Just sharing my story - swings in desire and same job

I’ve been in a relationship 3 years and got engaged not too long ago. A bit of context is that everything else in our relationship is strong, but when one thing is not right it just seems to overshadow everything. Our sex life has been up and down and I’ve been struggling of late. I guess there are 2 main issues I’m dealing with :

  1. this is my first relationship of any kind. I’ve always had a kind of anxiety around full sex. Have always enjoyed the idea of being more submissive and doing bdsm stuff. I told this to my partner at the very start and she was cool with it - we were both happy to play around and see what happened. For the first 2 years or so we only did intercourse a few times, for the most part this was okay for me but over time it became clear it was an issue for her. Looking back at this period is hard for me. I really enjoy sexual experiences with my partner and have usually found it easy to get hard, however if I know there is an expectation on her part that we will try for the full thing, I often lose it. I think on my part, this is a mixture of at times just preferring to do outercourse, and at times wanting to do intercourse but being worried about letting my partner down and losing it. While my desire for intercourse has grown over the course of the relationship, it is very hard to admit to myself and my partner that there are times when I would prefer to do something else instead.

About a year ago I did some counselling to talk about my issues. On the whole it was helpful, we have had sex more often in the last year and honestly I have found it far more enjoyable than what we did before. I have felt much closer to my partner also. However, there have been dips along the way and I do have a lot of anxiety a lot of the time about things going wrong. This makes me pull away or ask just for outercourse. My partner is struggling with this, the fact that we have had periods of big success over the last year has left her confused as to why there are times I just can’t or don’t want to, and I get that. I started doing Mojo a few months back ( I stopped the counselling about 6 months ago ) and found it helpful at first, but there are still issues I have. If I don’t get hard in the first few minutes then I lose confidence, the whole situation becomes less sexy and I am just worried about what my partner is thinking. Whenever we do do it, suddenly life is amazing but things are a bit of a rollercoaster and at the moment I am in one of my worst ruts. Can’t understand why at times it has been so easy and I’ve felt so connected and great with my partner. Definitely dwelling too much on the past and future - I love her so much and hate to feel like I am hurting her more than I am benefiting her.

  1. the other thing to say is that we both work in the same place in a highly pressurised and stressful job. We are not in exactly the same department but still see a lot of each other and have the same stresses, difficult customers and managers. We work late and when we come home often just want to have our own space and decompress. I personally find my drive to be quite low a lot of the time after the work day and this adds to my feeling that I won’t get it up if we go for it. We have also spoken about if working together is really the best thing long term and if we see ourselves too much as colleagues. It may be hard for me to admit but maybe my desire for her goes up and down and maybe our working life is a part of this - we are so many different things to each other and it does feel harder to make time to just be romantic and have fun.

I am feeling quite confused at the moment, I know long term I have made huge progress. I want sex more than I did in the past and have been having more success with my partner in the last year, but right now just feeling quite low. My partner is low about it too and I know she just wants to get to the next time we do it - it feels hard because she wants me to take the lead but I don’t want to let her down. Equally I know avoiding sex is bad and just reinforces it as a danger in my brain.

Feels great to get it all out there and if anyone has any thoughts at all I would be so appreciative.


Hi. I have nothing helpful to add, other than to say how much respect I have for you and others expressing what is going on in the most intimate parts of our lives, that don’t usually get spoken about in public. It gives me hope that so many other people experience difficulties at times; so we are all just ‘normal’. :+1: And perhaps like mental health issues, it’s now clear that most people will have some experience at some stage in their lives. I’m sure others will have more constructive things to add, but Good Luck to you, and here’s to passing through this phase towards a less stressful future for you both.

I totally agree with the user above - huge respect for opening up about the challenges you’re having. A lot of what you say resonates with me. I have lived with the performance anxiety my whole life and in every relationship - and I say that as a happily married man. I have come to the point where I have accepted that I am going to live with the nerves forever and that there will be times when they’re stronger than me and times when I’m stronger than them. The perfectly hard erection, the perfect intercourse, the perfect sexual relationship…does not exist. I think about it like conversation with my wife…sometimes they’re really intimate, sometimes they’re a bit stressful, sometimes they’re totally flat…it’s just part of normal human relationships to feel connected some of the time and disconnected at others. It doesn’t have to mean the end of the world or the end of your psychological stability. I’ve also learned that it is about SO MUCH MORE than what goes on in the bedroom. If you read one thing about this topic, I would recommend Esther Perel’s ‘Mating in Captivity’. It’s about why we struggle to maintain erotic desire in long term relationships and what we can do about it. It completely changed my perspective on the steps I needed to take to make my relationship more enjoyable and sensual without just having more sex. If you’re anything like me, you may find that investing in other areas of your romantic life have more effect in the bedroom than anything you could do in bed. It sounds like your lives overlap a lot, which is similar to my wife and I because we both work from home. Maybe it’s time for a change there. Maybe you need to see less of each other, spend more time apart, find ways to let of steam separately, before you can come back together in a meaningful way. I’ve found that setting boundaries has been crucial to my survival. I had to learn to say, I don’t want to hear about your work tonight, or I need to be alone for a few hours, without feeling guilty. Then I make the effort to create time/space where we have quality time together. Otherwise, you just spend all your time being grumpy with each other and you make it about you, rather than the external circumstances that may be affecting you. Good luck!

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Thanks for sharing @consistent-amethyst-pigeon. There are so many layers and angles to this.

Being okay with whatever makes you and your partner feel good (intercourse/outercourse/whatever) is so healthy. Hopefully your partner can lower her expectations (if you’re reading her expectations correctly) and go with the flow more. Have you talked about that with her? Talking honestly about sex can ease your nerves and help you both understand where you’re at. Hopefully opening up that conversation will help you feel confident asking for what you want and reduce anxiety related to intercourse (if you want that). My wife and I find intercourse to be less satisfying than other stuff, so I’m a proponent of doing what works for you.

Do you feel like you got at whatever brings about erection difficulties surrounding intercourse in your counseling?

Sex is just one part of a relationship, but I totally get how it can blow up out of proportion when it doesn’t feel right. We can think too much about it, though, especially when we’re trying to work it out. Lately I’ve been feeling there are so many expectations around sex and it just doesn’t have to be so heavy. Anything we can do to reduce pressure, expectation, and fear can help clear the way for fun, enjoyable experiences. Easier said than done, but that seems to be an essential goal for me.

I’ve been married for many years and we’ve both been working from home for like seven years now. Love that @loyal-moccasin-python is mentioning Esther Perel. Her work is so important in understanding long-term relationships and I highly recommend reading her book “Mating in Captivity” if you want insight on that.

I’ve always had erection difficulties, which I attribute to a very conservative and sexually repressive religious system that I subscribed to in my youth and young adulthood, but I think where I’m at now is in large part due to where my wife and I are in our relationship. Love her but we are a lot of things to each other, parents to three children, together all of the time—it all takes a toll on the erotic aspect of the relationship.

I’ve been at this for well over a year from various angles (therapy, meditation, reading, bodywork, all the mojo exercises, and more) and have come a really long way, dealing with various aspects of my life because erection issues are connected to everything else. I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished, but it’s also easy to get bummed out when things aren’t always the way we want them to be. I guess I’d say try to be at peace with how things are right now and take everything as it comes. nothing is as important as we sometimes think it is. What’s right for you may change over time, even day to day. It’s not one thing or a formula you can repeat.

One other resource that I want to mention is this book, which may be generally helpful, but I find the program in Chapter 8 of particular value to gradually getting comfortable with your partner, starting with conversation and gradually moving to intercourse—again, it doesn’t have to be all about intercourse, but that’s the objective they point to:

Coping with Erectile Dysfunction: How to Regain Confidence and Enjoy Great Sex
by Barry W. McCarthy PhD, Michael E. Metz PhD