The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday
The Midults: My husband of 20 years doesn’t seem to want sex as often as me. Is that it for us?
QMy husband and I have been together for 20 years and our sex drives just don’t match. I have always wanted more sex than him (except when the children were very young) and now that I am in my late 40s and the kids are growing up, I am raring to go – to try new things, to feel desired and to show him how much I love him... physically. But he seems perfectly happy with a Saturday-night quickie in the missionary position. I am scared to bring this up with him as I don’t want it to become a big thing between us, but I feel unwanted and frustrated. Is this it? Forever? Unwanted
AYou are not alone – not alone at all. You may even be in the majority – not that many women admit to this, as we have been educated (brainwashed) to be sexy rather than sexual. To be desirable rather than brimming with desire. To be sexually reactive rather than truly sexually active. Growing up, we were fed the belief (for our own safety, they said) that boys and men were “only after one thing”. As young women we expected to spend our lives forever swerving hard-ons and finding charming, non-vibe-killing ways to say no. So it is an odd moment when some of us realise that we may have a higher sex drive than our partners, whether that happens episodically or continuously. It can make us feel like some kind of unnatural woman, what with all the faintly biblical, patriarchal narrative that has been the wallpaper to our lives. Does some part of us still imagine that female desire is the root cause of all human depravity. The apple, we suppose, was Exhibit A.
It seems nuts that so many of us are scared to voice our wants, for fear of humiliation and judgement, particularly when it comes to sex. Do we want it enough? Too much? Are we doing it right? Is it OK to fantasise about things that we would not want to happen in reality? Do we dare to speak?
Dare to speak, Unwanted. Don’t let the pressure of your unspoken desire crush you, lead you to make ill-advised decisions or infect your marriage with the lead balloon of silent, unexpressed need. You don’t need to twist yourself out of shape in order to communicate with your husband. You don’t need to seduce him, or hoodwink him, or look hotter, or buy crazy knickers, or whack out a whip. You just need to talk to him. You’re not talking about kink (yet); you’re talking about connection. You can know a person back to front and inside out, but in (what you hope is) a life-long marriage, new confusions and changes in rhythm, chemistry, circumstance and hormones will continue to throw up challenges.
He “seems” perfectly happy with the Saturday-night missionary, you say. Seems. You haven’t discussed this. How do you know? He may have all manner of ideas. The good news is that weekly sex is more than many couples who have been together for 20 years. Possibly more than most. Every married couple that we know – with children – who manages to have sex, schedules it, hoping it will act as a placeholder until such a time when the kids are gone, and work is easier, and parents are less ageing, and the dog isn’t staring balefully like that, and money is less of a worry – and they can spread their sexual wings. You are having sex, you would just like a bit more, or slightly spicier, sex. That is not a huge gap to bridge. That is not zero to 60.
So much sex advice seems to be either really woolly (“find other ways to be intimate”) or really technical (“place the vibrator against the clitoris when your partner is penetrating you”). All this stuff has value but can feel very separate from you and the person you love alone in a bedroom with all the nerves and excitement that can involve – even after 20 years.
So here is what we would say: if you manage to find the courage to initiate the conversation, make it clear that he is the only person you want to do this with; that this is all about your desire for him and deepening that cherished connection; that you find sex with him satisfying and you are curious about other ways you might find each other exciting. Holding hands, staring into each other’s eyes, dirty texting (start off slowly with this), kissing... these are your gateway drugs to heating things up. And, when Saturday night rolls around, try: “Is it OK if I do this?” or “I’d love it if you did that.” You don’t have to go full Fifty Shades to open the lines of sexual communication. Your feelings are valid. Do not let shame prevent you from sharing them with the man you love. Because you are not Unwanted. You are just, for now, Unheard.
Write to us
Do you have a dilemma that you’re grappling with? Email Annabel and Emilie on themidults@ telegraph.co.uk. All questions are kept anonymous. They are unable to reply personally