Sunday, 28 September 2014

Dear ladies and gents, I have to share something with you

It's about relationships. And sex. And about how sometimes an absence in such things is nothing to do with your relationship, and sometimes is everything to do with it.

(DISCLAIMER: There is going to be an awful lot of honesty on this page. Not all of it solely mine, but it is not included unless I know it to be extremely common experience. Any that is not mine will be clearly indicated by phrases like "people who", rather than "I have". There is going to be no detailed saucy graphicness, though we definitely will be talking about sex, shagging, fucking, and making love. And at times I may be brutally, anatomically blunt. All of that. Just so you know.)

Firstly, let me start by addressing the reasons for writing this post. There are two main reasons. The first is an increasing frustration with articles (mainly in the Guardian) addressed to men lamenting the lack of sex in their marriages, and the misguided advice that women's desire for sex naturally wanes, and to just be patient with their wives, accept that their wives still love them and cherish what they have. This is not true. Women are just as sexual as men. Some women, as some men, are more sexual than others, but there is not a natural inevitable decline in our sexuality. The second is the abhorrent advice I (and doubtless many others) received after having a baby. There are many other reasons, but for simplicity, lets break it down into two categories, couples who have had babies within the last four (give or take) years, and couples who have not.

I’ll be writing this post from the perspective of why (heterosexual) women don’t want to, as that is what I am, and so cannot frankly, or at least honestly, write this from another perspective. However, post pregnancy ladies aside, many conversations I’ve had over the years lead me to suspect that these experiences/feelings/reasons are not gender specific, so insert your own he’s and she’s as appropriate. And with all that framing in place, let’s begin exploring the question

“Why doesn’t she want to sleep with you?”

Part 1: Your partner has given birth to a baby (or a pterodactyl) in the last four years (give or take)

Reason 1: Because she’s had a baby. Contrary to the opinion of birthing manuals that state there’s no reason not to start having sex again the moment everything’s healed, there are really quite a few reasons. Let me explain having a baby. For nine months, she has a parasite growing inside her that takes priority on all nutritional requirements, leaches the calcium from her teeth to build itself bones, pushes her internal organs out of the way into any old space it finds the most entertaining to give itself room to dance on her sciatic nerve, before stretching her vagina beyond the point of no return and emerging into the world, looking all cute and shit. Birth is not a dignified thing to be seen doing either, and men are allowed to watch you do that these days. Chances are that unless she’s like me and downed that castor oil like it was whisky, she’ll have done a very ladylike shit during the birthing process, in front of you. So she’s feeling all pretty functional right now, it’s the way to deal with all of the indignity of it all. And the damage. Again, I was pretty lucky on that side of things, but even without a cut or a tear to be considered, there is a lot of damage. (And if there is a lot of damage, consider how quickly you would want to start having sex with someone if your penis had been ripped in two, sewn back up, and some nurse said, yeah, you’ll be able to use that in two or three weeks? Yeah, thought not.) Even without a lot of damage, a very strange transformation has occurred to your partner. It probably won’t even occur to her to tell you, but she doesn’t have any sexual feeling in her vagina, or, indeed, any muscle memory of sex at all. It’s truly the closest you’ll ever get to being a born again virgin, because it truly feels like you’ve never had sex. This will become a reason in its own right shortly enough. Weird? Yes, equally weird is the fact that she won’t be able to feel herself piss for a few days either, so incontinence is likely. For some women this is an elongated period. For months and months and years it’s likely that her organs will feel in the wrong place, sensation will be lacking in the places that tend to drive such urges, and… The physical side and the mental side of birth take some time to heal, so we’ll crack on to the optional second reason

Reason 2: She’s currently or has recently been breastfeeding a baby. Breastfeeding is like a weird superpower in some respects, and it’s fucking awful in others. Her parasite is continuing to drain all the best nutrition from her body, calcium from her teeth, and because she’s only got time to make toast, she’s becoming increasingly malnourished because her body is using the vitamins and minerals stored in her bones and muscle to create the best possible milk for her baby. You may not understand why she doesn’t have time, because she’s at home all day, but trust me, she barely has time to get a cup of tea between being puked on, and wee’d on, and prodded by health visitors and getting her boobs out and getting the baby to sleep just long enough that she can have a wash, and laundering all the vomit covered baby clothes and cleaning up all the baby shit, and cleaning milk mis-spurts of the sofa (because breast milk is messy, and spurts out of boobs without waiting for the receiving baby to obligingly latch on). But onto the superpower of breastfeeding, and what happens when it stops. While she’s breastfeeding, she probably won’t get colds, or gain too much weight, or feel too crappy, despite the rubbish but highly convenient food she’s likely to be eating, and she may even have this weird magical bond where she’ll wake up in the night knowing her parasite is about to wake up because it’s too hot/cold, and she’ll adjust blankets accordingly, and lie back down and listen to it breathe. She’ll barely sleep for the entire time (however many months that is) she’s breastfeeding, because for all the advice says to sleep when the baby is sleeping, when the baby is sleeping is the only practical time she has for doing laundry, or cooking, or cleaning, and she feels horribly dependent on you even if she gets maternity pay, and so she feels that she should try and get all that stuff done while you’re at work , and then feels horribly inadequate when you get home and she’s still in her pyjamas from the morning. Everything is horribly depressing, aside from the beautiful, cute as fuck little parasite that cries even when you put it down to go for a wee, and she has no time to herself, no dignity as her boobs are permanently on show, and on the rare occasions she sees friends, she can’t have a conversation with the majority of her friends, who, having never experienced such indignities, can only stutter through sentences unable to determine where to look, and after a while she ceases to bother at all. And then, breastfeeding stops. Her immune system stops suppressing itself, she gets all the illnesses under the sun, and because her body is malnourished, they’ll hit her hard. She’ll likely gain weight – health visitors will tell you that this is due to not having re-adjusted to eating only for herself. This is a lie, it is also part of the protective response of a malnourished body to protect itself. Her social sphere will have become you, her mother, possibly your mother, and a bunch of women she hates who she met at a baby massage group. Basically, she feels relieved to no longer be breastfeeding, but in all other respects, she may well feel like shit.

Reason 3: The mystery of the post birth vagina. It’s kind of like… Someone rips off your vagina, puts a load of anaesthetic on it, glues on another one, and then it takes a while to heal, a while longer to feel like it might belong to her, and even longer for it to develop any kind of urges. It’s a bit like going through puberty again, except much more embarrassing.

Reason 4: I’ve mentioned several times now, malnourishment. During her pregnancy was she eating lots of high nutrient based foods? Is she now? If a lot of her diet is based around low fat, particularly low in saturated fat, change this right now. Take charge of the cooking for a week or so. Lots of vegetables, saturated fat, eggs, and meat. Feed her real food. Comfort food is a misnomer for food that keeps you sick, lacking in energy, and anything but comfortable.

Reason 5: You. Your behaviour during pregnancy and post pregnancy does have a part to play in whether she wants to sleep with you. Controversial, I know. And some of the topics I’m going to go into in Part 2 of this post will definitely go into a bit more depth regarding this area. And I’m sure you’ve been great, and helped her out with the housework, and the baby, and all of that shit. But you’re both tired, and it’s easy to let the everyday affection slip. Let’s be honest, how affectionate are you when you aren’t trying to get a shag? If she needs a hug, if it lasts longer than a minute, are you going straight for a boob grope or hand up skirt? Does she feel like you even like her when you’re trying to slip her one? I’m probably using slightly crass language here, but it’s partially to express a point. She’s tired, and drained, and more emotional than physical right now. When was the last time you just leant against each other and watched a film? When was the last time you just held her and kissed her in bed, without immediate wandering hands? When you feel like shit, you don’t feel like even trying sexually with someone who makes you feel like they don’t like you except when they’re trying to fuck you. When I had my daughter, the advice passed on to me about not wanting to was to just do it and eventually you’ll get used to it/start wanting to again. Thankfully both Cattenberg and I thought that sounded a little too much like consensual rape to ever want to try it. But if you do make her feel wanted, cared for as more than just the mother of your child, when the urges do come back they’re more likely to be directed your way.

Reason 6: Time. All of the things I’ve just talked about take time. How old is your kid? Is it even sleeping through the night? Chill. Be nice to her. Fuck fucking. It will come back in good time. Just be nice. Remember she’s effectively experiencing puberty again. Remember how you used to approach these things when you weren’t knackered. Remember how spending time together is better foreplay than a series of recommended tactile manoeuvres (oral sex for 6 minutes, before stimulating the… YAWN). Remember how phoning someone on your lunchbreak for no reason other than wanting to talk to them is a nice thing to do. If you buy her flowers, buy some she actually likes, and because she’s time poor, put them in the vase yourself. And clear them away yourself when they wilt. When you get a babysitter, treat it as an excuse to spend time together like a normal couple, not a “right, we’ve got some privacy, let’s do this” moment. If it’s going to happen, it will. It always used to.

Reason 7: You don’t love her. Or she feels like you don’t. If you do, see reasons 5 and 6. If you don’t, why are you trying to sleep with her? Why are you even together?

Reason 8: She doesn’t love you. This is covered more fully in Part 2, but basically, see reasons 5, 6 and 7.

Part 2: Your partner has not given birth to anything in the last four years.

1: She’s tired/ill/stressed/other. Your sex drive is not a consistent thing, nor is hers. Think of it like a sine wave, with peaks and troughs depending on how she is feeling, what is going on in her life, all of that. Now when I say ill, I include short term illness, but also chronic illness and mental illness. Is she asthmatic? Diabetic? Does she have an autoimmune issue? Is she depressed? All of these things can have an impact on how you feel about sex. Does she have a tendency to get thrush? Can make sex a fucking unattractive prospect. There are things you can do. Probiotics. Diet. Look towards paleo based dietary advice, there has been a lot of success treating autoimmune issues with diets that look at inflammation etc. If she’s stressed, why? Is it something you can help with, or just be there?

2: Medication. Some medications lower your sexual inclinations. When with the Big Ex, I started talking the pill, within three days I didn’t want to do any such thing ever again, and that lasted for four months after I stopped taking it. Some medications have a long residual effect.

3: You have a genuine mismatch of levels of desire. I have been told that it is unreasonable to want to have sex three, seven, ten times a day by boys slightly incredulous that they were capable of that. And despite that they proudly repeat the tale of the day of X times as often as possible, it just isn’t who they are. More than once in a 24 hour period to some folk will elicit a groan and a feigned headache, and that’s fair enough. If they want to sleep with you, just considerably less often than you want to sleep with them, you have to weigh up. Do you love them, and is it good enough? If the answer is yes, stop whining, you’re still getting some.

4: Is she affectionate in physical though non-sexual ways? Does it feel more natural to touch each other than not? Do you still kiss, cuddle and hold each other, just not that? If so, see 1, 2, 3, 5, and possibly 7. If not, see 5, 6, 7 and 8.

5: Are you still attractive to her? It’s a fair one, though it maybe shouldn’t be. Folks say love is blind. Love may be, but lust, not so much. Since you met, have you paid less attention to your clothes, your hair, your ever redder drinker’s nose? Is your bosom starting to rival hers? If her affection for you is strong enough to want to be that close, great. If not, there are two questions. Can you make yourself more attractive to her again? And, do you want to?

6: Were you ever attractive to her? It’s a genuinely good question because of the possibility that…

7: You made a relationship out of just friends. This is the trickiest bastard thing. All my life people have tried to push me into going out with boys I loved as friends, with arguments such as “Friendships the most important thing” and “but you both want the same things” and “he’s such a nice bloke” etc. And, my lovely, lovely friends there have been times when one or other of you has made a move, and I’ve been in a lonely frame of mind, where I’ve contemplated letting the move occur. I can see the attraction. You live with your best mate, you have someone to do “couple’s things” with, let’s face it, going to the theatre or out for dinner on your own blows, and you’re attracted to them enough to be friends, surely sex is not such a stretch? And you’re a bit lonely right now, and you haven’t in a while, and the fact that they like you is making them look more attractive than normal… And you have sex. And it’s terrible. You just aren’t compatible together. But you can’t say, as you have this emotional connection because you’ve spent all this time getting to know them, and you do it again. And it’s not quite as bad, and they start to learn what makes you tick, and for a while the hormones of having sex makes everything enough. But after a while that calms down, and you stop wanting to have sex. Because sex has a tendency to amplify what you feel about someone. If you love someone a little bit that way, it makes you love them more. If you don’t love them at all that way, it makes you like them less the other way as well. And you don’t want to admit that, because you are attached. You do love them, because you spend all your time together, and you share all your feelings with them, and you bitch about so and so at work to them, and when you want to go to the theatre or out for a meal you just know you’d go with them. You do love them. Just not in that way. And you have a deep affection for them, and it would turn your whole world apart to admit that you were only housemates. – For some people this is enough, and so if you married your best mate who only had sex with you because she was feeling a bit lonely and desperate, and basically just wants to be mates again, the thing you have to ask is are you both happy and is it enough? If so, stop whining about the sex. If not, maybe it's time to be honest about what you are to each other. - Easier to spot when you have a baby together, incidentally, as without the fun couple things to do together, this kind of relationship does not hold up well.

8: Did you make a relationship out of just sex? Much easier to spot than the previous one. And much easier to leave. As previously stated, sex tends to amplify how you feel about someone, so for all you might shag like rabbits initially, without a desire for each other’s company outside of the bedsheets/back of the car/anywhere with an ounce of privacy, attraction wanes rather quickly. Contrary to popular opinion, foreplay is not a series of manoeuvres conducted on an uninclined body to make it suddenly switched on, it’s the conversations you have, the moments you share. And that’s why it’s easier to settle for 7 than for 8. It’s easy to persuade yourself that just friends is enough, particularly if you have memories of sex disjointed from all the affection of the friendship that exists in a relationship. But if you made a relationship out of sex, and both realised you fucking hate each other, why are you trying to sleep with her? Why are you even together?

9: You don’t love her. Or she feels like you don’t. If you don’t, why are you trying to sleep with her? Why are you even together?

10: She doesn’t love you. Nothing doing about it.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is I really hate the continually perpetuated myth that sex is something women allow men to do to us because we love them, or some such soppy crap. And the myth that women get less sexual over time. It's a big pile of shit. If we get less sexual, there are reasons why. Sometimes they are our own, personal reasons and they will resolve themselves, sometimes they are health based, and may not. And sometimes, we just don't want you, but our vaginas have realised this more quickly than our heads.