Dear Dr. Darcy,
I am in a long-term (20+) loving, affectionate relationship, with an incurable case of lesbian bed death. No sex (or just a few miserable crumbs) in nearly 7 years, because partner has zero interest in even trying. It started during a rough time in our relationship. We went to [couples counseling], then indiv. therapy, also spent time apart. Relationship improved. Sex never recovered. Couples counseling only helped (me, not her) acknowledge how abandoned and hurt I felt and what a negative impact it had on the rest of the relationship. Partner seems fine with the situation. She keeps saying she’s attracted to me and will initiate something someday somehow. (I long ago gave up initiating, as I know I will face a wall.) It never happens. Then on a regular basis I feel hurt and rejected and express these feelings and my anger, which probably does not help. (But frankly nothing helps.) I don’t want to break up bc of the strong loving connection. I also don’t want to be deprived of any sexual intimacy for many more years to come.
So I am realizing I need to accept that this is what she is like now, instead of going through the same terrible cycle (believing her, hoping, then getting hurt and angry), to “grieve” and move on (not sure how). And I need to start looking for someone willing to be in an open relationship with me (don't know how either), with whom I can share some emotional and sexual connection. Individual therapy helped me realize how stuck and powerless I felt and how extremely painful it was at times but my (straight) therapist did not seem to understand why I’d stay in the relationship (bc of the love and affection and hugs!) and grew very frustrated with me. Any advice? What would YOU do?
I would fire your therapist.
Therapy helped you realize how powerless you feel – that’s great. Did therapy do anything to help empower you, other than to suggest that you jump ship to find a better partner? Don’t even answer that.
This is my problem with therapy. And with therapists. But that’s another blog. Or a book.
We’re going to empower you now to stop looking for a better partner, and instead, to be a better partner. Of course you don’t want to leave your partner. While sex is a very important part of a committed relationship, it’s not the entire relationship. Hell, “as many as 20 million married Americans aren't getting it on with any regularity,” according to the Huffington Post. This isn’t just a lesbian issue – it’s a long-term relationship issue.
I know you say that she isn’t interested, but logically speaking, if she’s telling you that she’ll initiate (even though she never follows through), it makes sense to me that she’s not disinterested – otherwise she’d just say no. There’s something more complicated going on there… But nothing that can’t be fixed by focusing on you and your personal power.
So here’s what I want you to do: I want you to become the partner that you wish she was. I mean really become that partner. Get clear about what you wish the seduction would look like, when it would take place, how it would play out – and for the love of God, stop talking about sex and initiate sex! At least then we’ll have some real data to work with. There’s something called the 0/100% principle (linked to here) and I want you to follow it for 30 days and report back.
What would I do? As a therapist or as a dissatisfied wife? As a therapist, I’d do exactly what I’m telling you to do here. As a dissatisfied wife, I would undoubtedly get sucked into pointing fingers at my beautiful, loving wife until the last thing she’d want to do is have sex with me. Do as I say – not as I’d do.
Writer’s Stats: Female, Lesbian.