In the mood

Pub date November 11, 2009

Dear Andrea:

I get irritable with my boyfriend when he doesn’t want to have sex. This doesn’t happen that often — we’ve been together less than a year and have sex most times we’re together, which is about five days out of seven. But sometimes he’s tired or not in the mood. This should be OK, right? If I were the guy and he were the girl, everyone would say "Stop pressuring her!" But I can’t help feeling bad. What is wrong with me?



Dear Mood:

Indeed, what is wrong with you? Could it be that you are simply an irritable person, and if it were not this issue, you’d find something else about your interactions with Boyfriend Boy to make you cranky? No? Then you’re just a normal person who is acting kind of spoiled. You and BFB are occasionally out of synch. And even non-cranky people have a hard time wrapping their heads around this part, but it is nobody’s fault.

It would be a vast and silly oversimplification to say that everyone has a natural libido set-point, like the one that keeps your body-weight unsatisfactory (To you! I do not care!) no matter what changes you make to your ratio of calories-in to energy-out. People certainly do seem to have something of a tendency toward the high, middle, or low end of the libido scale, but life, moving on as it does, changes things. (Actually, body-weight set-points also shift, but shut up, it was a nice simile.) Things do calm down a bit post late-adolescence/young adulthood, and even for those who can honestly state that they feel just as driven as always by their own hormones, stuff gets in the way. And sometimes that stuff gets back out of the way eventually, the kids go to college, or a health issue resolves, or they start sleeping better, and a dampened libido can come roaring back to life. So no way am I positing that sex drive takes a long slow dispiriting slide toward oblivion as soon as we become grownups or anything, just that libido is dynamic. Even yours, sex-wanting girl, is subject to change.

You have got yourself a very minor, occasional mismatch. You want sex five times a week. That’s fine. Sometimes he doesn’t. The tricky part, of course, is that that’s fine too. "Not the same as you" does not mean "broken." It doesn’t mean he owes you anything; nor does he need to change. Neither do you, as far as the sex drive goes. The irritability, well, that could be a problem.

Take a look at how you’re handling the communication end here. Are you telling him, covertly or overtly, that he has been weighed and found wanting? Are you sulking or crabbing at him when he doesn’t put out, or sighing heavily, or doing your best to make him feel guilty? ‘Cause I gotta tell you, all those have been rigorously laboratory tested and found to be potent anti-aphrodisiacs. You want to make sure your own attitudes or actions are not exacerbating the problem, assuming there is a problem. Which, frankly, there isn’t.

You do not have to dial back your natural level of desire, assuming that is even possible. You may need to dial back your expectations; those you have some control over. If he’s naturally content at something like three or four times a week (that’s officially "lots of sex," by the way) it’s fairly unlikely that’s suddenly going to change. So don’t make yourself crazy. I have no idea if Einstein really said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, but somebody ought to have.

And now, some solutions: since you sound young and saucy and unabashed, why not suggest a little mutual masturbation on his off nights? You, at least, would emerge dehornified, and who knows? Maybe a little action with no pressure to perform would give him ideas. Sometimes we think we’re a lot tireder or less in the mood than we really are. If he cannot be spurred to mutuality, you can always just say "OK, don’t mind me, then!" and reach for your sex tool (now that I have kids and approximately 1 billion actual toys the word "toys," like "play" and "play date" has been substantially desexified for me, so I’m trying something new here; do we like it?) and have it as though he weren’t there. And if that doesn’t seem doable, excuse yourself and come back when you’re done.

The most interesting part of your question, to me, was actually none of this stuff, but the part that people would think you were awful if you were a guy pressuring a girl for sex. And my answer is yes, they totally would. But that is no excuse to do it yourself.



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