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weelittlehedgie asks:

I've been wanting sex again with my partner for a long time but I'm having problems. Because of our age gap I'm sort of the stereotypical hormone-raging teenager. I feel guilty for thinking about having sex so often and bothering my partner by trying to initiate sex. I feel uncomfortable even thinking about trying to talk about sex and express my need for it more often unless it's after we've had sex. The past few times we've tried to have sex, my partner's sleeping medication has made them tired before I believe either of us are satisfied. And when I really really want to have sex it is either on a school night (which we previously agreed was off-limits for sex) or there's a friend sleeping in the same room. It's making me frustrated. I don't know how to bring it up because I feel guilty and needy or that I might be cornering them into decisions they're not comfortable with. What am I supposed to do that won't have me constantly apologizing?

Sam W replies:

Let's tackle those apparently "raging" hormones first.

Having strong sexual desires is nothing to be ashamed of. People have a range of sex drives, from high to non-existent, and even then, that's rarely static: in other words, it's often less a "way people are," than a way someone is at a given time in their lives or in a given situation. One person's sex drive can vary from day to day depending on lots of different variables.

If there's a disparity between you and your partner in terms of desire, it's less likely that it's caused by your age gap (unless your partner is in or past middle-age, but even then that can be a non-issue) and more likely the result of either individual preferences or environmental factors, such as stress or illness. Adolescents don't really have "raging hormones." That is a stereotype, one that misrepresents what is happening hormonally to adolescents, which is that some hormonal levels are simply changing to what they will be like for much of early to mid-adulthood.

Of course, there can be times when wanting or thinking about sex a lot becomes problematic. One of those is where you want sex so much that you disregard the consent of another person in order to have it. The other is when thinking about sex consumes so much of your mental energy that other important aspects of your life start to suffer (your grades go down, you're not connecting with your partner, etc). If neither one of these sounds applicable to your situation, then there's no need to feel down on yourself for wanting sex.

Still, knowing your desires are reasonable isn't likely to make you any less amorous or any less frustrated all by itself.

One of the easiest ways to take the pressure off is to masturbate. I don't know what your housing/roommate arrangement is like, but hopefully you have somewhere private to go where you can be sexual when you want to be. By masturbating, you get to express and release some of those sexual wants and desires, and your brain stops being in must-get-laid-now mode and can go on to focus on other things. If you're feeling like you have sex on the brain all the time, it often helps a lot to just take a short time-out to rub one out.

Let's move on to the stickier part of this question, which is your worry about annoying or pressuring your partner into having sex.

My first piece of advice is this: you need to talk to them.

Mostly I say this because they are not a mind reader, so the only way for them to know how you're feeling is to tell them. If you don't talk about what's bothering you, you risk having that frustration you're feeling build up and come out as anger in a moment where you want sex and they don't. So, I'd advise you err on the side of having this conversation sooner rather than later.

I also recommend having this talk in a moment that is not right before or right after you've had sex. Those moments can be very emotionally charged, and therefore not great for bringing up larger relationship concerns: that can certainly feel like pressure. And, placing this discussion at a time when sex is not even remotely possible may help keep your partner from feeling as though you're bringing it up just to get more sex out of them at that moment.

The other way to keep your partner from feeling pressured is to, well... not pressure them. When you bring up your feelings around sex, just make clear that this is not meant to guilt trip them or make them feel obligated to have more sex with you: you are not trying to change their mind or influence their own desires, you're just letting them know about yours. This is something you are feeling and, because it's relevant to your relationship, you want to talk with them about it. When you talk about things you feel and want, be sure to use "I" statements that make clear this is about you and how you are feeling, not something they are causing or responsible for fixing.

I think it's also good to mention that you want to get a better sense of what their ideal frequency of sex is, since it sounds like you are worried about unintentionally pushing them to have more sex than they want to. After you've made this point and discussed how you're feeling, give them a chance to speak their mind.

During this talk I would keep in mind that, in many, if not most, relationships, there will come a point where the people involved will desire different frequencies of sex. Whether or not this difference is cause for concern depends a lot on how willing the partners are to be open about their desires and expectations, and how flexible people feel they can be about differences. Even if your partner is expressing different feelings on the issue than you are, you're not facing and insurmountable obstacle. I'd treat this conversation as a chance for each of you to work out what the other is feeling and wanting.

I think there are many potential outcomes of this conversation, and I am going to run you through the most likely ones.

I do want to say first that there is one outcome that, to me, would signal that it might be time to reconsider being with this partner. If your partner guilt trips you or belittles you for expressing your feelings and needs around sex, that is a red flag (especially if they have done this on previous occasions when you've discussed sex, or if they do it when you discuss other issues). Having a mismatch in libidos is one thing, but making your partner feel as if they have to apologize for the degree of their sexual urges is not okay. Partners can have different sexual wants, or different wants around sexual frequency, but since no one has to engage in any sex they don't want to, everyone should feel like it's okay to be different in those respects.

You may find that what will work best for you both is a reordering of some of the defaults and rules you've built around sex. For instance, you may discover that they do want as much sex as you do, but are assuming that you should always be the one to initiate. In that case, it might work to have your partner practice being more communicative about when they are in the mood, and for you to initiate less so that they get a chance to do so themselves more. Or, maybe you keep the "no sex on a school night" rule, but agree to try having sex at time when your partner hasn't just taken their sleep medication (which is designed to make them tired, after all, and one assumes they're taking when they want to go to sleep, not when they want to engage in sex).

It may be your partner does desire physical intimacy and pleasure with you, but they aren't up for intercourse as much as you are. A good option in that case is to adjust what you focus on in terms of being intimate. Slowing down and taking more time on non-intercourse based activities may help you both feel pleasure without making it feel like you are having capital "S" sex all the time.

It may also come out that you and your partner are not well matched in terms of your libidos, and your partner does not see theirs changing in the foreseeable future. If that's the case, you have a few options.

The first of those is to end the relationship as a sexual relationship. It may feel like a petty reason to bring things to a close in that respect, but it's no less valid than any other, and it sounds like, for you, sex is an important component of a relationship right now. If you and your partner can't agree on an approach to it that makes both of you happy, then that's a signal that you just aren't suited for each other, in this kind of relationship, in the long run. Many of the relationships in our lives, or the way we are doing them, will be transitional rather than permanent, and that tends to be especially common when we're younger or with sexual relationships.

If you want to stay together, one of your options is that you agree to less sex in your relationship. However, I want you (since it is primarily what you want that will have to be adjusted) to be very honest with yourself about whether or not this is actually a feasible long term option, or of it's just going to result in increased frustration or resentment. You'd need to figure out if that will really work for you and make you satisfied or not: there's no right answer to that, just your own honest self-evaluation and what it tells you.

The second possibility is that you decide to go from being in a monogamous relationship (which it sounds like you are) to a non-monogamous one. That is, you and your partner remain together as a couple, but you have permission to pursue some (or all) of your sexual desires with other people, too. A potential benefit of this option is that it removes the stress of balancing two disparate sex drives from your relationship, which may improve the health and happiness of the relationship long term.

Non-monogamous relationships can take a lot of different forms. Some people decide to remain each others main (or primary) partners, but one (or both) of them has relatively casual sex with one or more other partners. Other times, partner A and partner B are in a relationship, but B is also in a committed emotional and sexual relationship with C. The dynamics of these relationships vary depending on the people involved, and how people go about this, so being open and communicative with your partner (or, possibly, partners) about what you all are comfortable with is really important. I want to stress is that, in all of these dynamics, everyone knows where they stand with everyone else and is honest about what is going on: we're not talking about cheating. If you decide on this course of action, you need to be sure that you and your partner fully consent to it and feel good about trying it. Otherwise, it's a relationship-killer rather than a benefit.

In the end, I think the solution to your conundrum comes down to communicating with your partner about your feelings and needs and allowing them space to do the same, with each of you working to accept any differences, and then talk and think some more to figure out what seems like the best solution for the two of you to manage them. Below are some links related to your issue and some of the suggestions I had for you, if you'd like to find out some more.

Information on this site is provided for educational purposes. It is not meant to and cannot substitute for advice or care provided by an in-person medical professional. The information contained herein is not meant to be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or for prescribing any medication. You should always consult your own healthcare provider if you have a health problem or medical condition.

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