Alison Arngrim On Sex After A Decade
If you have a question about dating that you desperately need answered, open it up the PlanetOut Dating Panel! This feature's gotten so popular, even celebs want to get in on it.
This week's guest dating panelist is actress and activist Alison Arngrim, better known as the conniving Nellie Olson on the long running hit series Little House on the Prairie. Alison plans to follow up her much anticipated memoirs Confessions of a Prairie Bitch (Harper Collins, 2010) with a dating advice book Do As I Say, Not As I Did. She also writes a popular advice column for Daeida Magazine.
This week's question to the panel:
"My partner and I have been together for 10 years now. I love him and know that we'll be together the rest of our lives. The problem is my tastes have changed and I'm not sexually attracted to him anymore. Although we haven't talked about it I know his tastes have changed as well. It's been 6 months since we've had sex and it was more of just going through the motions. We've tried various things to spice things up but nothing is working. Does this mean I'm going to be celibate the rest of my life?
Guest celeb panelist Alison Arngrim's response:
Tsk tsk, ah, the grass suddenly got greener, did it? On the up side, you say he feels the same way. This is actually an upside – two people who’ve been together for ten years and are in total agreement on something - even something unfortunate - is a lot better than when one partner is completely over it and the other is still madly in lust!
The key phrase in this letter and the source of ABSOLUTELY ALL YOUR PROBLEMS?
“Although we haven't talked about it”.
Well, go talk about it already, silly.
Really, you say you both love each other, you’re both dissatisfied – it’s not an argument, you’re in agreement for heaven’s sake! Lack of sexual interest usually has less to do with “tastes” and much more to do with “unresolved issues” causing an uncomfortable background level of stress. Clear the air, discuss exactly what you mean by “tastes” – yours and his. What sort of a relationship do you really want?
This could go any number of ways – maybe you will break up, maybe the two of you will decide you want an “open” relationship. (Notice I said “the two of you”. No you don’t get to decide that one by yourself!) Maybe you will decide one or both of you needs to go back to the gym. (Hint, hint.)
Really, the fact that you managed to stay sexually attracted to each other for ten whole years, tells me your odds are really quite good.
Panelist Katie -- the sassy straight girl -- responds:
Perhaps it's less a question of your tastes changing than your priorities. 10 years ago, my tastes drove my priorities, e.g. "there's a hot guy over 6'2" with great hair and big shoulders - I want to go there". Now, my priorities drive my taste. Obviously someone who is interested in making a healthy relationship work values the intangibles - kindness, humor, capacity to love and support - over things like height, folicular fortitude and muscles.
Look, rare is the couple that can objectively gaze upon each other 10, 20 years into a relationship and say to themselves, "Wow, you are exactly the kind of person I pictured myself with 20 years ago!" The reality is that most happy relationships breed a certain level of comfort that leads to a few extra pounds here and there, perhaps a more lax approach toward grooming - which can sometimes catch a partner by surprise and make you wonder what happened to that perfect physical specimen you fell in love with those many years ago. That's life, and goes both ways my friend.
You say you love him and know you'll be together the rest of your lives, so save your shift in taste for your porn library and suck it up - literally and figuratively. Anyone truly in love can find the motivation to have sex. If you are considering opening your relationship up so you can both satisfy your morphing tastes (even though you haven't actually discussed this problem with him...), well, you're just boarding the slow boat to a breakup. Define what you want, and really think about couples who ARE together for life: do you think any of them 'had a taste' for liver spots, saggy arms and cataracts? The answer would be no they didn't, and god bless 'em. Remember, tastes change - yours may again in 10 years, but love endures.
Guest PlanetOut Member Panelist - Chadd:
10 years is quite an accomplishment, congratulations on your long-term relationship!
Keeping an open line of communication with your partner is important. In a LTR, I find there's a comfort cycle that seems disrupted by talking. But, you have to talk to him honestly about how you feel now and encourage him to do the same; just remember to be as accepting as you want him to be with you.
Sex is an important part in a healthy adult relationship. Sex is not just a human instinct but an expression of our emotional selves and our feelings for someone. If you are simply going through the motions, it may be that you find yourself going through the motions in other aspects of your relationship. I like that you’re trying to spice it up, but if you feel like you’re not attracted to him anymore nothing is going to work. You need to find a way to reconnect with him on an emotional level so you can reconnect physically. Instead of trying something new or just going through the motions of having sex, make love with him. Kiss each other every day (simple as it sounds, it will help rekindle your bodies’ chemistries together). Also, make a date once a week to spend time together with no interruptions or exceptions.
Once you’ve gotten things back on track, one thing you can do to mix it up is simply change the routine by changing the place, time, and way you do stuff. Also, talk about what excites you and what excites him. Allow each other to be completely open and honest and don’t judge or make fun of each other for anything that’s a turn on. Then try some out, just make sure you are both comfortable with what you are doing together.
On a side note, you seem certain and determined to sustain this relationship which I commend and admire you greatly. A healthy relationship is never a free ride, but a work in progress. Both people have to constantly work together and communicate with one another to keep it thriving.
(Alison's photo by GOR MEGAE)