The Sex Column: 'She's always too tired for sex – what do I do?
‘Last year I had a brief fling, which was naive and selfish, but my partner forgave me and I admire her for that.
‘I told her then that I needed more of her time. She works very hard but I feel she uses work to lose herself.
‘We’ve now got back to that stage where I’m spending evenings and weekends alone.
‘She’s either too tired for sex or not present.
‘She assures me now that her work project is nearly over — but then there will be another project.
‘What’s your advice?‘
It’s not entirely surprising that your relationship has limped along until it’s reached another standstill. You have different needs and they appear to be incompatible.
‘Some people need sex in order to feel intimacy, which might be you,’ says James McConnachie. ‘Others need intimacy in order to have sex and perhaps she is one of those.’
When someone strays as you have, it’s rarely about raging desire. The drive for another is mostly fuelled by unfulfilled needs and instead of communicating with their partners, they attempt to feel valued elsewhere.
‘Some people just expect others to put up with them investing all their time and physical and emotional energy into a job,’ says Rupert Smith. ‘But what’s more damaging? A quick shag or year upon year of neglect and preoccupation?’
Now it seems that the threat of another infidelity is lurking in the shadows, which will only cause more pain for both of you. Whenever you’re stuck, think about how you can flip the situation.
‘You’ve told her what you need and that hasn’t worked,’ says McConnachie. ‘So try asking her what she needs instead. It may sound like the opposite of what you want, which is to be listened to and to be loved.
‘After all, here I am telling you to instead listen and give love. However, to get what you want in life — and in sex, actually — always start by giving.’
So give her your attention. If she’s using work to lose herself, what is she escaping from?
‘Find out the answer to that question and you’ll begin to create the relationship that will enable the closeness you crave — and the sex that will naturally, beautifully follow,’ says McConnachie.
Dr Angharad Rudkin also suggests you discuss how your partner can prioritise your relationship during weekends and evenings.
‘It’s also important that you explore what you can do to get a sense of connection and attention in adaptive ways, like making more plans with friends or finding a job or passion that excites you,’ she says.
If you can’t reach a compromise, consider couples therapy, says Smith, who adds: ‘But if your partner continues avoiding intimacy, take a good look at why you’ve been prepared to put up with it for so long.’
There is little to be gained from dragging a dying relationship on for another few years, says Rudkin.
‘Talk now and take action,’ she says. ‘And accept that not all relationships work forever.’
Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor
James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)
Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist
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