Dear Madame Lestrange,
My boyfriend of over three years has recently been diagnosed with depression and our sex life is virtually non-existent. It seems like it’s a chore for him to make love, and any effort I make for him in bed is completely futile.
How do I learn to become ok with this?
Dear Seriously Unsure,
I’m not going to sugar-coat it: depression is not easy. A lot of the time people mistake it for sadness or even dissatisfaction, but the truth is that depression, and sometimes chronic depression, can take a huge chunk out of your life.
That being said, many people suffer from depression.
Whether that means taking prescriptive medication, using alternative healing, or seeing a mental health professional, the world is more equipped now than it was a few years ago in dealing with it. This means that the issues we face surrounding depression, including difficulties in our sex lives, can be dealt with through near-countless ways.
Your partner is obviously going through a lot, and I’m sure you want to be there for them while still being able to celebrate your love through fiery sex. What you have to remember though is that everyone’s journeys and relationships are different; what works for someone else might not work for you.
1. Depression comes first.
At the moment, your partner’s mental health is the most important thing. This means that they need to come to terms with their predicament, find the method of healing that works best for them, and get back to a “normal” state of being. This doesn’t mean getting rid of depression altogether – if only it were that simple. But it does mean being able to coexist with it in a way that your partner finds best. There are a number of resources available, such as seeing a mental health professional, calling into a specialized hotline, or joining support groups.
As long as you are there to offer support and love to your partner, they can better equip themselves for the rocky, albeit beautiful road ahead.
2. Talk it out.
Communication is important for any relationship, but exercising it in circumstances like these is essential. When you haven’t had sex with your partner for a while, it’s easy to feel unwanted or unattractive. But talking to your partner to understand why they are unable to have sex can be important for you to have context.
Talking can also be important for beginning to understand the way you view sex as a couple. For example, many people tend to focus on the amount of sex they’re having as a marker of how good their relationship is in comparison to a societal “norm.” The problem is that many of the norms that dictate the most intimate parts of our lives are created by the media – an institution we know is hellbent on making us feel self-conscious about practically everything. By talking to your partner about their depression and your sex life, you can better understand each other’s expectations, desires, worries, and more!
3. Think about sex differently.
Let’s be real, it’s so easy to think about sex as penis + vagina = orgasm, but this is very far from the truth. In fact, sex can mean a myriad of different things, it all depends on how you look at it.
SImply being able to lie together, cuddling under a warm blanket and watching a romantic movie can be constituted as sex. Why? Because it gets you comfortable with the person you’re with. And for your situation, in particular, being comfortable with one another is what can help you get to the point of exploring more together.
What about lighting some candles and giving your partner a back and shoulder massage? Or having your partner tickle the inside of your thighs with a feather while you masturbate? As long as you’re widening your understanding of sex, you and your partner don’t necessarily have to give it up altogether – in fact, maybe you’ll uncover an undiscovered kink.
4. Go it alone.
And speaking of masturbating, remember that regardless of whether or not you’re in a relationship, masturbating is an important part of your individual sexual health. So if you feel aroused but your partner is unable to have sex, you can still go it alone – and have a lot of fun in the process.
Invest some money in different lubes, toys, and even sexy lingerie to keep yourself company. The more time you put into yourself, the more you’ll feel confident in your own sexual prowess.
And hey, maybe you can invite your partner to watch if he’s up for it? Or even video yourself for him to watch later? Just like the previous point, there are so many new, interesting ways to understand sex that can even open up some red-hot doors!
5. Kindness goes a long way.
No matter what, the love between you and your partner is paramount. That means that there will be good days, bad days, and days that feel like sitting on the couch with a giant bowl of popcorn. But the most important thing to remember is kindness. Both you and your partner are in this together, meaning that both of you need to be as kind as possible to one another. I mean, hey, there might even be a day when they want to have sex and you don’t, and you aren’t obligated to in any way.
By being kind to one another in this difficult time, you will only ever tighten the bond you two have. So even if things don’t go as planned, or things spontaneously go amazingly well, remember that the depression your partner feels isn’t there to create distance between you two, it’s just a part of the life you’ll grow into together.
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