(Sex (Re) Education)
Is Lack Of Sexual Chemistry A Dealbreaker?
Sex (Re-) Education is a sex and relationships advice column for women in their late 30s, 40s, and beyond. Got a question for Alyssa? Fill out this form.
I’m 38 years old and 100% ready to settle down. I want kids and stability and to create a life with someone who I love.
After years of dating men who didn’t treat me well, or men who were bad news, or simply guys I couldn’t love or respect for whatever reason, I finally met a wonderful guy. It’s been almost a year since we’ve been together. He’s honest, caring and smart. He’s also hilarious – like, night after night, he really makes me laugh! My friends all adore him. Given the fact that we’re both pushing 40, we are talking seriously about moving in together and me going off birth control to start a family. I dreamt for a scenario to unfold like this!
However, there’s a problem. Our sex life is not great. I’m not dying to rip his clothes off, and either he has a low libido or he feels the same about me. We just don’t have sexual chemistry. I’ve never even had an orgasm with him. Sometimes we talk about it, but then he deflects by making a joke or we change the subject. It’s awkward.
Honestly, I’m not sure there’s anything to do about it but accept that we lack sexual chemistry. Is that OK? Can we still be happy? Everyone says, "You never marry the best sex of your life." But – shouldn't you marry someone you at least enjoy making love to?
Lessons in Chemistry
Dear Lessons in Chemistry,
This is a tough one. Because I love him for you. I wouldn’t know him if he kissed me on the cheek, but I already love him for you. And I can promise you – with all my heart – that a man who makes you laugh is worth a hundred screaming orgasms. Laughter will get you through life’s hardest moments, not world-class cunnilingus.
But, damn, wouldn’t it be nice to have both?
So, yes. I understand the issue. And while I definitely don’t see it as a deal breaker, an underwhelming sex life at this stage in the game is frustrating. And it feels unfair. Why does everyone else get to crave and sext and tease their man all day and you're just like,“Let’s make Beyond burgers tonight. Ooooh!’
Before I tell you how that honeymoon-phase heat disappears anyway, let me just say that it sounds like you’re ultra-compatible in so many important areas. And compatibility is crucial. I’d personally prioritize it over sexual chemistry. For example, I love traveling with my partner because all we want to do is read on the beach all day and eat local food all night. On a similar note, our favorite thing to do is go to our little house upstate, make gin and tonics with extra limes, grill steaks and watch our kids jump on the trampoline to an endless Taylor Swift medley. Honestly? It’s better than sex.
The point is, it sounds like your rhythm and flow in life works well together in general, and that’s why I’m rooting for you.
There are definitely some long-term, married-with-kids couples who laugh together, cry together, and still F each other’s brains out on the reg’ … and I myself worship them, and often wish to trade relationships with them. It’s hard not to be envious of that. But when I say “a few couples,” I mean I can think of five couples (and one of them is Posh and Becks because I just watched their docuseries last night).
I also know couples who have mind-blowing sex but shouldn’t be together. They don’t like each other. They don’t “get” each other. Or worst of all, they don’t trust each other. My friends in the “hot sex but toxic everything else” category would absolutely kill to cuddle up to a lover who is also their best friend and strongest advocate every night. And that’s you guys! People want what you have.
However, I don’t love that you’re both avoiding talking about sex. You are two grown adults and you need to be able to handle a deeply personal, R-rated conversation, or even I might lose faith in you. I mean, he might have a fetish he’s too ashamed to tell you about – wouldn’t that break your heart? He could be jerking off all day at work because the stress is so bad. He might need you to get out of that oversized Nirvana T-shirt (hi!) because, frankly, it’s a boner-killer for him. Who knows? You have to talk. You have to tell him what you like and what you need.
Take him on a classically sexy date – a dark wine bar, or a steamy sauna situation (AIRE Ancient Baths, or a version of that, comes to mind). And then, while shvitzing, or feeding each other sushi, or whatever horny date night activity you choose, you need to initiate the conversation, and it needs to feel equally non-catastrophic and yet important. “Sweetheart….what's up with our sex life? Are you satisfied? I’m honestly not totally satisfied ...and it’s okay, no alarm bells…but I do want you to learn my body better. Where are you with things? Tell me the truth. You can say anything to me.” And then you guys are going to have the most open, vulnerable, non-judgemental, safe-space convo you’ve ever had with anyone. The conversation will help you infinitesimally, if for no other reason it will open the valve and release the pressure. After that, make sure to orchestrate regular, if super-lowkey, “sex check-ins.” Are we good? Again, you’re two mature adults, you can do this.
There is only so much we can predict about our relationships. Will you bang out two kids and then leave him for a man or woman who lights your body on fire? Maybe. Will you eventually open up your marriage? I’d co-sign that. Will you go through some hardcore life and relationship shit together, and turn to each other for emotional comfort and physical intimacy in a way you can’t begin to imagine right now? Probably.
Knowing we know nothing, I think you should move forward in your relationship with joy and gratitude. Buy him this Maude “band”, aka cock ring for Christmas – it feels so good that your eyes will roll to the back of your head. (You’re welcome.) If he laughs or can’t rise to the occasion like a grown man, grab his face and seductively say, “Babe. This is not a joke.” He won’t be mad about it. Get yourself the lube or porn you need to turn things up a notch. Just one notch. You don’t need to be Pam and Tommy; or even Posh and Becks; just be you.