I started noticing problems with our sex life a month into the pandemic.
My partner and I used to have sex at least once a week, but since March we only have sex once a month. I express that I want to have sex more often, but my partner says, “Not now, maybe later.”
Whenever he says that, I know he won’t follow through, and the day passes without any sex.
Yesterday, I found out he masturbates often. Now I’m worried he just doesn’t like sex with me, so I’ve decided to stop asking for it altogether.
Is there anything I can do to end this dry spell, or do I need to stay quiet about my sexual needs forever?
Sexual intimacy can make us feel more connected to our partners, so I can understand your confusion and frustration, especially during such an uncertain time as this pandemic.
Though I can’t promise your partner will go back to your preferred once-a-week schedule, I know that calling out the elephant in the room, your dry spell, could bring the two of you closer together.
First, recognize that your partner’s disinterest in sex likely has nothing to do with you. You shouldn’t take it as a sign he doesn’t want to be with you.
That’s because stress, depression, and anxiety can all contribute to a lack of interest in getting it on, and all three have been on the rise since the pandemic started. The next time your partner tells you, “Not now, maybe later,” consider whether he’s dealing with work- or life-related stress, or another emotional toll.
Considering your partner’s side of things doesn’t mean your needs are unimportant. Rather, exercising curiosity will help you get to the bottom of your sexual miscommunications, so you don’t feel defeated by them and can get your needs met too.
That curiosity should extend to your partner’s masturbation habit, because self-pleasure and partnered sex aren’t inherently linked, Rachel Wright, a licensed marriage and family therapist in New York City, previously told me.
You should be candid with your partner about how the dry spell has been affecting you. You could say something like, “I’ve noticed we haven’t been as sexually intimate with each other as I’d like. I also noticed you masturbate often, and though the two may not be related, I’ve been feeling disconnected from you lately,” according to Wright.
Calling out your discontentment can be scary, but it’s the only way forward. Do your best to keep the tone understanding and non-judgmental, and it’s likely your partner will share how your evolving sex life has been making him feel too.
You won’t figure it all out in one conversation. But learning that your feelings of neglect are the result of miscommunication, not a personal shortcoming, is the first step in getting there.
As Insider’s resident sex and relationships reporter, Julia Naftulin is here to answer all your questions about dating, love, and doing it — no question is too weird or taboo. Julia regularly consults a panel of health experts including relationship therapists, gynecologists, and urologists to get science-backed answers to your burning questions, with a personal twist.
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