How to Do It

My Husband Read About “Dead Bedrooms” Online, and He’s Now Certain We’ll Have One

We have sex constantly.

A man reads from a laptop in bed with a woman beside him looking miserable. A sad face emoji in neon hovers over them.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by oleksagrzegorz/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to howtodoit@slate.comNothing’s too small (or big).

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a woman in her mid-30s who’s been married for five years to my husband, and we’re more than seven years into our relationship. Things are, on almost every count, good between us. We have one son and plan no more, our jobs are stable, and we have a full life with friends and family. But there is one issue he keeps raising with me, over and over, and it’s starting to drive me nuts: He’s terrified we’ll become one of those couples whose intimacy dies and never has sex the longer we stay together. Sex is very important to him (and to me!), and we make sure to have it at least twice a week, with other favors here and there when time allows. This pace is down from nearly every day when we were first married, but I think that’s normal, and we’ve made various efforts to keep things interesting. But at least once a week, he brings up the fear that our sex life will dry up entirely.

He reads forums about “dead bedrooms” and talks about friends who never have sex with their spouses and are tempted to cheat. I try to reassure him, but his constant doubts are honestly starting to make me anxious about the future too. Why can’t he trust that I know how important this is to him and that we’ll communicate if it becomes a problem? I understand this happens to many couples, but it’s too much to discuss something that hasn’t even happened over and over. He’s even said he thinks some of his friends are justified in stepping out because their wives “misled” them with their newlywed sex lives. It’s starting to feel like he’s already resenting me for future wrongs I have no intention to commit.

—Not Dead Yet

Dear NDY,

If you’re having sex two-plus times a week five years into your relationship, you’re well ahead of the curve, from what data suggests. A frequently cited 2017 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that couples in their 20s averaged sex 80 times per year, with age being a factor contributing to sexual frequency. You’re at 104 plus “favors,” so you’re more than good if we’re evaluating based on your husband’s metric of comparing yourselves to other couples.

He is either so anxious he’s irrational or he’s dog-whistling issues he has with your sex life now. I would check against both options. Is he a generally anxious person? Does he needlessly worry about things that have nothing to do with sex? He could maybe use a therapist, exercise, meditation, or all three, if that’s the case. If the disappointing sex he’s forecasting is his only source of anxiety, I’d talk to him about what he really means when he says this. Is talking about the future his way of talking about the present? When he says he feels his friends are justified for cheating—and make no mistake, they are not, even if they have an explanation for it that scans as rational—he may be revealing his own ideas about monogamy in a roundabout way.

I think it’s entirely unfair to blame mismatched libidos on deception. While it’s true that in courting stages of relationships, some people oversell aspects of themselves that they will almost certainly not live up to, sexual disparity over time is fairly common in relationships, with several factors contributing. Typically, relationships are not only about sex and seemingly unrelated variables can affect what goes down in the bedroom. It’s not a zero-sum game, so it’s not only unfair but unreasonable to evaluate things only from a sexual perspective.

Try to be compassionate in these discussions, and brace yourself for answers you may not like when asking questions about whether your husband’s anxiety about the future is a comment on your current situation. If that’s not it, tell him to stay off Reddit and to try to focus on the present before he inadvertently makes his worry a reality.

Dear How to Do It,

I currently attend college as a full-time student. I have a sundry of costs and expenses that I have to pay for, and I’ve turned to sex work for money. It started when I met a man on an app who offered me $100 for oral sex in his car, and I’ve branched out from there. This has now led me to a pretty tough situation: I recently fell victim to a scam—check fraud, specifically. I was so desperate for money to pay for school costs that I ended up falling for a common scam through my sex work. Now, I owe my bank about $200, and it froze my accounts. Moreover, the bank said that if I don’t pay in about a month, the bank will report it.

The reason I’m so concerned is that I share a joint account with my mother, and I don’t know how long I can keep up with not telling them about the account stuff. I don’t want my parents finding out—not only would they be upset by the check fraud stuff, I’m afraid of having to tell them about my sex work when they ask what happened. Obviously, my first move is to repay the bank promptly. But in the interim, how do I avoid telling them? Sex work is decriminalized where I live, but not fully legalized. Moreover, my parents may kick me out or watch me like a hawk if they find out. To put into perspective how protective my parents are, they installed security cameras inside and outside the house, they get daily notifications for their mail, and they monitor phone calls from my personal cell. I also want to continue with the sex work—I don’t think it’s wrong. What should I do?

—Bad Check

Dear Bad Check,

While I cannot in good faith recommend continuing work that is not fully legal, I hear you and I feel your pain. I am pro–sex worker, and I agree that you aren’t doing anything morally wrong. The laws need to catch up. I hope you’ve learned a lesson about accepting and cashing checks, because there is no guarantee that anyone’s ass will pay them. (Your best bet is a cash-only policy.) I hope you’ve also learned a lesson about the need to have your own personal bank account if you are engaging in business, which you are. Why remain tethered to your overbearing parents? You’re in college. It’s time to leave the financial nest, or at least build your own on the side so that these issues don’t come up.

My philosophies in approaching this column are few and simple, and at the very top is a really easy one: Don’t lie. I don’t imagine you’ll be able to keep this check incident secret for much longer, which means you’re going to have to work around it. I’m sorry, but I cannot concoct a story for you regarding the bad check, though it seems to me that you could find any number of ways to explain this predicament that don’t involve exposing your sex work to your parents. People take others on Judge Judy all the time over bad checks, so you could (and I’m not telling you that you should) base a story off one of those episodes. These issues often surface in the realm of e-commerce, especially via Craigslist. Start watching—it’s a really good show. And be safe out there.

Dear How to Do It,

I have a problem, of sorts, that I’m not sure how to completely explain without this sounding like a Shakespearean soliloquy, so I’ll be as succinct as possible: I’m a straight white male in a happy poly relationship with several live-in girlfriends and a wife, in addition to what the girls call my “conquests.” My issue is that not only do I have a high sex drive, I also have insane stamina to back it up—in our house a “quickie” is three to four hours with “normal” being six to eight hours—even finishing myself off can take hours. This can be damned annoying at times. My doctor and the specialists I’ve seen have recommended that I try different lubes, lotions, creams, etc., etc. As much as they work a few times to minimally reduce my orgasm threshold, they stop working no matter what we try. It’s not that I lack sensation, or am unable to reach orgasm, or anything else like that: It just takes significantly longer than normal for me to climax. I thought it was normal until college, when my FWBs got tired long before I did, and I finally just asked. I’ve often wondered if this has to do with my size—I’m well above average both erect and flaccid—but my doctor rejects that as a possibility after testing. My girls aren’t complaining about it—no one really has, to be completely honest—but I’m self-conscious about it. It kind of boils down to: How can I reduce my sexual stamina?

—Slow Burn

Dear Slow Burn,

I love when people have issues that could be problems but haven’t functioned as such in their lives, and in fact are quite the contrary. Low stakes make me feel really secure as an advice-giver. You’re fine, marathon man! Everyone thinks you are just great! If I had godlike powers, I would make you switch bodies with the dude who wrote in a few weeks ago who comes in 30 seconds—much to some of his partners’ delight!—in some high-concept movie-like scenario (The Penis Trap?). Then you would have firsthand proof that no matter what, nothing is perfect, and you should just be happy with what you have, especially since your many partners are.

It sounds to me like you’re experiencing what is known as delayed ejaculation. I can attest anecdotally it is almost certainly not due to your size, based on the well-hung guys that I have played with who shot in a matter of minutes. (No complaints here, either.) In The Penis Book, urologist Aaron Spitz reports that the common causes of D.O. are antidepressants, low testosterone, low thyroid, and psychological factors. That last one is to say that delayed orgasm could very well be delaying your orgasm further if you are, in fact, hung up on it.

Spitz in some cases recommends a prescription for cabergoline, which is often used to treat high levels of a hormone called prolactin, triggered by tumors in the pituitary gland. “Most men who have difficulty reaching climax have normal levels of prolactin, and even in these cases a prescription of cabergoline can be helpful,” he writes. If you masturbate a lot, try easing up. Otherwise, you could give up the idea that intercourse is the end-all-be-all and see if you can’t find a more expedient way of coming. Or you can try out a vibrator on the underside of your dick.
Spitz recommends the technique of placing a vibrator on your frenulum one minute on, one minute off three times to supercharge your pocket rocket for a plunge into the unknown. So try that, talk further with your doctor, and try to accept yourself and your well-appreciated gift. It doesn’t have to be a curse.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a man who’s been dating another man for more than a year. We’ve been open during that time, first because we took a while to become “official,” and then because I said that’s what I wanted. I have a high sex drive and crave a variety of (new) partners. He has an average sex drive and is fine with just me, but also says he has no problem with what I do on the side. The sex we have together is good and getting better, so I’m not worried about cannibalizing our intimacy. But what I do worry about is STDs. I’ve had more than 100 partners in the past two years, and I feel it’s only a matter of time until I pick something up, statistically. Though I am on PrEP to mitigate any risk of HIV, and generally engage in lower-risk acts anyway, it’s still likely at some point. I am fine with that, but I feel I am also taking this risk for him. He has said he’s fine with it, too, but I fear how he will react when/if this eventually does happen. He is a bit of a germaphobe, and even though we have discussed this directly multiple times, I still feel it will go badly. And I don’t want to affect his health. Should I just listen to him and keep doing what I’m doing?

—On the Side

Dear On the Side,

You’re absolutely right. STDs have a way of making the intangible tangible. Your less horny partner can agree to an open relationship in theory, and put your extracurricular fun out of his head in a don’t-ask-don’t-tell arrangement, only to be jolted into reality when a demonstrable consequence of your openness manifests. As someone who’s been there, take it from me that this is no mere a hypothesis, but a distinct possibility.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to forecast his reaction. Your surest bet is to trust him. By taking your partner at his word, you are treating him with adult respect. That’s a good standard, I think—maybe he will eventually show you that he needs you to do a little more thinking ahead of time for him, that he can’t quite manage what he has set out to manage here, but for now, believe him. It seems highly unlikely, at least, that an STD will cause him to break up with you just like that—it could cause an argument or awkwardness that you’d rather avoid, but at least you can use that unpleasantness as a tool to modify your arrangement going forward. (Congrats, by the way, on managing to do over 100 guys and not get a single STI. Are you on some isolated island where hot, horny queer dudes grow in cabbage patches, or … ??? But for real, I hope your doctor is swabbing your throat and butt during your PrEP checkups—if not, you may have something asymptomatic lingering that you’ll want to take care of. Pee tests are not good enough for most men who have sex with men.)

Maybe you have very good self-control and you can change your one-guy-a-week ways, right here and now, just based on the hypothesis that the clap will go down like a Bronx cheer in your relationship. In that case, monogamy would certainly mitigate anxiety and stop such a problem from ever happening. But given your lifestyle, that doesn’t quite seem realistic, and what I’d really hate is if you decided to close things up and then realized it wasn’t feasible for you so that you started dabbling on the side without it properly being written in your contract. Don’t do that. Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep believing your boyfriend. And be ready to tend to him and make concessions if and when you come down with something, and if and when he freaks out about it.


More How to Do It

I’ve been married for about 10 years. About a year ago, I had a brief affair. We realized it was a mistake and ended the relationship. Neither of us told our spouses about it. I feel bad about it and wish it hadn’t happened, except in one respect: The sex I had with this man was off-the-charts amazing. Like, I didn’t realize that sex could be like that. Sex with my husband is fine—but I feel like I’ve been watching a black-and-white TV my whole life and I suddenly discovered Technicolor exists. I can’t stop thinking about it. How can I get over this?