You Can Be Sexually Frustrated Without Having A Dry Spell

There are a lotta reasons you might be feeling sexually frustrated in your relationship, and they don’t all have to do with a dry spell.

Maybe you’re feeling guilty about being too tired to have sex. Maybe you don’t like how your partner asks for sex. Or maybe you’re not lovin’ the type of sex that you’ve been having. Whatever the situation, take a sigh of relief: You can absolutely overcome sexual frustration for a more satisfying sex life. Phew.

But first, understand that these feelings are totally normal. “Sexual frustration is very common,” says Megan Fleming, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University. Lots of couples seek professional help because of their sexual frustration, and there’s no shame in that game.

“There’s this idea that you need to match your partner’s libido, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true,” says Maggie Dancel, PhD, a clinical psychologist, and host of the podcast Full Disclosure. “Someone with a low libido can be with someone with a high libido.”

The key, of course, is having the tools and tips to address the issue:

Don’t blame your partner.

Even though you might feel frustrated (hence the term “sexual frustration“), you don’t want to point any fingers at your partner. Remember: It’s a we issue, not a them issue. People have different sexual preferences and turn-ons—why sex can be so, so exciting!—and there’s nothing wrong with either party if you aren’t in-sync.

Instead of blaming, discuss the things you’d like more of in the bedroom.“See your frustration as an opportunity,” says Fleming. “Talk about your desires and the things you’d both like to do.” Try bringing this up after you’ve had sex, when the vibes are good and you can highlight the stuff you really liked. “Wow, I’d love to do that again…and again…”

Touch each other (but not like that).

Dancel suggests a little somethin’ called Sensate Focus Therapy, which focuses on sensual touch but not sex, for couples with mismatched libidos. By removing sex from the equation, there’s less pressure on the partner with lower desire but the other person can still experience touch and connection.

To try it out, have one person lay down while the other touches non-erotic places (example: boobs are off-limits). Then, after 15 minutes, switch; the person who was lying down becomes the person who touches. Up the ante each week, until you work your way back to having sex again. Anticipation does wonders.

Make a (sexy) list.

Dancel recommends writing a list of things that you really enjoy or want to try. These things could be sexual (watching porn together) or just sensual (cuddling). After you agree on your list (you obvs can’t add anything your S.O. doesn’t feel comfortable with) put each item in a hat or a box. Once a week, or whenever you’re feeling it, grab a suggestion and get busy.

Add some toys to the mix.

If you’re feeling sexually frustrated not because you’re aren’t having sex but because you aren’t orgasming, there are plenty of tools to help with that…and they’re called vibrators. Most experts—and ahem, women—agree that it’s difficult for ladies to climax from penetration alone, so there’s no shame calling in some extra help. Again, talk to your partner about this ~desire~ and it to your list above.

Read all about it.

Even though she has a PhD in the subject, Dancel still loves reading about how other professionals handle sexual frustration and other issues. Two of her favorite books are Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski and Getting the Sex That You Want by Tammy Nelson. The former even has worksheets to help you get the discussion going.

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Reduce stress.

ICYDK, stress affects just about every aspect of your life, and sex is no exception. Could your mismatched libidos simply be because one person is dealing with stress in spades? Dancel explains that every person has “sexual brakes and sexual accelerators,” and one of your “brakes” could indeed be stress.

It’s tough to transition from deadline time to sexy time, so help your sex life out with a romantic dinner, movie night, or just about anything to get your mind (or your partner’s) off of the source of stress. Consider it a full evening of foreplay.

Make sleep a prio.

Wait, I thought the goal is to *not* immediately fall asleep when my head hits the pillow? Well, if you want to have more sex, it helps to hit the hay earlier than you normally would.

Dancel and Fleming both explain that there are two kinds of desire: spontaneous and responsive. Spontaneous desire occurs when you “see an attractive person and want to have sex right then and there, say, when your partner comes out of the shower,” Dancel says.

Responsive desire, on the other hand, is all about feeling relaxed in your environment. (P.S. Dancel says responsive desire might actually be far more common in women.) If you’re tired, you’re probs not going to feel like doing anything in the bedroom besides snoozing (*slowly raises hand in agreement*).

See a couples therapist.

You knew this was comin’, but it’s worth screaming from the hilltops: Therapists are there for you, and they don’t judge. Therapy is especially useful for people with a history of sexual abuse or with issues like cheating and anxiety, and both Dancel and Fleming see patients who deal with similar problems all. the. time. But it’s worth noting, no issue is too small, either.

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