3 min

Can a bad sexual fit get better with time?

Without the heat, the relationship house tends to fall

Dear Dr Ren:

I’m a middle-aged lesbian who has been single for several years.

I recently spotted a woman online who lives a reasonable distance away. I was impressed with her picture and profile. The more we talked, the more I liked her.

We logged many hours on email and phone, discussing everything from personal values to family histories. We looked good on paper. Both of us cautious, we finally met.

We have been seeing each other for several months. We’re a good fit in many ways and I sense we could make this work. I feel lucky to have found someone at this stage in my life.

There is one thing though.

The sex is, at best, adequate. She seems overwhelmed by my enthusiasm. I ask for what I want and she complies… once.

Even though we are honeymooning, I’m either frustrated or bored. I’ve had a rich and expansive sexual history, and can see us reduced to cuddling or bed death in short order.

Can a bad sexual fit get better with time? Or should I accept that this relationship just doesn’t have the right components and get out now?

One Element Missing

Dear Missing Element,

Each of us has what I call an erotic signature, a sexual personality as individual as a fingerprint and consistent throughout our lifetime. If we are sexually curious as children, we will be sexually precocious teens, adventurous adults and randy elders. Similarly, if we are sexually disinterested in our youth, we will develop other pursuits during our adolescence and young adulthood, and sex will not be a major focus as we age.

It sounds like you and your new girlfriend put different emphasis on the role of sex in your relationship. What is primary to you may not be for her. You say you ask for what you want, but she misses the importance of your request or fails to observe the change it makes to your lovemaking.

In the blush of new romance when you are trying hard to impress each other, it does not bode well that she is unresponsive to both your verbal and body cues.

Besides this very personal difference, we enter relationships with expectations about their rhythm. Some want heat while others seek warmth. Your history is “rich and expansive.” What is hers? You two may have different targets.

I don’t know how much you two have talked about this issue.

How does she feel? Is she divinely happy or are you already squabbling about sex? Ask some questions and really listen for the answers. If you are both dissatisfied, there may be room to challenge the status quo; if not, the prognosis is bleak.

Of course sex improves as relationships age, but you are talking about an initial mismatch. If you feel this way now, how do you suppose you will feel in five years? Put resentment and regret at the top of the list.

The most intense sex generally happens at the beginning of a relationship. If you cannot get yourselves on track soon, you are probably wise to accept your differences and move on.

You may have some options.

If your relationship is open, you may find others with whom you can play occasionally to release the energy you cannot express with your girlfriend. Some kinky/”vanilla” couples find this solution works for them.

Do I think either of you will go for this? When pigs fly. But if you want to stay together despite a sexual hurdle, you will need to explore all your options.

Alternatively, you could redefine your relationship to keep the good parts but eliminate the unsatisfactory sex. I can hear you objecting now that I am describing friendship. Yes, I am.

Friendship is often under-rated. If you cannot successfully push this square peg into a round hole (no pun intended), why not celebrate how well it fits into a square one?

Must you let go your dream of a perfect love? Yes, if it is not a perfect love. Wishing will not make it so.

Might you choose to settle? You may. It depends on your priorities and your goals.

The fact that you have already written in distress suggests that if you cannot enlist your girlfriend in the solution, this problem will soon engulf your new romance.

You may ask if you can sublimate your desire.

We know of no way to manufacture or extinguish desire.

Might you be happy with a great relationship but frustrating, boring sex?

You already know the answer.

I suspect you wrote hoping to hear either that yours was not a serious problem or that I had a list of solutions.

Sadly, neither is the case.

When sex, which sets romantic relationships apart from all the rest, does not click, we need to pay attention.

Attraction, erotic connection, can’t-keep-my-hands-off-you heat — these form the necessary foundation of a relationship that can weather time. Without this glue, the house tends to fall.

Be brave. Discuss this honestly and fix it if you can.

No? Then hold out for what feels right. Long term you’ll be glad you did.