I'm 32, and I've been together with my partner for 15 years. We have 3 kids together.
After having our daughter 10 months ago and recently starting nursing school, we have not been as intimate as before the pregnancy. I don't desire sex at all.
I'm almost certain my partner is cheating, but it doesn't bother me. The only thing that worries me is that he might leave me for another woman and take all the comfort he provides financially.
Am I wrong for feeling like this?
– New England
Dear New England,
First off, congratulations on the birth of your daughter.
And now, to be frank, I'm not surprised sex is the last thing on your mind. You're juggling three kids and school work, which is quite the feat.
That's why you shouldn't feel guilty or wrong for being indifferent about sex. Instead, look at your indifference as a check-engine light for your relationship needs, Jenni Skyler, a licensed therapist and director of the Colorado-based Intimacy Institute, told me.
"The desire for sex is the first thing to go because the other needs are not getting met. When our needs get met, that's the foreplay that's required for our sexual desire, especially as women when we do not have testosterone to fuel our arousal" Skyler said.
Since sexual desire has to do with much more than sex itself, you should think about what other areas of your relationship are lacking and focus on those first.
If your suspicion that your partner is cheating is what's bothering you the most, because you feel like you can't trust him, be honest. Start off by explaining how you've been feeling about your connection lately, and ask if he feels the same. Then, you can broach the topic of infidelity.
It won't be an easy or fun conversation, but getting to the root of the problem, rather than writing it off as solely a sexual one, can boost your relationship for you and your partner.
If you can't seem to pinpoint those needs, Skyler suggested thinking about what your partner might say is lacking if you were to ask him, a method she uses with her own patients.
"I'll do a little reverse psychology and go, 'What do you think are your partner needs? Because you've been tracking that pretty well.' If we don't know our own needs, it's usually because we're too hyper-vigilant of someone else's needs or a profound caretaker, or we want to save someone," Skyler said.
She'll also give patients a checklist of common relationship needs, and see if they relate to any. Feeling safe, emotionally connected to a partner, emotionally connected to one's self, and understood are needs most people have when it comes to relationships, said Skyler.
Once you're able to pinpoint the things that have been missing it's time to prioritize your needs. I'm sure that sounds impossible, but that's where your partner comes into play.
Let him know how you've been feeling, and tell him that you're going to make an effort to fill up your cup and need his help.
If you need more alone time, for example, ask if he can watch the kids while you go for a walk or catch up with a friend once a week. If you feel emotionally distant from your partner, explain those feelings and schedule a weekly date night just the two of you as a way to reconnect.
As you continue on this journey of putting yourself first, always remember that a low libido isn't your fault, or a problem you have to solve on your own. Rather, it's a "team sport," as Skyler puts its.
Low sex drive is "something to mutually solve so that they can be a team and figure out how to meet each other's needs, so they can be a team and figure out how to cultivate more trust, more connection, more space," she said.
As Insider's resident sex and relationships reporter, Julia Naftulin is here to answer all of 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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