Don’t, says Mariella Frostrup. Your partner’s low libido will always make you feel unappealing. Either he must get help or you should find a better match
The dilemma I am in my early twenties and my boyfriend of two and a half years is eight years older. We have a great relationship, he makes me le page about everything in life. The only thing I’m struggling with is his lower sex drive. We’ve spoken about it loads and he’s promised it’s just how he is and it’s not me, but my self-esteem has taken a massive knock and I’m finding it hard to believe the things he says are true. I know I’m not as attractive as his last girlfriend so I can’t help feeling maybe he’s just not as attracted to me. It’s so hard when the internet is full of stories of men having higher libidos, but never women. Is there anything I can do to help myself just get used to it?
Mariella replies Put up and shut up, that’s the spirit! Why am I not surprised that this letter is from a woman? A century of crawling at snail’s pace towards true emancipation and yet we still haven’t managed to crack the hardest nut of all, our own self-esteem. Whether it’s choosing boys who don’t want us or not demanding equal pay for equal work, we’re still failing to properly value who we are. What’s worse is we’re fast getting to the point where we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Two 13-year-olds were chatting near me the other day and I overheard one tell her friend that she didn’t like boys who liked her. That comment aside they were wonderful embodiments of youthful zest and beauty, chatting 19 to the dozen as they meandered their way through a multitude of topics, expressing confident opinions about most other aspects of their lives. Yet when it came to self-image, seeing themselves as anything other than inferior was a hurdle too high to jump.
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Now here you are writing to me and asking how to learn to live with your boyfriend’s less than satisfying sex drive. It’s tempting to say, “Why should you?” and naturally there’s a part of me that thinks exactly that. Yet I’m all too familiar with that internal voice you have got in your ear, telling you that you’re less attractive than his ex and suggesting that if only you were “better”, he would want you more. I’m not buying it and neither should you.
You need to stop blaming yourself and understand that while this issue with the physical side of your relationship is neither your problem nor your responsibility, perhaps it is something you and he can improve on if you work together. An imbalance of desire in a relationship can be a confidence-crippling thing for both parties and one of the toughest iniquities to resolve. It’s a topic that’s hard to discuss and even harder to live with, and there’s certainly a point at which words lose their positive power and start contributing to the problem.
As a youngster you might presume he’s old enough at 30 to have been struck by the sort of failure of desire that occurs among the more mature. I can assure you that you are both still at your sexual peak and if the physical side of your relationship can’t be sorted out to your mutual satisfaction now, it’s unlikely it ever will bepatibility isn’t simply measured by the topics you agree on and the number of times you enjoy a laugh, though both are important. I’m hoping it’s not your boyfriend who makes you feel less appealing than his ex, although as a woman I suspect that it’s far more likely to be a self-inflicted sense of inferiority.
Happily in these emancipated days, it really is up to you. Are you prepared to compromise on the physical side of the relationship? Is he prepared to try to resolve his low libido? If so, there are plenty of specialists who can help a willing patient. Or are you resigned to feeling sub-standard to his ex and assuming responsibility for his lack of passion for as long as this relationship lasts?
It’s also about finding a partner who works for you sexually and making that one of your priorities is nothing to be ashamed of
My advice may seem simplistic, but centuries of spectacular failure on the part of us women suggest it’s hard to put into practice. You are a gorgeous, clever, witty, intelligent capable young woman with your whole life stretching ahead. There will be compromises and heartbreak along the way, but if you set your own standards, assume responsibility for your ambitions and desires and focus on realising them, you’ll have every opportunity to lead a full and rewarding life. Only you can identify what’s non-negotiable for your personal happiness, but once you have, don’t compromise or take the burden of blame when others fail to live up to your standards. He’s a lucky guy to have you and he may just need to sharpen up his act if he’s going to keep you.