, no, there isn't anyone else. Hmmmmmm.
I asked her about their previous sex life prior to living together, to which she replied, "we did it all the time." Of course, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking back on us, and thinking, ya, we did it all the time too and smiled. That's when I realized she was still talking and I wasn't hearing anything and snapped back into attention. I told her that often times with relationships that the physical tends to become more and more secondary as a relationship matures and that the sexual activity tends to peak and valley over the course of a long term relationship and that it's probably nothing. Of course, in the back of my mind I'm thinking no guy in his 30's is having a valley sexually...it's just not normal.
I asked her how he was doing emotionally. Did he seem depressed? Were there other things going on that could be contributing to the lack of activity? She says, that in all other things with regards to their relationship and his day to day activity, life is normal, even good. She says, "I know he's not cheating on me, so don't even go there. I can account for his time." I simply said that "one doesn't need an entire hour of a day to accomplish a few minutes of release. I'm just saying." This did not give her any comfort I might add.
The topic of 'Are you IN LOVE with him' came up to which she said yes. I asked if she thought he was in love with her and she said she believed it was so. She talked about how affectionate he was, attentive to her and even surprising her with little gifts. Being the devils advocate, I asked if maybe, and only maybe if those things that she just mentioned were done out of a sense of guilt? This of course got no immediate reply. Whether she wanted it to or not, this had to be taken into consideration and so she considered it.
I'm not an expert on relationships or sex. I'm fairly new to both in fact, at least in my opinion. I have watched friends go through similar issues, even talked with friends who have been together for 20 years about what it's been like. My understanding is that relationships take a lot of focus and work, that there are good periods, bad periods and just so-so periods. When I think about my relationship, I can check off each one of those criteria for myself. One thing that I also noticed and understood from another couples experience, is that when you stop communicating about what the other wants or needs, you tend to start fulfilling those needs on your own. To me, this is hazardous territory in that you start going down a path on your own and not together. I told her, this is an early warning sign that you could be growing apart.
I also suggested that her frustration with their situation could lead her to resentment, distrust and anger if it's left unchecked and unresolved. She said that she already has feelings of resentment and when I asked her why, she said that she discovered that he was downloading porn on the internet. She said at first she tried to reason it out that this is just what guys do and admitted that even she has her own access to things to stimulate herself. But that the longer she thought about it the angrier she got. She said that she felt like this just fueled her sense that she was inadequate for him sexually and that he was seeking out alternatives other than her.
I have to say at this point I'm way beyond my own ability to know what to do or say for her. I convey this to her and tell her that the only thing I can think of to suggest is that she talk to him about it again and again until she's satisfied with the answers she's getting. We talked about the fact that it makes her appear suspicious and insecure, and I told her that he's making you feel that way by not contributing to the solution.
I think that a lot of the things we discussed helped to make her view of the situation a little more clear, but I don't believe that she has any sense of comfort from it either. I don't know what else to tell her other than to continue trying to communicate with him. She clearly loves him and is willing to do whatever it takes to make their situation better, but like I told her, it takes two, to make a thing go right.