August 2, 2014

Ask Me Anything: Keeping the Sexual Spark in Long Term Relationships (Weekly Advice Column).

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*Disclaimer: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. This website is not designed to, and should not be construed to, provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment.

Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, elephant journal’s weekly advice column—where no question is out of bounds!

To submit questions for next week, private message me on Facebook or email me at [email protected].

I look forward to hearing from you!

* The following letter has been edited due to it’s length. The content remains true to the original.

Dear Erica,

I am in love. My girlfriend is in love with me—very much so. We have been together officially for a little more than a year. I moved here to Massachusetts in November. Things were to be as expected at first. “Honeymoon” is putting it lightly.

We were so happy. So together. So connected.

Then, around February, I went spiraling downward. Not losing an inch of love for my girlfriend, not having second thoughts, not finding her less attractive—I had battled in previous relationships with losing interest when depression set in, I know that feeling and that was not the case.

To this day “Vanessa” blows my mind. Her compassion and empathy for everything in this world, her huge heart, her sexy mind—and she is stunningly beautiful.

She is my “it.”

Vanessa is highly highly sexual, always has been. Very physical in every sense—hugs, kisses, touches– she very much shows her intense love as well as states it.

She has told me from day one that when she settles down with someone she wants to have long kissing every day even when it’s not leading to sex. She wants sex to be a big role, to have a healthy, fun, lusty, intimate sex life keeping her and her partner always “fresh” and flirty. She thinks people let all that stuff go way too easily.

Even with our crazy intense sex life in the early times, I warned her that one huge fear I had was that in both of my previous long term relationships, sex or lack thereof was a constant ongoing battle for me. I fell into being comfortable and lazy maybe?

I don’t know what to think about it.

I am bipolar. Newly diagnosed in the last few years. I have never been on the right cocktail of meds, hardly been on any consistently at all. In the last five years I began having suicidal ideations. Now I have bipolar on my back and my own terrors around it.

So, okay, here we are today. As predicted, sex is once again the trouble spot in my relationship. But this time, it is not just the nudge nudge, poke poke kind of reminders that I need.

At first I thought all the change and depression I got hit with when the newness of my big move here wore off was to blame. Then I thought her pressuring me was to blame. Sex got very infrequent, and now we go three and a half months or so with no sex. We have tried taking it off the table, curbing all talks about it and letting it flow naturally. Then we tried setting small goals, setting dates night etc., but more and more I felt this aversion to sex.

When she kisses me in that passionate way I think, “Oh shit, she wants sex.” and I pull away and make excuses. My girlfriend says she is gaining a complex about her weight, her body, feeling rejected and disconnected, sad, lonely and miserable.

I look at her and am not even able to cry—I’ve had months of no crying when all I want to do is yell and cry and scream all this icky out.

I feel so guilty about asking her to be patient and loving in ways she shouldn’t have to be because I am horribly depressed/sick/trying to get well.

Why can’t I make love to the best person I know? 

I read about the meds I am on making people totally sexually un-interested, I also think my past could be triggering this, that maybe being bipolar and suicidally depressed is causing my disgust and terror at being touched at all.

Do I say, “Just ignore all my resistance and let’s make this happen”?

Or do we not force anything and just stick with weekly counseling and loving each other and patience even when it hurts?

~ Sexually Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

You are actually bringing up two interrelated issues, so let’s break them down.

1) How sexual relationships evolve over time and sexual compatibility.

2) Improperly treated mental illness including bipolar disorder, depression and suicidal thinking.

The reason we must address them separately is that the first one is about your relationship with your partner, but the second one is about your relationship with yourself, though it dramatically affects your partner, too.

Your first problem is an exceedingly common—although still maddening—one. I think every single person in a long term relationship struggles with periods of sexual incompatibility. How could we not? There are so many things going on in everyone’s lives that our internal rhythms can shift in a heartbeat, not to mention the romance-killing issues like money, work, illness, kids if you have them and so on.

It sounds as if you and your girlfriend are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to sex right now. She wants passionate sex daily (not very realistic might I add), you feel disconnected.

Normally I would advise getting on the same page about expectations and finding a compromise which is mutually agreeable.

Setting a weekly “sex schedule,” while not spontaneous, can really help in these cases. The partner who wants more sex feels “heard” and can count on sexual interactions happening, and the partner who wants less sex has time to get in the right mind set.

You can certainly try this (I recommend planning on having some kind of sex twice weekly, even if your girlfriend is simply on the receiving end one of those times), but in your situation you also have bigger fish to fry.

The more concerning problem—by far—is your mental health, not the health, sexual or otherwise, of this relationship.

You mention that you are going to consistent talk therapy weekly, which is great and should continue, but you also say that you are a diagnosed but improperly medicated sufferer of bipolar disorder.

Do not doubt that meds and your mental health can directly affect your libido. You are aware you haven’t found the right drug “cocktail,” and I agree—but you must keep trying.

Once you find something that works, and chances are that you will, you must stick with the program.

It is common for bipolar people to start to feel better on meds and then stop taking them, only to be plunged back into the mental chaos they were trapped in in the first place. I know this because it runs in my family.

The very best gift you can give yourself and your partner is to find and maintain proper treatment including drug therapy– talk therapy is not enough- and then figure out the rest of this stuff. If your relationship is not strong enough to withstand this process, then so be it. Your priority must be to seek the professional care and support you need to help you heal.

Dear Erica,

I still consider myself a real beginner when it comes to yoga. I’ve been practicing on and off for about three years, but have recently committed a lot more time and dedication to yoga—and not just the asanas. I’m so grateful for the gift of yoga!

However, when trying Dancer’s Pose, it really brings up a lot of frustration for me. Every time. I find the pose a struggle from every aspect—not just physically. I can never find a point of focus, I lose all balance, I can’t seem to breathe as steadily, and I keep feeling this huge negative emotion of frustration.

Though the frustration I feel is fairly pure or raw (almost innocent or child-like) I continue to try and try again with this pose. I’m now determined to master it.

Do you have any tips on how I can accept the frustration, move past it and gain some strength in this posture? I’d love to some day hold this pose with real elegance!

~ Frustrated Dancer

Dear Dancer,

Here’s the thing— we are all, more or less, beginners when it comes to yoga. What I love about that is, there’s no limit to how much we can learn.

Also, no matter how long we practice, we all have poses that are intensely frustrating. I could give you a list of mine—as could every yogi—some of which took years to master, some of which I still haven’t and may never (scorpion, I’m talkin’ to you).

Lucky for us, mastery of the poses is not the point. Our willingness to be flawed and move forward anyway, to embrace the process and to see what lies on the other side, is.

The frustration you are feeling, your ability to sit with it, the courage you are calling upon to try a frightening thing over and over again are all avenues toward growth.

When you finally do physically master dancer’s pose—and you will—another pose will pop up to take it’s frustrating place. You will go through the entire process all over again.

But this time you will know—to use a well worn cliche—it’s really not about the destination, but the journey.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Wikimedia Commons 


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