Lesbian Bed Death Is Not Your Destiny

Can we dispense with the stories about lesbian bed death? That stuff is not an inevitability; it’s a thing that happens to couples of any iteration of genders when sex slides to the back of the priority to-do list and people are tired and busy.

Sex is not a spontaneous combustion. You have to facilitate it showing up, even if that means talking about your feelings or taking the dog out to pee and then coming back to bed or dealing with your body image issues for long enough to let somebody else see you naked. So, please understand me, that this is not a foregone conclusion.

If your sex life with your partner has dwindled, that happens! It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person. It can also come back, with talking and collaboration and planning. So sorry if you hate planning, but the whole lightning-in-a-bottle thing usually passes after a few months for most folks.

You’re not broken; you’re ordinary. You, with your one wild and precious life, are still somebody who is beholden to the trials of age and tedium and being tired at the end of your day.

If you know the people that still have sex every other day and have been together 10 years, that’s great, good for them, but also, you’re not those people. You’re you, right now, in this relationship, and we need to work forward from where you’re at. Every other day can be your reach goal, but also, let’s start with trying to get into a decent state school while you work at getting your grades up.

If you would find it validating to read books about this issue, I recommend Sexual Intelligence (more hetero, but still a solid read) and Come As You Are, which we have discussed previously. The former is written by a sex therapist, the latter by a researcher, both are great.

There is one book about lesbian bed death, written by a lesbian therapist, and it is wildly depressing. I will not tell you the name of it, but it speaks at great length about monogamous lesbian relationships that wore on without any sexual interaction for several years, until one of them had sex outside the relationship, they broke up and went their separate ways. Now, this is a thing that happens, and while lying is inadvisable and ignoring your problems in a relationship is unsustainable, this is far from a foregone conclusion or the only option.

Something else to consider: There is a thing called attachment theory, and to summarize, briefly, it describes how you developed a sense of how to relate to other people back when you were a very little you. I hear that there’s a thing called “securely attached” people who relate to other people in an unproblematic way, but I’ve met probably three of them in my life, so we won’t worry about them. Some folks are avoidant attachers, which means that under stress they getthat’s correctavoidant. 

Some folks are anxious attachers, which means that under stress, they worry and hold tight and do all kinds of elaborate things to keep people from leaving them. Funnily enough, these two types of folks like to seek each other out, and when they get attached but are under stress, they call it the “10-foot pole” relationship—when the anxious person moves one step closer, the avoidant person moves one step further away, and nobody is satisfied.

How this plays out with sex is that for whatever reason, the anxious person can often wind up being the person who initiates sex most frequently. And if their partner is being avoidant, she will decline, which can escalate the sense of distress for the anxious partner and the sense of pressure for the avoidant partner, which causes them to escalate the pursue/avoider dynamic. It’s a documented thing, and totally OK if it’s happening to you.

Acknowledging its existence is key. Do what you can to ease your distress while easing off the habits that are stressing out your relationship (clinging or running away). Bear in mind, your partner is not doing this at you, they’re just trying to relieve their own distress with feeling disconnected.

You have options and there are tools. The tools are more myriad and covered in greater depth in the books I’ve mentioned, but just so that you leave this feeling like you have something to work with.

Take inventory

Is this relationship working for you generally? Is communication okay, or has there been a breakdown? How has trust been reinforced or allowed to dissipate?

Did something happen?

Like job loss or any kind of small-to-large trauma: Did your house get broken into? Did anybody have a friend breakup? Are you fighting with your parents? etc., etc. All of these are things that would slow down your sex life if you’re not processing them.

Have your bodies or your relationship to your body changed?

Lots of things happen to our bodies that shift our relationship to them and getting comfortable with what this means can take time.

Are you thinking about sex as something that happens to you, rather than something you make small choices and adjustments to support and prioritize connecting in this way? That might be your trouble. One of the most consistent disruptions to people’s sex lives is that they blame their partner, and refrain from doing the work of planning, anticipating what needs might exist in the moment. (If you wake somebody up at 8 a.m. to have sex, they’re eventually going to want breakfast or coffee. This is inevitable.) Getting frustrated that someone does not intimate their unspoken desires.

Trust is really hard, and sex brings up a lot of trust issues. If you’re struggling sexually, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t trust your partner, but it can mean you need extra support in deepening that trust.

Good luck! Go read those books! And call me if you want to talk about trust and sex and all those other sorts of things solo or with your honey.

Maria Turner-Carney is a therapist and writer in Seattle. You can follow her at seattlefeministtherapy.com/blog.