Why don't I feel pretty or sexy anymore when I'm with my partner?

Why don't I feel pretty or sexy anymore when I'm with my partner?

I have genuinely no idea; I am not psychic! 

Think about what usually makes you feel sexy, and ask your partner for more of that! Whether it's flirty touches, compliments, specific types of sexual behaviors, etc. Sometimes couples just fall into a 'routine' and it can take some intentional effort to re-ignite the sexy spark. But you gotta identify what creates that spark for you!

Consider getting a bit out of your comfort zone and trying something new together, like taking sexy photos, shopping for a new sex toy or lingerie, getting a couple's massage, going to a sexy event together, sexting each other, etc.

Consider what else might be affecting your sense of self and what you can do to improve your self-esteem independently of your partner. I often feel less sexy when I'm tired or stressed, so think about whether therapy, a lifestyle change, or just some patience through a tough time could help. Some people really enjoy how they feel about their bodies when doing dance, yoga, or martial arts.  

If, after you've tried talking to your partner, putting some effort into re-igniting that spark, and finding your inner sense of sexiness, you still feel like this around your partner, it might not be a healthy relationship to stay in. Partners should make you feel precious, cherished, and wanted - and if your partner can't or won't do that, that's not okay.

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What is the best way for me to communicate to a partner that it’s not okay for them to interact with social media, etc when we’re being intimate and/or having sex?

In the vast majority of situations, the best way to communicate something to a partner is clearly, honestly, and in as non-accusatory a way as possible. Bring it up when you two are together but not in the middle of an intimate moment - just as a check-in and a request.

“Hey, the last few times we were snuggling in bed, you were on your phone - and that actually really bothers me. Could you please put the phone/computer/social media way while we’re having sexy or intimate time together?”

If they say “sure, I didn’t realize that was an issue, sorry!” then, great! If they do it again, a gentle reminder: “Can we agree no phones right now?”

This is a perfectly reasonable request for you to make - it doesn’t mean your partner has been doing something wrong since they didn’t know this bothers you, but once you let them know, it should be relatively easy to work through. It’s good practice to get into the habit of gently but openly having this kind of conversation in any relationship.

If, when you ask, they refuse, if they downplay it, insist that you shouldn’t be bothered, try to argue, etc. then they aren’t ready or willing to meet this need for you, and you need to decide whether this is a sustainable setup long-term for you.

I have two partners: my husband and my FWB. I am very attracted to both, I climax much more quickly and with much less stimuli with my FWB. There’s nothing they do differently; I just react more. My concern is when talking about my experiences with my FWB with my husband, that he will become aware of the difference and feel discouraged/unattractive/like a bad lover. Might this difference just be New Relationship energy at work? Should I downplay this ease of orgasm when talking with my husband?

It might just be NRE at work. It could be that he has some little technique that he does differently that you don’t notice. It could be that the size, shape, angle, and/or texture of his fingers or other fun bits matches up with yours in just the right way. If you honestly can’t figure out what causes the difference, it’s fine to just chalk it up to the mysteries of the universe or the rich tapestry of life. (If you can figure out the difference, it’s okay to gently request or suggest to your husband that he try some things differently!)

Now, I don’t want to be someone who recommends that you lie by omission - but I’m not sure you need to tell your husband about this specific difference. I think there is a difference between deliberately misrepresenting something because you don’t want to deal with someone’s emotional response to it, and just not saying something that’s unnecessary and won’t make anyone feel good. There’s dishonesty, and there’s tact, is what I am saying.

If one of my partners took me out to an Italian place, and the next week another partner took me to another, less amazing Italian place, I probably wouldn’t say “you know, the place Quandon picked was a lot tastier than this,” because not everything that is true needs to be said. Next time the subject of picking a restaurant came up, I might recommend the other one, but without needing to say “it’s the one Branston took me to, and it’s way better.” That my partner took me out on a date and picked a place that serves my favorite type of food is a situation that doesn’t need to be critiqued, even if it’s imperfect.

If there was something seriously wrong with the food, or if we got there and I really hated the place he’d picked, of course I’d say something. A major project in most people’s lives is finding that sweet spot between “doormat” and “jerk.” But if the sex with your husband is fun, and he makes you come, even if he doesn’t do it with the laser precision of an android specifically and individually designed to pleasure you, it might not merit comment. 

So unless you two have an agreement that requires a blow-by-blow of every sexual encounter, it’s probably not relevant. And even if you do talk about sex, unless you give specific timestamps of everyone’s actions and orgasms, this difference is probably not going to be super clear. It’s fun to talk about sex, sure, but you can mention something fun or interesting without going “oh, and also, he totally brings me to orgasm way easier than you!” If he asks, don’t lie, but there’s no real need to make that detail a part of the conversation. 

I’ve always been sexually awkward, like I don’t know how to initiate anything and sometimes I think my partners are waiting for me to start something, what should i do? In the past, she has always been the one to initiate with me, and he joins in - he’s usually playing his computer games - i want to be more sexually active with them, but I’m not sure how to start anything..if that makes sense.

Communicate! Say “hey, I am working on becoming more sexually assertive and confident - can you work with me on that?” Ask them if there are things you’ve done in the past that they found sexy, and do those more! Ask them what kinds of times and situations they would really enjoy for you to initiate! Ask your partners what they find sexy, then do or wear that!

(Also, ask if this is something they want! Maybe they are okay with the fact that you don’t often initiate, either because they don’t like being come onto when they’re not in the mood; or because it fits a power dynamic in your sex life.)

Some concrete ideas:

With permission and in a secure channel, send them some erotica that you like, or if you’re feeling brave, a sexy story you wrote yourself

With permission and in a secure channel, send them some erotic pictures you like, or if you’re feeling brave, some photos of yourself

Schedule a nice evening in and do some tidying, light some candles, and basically set a ‘sexy’ stage for them to enter - you don’t always have to just find them in the house and start nibbling on their neck. You can plan ahead and say “let’s have a night in, just us, on Tuesday…I’ll get everything ready!” 

Wear something sexy (or nothing!) My partners know that certain things guys wear are huge turn-ons for me, so when they show up wearing that, it’s usually because they’re trying to get my attention ~*~in that way~*~

Suggest that you two buy a sex toy together and try it later - you can go in person or shop for it online

Hop in the shower with one of them and help them soap up

Just…go for it! Go up and kiss them, add some tongue, slide your hand somewhere fun - you are in control of your body and what you do with it, so you can take it from snuggly to sexy by putting your mouth, hands, etc. wherever you want them!

Note that it is always okay for people to turn down sex - if you initiate and they go “not right now, I’m sorry!” that is okay! It doesn’t mean you are unattractive or did something wrong - it’s a risk that comes with being the initiator. Be smart and sensible (do not go grabbing someone’s fun bits while they’re trying to chop veggies with a sharp knife or climb on top of someone when they’re late to work), and just let things unfold!

Help! My husband has been turning down sex. I come on to him and he continually turns me down. He says he’s just not in the mood. Should I be worried?

Is he going through a period of extra stress - something at work, something with his family, something with his health? That can impact libido a lot. If there’s something that’s making him stressed out and exhausted, try and partner with him to support him through that.

Has this been going on for a while? If it’s a short blip, it might be worth waiting out. Everyone’s sex drive ebbs and flows, and most couples go through periods of having less sex. If it’s going on for long enough that you’re concerned, that’s different.

Try gently chatting with him - not in an accusatory or angry way, just a “hey, you haven’t seemed too into sex lately, everything okay?” If he shrugs it off, you can say something like “I would like to be having more sex, so is there anything I can work with you to solve or improve?”

Sometimes things just fade after a while, but that’s not a death knell for your sex life. Maybe it’ll take a bit more effort to reignite the spark - a weekend away together to a cozy b&b, a shopping trip to a sex store, a private text app where you send each other written fantasies, whatever. Also, try mojo upgrade!

Is it bad for me to feel grossed out or uneasy at the thought of my partner having had recent intercourse with another partner prior to us having intercourse? And I mean within the same day. It makes me feel dirty and like I’m getting sloppy seconds.

I don’t think any feeling is ever “bad,” so to speak. It is okay to feel grossed out or uneasy. If you use those feelings as an excuse to act in a way that hurts yourself or others, that’s a problem - but that’s about behavior, not feelings. I’ve found that it’s best to try to understand feelings and recognize where they are coming from and how I can work on or with them rather than deciding I “shouldn’t” feel them and try to turn them off.

I must confess that I also have this feeling sometimes! Even though I’m deeply secure in my poly identity, and I also have a really high sex drive and don’t feel shameful or gross about having lots of sex with lots of partners, I still feel kinda squicky sometimes about having sex with multiple different people in a short time frame. That doesn’t make me sex negative, or bad at poly. It’s just a feeling I have. It may be somewhat irrational, and it may be informed by internalized shame, but find me a person who never has irrational feelings and is entirely immune to our culture’s messages about sex and bodies, and I will eat a shoe.

If this isn’t creating issues between you and your partner, it’s not really an issue. If there are circumstances that make you feel not-so-into-sex, then do other things with your partner until your personal time window closes on “recent.” If this is causing issues - if you feel repulsed or disgusted in a way that is impacting your sex life with them, or if they have been frustrated or hurt by your reluctance to have sex with them in that time window, that’s something to work on.

I personally think that “I totally don’t mind if you have sex with other people, but give it a sleep and a shower before having sex with me” is a very reasonable boundary, but your partner may feel different, and that’s okay. It’s okay to try and talk about this with them - try not to use shaming language like “dirty,” but just make it about your preferences. “I’d prefer that, if you’ve recently had sex with someone else, you take a shower before we have sex,” replacing “take a shower” with “give it a day” or “use a condom” or “let’s don’t do [certain type of sex] within [time window]“ - whatever helps your mind set a barrier. The good thing about feelings that can seem irrational or arbitrary is that sometimes they can be soothed with equally arbitrary things! Finding a way to soothe and gently put aside these feelings is something you have a right to do, and if your partner isn’t willing to make a compromise for your comfort, that’s a bigger conversation to have.

My SO and I mutually agreed to not have sex or anything with our outside partners, but she told me that she has been physical w theirs once but she regrets it and feels like they were pressured into it. her partner didn’t say she had to but it was more like a guilt trip, as it sounds to me. I’m not necessarily mad at her but I’m just worried she’ll do it again or something else feeling obligated to because her partner tells her she thinks she loves her a lot. I trust my SO but I’m worried that she’ll be manipulated into doing something she doesn’t want. I don’t know how to talk to her about this without it becoming a “you don’t trust me” issue. I don’t want her to get hurt, by me or her other partner.

I’m confused about how you define “partners” if you are not having sex “or anything” (which I assume means sexual intimacy). For you and your SO, what is the difference between an “outside partner” and a “friend,” and are all these “outside partners” clear on this definition? Everyone has the right to define their relationships in ways that work for them, but it sounds like this arrangement is pretty standard monogamy - have emotional closeness with other people, but not romantic/sexual closeness.

If your SO is spending time with someone who manipulates and guilt trips her into sexual intimacy, that is NOT OKAY. Consent must be freely given, and it is not healthy to be around someone who pressures you into doing something physical that you don’t want to do. You can tell your partner that you’re concerned about her and want to make sure she’s safe in all her relationships. It’s not about not trusting her - it’s not saying “I think you are going to cheat on me again” - it’s saying “This person did something hurtful and not okay, and I want to talk to you about whether you want to keep hanging out with them, and if so, why.” You can let her know you support her and talk about strategies for asserting her boundaries and getting out of a situation that doesn’t feel safe.

If you make your concerns clear, and she decides to keep spending time with someone you feel doesn’t respect her consent or boundaries, you can’t control that choice. You can decide whether you want to continue seeing someone who involves that kind of person in her life, or whether the stress of knowing she’s seeing someone she may be intimate with despite promising you not to is more than you can handle.

[CW: the following section may be triggering to anyone who has been pressured into physical intimacy and was victim-blamed afterwards. I have a policy of taking people at their word when they say they were not consenting, but in this case, I want to give advice that covers another possible scenario.]

Of course, all the above advice assumes that everything you told me is correct on the part of everyone involved. It is possible that she did want to be intimate with that person in the moment, but knew it would upset you, and is choosing to not take accountability by blaming the other person. Setting boundaries that are so rigid - you can be “partners” with this person but not be “physical” - can sometimes lead to people choosing to violate those boundaries based on desires in the moment. Maybe the other person did initiate, but maybe your SO had more agency in the choice than she is owning up to. She may regret it because she knows it was a violation that would upset the terms of her relationship with you, rather than regretting it because she didn’t want to do it at all.

It might be wise to have a talk about why you two have set this boundary about sexual intimacy and whether relaxing it might prevent the feeling of tension and pressure that comes with wanting to be with someone when it’s forbidden, which can in turn make someone feel like they didn’t fully want to do something even when part of them did want to. 

Is it okay for my partner to be thinking about other people when play and stuff? I get really upset when I know he’s thinking about another partner or even just thinking about someone else he knows/has a crush on because I feel that’s disrespectful to me? I have never and would never think of someone else while we were playing because I feel it’s so rude and disrespectful to the other person? Is this silly of me or what should I do? Do I need to be more accepting?

What I’m confused about here is how and why you know your partner is thinking of other people while you’re playing???

On the one hand, no one can fully control their thoughts. Sometimes I think about other people during sex, or other completely unrelated things. But the last thing I would do is tell my partner about it! There are some thoughts that are just tactless and unnecessary to share. 

I don’t know the context for how you know this. Maybe your partner thinks it’s hot to talk about other people while playing - fantasizing about threesomes or cuckolding or something like that. In that case, you need to let him know that you don’t like that kind of talk, and he needs to explore that fantasy with someone else. Maybe he has a severe level of oblivious tactlessness that makes him think it’s a good idea to say “this is how Gremily likes it” or “Clodeline taught me this move.” Let him know that bothers you and ask him to stop. If he’s doing it out of cruelty or manipulation - if you suspect he’s just bringing it up to make you insecure, or just saying rude things he knows make you uncomfortable - stop playing with this person and dump him immediately. 

If he’s not actually saying anything, and you just have a sense that he’s thinking about someone else, that’s a different issue. Sometimes people include their internal fantasy life in their sex life, and that’s just a reality of sex. If he’s not making it your business, you may need to drop the issue. Do you ask him if he’s thinking about someone else? Are you interpreting some of his behavior to mean he’s thinking about someone else? That may be a manifestation of insecurity on your part rather than something he’s doing. Remember that unless you’re psychic, you don’t actually “know” what’s going on inside his head. If you consistently find yourself feeling disrespected by what you’re convinced other people are thinking, you may want to think about seeing a therapist to help with those kinds of thoughts. 

When asked a similar question from the other perspective, the advice columnist at Dear Prudence replied:

Ever see your wife close her eyes during lovemaking? If so, don’t ask, “Am I Channing Tatum now?” Thank goodness there’s a hard, impenetrable case around the soft substance that produces our thoughts and our sexual fantasies. There’s a reason evolution did not result in subtitles being projected across our foreheads so everyone can know what’s really going on in our heads.

My boyfriend’s libido tends to disappear with stress, which means during the week I rarely ever get sex, but I have a HUGE libido, and zero luck with finding other partners. My boyfriend is going away for the weekend to see his other lover who I am not as comfortable with compared to his other partner and I its kinda feeling like salt in the wound that I might not be able to get sex for almost two weeks. Is there any way to bring up the problem without pressuring him for sex?

First off, high fives to you for being so sensitive to not wanting to pressure your partner for sex. Pressuring people for sex is the worst! But I do think there’s a way to bring this up without making him feel pressured. Relationships are all about compromises - you go without sex when you want it, but he can meet you halfway.

Maybe suggest that the weekend after this one, you two spend some “quality time” together. Maybe suggest that one weeknight next week, he try relaxing with you - take a bubble bath or shower together, cuddle up and watch a movie - so you get some of the romantic time you need and he doesn’t have to commit to all-out sex.

And then, focus on the larger picture. If his work or school life is so stressful that he isn’t present to you during the week, that’s a bigger problem than two sexless weeks. Talk to him about working on a work-life balance. Maybe you two can come up with some new routines or lifestyle changes to make it so he can relax more when he’s home in the evening. Maybe he could see a therapist or doctor about his stress levels.

At the same time, you should keep looking for other ways to get your own needs met. Get on OKCupid and/or Tinder, go to some local poly meetups, invest in some awesome sex toys - whatever you have to do to keep this pressure from building up into frustration with your partner.

Good luck! (And remember that in the grand scheme of things, two weeks without sex is unpleasant, but survivable!)

Tips on how to turn on a guy on the phone??

I think this is my first ask here that is about sex rather than polyamorous relationship practices. It also has what I’m pretty sure is the highest preposition concentration of any ask so far. But it has the same answer: open communication!

Ask him what he likes and what turns him on during phone sex or sexting - it’s different for everyone! If you’re at a place where you’re getting intimate over the phone, you should also be at a place where you can ask him: what turns you on? how can I make this awesome for you? what do you like in phone sex/sexting? Some people like to assign “sexy homework” - ask to watch some of his favorite erotic videos or read some of his favorite erotica to get a sense for what he likes.

I can’t speak for the specific guy you’re trying to tele-seduce. Only he can tell you whether he prefers descriptive imagery about a fantasy vs. dirty talk in the moment, or more focus on what you’re doing and experiencing vs. him.

Polyamory and STIs

Someone recently asked me how non-monogamous people can protect themselves from STIs, and I figured I’d share the information in a longer-format essay as well.

Understand Your Risk. Different flavors of non-monogamy carry different STI risks. If you’re practicing polyfidelity, and/or your network is a closed loop of partners, everyone should be tested, and when they come up clean, you’re OK. Every new person who enters the network should get tested. If you and your partners are always open to new partners and one-night-stands, more precautions are required.

Have a backup plan. Hopefully you won’t, but you may end up getting exposed to an STD. Understand that it’s a risk you take with multiple partners, and be honest with yourself about how you would cope if that happened.

Get yourself & your partners tested. Poly people should get tested frequently (every 3 months) and make it a point to know the STD status of all their partners. Ask all your partners whether they have been tested, and when, and what the results were, and whether they have had any new partners since that test, and whether they checked in with those people about their STD status. Ask that your partners ask their partners the same things. You aren’t entitled to the medical history of your partners’ partners, but you are entitled to ask your partners to take the same care with their partners as you took with each other. 

Use protection. People lie, and many STIs are invisible, so you still need to be tested frequently and WEAR CONDOMS - and insist that your partners use condoms with all their partners. They are not 100% effective at preventing all STIs, but they are still the best thing we’ve got.

Trust is key. Everyone in a network should be on the same page - get tested, share the results with partners, use protection. A major part of this is trust. If you don’t trust someone to do their due diligence and be responsible with their health and yours, they shouldn’t be your partner in the first place.

Keep track. It’s a good idea to keep a general calendar of who you sleep with and when. I don’t mean a sprawling spreadsheet chronicling every encounter - but you should have an idea of a timeline and what your network looks like (who hooks up with who, and when). That way, if you or someone in your network does test positive, you know who may have been exposed and you can get in contact with them. If you’re not out and worried about what a document like that could do to your life, keep it with pen-and-paper, not a digital copy. Those are much less likely to get accidentally leaked.

Be honest. This is perhaps the hardest but most important way to protect yourself and your partners from STIs. You need to be honest with your partners about your STI status and demand honesty from them. You need to be honest with your partners about your non-negotiables, like asking that they always use condoms with other partners, get tested every 3 months, etc.

Take control of your health. STI testing can be uncomfortable and many people don’t like doctors, but you need to be a grownup and deal with it. You need to be honest with your doctor about your sexual history, which can be tough. Know what’s normal for you and get anything usual checked out. Advocate for yourself in the healthcare system, and don’t take shit from sex-negative doctors. If you do contract an STI, get tested and treated ASAP. Take your treatment exactly the way it’s prescribed. 

Budget for health. There’s a lot that goes into responsible polyamory, from time management to communication skills, and you also need to be smart with your money. Have a financial plan for how you will pay for frequent STI testing and treatment for any STI you might contract.

Be prepared to mobilize. This sort of goes with “be honest” and “keep track” - if you find out that you have been exposed to an STI, you need to get that Autobots, roll out! call to everyone in your network - your partners, their partners, their partners, and so on, so they can all get tested. That can be a very tough conversation to have, especially if you are no longer partners with someone but they still may have been exposed - but it needs to happen.

Questions, comments, or further discussion points about polyamory and sexual health? Find me here.

Welcome to Poly Advice!

Hi everyone! There are lots of polyamory resources floating around online, but a lot of places for one-to-one advice have shifted focus or closed their doors recently, and there’s always room for one more voice. 

What This Is: I’m willing to take questions about any aspect of polyamory, as well as broader issues of sex, love, relationships, and life. I’m not a professional anything, and if I don’t know the answer to something, I’ll be honest about that and bring in other resources. I’ll also break up the questions with essays about issues in polyamory that interest me.

Who I Am: Because of my job & the personal nature of this blog, I’ve chosen to stay anonymous for now. You can call me Zinnia. I’m a young woman in my early twenties who’s been actively polyamorous for four years. I’m heterosexual and currently seeing two wonderful men, one long-distance and one cohabiting.

Welcome! You can ask me questions through this tumblr’s ask box, or you can send longer ones to polyamoryadvice [at] gmail [dot] com.