Our first podcast of 2018 – yey! Happy new year!
For this one we decided to take a leaf out awesome sex & relationships podcaster Dan Savage’s book and answer a few questions from listeners together on one show. Content warning: this episode begins with us singing our version of the Savage Lovecast theme song in an *ahem* beautiful homage to Dan Savage!
This time the questions were broadly on the themes of communicating about sex, and navigating discrepancies about sex drive in relationships. Here we’ll just share the main sense of the question and some bullet points of the main points that came up in the answers. Please do listen to the podcast for the details.
Question 1: I’m struggling with my sex and sexuality and would find it really useful to talk about this with people. How do I bring up conversations about sex with my closest people – not necessarily people I want to have sex with?
Some of the key points in our discussion of this question were:
- Given that talking about sex can count as a kind of sex for people, it’s important to have a framework around sex conversations which makes it clear that that isn’t the case, and that ensures that it’s sexual for all concerned. For example, when we’re running a sex or relationship workshop, we’ll always start with a group agreement to set that framework.
- In a one-to-one conversation it’s a good idea, therefore, to start with a meta-communication conversation about whether you and the other person want to try talking about sex, and what the framework for that conversation will be. This also gives them – and you – the opportunity to consensually say if it’s not something that feels right for you.
- If opening up that kind of conversation with close people feels too tough, you could practice for example by joining online groups for people who want to discuss sex and sexuality, or by working with a sex and relationships coach or counsellor, or perhaps joining a reading group or support group around that topic.
Question 2: Often after a year or so into a relationship I find that my sex drive is a lot higher than my partner’s. This has happened again with the man I’m seeing at the moment. He’s not okay with non-monogamy, and I don’t want to pressure him into having sex he doesn’t want. Also he’s older than me and much more well-off and senior in terms of work which makes it difficult.
In answering this question we suggested:
- Starting by remembering that non/monogamy is a spectrum rather than an either/or thing – either your monogamous or non-monogamous. There’s a wide variation in the rules people have around monogamous and non-monogamous relationships. It’s worth figuring out where you’re both at, for example writing down what’s definitely acceptable and unacceptable around that area for you, as well as anything you’re not sure about.
- Related to this, going into any conversation together with a sense that both there are a number of possible options, and that it will be an ongoing conversation rather than a one off where you decide what you’re going to do (e.g. stay together or break up). This sense of multiple options and ongoing conversation can really take the pressure off so that you can acknowledge that there is a tension between you but there are many ways you could address it, and that might well change over time.
- Definitely acknowledging the power imbalances between you and the impact those will have on how easy it is to raise these kinds of issues, or hold on to your needs in the conversation. As with question 1, a meta-conversation before talking about sex can be helpful to explore how you can make the conversation as consensual as possible for both of you.
Question 3: After eight years together my husband just isn’t sexual at all. It leaves me feeling very undesirable that he’s not interested in sex. Much of the sex advice I’ve read made me feel worse because it’s always assumed that women will be the ones who lose interest. I do have solo sex and read erotica, but it doesn’t give me the sense of feeling special or cared for that I get from sex with a partner. We tried couple therapy but it didn’t seem to help much, and he’s now seeing a therapist on his own.
Some of the answers to the previous couple of questions are also relevant here around bringing up the topic of sex, metacommunication, and seeing it as an ongoing conversation with many options, but there are also some specific issues here.
- First it’s important to acknowledge the spectrums of desire and that it’s perfectly okay for somebody to move around on those over time, and/or stay in an asexual place.
- It’s great to have done that work of figuring out the meaning of sex, highlighting that it’s important for you to feel desirable, special, and cared for. It can be helpful to consider if there are other ways you could get some of those needs met – in this relationship or in other non-sexual relationships – to take some of the pressure off this situation as you’re addressing it.
- If your husband is up for communicating about sex then an ongoing conversation would be useful – as with question 2 – because then you can talk openly about what sex means for you both, what kinds of intimacy might be possible between you, and what aren’t. It also stops you making the kinds of common assumptions we tend to make about why somebody wants – or doesn’t want – sex.
- But if he’s not up for the conversation at the moment – either because he finds it too hard, or he wants to wait till he’s done some therapy to figure out where he’s at – it’d be worth you giving yourself permission to spend some time on yourself as he is. Whether that’s therapy, tuning into yourself and/or nurturing other relationships in your life, hopefully it’ll mean that when you do come to communicate you’ll have a clear idea of your needs and limits, as well as taking some of the pressure off this being the only relationship where you get your needs met.
© Meg-John Barker & Justin Hancock, 2018