It sounds like he's having one way conversations with his wife so he is likely seeing approval when she's just trying to hold onto things and not let them get to broken.

Yeah twice a month isn't great but it is a base to work on; and if you are able to communicate properly get snipped let your woman off the hook for birth control. It is hormones so yes it will affect her some people have lesser effects others... it all depends what is taken


@1 He said once every two months, not twice a month. Not that that changes what he should do about it. I agree with 11-years-ago Dan.


What's with the "b̶o̶y̶f̶r̶i̶e̶n̶d̶ husband" thing, though? In 2008 Dan and Terry had already been married for 3 years, so it's not like it was a new thing.


Sex 6 times a year and your wife won't deal with it? That ends in some combination of resentment, contempt, cheating and/or divorce. L-dub, hope you got to the last one wo/ too much of the first 3, and that you're now in a relationship that you find significantly more sexually satisfying.


"married eight years and mostly happy" -- Aha, it's that seven year itch phenomenon that's been much discussed in this forum.
Yeah, dude, if you can't see talking to your wife but you can see cheating on her, there's a problem. I hope he did try more communication and I hope they came up with some ways to get her interested in sex again.

Calliope @3, at the time same-sex marriage was quite new and Dan often mentioned his incredulity at having something he never thought he'd be able to have -- a husband, pronounced HUZZZZZZBEN. :)


@5 Ah, I see. So this is just an "I'm too young to remember"/"I haven't been reading long enough" thing. Gotcha.


If a person can't reboot their current relationship then they're unlikely to be able to reboot the next relationship when the sexual excitement fades, or the one after that, or the one after that.

Or rather, that's if the horny person can't even be bothered to TRY to reboot the relationship, to bring up the possibility that the two of them might work together on this project.

Here's one option (speaking to people in the LW's shoes) -- have a one night stand and then tell her what you did and why. Either that will explode the marriage and you'll be free to find a better fit, or she'll take your needs more seriously and you can start figuring out your reboot together. (Worked for us.)


@8 That's sort of the nuclear option, isn't it? I would hope a couple could at least try other things first before one member would resort to this. It sounds like the LW was too scared to even seriously get his wife to engage the subject. Maybe that's all it would have taken and there would have been no need for a one-night stand. Who knows, though. Maybe the nuclear option was all that was left.


@8 I have to say the advice in the last paragraph is terrible, though I agreed with the rest of what you said. Cheating on your partner just to blow things up and basically threaten her into having sex more often is manipulative and cruel. And assuming that LW actually wants to repair his sexual relationship with his wife and isn't just looking for a free pass to cheat, it's also likely to make that much harder if not impossible. Assuming the marriage survives, it's going to be a lot harder for his wife to feel desirable around him after being cheated on. He might get more sex in the short term due to "hysterical bonding," i.e. her reacting to being cheated on by desperately trying to win him back, but once that temporary situation passes he'll be in a worse situation than he is now. Also, that's simply a cruel thing to do to someone. It's possible for people's relationships to improve after someone cheats, but that doesn't mean cheating is a good idea. If LW can't communicate well enough with his wife to talk to her about their present situation, he's not going to be able to deal with the fallout of having betrayed her. Like @5 said above, "if you can't see talking to your wife but you can see cheating on her, there's a problem."

It sounds to me like LW should tell his partner that he misses their connection, which includes sex. That he went to a strip club and it reminded him of how he likes feeling desired, but would rather experience that from his wife. Keep it about how he wants a connection with her. Because if he starts saying threatening stuff like "I'm going to have an affair if you won't have sex with me more," she's likely to distance herself from him even more.

Another possibility is that LW walk away from this marriage before blowing it up.


Seems to me that putting your foot down and insisting that you talk about it is a step that needs to be taken before jumping to cheating or divorce.

It is OK to say "This is unacceptable to me, and we need to find a solution" a few times in the course of your marriage. Voices may need to be raised. Doors may get slammed. A fist or two might come down on a table. Tears may be shed. But if something matters to you enough that you're thinking about drastic action, and you're writing to an advice columnist, it should matter enough to insist the two of you talk it out, even at the risk of someone getting hurt or angry. It is entirely possible that she is also harbouring thoughts of something being unacceptable, and even that her issues with you and your issues with her are related.

I know that many people are uncomfortable with conflict - I don't like it much myself - but sometimes you have to let your partner know where your lines are.


You could get a kitten, as a poster upthread suggested. Or you could take the bull by the horn and say your piece.
Interesting you pointed to your wife’s birth control pills as possible culprits here. Seems to be the way with a lot of meds. If you don’t want children, have you thought to have the snip. Or she could change how she does birth control. Investigate all options, here.
Emotionally, after so many yrs together both of you seem clueless. What, she thinks a young man is content with sex every month or so. Do you sleep together. That’s punishing.
Why haven’t you spoken up, you have needs and you are in this relationship too.


Calli @3, BDF @5: I'm thinking Dan just doesn't like Canada.

In 2008, Dan and Terrence were, strictly speaking, only Canadian gay-married. When SCOTUS finally acted on marriage equality in 2015, they married again; perhaps "for real" this time.

Similarly, Dan's byline says he's a nationally syndicated sex advice columnist. In fact, he's syndicated in Canada too, which would qualify him to sit at the internationally syndicated sex advice columnist table. But he won't. Hmmm?


LW didn't mention the ways he had tried and failed to romance and seduce his wife. What's clear is that it was he who was uncomfortable with communication, and not (necessarily) her.


Nobody's mentioned bringing up opening the marriage yet? Really? Am I on some parallel-universe version of the SL comment board?

If his wife really has "lost interest in sex," either altogether or just with him, that seems like an obvious thing to consider.


visualworry @10

Did you miss the part where I said it worked for my marriage?

If people like the LW (or my husband) could bring up the topic seriously, that would obviously be better than cheating.

But a confessed one night stand is a better approach (in my biased opinion) than going straight to divorce without any serious communication about changing needs & desires.

"if he starts saying threatening stuff like 'I'm going to have an affair if you won't have sex with me more,' she's likely to distance herself from him even more"

I agree with you there. No point in threats. But confessing an infidelity is quite different. And unless you've been through a confessed (rather than uncovered) marital infidelity, I wouldn't underestimate the likelihood of trust re-emerging.


fubar @14 "LW didn't mention the ways he had tried and failed to romance and seduce his wife."

Good point!


Of course, birth control is notoriously bad for your libido. Maybe a first step could be for them to have a conversation, him get a vasectomy, and her to get off the meds. Give it few months for hormones to even out, and see what happens.

But if that doesn't work, I vote open the marriage. The sad truth is it's not at all uncommon for people (I think more often women, but I'm sure it happens both ways) to find themselves, after a number of years, basically just bored of sex with the same person. If they still love the person (as is often the case), they might phrase this (even to themselves) as being "uninterested in sex." It's not intentional, and it can be heartbreaking, but it's not always something you can think or talk your way out of. And as Erica says @8, a new relationship might change that for a while, but the pattern is likely to repeat. If the relationship is worth saving otherwise, letting both people go outside for sex seems a way to take pressure off and make everyone feel better--assuming they go about it thoughtfully and courteously.


EricaP @16: short of confessing an infidelity, LW could confess a letter to Dan Savage.That might achieve the same outcome without the same degree of pain.


@6: As fubar alludes, "husband-in-Canada, boyfriend-in-America" was a contemporaneous construction. Dan apparently STILL can't quite believe it sometimes, hence the ongoing appearance of "huuuuuuzzzzzzbend" on occasion.


I didn't get the impression he was looking for "Permission to Cheat" (this is a guy who thinks going to a strip club is close to pushing things too far), but rather looking for "Permission to bring the wife to therapy" - a conversation he clearly dreads. Sex with others seems low on his priorities.


Perhaps they were told on re-entering the US from Canada that they were not legally husbands in this country (there was such a scene on at least one television programme).

Anyway, it seems clear enough that one or both of them was using the Hurts Her Feelings card to get out of difficult discussions free, but I shouldn't want to bet on the correct answer.


If Ms. RTP is only interested in sex a few times per year, birth control pills seem like a poor choice for family planning. Modern low dose birth controls pills are entirely safe, but there are still certain risks, and if it kills her libido they aren't serving her purpose. So it seems reasonable for Ms. RTP to go off the pill and see what effect that has on her interest in sex. My second thought, however, is that maybe the reason she is staying on the pill is that is actual is having sex regularly, just not with Mr. RTP.

Another thought is that Ms. RTP was in her early 20s when she met RTP. Perhaps those early days of better sex were a function of Ms. RTP feeling obligated to have sex "on demand," and as she matured, decided that she no longer was obligated to have sex when she wasn't in the mood. Relatedly, perhaps Mr. RTP isn't a very good sex partner, and his late of effort and skill has killed her interest in sex.

What we do know is that this couple isn't talking about sex, and that has got to change, whether that conversation is facilitated or just one-on-one.


fubar @19 - worth a shot!


I've dealt with various mental ups and downs in my life and NOTHING was as much of a mindfuck as an extremely brief foray with birth control pills.

I've never felt less "myself." I think that's the underlying cause, especially if they used condoms at first (and I think they should return).


I remember this one from the first time round. I am so old. I bet they're divorced by now.


I was chatting last night with a friend who is poly, and recently started a relationship with a guy who says that he wants a poly relationship, but asked for an indefinite amount of time before letting her start seeing her secondary partners again. When I asked her whether this guy had experience in a poly relationship, she said she didn't know. I thought, how can you start a “poly” relationship as a closed relationship, which makes you unhappy, without discussing the past poly experiences of your prospective partner?

I relate this story in connection to RTP’s because I think it is really common that people fail to openly discuss sexual interests, fantasies, experiences, and expectations. Of course there is more to a relationship than sex, so there is a lot more to getting to know someone beyond sex, but if you are seriously considering a relationship and sex, why let cultural taboos around frank sex talk stunt your relationship, or worse fail to identify sexual incompatibilities.


EricaP @16, no one is recommending (well, except Dadddy, who lived this and therefore has his bias just as you have yours) that RTP just leave without talking to his wife. The rest of us are recommending that he talk to his wife. I'm usually an open-the-relationship advocate but he doesn't seem to have talked to his wife; he's too afraid to hurt her feelings, as if cheating and/or leaving wouldn't hurt her feelings. It's not clear how these conversations are going; he says "every time we talk about it I feel like I'm hurting her feelings." When are they talking about it? When he tries to jump on her as she's already half asleep, or during a sit down conversation where he persons up and tells her he loves her but he needs more sex? If he's proposing sex, she says no, he lets the subject drop because he doesn't want to hurt her feelings, that's not communication. And while the one-night-stand approach worked for you, I don't think most people would be happy with a "put out or I'll cheat again" ultimatum approach. It may be that Mrs RTP is like Dadddy's ex and he'd be better off getting a cat. (That's what you meant, right, Mr I'm Not A Misogynist?) Ciods @15, it may be that nothing they try, such as changing birth control or different approaches to seduction, works, and only then can opening the marriage be brought to the table. One question I'd ask is, what's different about those once every month or two occasions when they DO have sex? Can he replicate those conditions more frequently?

I suspect they are divorced by now, too.

Sublime @23, she may also be on the pill because it makes her periods brief and predictable. Preventing babies is not the only benefit the pill can have (for some).


Sublime @27: Wait, what? He's getting involved with a woman who has existing partners and asking her to stop seeing those existing partners while she's in the early stages of dating him? Yeah, no. I hope your friend walks.


Every loss of libido in women using hormonal birth control can be assumed to be due to the birth control until proven otherwise.


I would go with more communication.

But--with that handy time machine parked outside--I would, even more, go back to the start of the marriage and agree an acceptable baseline, then devise expedients, fallbacks, kickstarters, workarounds, while the times are still good. Of the kind, say, that one partner will raise even small points if they feel the resentment is building up to a level where they will repeatedly turn down sex. Or if the problem is exhaustion ... then the couple will already have worked out the release valve of having kids stay over with friends or grandparents one night a week while they 'work on their marriage'. Or if it's just mismatched libidos ... then the one wanting sex should be able to ask for a no-big-deal five minutes, a quick quickie or handjob. This would reconnect them and be understood as a stopgap by both.

It's not different, in principle, to having thought what to do beforehand if your kid is intractably inattentive or will only eat pasta.

In this case, there seems to be very little communication about sex, and the lw's concern that his advocating for himself will cone across as upsetting, or finding fault with, his wife seems quite misplaced. If the alternative is cheating, then surely the lack of sex should be raised as an issue concerning both.

I would think this theme--'husband wants more sex than wife'--a heavily or recurrently featuring one in the mailbox; and I, for one, don't find the wrinkles of each slightly different individual case boring. As a reader, I would as soon have five different variants of this than five more unusual kinks--or five frustrated or unhappy kinksters, with kinks I don't have (or have, even). I'm going to say the same thing anyway: talk, care, don't be ashamed of yourself.


@29/BiDanFan: Yes, she had existing sex and play partners with whom she met from time-to-time over a period of years. Through our exchange, I understand that these sessions are somewhat sporadic given that these partners don’t live in her city. But my view is that these are relationships whether or not they are romantic, and these partners are worthy of her consideration when establishing a new primary relationship. I expressed that she needs to be more considerate of these partners feelings, and putting these relationships on ice because of a new primary relationship isn’t being fair to them given their investment in their relationships with her over a period of years, even if that investment isn’t high.

In addition to getting her to think of these connections as something real, I advised her to have a real talk with him about being poly, and advised that they both read The Ethical Slut.

I think she is trying to ease his anxiety, but negative feelings will happen in poly relationships, because people feel what they feel. That can’t be helped. But he can exercise control over his reactions. In brief, feelings can’t be stage-managed, but your reactions can be.


@7. Dadddy. This is a refreshingly different perspective, but I doubt it was helpful advice. The lw can't even bear the thought of upsetting his wife by raising their sex drought; he doesn't seem to me likely to countenance the idea of leaving her.

@8. Erica. The first part is sensible. The latter part seemed as extreme as Dadddy.

@11. agony. Yes. Good sense.

@15. ciods. It's the last thing I would counsel in this case--in the absence of conversation. What are her wife's thoughts about their lull? What if it's 'well, I'm doing double at work to build up a buffer for when we have a child. That means I'm exhausted all the time and am looking for you forcefully to initiate. I thought we were on the same page here ... and that you didn't want sex so much now that it's been eight years and are at the stage of family planning'. He needs to find that out before he does anything silly and risks the whole marriage.


This friend isn’t the only woman I have seen ice existing relationships. I had a partner break things off in a manner I though was poor when she started seeing a new secondary partner.

Her text message went to the effect: She was oh so poly, but this new secondary partner got super sad about her having sex with other secondary or tertiary partners. He wouldn’t ask her to break things off with other men because he knew she was oh so poly, and she would never agree to that because she was oh so poly, but she knew he was sad about her having sex with other men, and he wanted her to be “exclusive” to him alone. There was a whole lot of blah, blah, blah like that.

I told her: You are either polyamorous with all that entails for you and your partners or you are not, and you either make that a condition of seeing you or you do not (with the necessary implications), and your partners either respect this (and your other partners) or you tell them to move on. All of that is really separate from the kind of sexual connection we have or you have with others.


@19. fubar. Good suggestion!

@23. Sublime. Lots of questions--some of which would be answered by having a conversation. If he puts it on the table, he's going to get, first, re frequency, either 'I'm happy with the amount of sex we're having' or 'like you, I'm not happy with the amount of sex we're having'. If it's #2, the matter becomes practical. Then, re it's being an issue, he will get, 'I see it's an issue for the marriage' or some variant of 'I resent being put on the spot this way ... I can't make a deal to have sex with you more in isolation'. The last could lead to almost endless discussion. But it has to be better than cheating?


Sublime @32 / @34: I agree with you completely. I'm perplexed that the new partner would be threatened by existing long-distance/occasional partners. Surely she sees them rarely enough that they won't affect the growth of a potential primary, short-distance relationship? It sounds to me like he just wants a monogamous relationship, and he should say so. I too have witnessed "situationally poly" people meet someone whose price of admission is monogamy and decide to pay that, and that's fine really, so long as they are honest about it -- with the partners they're ditching, and with themselves, which it sounds like your ex was not. In fact, one of my partners has recently received a text just like the one you've described from a long-distance partner. I gently and kindly reminded him that most people, in fact, do want to "settle down" and be monogamous and he shouldn't take it personally if she moves on after X years. Most non-primary relationships are time limited (as are most primary and monogamous relationships, if you think about it), and if she's at a point in her life where she wants to commit to a monogamous man then he should grieve that loss and wish her well.

Sorry everyone else for the massive tangent.


She’s probably using a birth control pill with a less androgenic form of progesterone and could try one with a more androgenic form (norethindrone). She will lose the benefit of decreased acne if this is a concern for her. Mood changes could go either way. To switch is very easy and can probably be done with a phone call to her health care provider if she’s been seen in the last year (when she got the current Rx). Hope this helps!


@30 Whirled without end
"Every loss of libido in women using hormonal birth control can be assumed to be due to the birth control until proven otherwise."

I think this could be the mike-drop comment in this thread. In other words, this simple principle could render all the other advice moot.

@8 Erica
Wow I loved those first 2 paragraphs.

As for the last paragraph, I liked your elaboration @16 that if "the LW (or my husband) could bring up the topic seriously, that would obviously be better than cheating".

Personally I don't feel comfortable telling people who can't bring up the topic to cheat. If someone can't bring it up, I wouldn't feel right giving them the advice to be dishonorable and lacking in integrity(1). Perhaps their inability to bring it up should instead be addressed, since without that ability I wonder if they have any business being in a relationship in the first place. Maybe they should've (and now should) work on /that/.

(1) Hell, people can bloody well find their way to being dishonorable without my help.


I find it so sad that birth control pills do this kind of thing to some people, because they've helped me so much even without needing their primary purpose (you know, birth control). I've been on the pill since I was 14 because of PCOS, and it has saved me from debilitating cramps, 10-day periods, and other such symptoms. I'm now on an extended cycle pill where I only get my period every three months (but I've actually stopped getting it entirely!), because getting my period typically throws off my mental stability and massively triggers my depression/anxiety. I get all this benefit from the pills, and I'm not even having sex yet. Granted, I don't really know if they've had an effect on my libido because I've been taking them since basically before I had a libido and I've never been in a relationship. But they've helped my quality of life so much that I find it incredibly sad that some people have such negative side effects. How unfortunate.


I really wish we had more information about the wife. Like does she have a job/career? If yes, how stressful/demanding is it? and does she travel for work? Is she responsible solely for the housework? Are there children? If yes, how many and what ages? and how involved is he as a parent in raising the children? Mundane things that can impact a person's desire/energy for sex? I find it telling that he doesn't provide such details. Are they not important to him or is he excluding them to bolster his case for cheating?


I imagine that brevity helps letters get published. It's a shame that it's so often also a major roadblock to properly addressing them.


My standard promo for my book, The Orgasmic Diet.

Lately I have found it's rather strange--I was viciously attached by the Republican Twitchy folk over my book, but recently all the loser Republican has-been celebrities like Gorka have been selling fish oil supplements (either that or going on Dancing with the Stars). They are selling to men, but fish oil does help (older) men with sexual function. Younger men it just contributes to premature ejaculation.

Maybe they wanted brand loyalty and so attacked me? It's a mystery.


Also, couldn't agree more with #30


@39/CalliopeMuse: "Granted, I don't really know if they've had an effect on my libido because I've been taking them since basically before I had a libido and I've never been in a relationship."

Pro Tip: If you want to have sex every day, the pill hasn't effected your libido. :-D


curious2 @38

"Personally I don't feel comfortable telling people who can't bring up the topic to cheat."

Then don't. That's pretty simple.

I'll still be here, speaking from my experience that the shock of hearing one's spouse confess an infidelity is sometimes good for a marriage. Esther Perel will back me up.

BiDanFan @28
"I don't think most people would be happy with a 'put out or I'll cheat again' ultimatum approach"

Note that I'm not recommending threats or ultimatums. I'm recommending communication and compassion.

If the couple can get there without either person fucking up, that's awesome. If fuck-ups happen, that's okay too.

Note also that I wasn't happy myself with what happened -- but it was a useful signal that something had to change.


@45 EricaP
"Then don't. That's pretty simple."

I don't get where you (and the attitude here which I do not appreciate) are coming from, since you said yourself @16 that if "the LW (or my husband) could bring up the topic seriously, that would obviously be better than cheating".

So why did you lead @8 with cheating instead of the honorable approach with integrity of bringing it up. And /then/ as a backup, in case they can't grow the fuck up and do so, present your experience of "one option" that worked for you.

I presume your attitude came from what I was trying to say diplomatically with that quote above in response to my:

"Personally I don't feel comfortable telling people who can't bring up the topic to cheat."

But since you moved us beyond diplomacy, I'll state clearly that what I bloody well meant is that /you/ were dishonorable to /only/ give the advice you led with @8.

I'm happy and I get that you love your husband, but I'm wondering if that somehow got in the way of you advising first what you yourself later agreed would be better. And then just as a backup plan mentioning in a later comment the alternative that I'm happy worked for y'all.


@46 p.s.
Oops I bungled that last line by not deleting the words "in a later comment".


Whirled @30 and Marrena @43. Make that three of us. How can anyone take man made medicines and not know there will be side effects. And when a woman changes her whole reproductive cycle and stops periods altogether, as Muse mentions, who knows what such an interference does over time.
All this equality we demand, when nature itself is sexist. It dumped the bulk of reproduction work on one sex only. And it doesn’t matter how one looks at it, the monthly bleed controls fertile women. Now there are drugs which stop it all together? Isn’t that like creating an artificial menopause.


Oops, sorry, I just realized I got confused. You didn't recommend/advise a course of action @8, you said "Here's one option".

SO I take it back, I clearly stated it the first time in @38 (in terms of what I feel comfortable doing), please disregard my mis-statement that you "were dishonorable".

I'm afraid I got pissed by your reply and I regret and apologize for doing so.


I dunno, curious. In my last marriage we had a problem with sex. We both knew it. We talked about it. We wanted it to change. didn't. Then he came to me and told me he'd been having an affair. And that changed things. In my case, as it happened, the marriage died--but it wasn't because of me, I would have kept on (and I tried to, for some time), but because he'd fallen in love with the other woman. I often wish(1) he'd told me when he'd only slept with her a few times, rather than after he fell in love. I think that might have saved us.

I get that it's totally correct to advise talking first. But...everyone else has! There's no shortage of people saying "talk about it." Given that, I think it's fair for Erica to mention other, more extreme alternatives. When she first mentioned it, it was after saying they should try to work together on rebooting their marriage--and she also said it might blow things up. She's not claiming that it will always work.

(1) except, of course, I'm way happier now, so I don't wish that, not really.


Ah, curious, you reposted while I was composing mine! Never mind.


curious2 @46- I meant no "attitude," I was simply encouraging you to speak from your experience as I speak from mine.

"So why did you lead @8 with cheating"

I didn't. I led @8 with suggesting at least "TRY to reboot the relationship, to bring up the possibility that the two of them might work together on this project."

But the LW seemed resistant to bringing up his concerns directly, so that's why I segued into talking about an unexpected approach that worked in my marriage.

I'm speaking directly from my own experiences, and I think that's a legitimate approach to giving advice.

"/you/ were dishonorable to /only/ give the advice you led with @8."

"Dishonorable"? People give the advice they give, based on their lived experience. Since I'm not lying or misrepresenting my experience, it seems odd to call it "dishonorable."


And I see I should have refreshed myself before posting. Things happen. No hard feelings.


@53 EricaP
I'm afraid that sometimes when I feel attacked I say stuff without thinking.

I recall a thread months back when someone pointed out to me I misread tone not present into your replies, and here I went and did it again.

I truly admire your reaction to what I wrote; ciods was certainly correct to applaud your thoughtfulness, consideration, and "calm presentation" yesterday in another thread

@50 ciods
Thank you for sharing your story with me. It helps me understand that EricaP's option can work where talking couldn't.

"everyone else has!"

And yes, y'all are correct, she was purely bringing up another option. We're all just working together, we don't need to repeat each others' ideas. And I don't need to act like this is a battle instead of a collaboration.

I'll try to remember that we're working together next time I think I see red, and try to stop myself from turning into a charging bull.


curious2 @54 - thanks for the tip to go back to last week's roundup!

And ciods, thanks for your support over there, as well as above! Much appreciated!


@Calli @39: it makes sense, though, eh? Birth control works by deceiving your body into thinking it's pregnant. Not much point in a libido then.

(Note that I don't really know what I'm talking about, not at any medical level; that's just my vague impression.)


Calliope @39: Amen to that! I have been on the pill for most of my 30 sexually active years and have had nothing but a positive experience. I don't get periods at all these days, I certainly haven't experienced any loss in libido, in fact my only complaint is why didn't my boobs get bigger. :) I wish every woman could have the same experience we've had, but clearly they don't.

Sublime @44, if she wants to have sex every day, the pill hasn't -negatively- affected her libido. :)

Lava @48, no, it's not like an artificial menopause because there are none of the side effects of menopause, just the absence of that horribly inconvenient period. The only downside of which I see is that someone might get pregnant and not know it straightaway. I feel like if I've been able to rely on the pill for more than 30 years, I'm not in much danger, but younger women might have this problem. Hopefully the other early signs of pregnancy might be a tip off, so that they could have the opportunity to get an abortion before the pregnancy is too advanced.

Ciods @56, I don't recall being -more- of a horndog during the few times I took a break from the pill. (Thank eff for that.) I hope the women who do experience this effect are the minority.


I think Ms Erica accepts the limitations of CAN, which validates the It Worked For Me approach and implies It Won't Work For Everybody without passing implicit judgement on those for whom it doesn't. Mr Savage often invites the inference that he's ridden into the SHOULD lane. Or, at the least, he appears to regard monogamy (or not being able to improve a relationship after infidelity) in the way Miss Brodie regarded choosing the Modern side of the Senior School over the Classical.


"So while I appreciate your frustration—I'd be fucking holes I'd kicked in the walls if my boyfriend husband put out just six times a year—let's recognize that (1) things could be worse and (2) you have a decent base here on which to build." -- sayeth Dan

True, but the catch with insufficiently infrequent sex is that it gives you hope. If the door is slammed shut, that drives action.


CHRYSWESTE@57~ Funny story, Dr. Akwuke‘s advice caused me (and my friends and brothers) to go on a homicidal rampage! By the time we were finished, seventy three people had been killed by lutefisk poisoning (Minnesota reference, look it up) and another twelve will never be able to look at boiled cod soaked in lye without crying uncontrollably (more than normal, that is).


@60~ You say “ fucking holes kicked in the walls” like it’s a BAD thing...


@40. A skeptic. I tend to feel that when lw s don't bring up children, it's because they don't have them. The wife in this couple (in their early 30s) is on oral contraceptives. My read was this was either because they wanted to be very exact with family planning (when the time came round) or because they (one or both) wanted an 'escape route', wanted to get out childless, if the marriage fails.

I wish writers-in would give fuller details. There might be an impulse to think that their problem is about sex, so can be presented shorn of circumstantial information--but maybe this will almost always be misleading.

@50. ciods. When sex 'is a problem' in the sense that one partner frequently turns down the other, the underlying problem is ... something else, yes? It could be as simple as her (him/they) not being attracted to their spouse/partner any more. In which case, it's better to get that on the table and to work out ongoing responsibilities and commitments and a future from there.


I’d hope you’d line the hole with some velvet or something Donny. Otherwise getting shards of whatever the wall is would hurt surely. I’m glad I don’t see holes and think, oh yes, this might work.


@58 "The only downside of which I see is that someone might get pregnant and not know it straightaway."

That happened to me! I get depo provera shots which stops your periods and is (normally) pretty forgiving if you're a week or so late on getting your next one. I refused to believe that the nausea, weight gain etc could possibly be pregnancy for over a month before I finally took a test. Oops.

I still think not having a period is the greatest thing ever. I'm just more careful to set my calendar alerts now.


I agree BabyRae, not having periods is the best thing ever since childhood, when I didn’t have them. Getting to this point naturally is one thing, doing it artificially is another.


HBTB @ 63 I listed several things, children being one of them, that can negatively affect a woman's desire/priority for sex. Is it her desire for sex or her desire for sex with him is something else that is unknown. How career oriented is she?


Not being knowledgeable on birth control meds, but unless she changed meds would her existing meds all of a sudden change her desire for sex?


Lava@64~ Velvet-lined holes are for sissies! Real men laugh at mere shards of glass in their dicks! We rub our balls on cheese graters as foreplay!


Harriet @63: Or because they just plain don't want children?
I also assume that there are no children involved if they are not mentioned.

Lava @66: Why are you being so judgey? I am taking pills in order to not get pregnant. The lack of periods is a pleasant side effect. Are you really sitting there in judgement saying that younger women need to suffer every month like you did? "The monthly bleed controls fertile women," you yourself said. What exactly do you oppose about breaking that tyranny?


Bi, I don't think she's being judgmental; she's pointing out that when you mess with the way nature set things up, there are likely to be consequences. Birth control is extremely new, evolutionarily speaking, and we don't yet have much feeling for what other effects it may have. There are still large questions about how it changes things--possible increases in the chances of some cancers, etc., not to mention the libido issue that we're discussing here. For many of us (including me), it's well worth it, because kids are major. But that doesn't mean it should be taken lightly. Think about what happened with antibiotics. We got all excited that we could fix stuff, and started handing them out like candy for every other thing, and a hundred years later, we're about to enter an age when we've bred a bunch of superbugs which are resistant to our drugs. As a species/society, we can get pretty blithe about this sort of thing. I am not saying people shouldn't take it--I for one think we really need to stop reproducing--but I admit it makes me nervous when we start prescribing it to improve acne, for instance. Let's not act like it's not doing something pretty serious to your body, and many of us take it twenty, thirty years.

Vasectomies all 'round, that's what I say!


@71 ciods
That's how I heard Lava@66 too.

I think concerns about the possible impacts of birth control pharmaceuticals might be /particularly/ relevant for men to hear in the context of alternatives they could take responsibility for such as condoms.

And another contributor to my perspective is that I personally am usually extra sensitive to side effects of all kinds.

However I'll interject that I don't make much time to study most medical matters (which I compensate for by seeing the best possible healthcare people), including what I presume are various kinds of birth control pills. (But IIRC one kind is 'hormonal', which I imagine could have surprising effects upon a person's biochemical soup.)

I hope I can infer from BiDanFan@70 that the pills are a win-win for her, and if so that totally rocks, you go BDF!


@curious, the vast majority of birth control methods (for women) are hormonal; all pills, for sure (although dosages and types-of-hormone-mix may vary), as well as Nuva Ring, Depo, shots, etc. The only methods I can think of that aren't are copper IUDs (there is also a "hormonal" IUD), the diaphragm, and sponges. IUDs won't work for everyone, it depends on your cervix shape among other things. I don't know anyone who uses sponges anymore (do they even still exist?), and diaphragms are awkward--you have to go stick it in before sex, and they're slippery little fuckers. The vast majority of women I know are on some sort of hormonal birth control, and yes, it definitely affects your biochemical soup. For some people the effect is really good--not just reducing period pain, etc., but also evening out moods and so on--for some the reverse. And for many of us, we hardly know the effects, because we've been on it most of our adult lives. I went on the pill when I turned 16 and was on it (or other hormonal methods) almost continuously until I was 35. How the hell would I know what I would have been like otherwise? I certainly noticed differences when I went off, but that could well have been age and other factors. There are too many confounding variables to guess.

I personally think birth control was the best fucking invention of the 20th century. I am not knocking it; we wouldn't have had women's lib without it. That said, it really peeves me how often it is prescribed without any conversation about the possible effect on libido. Most of us are on it during the exact period of our lives when we are forming long-term relationships. And the first doctor who ever mentioned the possibility to me that it might be messing with that was the obgyn I switched to when I was getting a divorce at age 30. (So you see my anger: for fourteen years no one even made a peep about it.) That doctor changed me to Nuva Ring (also hormonal, but your body processes the hormones differently, since they are inserted vaginally) and it made an amazing difference. (Of course, I also switched lovers and other like I said, too many confounding variables to be sure.)


ciods @73 I'm pretty sure my mom used a diaphragm pre-menopause... because when she was going through menopause she told me she could throw out her diaphragm! I was, as you can imagine, horrified. As far as I'm concerned mentally, me and my brother both originated as immaculate conceptions. While I do hope for the sake of their marriage their sex life is fine, I'd rather not think about my parents having sex of any kind, thank you very much. Ugh.


There is no medical need to have a period, there is no reason to seek out birth control that doesn't stop your period, there is no need to wait until your body is going through menopause to not have a period.

There are plenty of serious side effects to consider with birth control, I've experienced a lot of them myself. But stopping my period is by design, and it's incredibly judgy to imply I'm doing something wrong by making that choice.


Ms Ods - One of those with some claim to the title of Parent of the Pill is Dr George Rosenkranz, who became Mexico's most prominent bridge player and pioneered a number of conventions and techniques that I teach to players of various levels.


Curious @72, thanks, guess I'm just lucky! Though I could have done with some boob growth! I do accept that many women have suffered negative side effects from the Pill that the medical establishment has a history of not taking seriously, including loss of libido and depression. It's not for everyone, which is why there needs to be a wide range of options available, including sterilisation even for young people who are so often denied this service because "you'll change your mind."

Ciods @73, I agree 100% that birth control furthered feminism more than anything else. The ability to have sex without the almost inevitable risk of eventual motherhood has freed us to conduct our relationships with men on more equal footing, to advance in the workplace, etc. This is one reason why concerns about it have been brushed off: how can one question this miracle cure for a so-called biological imperative? I'm sorry your concerns were not taken seriously. Because women are presumed to have lower libidos than men, perhaps it took a while for low libido to even be seen as problematic and a cause investigated. But absolutely, a pill that is most useful for women in committed relationships but which undermines the libido balance in those relationships is ironic indeed.


@77 BiDanFan
It would be great if women had equal power in the medical establishment.

It would be great if there were meds with magically zero side effects except boob growth.
(And if there were, for me it would be great if not every woman used those magical meds, since I personally tend to prefer boobs that are relatively smaller, that are relatively less rather than more large. Thankfully I was divorced so long ago I can't recall if this is a side effect of my ex-wife having relatively large boobs. Oh, and I do also like larger boobs, I just don't prefer them. Except the ones more than twice the size of basketballs; I don't personally relate to the appeal of those, but I'm happy that they are apparently popular.)


Oh, Muse@74~ Your parents were assuredly doing the most perverted, disgusting things just on the other side of that bedroom door. “Go back to bed, honey. That was just the dog barking.”


EricaP @16 I can get behind encouraging someone to confess a one night stand. But not encouraging someone to have a one night stand so they can then confess it and save their marriage. Cheating is bad enough, but doing so specifically to elicit a response from one's partner is psychopathic as well as stupid. If confessing worked for you, I'm going to assume that you're the one who cheated and that you did not plan the whole thing out in advance as a lesson for your partner. Someone who can't have a conversation with his partner about wanting more sex is not going to be able to navigate the aftermath of a manipulative affair.


visualworry @80 -- no, as longtime readers of the column know, my husband had a one night stand and then confessed it to me six months later.

I don't think he thought ahead of time about whether he would ever tell me. He just really wanted to do it and wasn't able to muster the communication skills to bring up his desires with me beforehand.

It wasn't ideal, but it got us talking and we're non-monogamous and happy together, lo these many years later.


EricaP @81: Ah, but that's a different situation to this letter. This man doesn't want to open the marriage, he wants his wife to put out more. Your comment @8, in the context of this letter, implied that instead of talking to his wife, or if she doesn't take his needs seriously, that he could have a one-night stand and say "see? I told you I wasn't getting enough sex," and that would prompt her to have more sex with him. Do you see now why many of us thought that was a bad suggestion? I agree with Visual @80 that if this guy can't communicate "I'd like to be having more sex, how can we get you in the mood more often?", he's unlikely to be able to negotiate an open relationship, presuming that this would be an acceptable alternative for him to not getting enough sex with the woman he wants to be having sex with.


Advice is about what people should do, not what people do do. He shouldn't cheat to start a conversation. Sure, things worked out in your case. But somewhere out there is someone whose experience is "I hit my partner, and it made me realise that I do have an anger management problem and I got help and our relationship is stronger than ever." Does that mean it's ever OK to hit one's partner, or that it should be suggested as a possible course of action? Of course not! I think your example would have been helpful if someone had already cheated and was struggling with whether to confess. It's not really helpful for someone who is considering whether to cheat in the first place, because of course the only ethical advice is "don't."


@67. A Skeptic. I think we just need to know more. Like what does he mean by 'mostly happy'? What's he happy with?

@70. Bi. Yes. But my line of thought here would be that, 'he's in his mid-thirties in a sexless marriage; he isn't staying with his wife because she would make a good mother, or because they've set up their lives in preparation for kids--why doesn't he just leave?'. If he loves her and feels loved, then his reluctance to open the matter of how much he cares about sex is even more inexplicable to me.

@those who know--was it science or cultural politics that determined the pill was a female pill, not a male pill (or a male pill as well?). Why is there still not a male pill?


@82 & @83. Bi. All this is right. What broke the logjam for Erica--the husband, in her case, cheating and confessing six months later--isn't something anyone would, as a first preference, advise the lw to do--nor really is something that Erica could advise him to do.

I think the problem for the couple is that any acknowledgment of imperfect harmony between them is exaggeratedly painful. It would e.g. be 'unbearable' for him to lose her. But he will have to face the fact they're not in sync--and make her face it--to get any further forward with his problem.


Harriet@84~ “... Why is there still not a male The biological barriers are nontrivial.

Physiological differences between men and women’s reproductive cycle, along with economic and regulatory problems, have stood in the way of a male pill for 50 years, scientists say. Women produce one egg a month, and men produce 1,000 sperm per second. It's much harder to stop that higher production system.
Another obstacle is the policy of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While hormone therapy might work well in most men, it may still fail to produce effective contraception in a high enough percentage of men for drug companies to feel confident that the medication will gain FDA approval. Without that confidence, pharmaceutical companies won’t spend the money needed to develop the drug.
Additionally, the male “pill” couldn’t be a pill at all. The liver breaks down testosterone so quickly that orally-taken testosterone contraceptives don’t work, Amory said. Instead, the medication would need to take the form of an injection or a cream, which consumers find less attractive than a pill.
People have been saying we're going to have a male contraceptive in five to 10 years, for the last 30 years,” Doctor Amory says. “I've had people say 'call me when you have something that's oral, once a day, 95% effective and has no side effects.


@86~ Bad cut & paste... first sentence should read:

... Why is there still not a male pill?

The biological barriers are nontrivial...


Donny & Harriet: I read a few years ago about trial underway for a "male pill" (not sure if it was really a pill), but too many participants dropped out of the trial due to side effects and it couldn't continue. The article said side effects included headaches and mood swings.

You can bet a bunch of us all had a brief moment of being pissy about it: "Oh my god, headaches and mood swings as a result of hormonal fluctuations? What must that be like! Poor boys!" But of course no one wants more of that, so I understand why they'd quit.

However, I see this:

suggesting we're about ten years out, and some successful (first-level) tests in humans happened this year.

That article includes this line:
"Our results suggest that this pill, which combines two hormonal activities in one, will decrease sperm production while preserving libido," Wang said.

which makes me both happy and want to hit people with a rolled-up newspaper. Of COURSE they'd be careful not to mess with male libido! (Although reading on, it seems a few men did report a decrease in libido...)


Harriet @84: Why doesn't he just leave? Because he made a commitment, called marriage. The vows read "for better or for worse, until death do us part," and many -- we would hope most -- people who make those vows take them seriously. Why isn't he talking to her? Because "talk about your sex life" is much easier said than done. (Especially, I would venture, for OS people.) He's told you why himself: he doesn't want to hurt his wife's feelings. He's also aware that his marriage is not sexless, which might grant him licence to cheat or leave. Perhaps he wrote in because he just needs a push to person up and talk to his wife, or a script he can use to open the conversation.

Harriet @85: Indeed, credit to Erica, she's clarified that she's not suggesting this as a course of action. I get where she's coming from -- if he does cheat, it might not mean the end of the marriage -- but since he's looking for advice and no one (including Erica) thinks "cheat" is good advice, it seemed a non sequitur. Then again, these comment boards are full of those! :)


M?? Harriet - I recall seeing a Guardian article about three or four years ago about how some women's groups were advocating against male BC in the UK; I can't speak for the US, but one does occasionally see posts indicating the viewpoint that men's having control of their own fertility would constitute a net loss for women.

Ms Ods - It seems that a decreased libido version could be a net plus, though I suspect that it wouldn't play out for the best. But I feel too touristy to go much farther down this road.


Venn: What an idea; that strikes me as sad. I wonder: does anyone here think that there'd be a market for a male pill that was known to (potentially) decrease libido? Would people willingly decrease their own libido--if they were in a libido-mis-matched relationship, say? I can't really imagine wanting to do that, even if it were a source of some stress in my life.


A lot of people read these comment sections. I post because I think my experience may help a few of those people.

Dan talks about people cheating in order looking to explode their relationship -- because that's emotionally easier than asking for a divorce.

I'm encouraging people who are close to that breaking point to consider some less commonly proposed options.

It's not unusual for someone to be miserable with their marital sex life when the rest of the marriage is solid. It's not unusual for that person to have difficulty being heard by their spouse, who likes the status quo.

Esther Perel's research says that some marriages (like mine) are stronger and more communicative after an affair.

These are useful data points for someone to keep in mind when they feel unheard and are starting to wonder if divorce is the only solution.


@91 ciods
"Would people willingly decrease their own libido--if they were in a libido-mis-matched relationship, say? I can't really imagine wanting to do that"


Seems to me that the point at which people might /want/ to reduce their libido would be very extreme. Perhaps if it took over their life, a kind of obsessive-compulsive/addiction interfering with survival needs. But even then I don't think reducing libido would be the most healthy option, compared to approaches like developing impulse control/discipline/willpower.


@93 I don't know -- if someone's obsessive thoughts are about sex, I could totally see them wanting to decrease those thoughts. I'd rather my obsessive thoughts about numbers and right angles and being a terrible person decreased or disappeared than to have to constantly control impulses and counter them with logic like I do.


@94 Calli
Hard to say. Thinking about sex a huge amount is pretty normal. While one /absolutely/ does want to decrease obsessive psychological processes, does one want to reduce natural drives (short of a functionality threshold like I proposed)?


ciods @91 "Would people willingly decrease their own libido?"

I sure would. My libido is an annoyance that is costing me a lot of money and time.


@95 I don't know if there are other situations where anybody would want to decrease their libido, but in the context of functionality-impairing invasive or obsessive thoughts (such as with OCD), I'm certain there are people out there who would like that.


OCD obsessions can be about literally anything, real or imagined. I'm sure there are people whose obsessive thoughts are about sex, and I'm certain some of them would like to decrease those thoughts. I'm not sure that's really the same thing as decreasing one's libido, though.


I can guarantee this couple is divorced.

Talking isn't going to solve the problem. It rarely does unless there is a logistics problem. Like, she wants to have more sex but mornings are when she wants it, so they agree to have him initiate in the morning. But when you are down to once a season, it's desire, which you can't talk her into.

Like my basketball coach would say, you can't coach height.

The stripper made him feel desired. Even if he can convince his wife to have sex, if she is taking one for the team, he will still feel empty.

@89 I see no reason to prolong a marriage without kids that is clearly broken. Marriage is a sexual relationship, theirs is broken.


@86. Donny. Even if you couldn't cut out the production of so many sperm, could you at least render them infertile?

I remember that when I was first given estrogen, I was told that, while I might well become sterile within months, I should suppose I'd be more fertile immediately, because of the role the hormone played in sperm formation--and that I should on no account take the condoms off if I were having sex with women (otiose advice in fact; but they were excellent in not making assumptions). My line of thought here is that there are other changes in the balance of hormones a pill could make without targeting testosterone?

I slightly disagreed with the person who said earlier that the pill was the only way a woman could go on having sex without the heavy likelihood that she would eventually get pregnant. Another way, and maybe better way, is for her lovers to wear condoms (?). But then she would have to negotiate condom use. But then, in general, it's good, it's a sign of equality in a relationship, that a woman can negotiate condom use? My own experience of topping and bottoming is not such as I understand why a man would resist wearing condoms.


@89. Bi. This isn't just someone with a pro forma 'commitment to commitment' in marriage as a norm. (Indeed, he seriously considered that cheating e.g. hiring a sex worker would be a better option than forcing a difficult conversation). It's someone who finds it hard to imagine that marriage is not satisfying him or making him happy. 'Mostly happy' I read here as 'sometimes unhappy', glossing over the reasons they weren't happy (and the reasons his wife is withholding sex). He has to dig into these--both of these. Do they share housework inequitably? Do they like their jobs? If she's come to resent him, how could he walk the causes back?

I don't disagree with you that some people stay in marriages because of 'duh, marriage' (including some gay people) but imv more is going on than that here.

@90. venn. Why? The trust issue--have you taken the pill or not?--would be the same on both sides.

@92. Erica. Now it sounds as if you /are/ counseling the sexually frustrated spouse to have an affair as a way of raising the stakes of the sexlessness of their marriage for their wife (or husband).

Isn't there something else your husband could have done to make you sit up and take your mismatched libidos seriously as an issue?

@97. calliope. It depends, maybe, whether 'libido' refers to the physical capacity to have sex e.g. to get a good erection or to compulsive patterns of thought that get in the way of ordinary functioning.


Ciods @91, I imagine a great many women -- and frustrated men -- would be thrilled at the prospect of a pill that would both make the man want less sex and render him unable to impregnate his partner. Hell, there have been many times I've wished my libido would go away and leave me alone, so I could just enjoy being single.

EricaP @92, so your view is similar to mine when I propose asking to open a relationship where someone is in love but not getting a particular dealbreaking need met. It may be a long shot, but when the only other options are stay and be miserable or leave and be miserable, it might be worth a try.

Tim @99, the question was why doesn't he leave, not should he leave. The reason he hasn't left yet is because he promised before all their friends and family (and God, if he's so inclined) that he wouldn't. Sure, leaving is an option, but a last-resort option, and he is not there yet. (I agree he probably got there at some point after this letter was published.)

Harriet @100, if that's what you think I said, you've misread me again. I said the pill gave women the exclusive power to have sex and not eventually get pregnant. Women can ask their lovers to wear condoms, but the men have to comply, and often override requests either physically or psychologically, particularly when they are in a relationship. If a woman takes the pill (or gets an IUD, implant, etc), she need convince no one else to do anything. "It's a sign of equality in a relationship if a woman can negotiate condom use" -- and we are talking about the 1960s and 1970s when there was little equality in OS relationships, is the point. Besides, a lot of us women WANT to not have to use condoms in monogamous relationships. It is a lot more convenient and pleasurable for both people, and tempting for both to not want to use them when STIs aren't a concern.

Harriet @101 re Venn @90: The trust issue (did you really take your pill?) may be the same on both sides, but the consequences are not, which is why many women fear men will lie about having taken their pill. Hell, men lie about having vasectomies, and men stealth, so it is not an unfounded concern.

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