Episode 89: Mismatched Drives

Sometimes making a rule causes the exact problem that the rule is designed to prevent.

Will opening a relationship help if one partner expects spontaneous sex but the other is dealing with a stressful job and anxiety medication?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What safer sex rules have you negotiated in previous relationships that are different now?

Listen here on or on Anchor. Visit the Anchor website to find where else the podcast is distributed or use this handy RSS link.


This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use my affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

I’ve been with my fiancé for only a little over a year. In April of 2021 he started taking medication for his anxiety which lowered his sex drive and then it really lowered once he started getting busy with work. He’s always so stressed and anxious with work which really messes with his sex drive. And it doesn’t help that I talk with him about how it’s affecting me because it just puts more pressure on him.

He’s also always had a weird thing about only having sex in the morning bc he doesn’t want to get gross and sweaty like in the middle of the day or get all worked up before bed. I was okay with that for a while but honestly it’s boring, the sex is amazing and I love every minute of it but I hate having scheduled sex. We also only have sex once a week if that.

I’m craving a relationship where you can’t keep your hands off of each other and want to [have sex] every two seconds you know and it doesn’t matter if you’re all sweaty and your hair is messed up at 3 pm in the afternoon and you still have things to do. But besides the sex thing we are honestly so amazing together and I am excited for our future but this is a big deal for me.

I’m considering bringing up having an open relationship but I don’t even know if I could handle it. I started listening to your podcast to learn a little about all of it and I plan to further my research but these are some things I recognized about myself just from listening to a couple of your episodes.

It’s not that I’m afraid he would stop loving me or that I would lose him, if that happens it happens. I just don’t want the other woman to feel she has any power over him or matters or is better than me. Especially if it’s people he’s hooked up with in the past and kept in his life as friends, I don’t want them to think they had some type of hold on him.

And then I was thinking, I would be insecure if they were [better in bed] than me but let’s be real, I’ve only been having sex for 6 years and most of it was in high school. I’m obviously not going to be as experienced or even as confident as older women.

So I got over that but then I was like [redacted] what if he hooks up with someone closer to my age and they’re better, well then I’d be pretty damn hurt. But obviously he’s not going to tell me if they’re [better in bed] or not, so do I even need to worry about that? Also he’s made it very clear that in a way I am the best sex he’s had bc the passion and the emotion is there. He’s always struggled with actually having the intimate feelings with women he had sex with but didn’t have that issue with me.

So even if the girl [was better in bed] or whatever, I know that what we had/have is special. When I think about doing an open relationship, I think of all these rules I’d want. Don’t sleep with people you’ve slept with before and are still friends with (which brings in my point earlier of not wanting that person to feel they had power over him), for it to be strictly sex and not a friendship, no having sex in our homes (we live in a triplex next door to each other).

I would love to say condoms are a must but that honestly feels unrealistic unfortunately, but at least no [ejaculating] inside women even if they’re on BC or infertile. I feel like there’s more that I can’t think of. Knowing him though, I think he’d want a friendship with them. He has a lot more girl friends than guy friends and majority of them he’s slept with a couple times. He’d date them, fuck them, but then they’d realize they’re better off as friends.

I’m generally a very jealous person and insecure so it doesn’t really please me that he’s still friends with a lot of those girls but I just recognized today why that is. Which was the women thinking they’re in control thing. I’ve used my looks and sex as advantage in my life and I’ve seen plenty of women do it too so it’s more of that that I’m insecure because I know what we’re capable of.


I will say that you mentioned in your letter that you didn't want me to disclose the age gap between you and your partner or the length of your relationship completely or some of the more dynamic aspects of that and I won't disclose that but I think that that matters here.

Because what you're saying to me, as a 34 year old, doesn't actually seem off. It's very understandable for someone of his age to be stressed out about work. And one time of having sex per week, for a lot of couples, especially as they start living together and as they start entering a married life is quite normal. It's not really normal to have people, once they're past the honeymoon stage of having a relationship even within polyamory, for people to be like tearing their clothes off of each other. That’s not really that normal.

It's a nice thought. And it's something that's very endorsed by media and endorsed by Hollywood and very much seen as an ideal. But actually if you read a lot of guides for couples and married couples about sex, most of it will tell them to schedule sex, because they have busy lives and especially when you start to introduce children into the mix. Once a week seems promising when you introduce children to the mix.

And the reason why I say that is because at your age, I feel like having this want make sense and that's kind of exactly why people don't get married and settle down when they're your age, because they want to have that fun honeymoon stuff. And they do generally have it. Like somebody your age who wouldn't be in a committed relationship like this, might actually have this kind of fun hookup thing with lots of different people.

So I don't actually feel like there's anything wrong with the status of how things are. And I think that it’s… it's kind of unrealistic. I don't think that it's a problem with him. And even he may, you know want to sleep with you more often and may struggle with whatever anxiety medication he's taking and with stress from work but once a week is pretty average and pretty normal actually. And scheduling sex is sometimes what couples have to do in order to make time for one another.

And it can actually be a lot of fun. It isn't fun for you and that's fine. But what I'm pointing out to you is that this may be a factor of the fact that you are so young, and he is not only older and further along in his life, but also that he is… got a stressful job, that he's taking anxiety medication, and you've now been together for almost a year. And if you want to marry and settle down and have that kind of future. I feel like you wanting this kind of rip off your clothes type of thing is probably going to continue to be a disappointment for you regardless of whether you open or close your relationship or you stay with this guy or go with another.

And I kind of feel like you'll grow out of it. Like I just feel like maybe you're a little bit on the young side and you want to have all of this excitement and that's fine. And I do think that people have that and do still have passion for one another. I'm not trying to say that like married life is an end to passion. But a lot of people because of the complexity of their lives have to schedule that passion and that is quite normal and typical. And so I do wonder if maybe you have just an incompatibility when it comes to your sex life.

You could potentially open up because of that. However, there are lots of different things that really concern me about what you've written. Firstly, the idea of people having power over him. He’s the one who has power over himself. If he decides to sleep with somebody or go home with somebody, you know, that is his decision. That's not a power that somebody else has over him. Now you very well have probably found men who are more than willing to do what you ask them to do because you — I'm assuming you have a certain level of privilege among like… fitting the stereotype and standard of what beauty is meant to be.

Especially taught in high school and especially the younger people are. they’re slightly more immature. They're you know, they're more kind of going along with a stereotypical sense of like, what is attractive. So you may have very well felt like you had power over guys because of that. But the thing is, is that it's kind of a biased survey because the guys who are willing to just do whatever you want, are the ones that will gravitate towards you rather than guys who kind of don't necessarily want to do those sorts of things, if that makes sense.

Like maybe what you've seen and what you've experienced — I’m not saying it's not true. I'm not saying you've not been able to kind of sway men in a certain particular sense, but it's kind of also biased with your age, and also biased with the fact that like, yeah, guys who are more likely to kind of do what you want because they're sexually attracted to you are going to gravitate towards you versus the guys who won't, will not. So I'm saying this because you seem to have a very strangely territorial way of looking at this.

And it's really not that simple. And I think that that is a very big power dynamic that is kind of really, you know — I think that's maybe contributes to why you've kind of picked this sort of relationship. If you think that you know, you have power over somebody in this way. I don't necessarily think that is a great way to look at it, because you're sort of robbing him of his own personal agency. He has control over the decisions that he makes.

And you're giving these other women in his life more power than they actually have and you're kind of in a way blaming them for the quote unquote power they have over him instead of placing the responsibility where it belongs, which is him. He’s a grown man. He makes his own decisions. And if he decides to, you know, sleep with somebody, that's his decision, and he's made that as a fully aware adult guy, and this sort of idea of women having power is kind of very old school, very rooted in misogyny, very rooted in kind of a boys will be boys type of thing.

And it kind of— I can get what you're saying like I'm not saying that you think that you know women have all the power or anything but when you kind of have this approach to things I just think that it way over simplifies things and it's really not that simple. It's very much has to do with a lot of different factors that I think are worth considering. I think that there are a couple things as well in terms of you're kind of worrying about being the best in bed.

There are billions of people on this planet and there is an individual out there who is better at every conceivable thing than you are. No matter what, there's going to be somebody who's better than you at something. And this kind of ties in with your previous thinking about power because this is a very old school kind of concept of how monogamy even works which is that you know love is a competitive space and you as someone who wants to find love must become super skilled.

And you know you're fighting for a love or a partner and you win a partner because you are the most skilled and that's not really the way that people choose partners or why. It's way way more complex than that. He didn't choose you— and he may have tried to boost your ego and make you feel a little bit better.

And I'm not doubting his his experiences in terms of maybe he finds it a little bit easier to relate to you. Maybe he does find you to be the best in bed that he's had. However, that's not why people choose people necessarily. It's more complex than that. Sometimes people skills in bed will make them stay with somebody a lot longer than they actually want to. But it's not why somebody marries somebody. It's not because they're the best at X Y Z.

That's just not how things are. It's just a lot more complicated than that. And rest assured, if you do open your relationship, he will find somebody that's better at any given thing than you are because that's just the nature of relationships, but your assumption and what a lot of people assume when they think about non-monogamy is that monogamy is safer, and that in monogamy he will never find anyone that's better and therefore abandon you but that's actually not true.

Unless you keep him under lock and key in the tower away from any other woman, he can and will meet people who are better than you at any given thing. Now granted, you might say “Well, but if we’re monogamous he won't ever sexually experience other women and therefore won't know if they're better in bed than you”. Yeah, but they don't necessarily have to be better in bed specifically for him to be more interested in them or for him to fall out of love with you and fall in love with them.

There isn't anything technically keeping him from falling in love with another woman and leaving you right now, even as your relationship is quote unquote closed. There's always that risk. And it's just that monogamy is so common and culturally enforced that you don't see it as a risk. And that's why people tell each other these sorts of things when they're in a relationship. And sometimes even when they try non-monogamy. It that, “Oh, you're the best and you're the only one” and you know, and I'm not denying those experiences.

But what I'm saying is that you can't prevent or control whether or not there's somebody else that's better than you at any given thing and you can't limit his experiences or try to control his experiences for the sake of preventing him from being exposed to someone who's better than you and therefore threatening your relationship. That's not necessarily going to work because even if you're — there are plenty of stories of people who are monogamous, who meet somebody else at work or at any other thing and then dumped their partner for that person like that happens and there isn't anything that you personally can do to— other than locking him up.

There's nothing that you can actually do to stop that. I think it seems really bizarre because like the funny thing about non-monogamy, and about polyamory, in particular, is that there's a lot of arguments within the community or at least that I see about rules and whether or not you should have them but the one thing that most people agree on is that sexual health restrictions almost don't even count as rules.

So the fact that you're kind of like “oh, I think it's unrealistic to ask him to use condoms” is really odd to me, because that is kind of the thing that a lot of non-monogamous people unilaterally agree on. I think that there is a negotiation about sexual health that sometimes needs to happen. Different people have different risk profiles. One thing that I did in a previous relationship was I had a partner who was very much more interested in casual sex than I did and I was super paranoid about sexual health.

So what we agreed on to make my anxiety a little bit easier was that together we would use the maximum amount of protection in everything we did, and then that way we put up the most protection for me, while then my previous partner was able to go about whatever protections he did or didn't want to use with any other people. But all sexual health has a risk and it seems like from what you're describing, because you don't want him to ejaculate inside another woman, whether they're on birth control or not, are they’re infertile it seems like you hold some type of specific emotional attachment to the idea of him ejaculating inside somebody.

Which again, these are concepts that you think that somehow it means more or that you think — I mean, that's what I'm assuming because you haven’t— because you kind of seem a little bit like, “oh, well, I probably can't get them to not use condoms”. There's a little bit of less of a fear there of sexually transmitted infections. But it seems like that has an emotional risk, which again, like it's understandable if for you having someone ejaculate inside you has an emotional meaning. That's legit. I'm not saying that it shouldn't.

But it doesn't necessarily hold the same meaning for every single individual and you can't control what emotional meaning he does or does it put on that and there may be other sex acts that don't involve penetration at all that may actually hold more meaning and more of a intense experience for him. And you can't necessarily control that is what I'm saying. So on the whole, I think, yeah, sexual health restrictions in terms of asking him to use condoms with other people, is actually one of the most reasonable rules you've come up with here.

One of the things that you can very much ask him to do and that a lot of people do within open relationships, but a lot of the other things that you're wanting to restrict him in terms of like, he's not allowed to have sex with certain people or etc, and so forth. I think that it depends on what the function is of non-monogamy in your relationship. And that kind of brings me to my last point. There doesn't seem to be any benefit for him in this. It just purely seems to be that you have this concept of wanting to have sex not only more, but you don't want to have planned sex, and you want everything to be spontaneous.

Or at least you want more spontaneity. And while I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, I do think that within the understanding of not only his age, but the fact that he is, you know, dealing with anxiety medication and the fact that he's also dealing from stress from work, the amount of times you're having sex and as well as having planned sex are both very normal for somebody of his age and also for married people, whether they're monogamous or not to be honest with you.

So on the whole, I think that it might be worth you thinking about breaking up purely because you are so young, purely because I feel like if this is what you want, then maybe a little bit more variety and a little bit more hooking up might be more interesting to you. But also because you open a relationship to address a need in a relationship that's not being met. However, both of the people within the initial monogamous relationship I personally feel need to have a good reason to actually do non-monogamy.

If you read like my 101 on 102 articles that are available on my website, that's like the first thing that I think makes a difference and that reason for participating in non-monogamy cannot be to save a monogamous relationship purely because you're wanting to save something that is fundamentally changed. So my worry is that if you go ahead and say, “oh, I want an open relationship”, he might agree purely for the sake of keeping you in his life.

However, the only thing that you necessarily want out of this is to have more spontaneous sex. And I do believe you might have that especially if you kind of go more into the swinger communities, or you kind of just hook up with people. But if what you are wanting really is to be in a long term monogamous relationship with somebody who is more spontaneous, I don't necessarily as is that an open relationship is going to fix that.

And in fact, it might just cause you not only stress, if you don't really know if you want this because you kind of still have very— you still have these kind of concepts of ownership and control and power and very much wanting to control what he does to prevent him from leaving you. I feel like probably opening your relationship, especially if you fairly give him the right to also have hookups. It's probably just going to stress you out loads.

So overall, I feel like you're not necessarily sexually compatible, probably because of the age gap. And also because your expectations of what you want are not things that are particularly normal for the style of a relationship that you're pursuing. And it might be that you kind of grow out of it a bit. You know, I don't know. There are probably people who are interested in spontaneity regardless of age.

But I do think that it's worth you having a really big think about this, and maybe looking up the experiences and advice for couples, looking at the frequency at which monogamous couples who are married have sex. If you want to have children, really looking at that, because I can say (and like I've kind of repeated ad nauseum. I apologize) is that plan sex is kind of it is something that people encourage married couples to do, precisely because married couples think that sex always has to be spontaneous. And they end up in that “oh, it has to be spontaneous and it has to be like Hollywood”.

They end up missing out on sexual intimacy because they don't plan things. And they find that planning things is still just as exciting. So I feel like you know, if you kind of look at the way that married, monogamous couples do experience that then yeah, you're gonna find that this is pretty normal for that kind of lifestyle. And so you might want to think about that and think about what it is that you want, why you want it. And maybe I would definitely suggest going to see a polyamory friendly therapist and talking it out with them.

Find your anchor— think about how your life with your partner would be different if you did have a non-monogamous relationship. What kind of non-monogamous relationship do you want? The way that you're kind of talking it seems like you would rather have a almost swinger style relationship or one where you just hook up with other people, but if he isn't going to want to do that, if he has to have some type of personal like whether it's friendship or not, attachment with somebody, then you may not be compatible.

You both can be interested in open relationships and still be incompatible in terms of the style of open relationship that you want. So yeah, I think that there's a lot to really think about. To sum up. I know you didn't necessarily want me to mention the gap, and I haven't mentioned what it is on the podcast, but I do think that that actually matters and that's mostly because someone in his age range and someone who is dealing with the things he's dealing with and also who if you're kind of looking at being married, this is a very typical frequency of sex and planned is frequent and something that people within this type of lifestyle should do.

I think that you may want to challenge some of your personal ideas about power and control. I don't doubt that you have probably had a lot of experiences with men where you were able to kind of utilize sex and stereotypical attractiveness to get what it is that you want from them.  But keep in mind that this is a biased survey, and you're more likely to attract men who are more interested in doing what you want, then you are to men who are not.

I think that it's important for you to set your sexual health boundaries. If you want people in open relationships that you're with to use condoms and that is a hard line for you. That's actually a very reasonable boundary for a lot of people in open relationships. And I think you might want to think about the meaning that you're attaching to certain sexual acts and understand whether or not you and your partner share that meaning.

And also question your own internal understanding of whether monogamy is actually an inherently safer option for you. And realize that there's only so much that you can control about your partner and the decisions that they make, and that their decisions that they make is a reflection of them and they're grown adults and it's not that you have power or sway over them. And then another thing is to remember that there is a person out there— there's billions of people on the planet.

There is a person out there that's better than you at any conceivable thing and that it's not necessarily about choosing a partner with the most skills. And it's a lot more complicated than that. And last but not least, I think that you should really think about what you want out of a relationship. Think about— do a little bit more reading about what it is like for married couples when it comes to sex. And really think about whether or not this is something that you want, if what you desire is more spontaneity, because I'm not saying that's a wrong thing to want.

And there are a lot of people who get involved in non-monogamy because they love that sort of honeymoon phase in relationships and they become what's called a comet partner because then they can have that kind of honeymoon phase with multiple people and kind of keep that energy alive. But if you read and understand more of the experiences that most people have when they become partnered, when they become married or engaged and then start to live together, the type of sexual engagement you have now is not not uncommon for that type of life, if that makes sense. See, I hope that helps and good luck.

Subscribe to Non-Monogamy Help

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.