I know that parts of this post might be more suited to some sort of relationship advice column, but the sex part is the main issue, and I feel like I've seen posts here that deal with this sort of thing…? Please let me know if this isn't allowed.

I'm in a relationship going on two years now with an amazing man. Both of us are youngish (several years out of college) and intelligent/high-achieving types, since we met at the same Ivy League college. We are in a long-distance relationship but see each other every week. However, both of us work very long hours, and my job is a high-stress one in the financial services industry. I've also recently struggled with suicidal depression and come very close to killing myself. I'll cut a long story short and say that he was unfailingly supportive and always there to hold me, and that I've come a long way out of that pit through the discovery of Wellbutrin.

He is one of the most family-oriented people I've ever met and is the only boyfriend about whom I have ever been 100% sure would never cheat on me. I love him to death (yes, romantically) and honestly would marry him in three years or so, if our relationship lasted. But…

I'm having trouble with the idea of chemistry with him. Our sex life is fine, but lackluster compared to the sex I had in my previous relationships. I also have found that I prefer masturbating to having sex with him, which has NEVER happened before, and makes me feel terrible. Part of the reason, perhaps, is that I've been on an SSRI for three years now and it's severely affected my ability to orgasm and to feel aroused. My body also appears to have changed–I used to have incredibly sensitive breasts and would love breast stimulation, but now I am so ticklish there and everywhere else that foreplay is nonexistent because as much as I want to be, I can't bear to be touched anywhere on my torso. This really upsets and angers me, because I don't understand why it's happening, but it's been like this for a while, and even when I manage to get over the tickle response I don't feel pleasure any more, with myself or with him.

I'm terribly afraid I'm not attracted to him sexually because he's so gentle by nature, and I get off on the idea of rough sex, or at least sex that has some sort of power play, although dom/sub stuff is absolutely not my thing. The problem is that I KNOW I'm in love with him in every other way. We have a wonderful, open, communicative relationship, but this is the one thing I'm afraid to reveal to him before I figure out what exactly is going on for fear of hurting him very badly. I used to date someone who was much less mature and kind, but with whom I had so much physical chemistry that we could sit at dinner together and I'd want to jump his bones. I just miss that feeling, and I don't know how to reconcile that with the fact that my boyfriend has always been there for me and that I respect and adore him as a person, but find it hard to have really "good" sex with him.

And please believe I've tried, before thinking I'm a horrible person! I've bought lingerie, bought sex toys, even tapered off Prozac (worst decision ever, almost led to suicidal attempt), initiated sex when I wasn't into it, tried to get into it when he initiated it, talked to him about it, and I'm just… at an absolute loss. I love him so much and am wondering if this is just a sacrifice I'm going to have to make in order to be with him, or whether that's a terrible idea. I'm still attracted to the idea of sleeping with other men–I had lunch with my ex the other day and was horrified to find that I was still very attracted to him, but of course I would NEVER do that to my boyfriend; I felt guilty even thinking about it.

I should also mention that it takes me ages to come on a good day, which is ruining any appetite for sex I might have had left over. It takes me at least half an hour to orgasm with a vibrator, and much longer using my hands. He doesn't mind if I don't come, but it's frustrating for both of us if I can NEVER orgasm.

I'm so ashamed by the situation, and so frustrated by my inability to orgasm, that I can only get off by fantasizing about other people having sex, and I know this isn't healthy. Please help? Why is my body so weirdly oversensitive and what, if anything, can I do to improve my sex drive?

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21 Responses to Sexual issues and compatibility.

  1. Selyle says:

    I’m on an SSRI, too, and had similar side effects. You mentioned that you only started taking meds after you met him- did you have those kinds of issues prior to being on anything?

  2. Tua77 says:

    Sorry to have confused you (and omg the icon!)–I was on SSRIs before I met him, and then went on Wellbutrin this year, which didn’t have much effect on sex drive, though it made me so much happier, and I am now not depressed for the first time in at least 5-6 years. I did have trouble from the start with the SSRIs, but it wasn’t this bad.

  3. Dri007 says:

    This is of course only anecdotal, and my friend was a cis-male, but when HE went on Wellbutrin it helped him a lot as well but it absolutely destroyed his sex drive. He couldn’t even get an erection, or masturbate, or orgasm from anything ever.

    Bodies and brain chemistry are mysterious things 🙁 Sorry I can’t be of more help…Good luck <33

  4. Dri007 says:

    Scratch that, didn’t kill his SEX DRIVE but destroyed his ability to become physically aroused, get an erection, have sex, masturbate, orgasm at all.

  5. Tua77 says:

    Yipers. Good luck to your friend; I’m a cis-woman, but my male friends have all expressed horror at the very idea of losing ability to orgasm.

  6. Dri007 says:

    Yeah, at this point he’s just going with it because he feels so much better much to his surprise, ’cause Wellbutrin works for him too ;/ I’m glad you have found a treatment that works, you should stick with it–I would say that happiness and being in love and having a loving, caring partner beats off the wall sex, but that’s just me <3 Stress could also have a lot to do with things. But now that I think of it I’m in a *somewhat similar* situation, I am with an AMAZING guy who treats me better than I ever thought it was possible to be treated by a significant other, listens, communicates well, is going places in life, has goals, etc. and is pretty much anything I could ever ask for and more. I had a much more exciting sex life with my ex though. The interesting thing is that sometimes I can orgasm by just having sex with my current boyfriend, whereas that had never happened before with anyone else. But very rarely. Our sex is preeetty vanilla and I myself like to get a little rough sometimes but I am much happier in this relationship regardless of that, than I have ever been in any other 🙂

  7. Eikoma says:

    I think I am one of the lucky people on an SSRI. I am taking a whopping 300ML of Setraline daily and there is no effect to my ability to become aroused or reach orgasm.

  8. 29dWoman says:

    I’m also on setraline (exactly half ur dose actually!) and my sex drive has never, ever been affected throughout the past 4 years with it. I guess I’m lucky as well.

  9. AbaNope says:

    Edit: I accidentally replied to your reply to shoujo_sparkles, instead of replying directly to your post. Sorry about the mix-up ^^;

    It may be that your body just needs some time to switch over from the previous medication to the Wellbutrin — it may take a bit for the effects of the SSRI to wear off. I started Wellbutrin (the generic version) last spring, and it took a few months, plus the re-addition of my previous medication in a smaller dose, before I really started feeling better. It’s awesome that you’re feeling so much happier emotionally – that’s great progress.

    As for the physical effects, I’d suggest talking with the doctor who prescribed the Wellbutrin about how you’ve been feeling, to see if it’s just a matter of waiting for the SSRI to wear off, or whether there’s something else that could help.

    In the meantime, based on what you’ve told us about your boyfriend, I’m sure he’ll be very supportive if you talk to him about what you’re going through.

  10. Tua77 says:

    Thanks so much. He’s an amazing guy, really. He WAS raised in a very traditional Midwestern, Christian environment (he tells me that when he first got to college he was absolutely horrified by hearing women say that they didn’t want kids, and women opening doors for him) and at first he had some weird ideas about women withholding sex, but I am so proud of him for coming such a long way, mostly because he’s dating a proud feminist. Haha.

  11. AbaNope says:

    Amen to that! 😀

  12. NwoFire says:

    Random thought, which may or may not apply to you in your relationship…

    When I was in a relationship where things weren’t going well with myself and the guy on an interpersonal level, the sex was more intense. I think this was because it was the primary way we released that emotional tension and expressed bottled up feelings.

    My current relationship is wonderful on an interpersonal level. The sex is good too. But it doesn’t have that intense edge of emotion that sex with the previous boyfriend had – because we communicate so well, there’s no bottled up feelings and no tension.

    In short I married the one I am with now – everything about the relationship is better. I can deal with good sex without the intensity of secret misery. 😉

  13. 29dWoman says:

    That’s very interesting! I find that I happen to have more intense sex the better I get along with a person (or how I feel about them/our relationship issues/dynamic in general)

  14. Tua77 says:

    That’s a really good point. My ex-boyfriend started out a nice guy and, under the influence of his eating club (which is like a fraternity, really, among the guys) he started exhibiting extremely douche-like behavior (preying on Asian freshmen during the first week of school) and we had so many arguments it was ridiculous. I’ve never had a real argument with this one–we talk everything out.

  15. RevFriut says:

    I had this same problem. I was switching medications for anxiety when the idea of sex, touching, kissing, any contact at all, just didn’t interest me. In fact, it made me irritable. I finally found the combination of Citalopram and Welbutrin that balanced it. My therapist told me that Citalopram could cause lack of sex drive and that the Welbutrin would help balance it out. You should see a doctor or a therapist to talk about medication. Lowering your dosage yourself is dangerous, I’m speaking from experience. It took a few weeks for everything to adjust for me, but I’ve been on the same dose for over three years now and it’s going great. The boyfriend I was with at the time is now my husband, he helped me work through all of this. It sounds like you have a supportive s/o as well. I hope that he and a doctor can help you work through this. Best of luck!!

  16. Hteall says:

    Beth writes A Novel, Part 1

    My first question would be… Do you like how he smells? Could you stick your nose in his armpit and think that cologne only wishes it smelled so good? Or do you go “…ewwwwwwwww.” If the latter… Well, if you’re on HBC, you might consider going off it; some studies suggest that it can affect how your brain perceives scents. But if the guy just doesn’t smell good to you, then it’s entirely possible there’s something in your hindbrain going, “He’s too genetically close. We don’t want him. We want different pheromones.” This could be the hardest part to work with, if your hindbrain is smelling him as “brother” and not “mate.” The sense of smell is powerful! (On the other hand, if you do like his scent, you’ve definitely got something to work with!)

    You might also want to talk to your professional mental health person about whether they think you’re on these forever, or if it’s just to support you through a rough patch, and if the latter, what kind of approach would be best. (E.g., I believe some research suggests that, in general, talk therapy + anti-depressants is going to be more successful than medication alone.) Also, I advise checking all your hormones — thyroid, my pet hobby horse, estrogen levels, testosterone levels, etc. — and vitamin levels. All of these can play a role in libido and mood, and if you have something exacerbating the depression, treating it directly might allow you to change your dose to something that does less of a number on your libido. Or it might help with the libido even without a dose change.

    And high-pressure, stressy job? Yeah, that can do a number on libido even without adding a SSRI. One potential thing you might consider is if you wanted to rearrange your life in order to find a job with less stress. Basically, does your job make you happy? If your job isn’t making you happy, if it’s burning you out, then looking for an exit strategy might help.

    Try not to be guilty about whatever you’re imagining to help yourself reach an orgasm! I sometimes have really kinky fantasies. I sometimes don’t. And sometimes I’m thinking about totally orthogonal stuff while I’m giving my spouse oral. >_> Besides, you are on a SSRI. These are notorious for messing up people’s libido. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Society sends a lot of mixed messages about sex, libido, and depression, and most of those messages should be buried in my cats’ litterbox.

  17. Hteall says:

    Beth writes A Novel, Part 2

    Something you might suggest to your boyfriend would be roleplaying — you don’t have to have dom/sub stuff to have power-play situations. Pirate Queen (or king) and Captive Captain doesn’t have to have someone meek and obedient — it could have wrestling (“I’ll never submit, you lawless scoundrel!”), it could have attempts at seduction (both ways! “I want you to be my second in command/I want you to repent of your pirate ways”), it could have both! (And one thing really good about an active fantasy life is that one can have enough plot to talk about it over the phone… I had a long-distance relationship with my spouse for a while before I finally got moved up here. And there are times when we’re not physically in the mood, but telling each other kinky bedtime stories… Well. O;> ) Other options might be Klingon Courting Rituals (“RARRRRR!”), or Bad Biker Boy and Biker Babe Who Likes It Rough — West Side Story complications optional.

    For the physical part… I really don’t know about the upper-body sensitivity; it sounds like a side effect of some kind. It might be worth talking to your prescribing doctor about whether that’s a worrying physical side effect. Assuming not, is firm pressure at all useful? I went from very insensitive breasts to very sensitive ones (years of breastfeeding), and prior to being very sensitive, I would only get a subliminal arousal from breastplay, and I liked how it looked. But to feel anything, it had to be like a “deep massage” thing. Even now, I’m still fairly ticklish, and it’s not a good kind of tickle; foreplay, for me, has to be firmer petting in most places. (This does make pap smears and pelvics amusing; the doctor’s trying to do a light touch, and I’m going, “Eek! Eek! Tickles! Eek!”) What about different erogenous zones? Hand massage? Foot massage? (I have a fondness for knee massage, too!) Scalp? Back? (Backrubs can help me get from “gah, I just want to sleep” to “okay, maybe I want to do something else first.”)

    You might also want to consider getting insertable balls, like Smartballs or Luna Balls (http://www.shopinprivate.com/smarbalvagex.html), and wearing them while wandering around, prior to having sex; again, it’s usually a more subliminal effect for me, but it can definitely serve well as a “foreplay” thing!

    …I hope that at least some of this is useful to you! If not, then please, throw out anything that’s not helpful (it’s your situation, not mine, and only you can ultimately decide what’s helpful!!!), and put in suitable supportive wishes. Crossing fingers for y’all!

  18. Tua77 says:

    Re: Beth writes A Novel, Part 2

    Thank you so much for your help, Beth! Every post I’ve made in here (not a huge amount) you have been so helpful and so kind.

    Yeah, I do like his scent, though I didn’t at all at first. However, when we first got together I was on HBC and am now no longer on it. 🙂

    Also, thanks for the affirmation. I was raised in a conservative Muslim country (not a Muslim myself, but the government is) but have always considered myself a proud feminist and a liberal. However… I was really surprised to come to America and meet a large number people who were more conservative than my family! I know this might sound naive, but eh. The point of that was to say that *at first* I didn’t ever feel bad about not wanting to have sex–the only bad thing was that due to socialization into never complaining/making a big deal of things, I would eventually give in every time a boyfriend demanded it.

    With this new boyfriend I started saying I wasn’t interested flat out, in as kind a way as possible, and at first he would sulk and I’d point out with little patience that I could either pretend to be into it or lie. Like I said in a post above, his family is Midwestern, Christian, and pretty conservative… he told me he thought that women just withheld sex for shits and giggles to control their boyfriends. -___- That sounds kind of bad, but I’m really proud of him for coming so far, since he now has very different opinions and often reassures me that he respects me as an equal.

    I don’t know what to do about roleplaying, since I think it might be good for us but I feel too self-conscious to ever do it 🙁 I know it’s silly, but I feel SO self-conscious about the idea at all, even though I can get off thinking about other people in similar scenarios….

  19. Hteall says:

    Re: Beth writes A Novel, Part 2

    I’m glad to be helpful!

    There are subcultures/families where yes, apparently women are expected to withhold sex as a way of “training” their male partners. While I’m all for “don’t have sex that you’re resenting,” the idea that a relationship must be full of mindgames and sex-as-control… It makes me make horrified O_o faces.

    One thing you can do, if you want to try the roleplay thing, is to not act it out! Cuddle — if that’s comfortable for you! — and sort of brainstorm Not Quite Us characters together, and see if you can get an organic “scene” going. Heck, it could start with, “So, I was looking at this site, and there was this thing about adopting a persona…” O;>

    Or you can do other stuff, as orbandjimmond suggests!

    Anyway, I’m glad that I was at least a little useful, and am crossing my fingers for you.

  20. Taceva says:

    If you think it’s the SSRIs, don’t immediately go off one without talking to your psych. There are SSRIs that aren’t as bad for suppressing libido and orgasm, and it might be possible to switch you to one of those, if you’re having difficulty orgasming in general (the SNRIs in particular are better about it).

    The rough sex thing is honestly a matter of communication. I actually had to have a talk with my husband about that when we first got together because he was OMFG so gentle that there was barely any sensation whatsoever. (And I was not on psych meds at this point.) I had to tell him, “No, please, be rough with me. I like that.” Though sometimes I have days I can’t handle that, and lately, I REALLY can’t as I’m having symptoms of something like interstitial cystitis (although no formal diagnosis because no insurance, but I have basically every symptom).

    I really like Beth’s suggestion of roleplaying, and I would agree with her that you don’t have to be full-out dom/sub in order to have power play. At all. If there are things that you like that are kinky, it doesn’t mean you have to be full into the scene to do them. The point of all that is to have fun, though I think some people forget that in all the formality.

    If you’re interested in roleplaying but are having trouble with the idea due to embarassment… well, why not try roleplaying in a non-sexual situation first, just for fun? There are lots and lots of roleplaying materials out there, and they can be lots of fun. (I say this as someone who is very self-conscious also and has to do a lot of build-up to even be able to because of anxiety issues.) Because getting used to the concept and actuality of roleplaying might help you be able to do it in the bedroom without feeling quite so self-conscious. 🙂

  21. HsiNet says:

    What is it about masturbating that makes you enjoy it more than sex with your boyfriend?

    I get ridiculously ticklish, too, and I’ve had to learn how to deal with it. For me, my partner’s attitude makes a big difference. I’ve had partners that got frustrated and tentative, and that exacerbates the problem. I have a partner who uses it as an opportunity to get creative, which is really fun. It can be an impetus to explore different types of sensations! Sometimes I am very ticklish on my torso, but my arms or back aren’t, and those can be caressed. Sometimes I am just ticklish in general, and then I need rougher stimulation like being bitten or scratched (or spanked, hehe!)

    I also get off on power play. You don’t have to roleplay to introduce those kinds of elements. A simple thing my boyfriend does that I love is to hold my hands above my head or behind my back while we have sex. I also love it when he pulls my hair.

    One last thing I will suggest after having gone through periods of extremely low libido, is to explore erotica or pornography. Sometimes I couldn’t get in the right headspace to GET aroused with a partner, but I could get aroused by reading erotica. Then I could successfully initiate sex with a partner. 🙂

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