Many years ago, when I was in my very early 20s and believed in such a thing, I met a man whom I firmly believed was my soulmate.
He and I appeared to be birds of the same feather. We were both shy, bookish types with a sense of humor that only fellow nerds could appreciate.
He firmly captured my heart when he said his favorite “wrapper” was the artist, Christo, and I immediately got the joke. (Hey, I never claimed our sense of humor was for everyone.) In addition to that, we both loved many of the same things like cooking, hikes, and cult movie classics.
However, there was one thing that we differed on and that was our attitude about sex: simply put, I wanted it and he didn’t.
Without divulging too much information, we did have sex—just not a lot of it. If I had to guess, I would say we averaged about twice a month. When we met, he was a virgin, but I had already had two previous relationships. Ironically, he was the one who initiated our first sexual encounter. It wasn’t amazing, but wasn’t bad either. Afterwards, I sort of expected him to be like a kid with a new toy and want it frequently and often, but that was not the case. I thought that perhaps I had disappointed him, but he assured me that he really enjoyed it. I also thought that maybe he was scared of an unplanned pregnancy, but when asked, he said he felt pretty confident that me being on the pill was sufficient enough. I also pondered if he felt guilty because of religious reasons, but he was an atheist. (In case anyone is wondering, if I wondered he was gay, no, I did not.)
As it turns out, he was probably someone with a naturally low sex drive. It’s actually pretty common. Despite what popular culture depicts, there are many men and women—even young ones in their early 20s—who don’t desire sex that often. There’s nothing wrong with that, nor is it a medical condition.
Just like having a high sex drive does not mean one is a sex addict, having a low sex drive does not mean that one is asexual or shows uninterested in sex. In my case, this man did seem to genuinely care about me. He was a kind, caring lover, and my friend. He just didn’t want to have sex as much as I desired it.
At first, this wasn’t a problem. I wasn’t someone who demanded or felt like she had to have sex every day. Also, it was nice to have someone who was interested in me as a person, and not just with me for the sex. However, as the relationship progressed, it became more of a problem. Most weekends were spent with him at his apartment and more often than not, we would fall asleep next to each other clutching our respective books instead of each other.
I told my girlfriends that I felt like he and I were an old married couple, and I was not joking. However, at least many of those old married couples started out having “regular” sex. We never did.
Eventually, the relationship ended. While we did not part specifically because of the sex or lack thereof, it was a factor at least on my part.
Still, for a long time afterwards, I felt I was largely to blame for the end of that relationship, and I lost one of the few men who loved me for me and wasn’t with me just to “get some.”
In one of our many recurring arguments over the subject, he asked me point-blank if I would prefer it if he was more interested in “getting between my legs” than between my ears. My response was no.
Later on, however, I came to see that I was not being unreasonable. I wanted him both physically and emotionally. The latter just was not cutting it. I was getting increasingly more frustrated and it took its toll on us.
The truth is, despite how well-matched we were in many things, this was one area where we were not. While intellectually, I knew I was not a sex addict or bad for wanting more intimate contact, I still felt that as the woman in the relationship, it was wrong to be the one asking for more sex.
Interestingly enough, I was taking a psychology class on human sexuality at the time we were dating and the professor, who was also a practicing psychologist, said women were traditionally the gatekeepers when it came to sex. He said that generally speaking, men wanted to have sex all the time, and the women were the ones who kept it in check. While he had no idea about my situation, I felt like he was saying those words to me and confirming my fears that I was the one with the problem.
As I moved on to other relationships, I found that I was relieved to find that none of the other men I became involved with thought I was abnormal. Eventually, after many years had passed, I shared my past experience with some close female friends. To my amazement, I was not alone in having been with a partner whose sex drive was much lower than mine.
In this day and age where people talk and write about all aspects of their sex life, I still feel like this one is still taboo for many. In popular sitcoms, it is a common storyline for a man to complain his female partner isn’t giving him enough, but women who do likewise are often portrayed as nymphomaniacs or some other sort of “unnatural women.”
While there are many people who place far too much emphasis on sex in a relationship at the expense of some of the deeper and more emotional things, the fact is, sex does matter a lot in most relationships. A relationship where two people are very mismatched in sex drive can be a big problem. In fact, sex—whether it’s too much, too little, etc.—is one of the top reasons why people divorce. In many cases, not having any sex for a long period of time can even be grounds for divorce. Still, not too many are aware of this or may even feel shallow if they’re in an otherwise good relationship and complaining about the lack of sex.
In my case, I wish I had considered asking a professional for advice or seen if there was some way the two of us could have worked through this, but the thought never even crossed my mind. Still, I cannot beat myself up too much as we were both very young and relatively inexperienced when it came to relationships. We simply did not know.
In the end, we chose not to stay in touch, but I heard through mutual friends, he married a few years ago. I am very happy for him and hope he is with someone who suits him in every way, but especially when it comes to his sex drive.
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Ed: B. Bemel