Dear Dr. Frankie,
My girlfriend and I have been together for just over a year and have been living together for about six months. We were friends before we started dating and waited a while to have sex for the first time. At first, it was great. However, for the past four months, I’ve wanted to have sex and she hasn’t.
When I try to initiate sex, she makes up an excuse for why we’ll have it later – later never comes – or she directly tells me no. I’ve asked if she’s still attracted to me, but she acts like that’s a stupid question. I feel frustrated and rejected.
I know my girlfriend has been cheated on in the past and, as bad as it sounds, I now understand how unfulfilled her exes probably felt.
I don’t know what to do. Am I overreacting, or is it lesbian bed death?
Dear Later Never Comes,
First of all, you’re not alone. Lesbian bed death is when two women in a long-term relationship stop having sex together. While there’s some debate in psychology over whether widespread bed death is a myth, it is one of the most common frustrations I hear from couples in long-term relationships.
Differences in sexual desire affect all couples who are together for long enough and are totally normal. Stress, mental and physical health, relationship issues, and a ton of other factors can all influence how much sex you want to have. Some of those factors are under your individual control, and many aren’t. What you can control is how you respond to them, alone and within the relationship.
You are responsible for meeting your own sexual needs. That means building a satisfying solo sex life for yourself, regardless of what’s going on in your relationship. But it also means asking for what you want, taking steps to address the sexual issues in your partnership, and reevaluating or ending the relationship if it becomes clear that it is not possible to get your needs met within it.
You write that you’ve tried to initiate sex and have been rejected. That sucks. That also means it’s time to talk about what’s going on. If it’s more serious, like a history of trauma or betrayal or other chronic issues, enlist a professional individually and together to help.
If it’s simply hard to figure out how to connect right now, talk about your expectations and strategies for having erotic intimacy. Making out, mutual masturbation, and massage can all be options. Scheduling sex can also help. Many women experience responsive desire, which means that we need physical stimulation before we experience mental arousal. Scheduling sex and agreeing to try to have it at those times, even if one or both of you don’t start off feeling excited about it, can create more opportunities for sex together.
If you can make forward progress, together or with a professional, that’s great. If you can’t, it isn’t time to cheat – it’s time to reevaluate. Getting your sexual needs met elsewhere is a possibility if you consensually and transparently decide to open your relationship together. If your girlfriend doesn’t want an open relationship and doesn’t want to have sex, then it might be time to end your partnership. Though it might be painful, it’s more respectful than cheating or growing to resent your girlfriend.
I encourage you to really pay attention to your own needs and either change how you feel about the lack of sexual frequency or change the relationship. You are the only one responsible for yourself and you deserve a satisfying sex life.