I don't know what to do - my boyfriend has suddenly become really crap in bed. We've been together for almost a year, and it seemed OK at the start - there was room for improvement but I thought things would get better. It seems as though I've tried everything, from being really specific about what I want, bringing toys in, dressing up. But he just seems to get more annoyed with me. I think I have a slightly higher sex drive than him, although when I tried to talk about that he got really defensive. Everything else is great, and my friends think I'd be crazy to break up with a good boyfriend because of a bad sex life. Is there any way I can make things better? Do I just have to put up with this?
Oh, love, when it comes to relationships, I don’t think it’s good for us to ‘put up with’ anything. That’s not to say that compromise isn’t a good, important thing - but ultimately, compromising means finding a solution to a problem that works for both of you. Leaving things in their current state doesn’t work for you at all.
The first rule of relationships - the one that we all know, but all struggle to put into practise, is to communicate clearly. It sounds like you’re doing this, and really spelling out what you’d like and what you’d need. It’s natural to feel upset, angry and frustrated when you ask the person you love the most to help you to fulfil your desires, and they won’t meet you half way. However, sex can get so tired up with a person’s confidence and sense of identity that I suspect your boyfriend might be sulking because he isn’t fulfilling your needs, and he feels embarrassed and ashamed.
As a society we have a weird, flawed understanding of sexual desire in heterosexual relationships. A myth persists that men want it all the time, and women really aren’t that bothered. I’m sure there are many women who have lower sex drives than their husbands and boyfriends, but there are just as many women, if not more, who love sex and want lots of it. Perhaps your boyfriend just can’t get his head around the gap between reality, and the ideas about women he picked up subconsciously when he was a kid watching sitcoms that featured wives who were never in the mood and got upset when people made a mess of their clean floors. This isn’t his fault, but there’s a lot to unpick. And if sex has a lot of significance for you, it might not be fair on either of you if you’re the person who has to work with him on the issue.
I think sex is a key part of the way we connect with our partners. Some couples are content to build their bond and experience intimacy in other ways, and if that suits everyone, that’s entirely valid. But sex is a way to be tender and intimate and elevate your relationship beyond friendship. Our partners often become our very best friends, because we’re so close to them and spend so much time with them. However, if you don’t want each other, and touch each other often, it’s difficult for the relationship to retain its romantic dimension.
Reading between the lines of your letter, I think you and your boyfriend might benefit from couples therapy - and he would definitely benefit from some one on one therapy. Not because his sex drive is lower than yours, but because he seems resentful and unwilling to listen to you and make an effort to make you happy. It seems that he has issues around confidence and communication, and in the long run that’s going to impact your relationship outside the bedroom.
I don’t think anyone is fully sexually compatible all the time. People get ill, tired and busy, and there are all sorts of reasons for the sex to drop off a bit. It isn’t necessarily a reason to end a relationship. Still, in your case, I think it might be. It’s not about him being bad in bed - it’s because sex means so much to you, and it doesn’t seem to have the same significance for him. I was once in a relationship where I got dumped because my ex boyfriend loved sailing more than he loved me. It was grim at the time, but he was right to do it - he was deeply passionate about something I was not good at or interested in, and we were incompatible as a result. I’m sure your friends are rightt, and he is a good boyfriend - but he might be a better one for someone else, and there’s almost certainly someone better out there for you too. Sex doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker, but having a partner who dpesn’t listen to you, take you seriously or try to make you happy absolutely is.
Wishing you lots of love and luck.