While many of my single friends have been vocal about how lonely they've been feeling while social distancing during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I'm in the opposite boat. I'm happily married to someone I'm crazy about. And while being inside for this amount of time has been difficult, I'm really grateful to have my spouse around. We watch TV together, do our separate things during the work day, and happily reconvene at night. We have one another to talk to, confide in, and comfort. The one thing we aren't doing? Having sex. My friends who are single or not able to see their significant others during this time are baffled and downright irritated with me for this — they feel like if I can be having sex, I should be. But I'm not, and I know it's affecting my marriage.
When my spouse is stressed out, they find sex to be a stress reliever and a fun way to connect. I'm the total opposite. When I feel anxious or stressed, my libido is the first thing to go.
Sex has always been an interesting challenge in my marriage. My spouse has a much higher sex drive than I do, but over the years, we've found a rhythm that works for us. Right now, though, the issue seems to have intensified. When my spouse is stressed out, they find sex to be a stress reliever and a fun way to connect and take their mind off things. I'm the total opposite. When I feel anxious or stressed, my libido is the first thing to go. For me, anxiety looks like irritability much of the time, meaning I don't want someone close to me.
My spouse and I are both currently healthy, but we're also both immunocompromised, so the fear of illness and death is very real. What if one of us happens to contract the virus at the grocery store or on a walk? I also worry about other things. Our jobs are stable for now, but what if something changes? What if a family member contracts the virus? I love my spouse more than anything in the world, but the fears I have about something happening to one of us are so deep, and that doesn't exactly put me in the mood.
I've been doing other things that make me feel good: I exercise daily, eat a healthy diet, practice meditation, and get sunshine nearly every day. We're keeping our home tidy and maintaining normal working hours. And yet, I'm having a lot of trouble sleeping. It feels impossible to relax, and every night when I lay down, I get anxious and start playing out all of the worst-case scenarios in terms of what will be next. This means that when it's time for bed, when I may have naturally initiated sex, I feel anxious and withdraw.
I know this is hard on my spouse. I know that they feel loved via physical touch, and that sex matters to them. I'm willing to work on things and am trying to actively do so, but it's still just hard. I see a therapist weekly, and I've brought this up to her. There are other specific issues at play for me, but she reassured me that I'm not alone. My therapist says that nearly every client of hers mentioned that their sex life is suffering at this time. It made me feel so much better to learn that it's not just me.
Because I know it means a lot to my spouse, I'm working on meeting their needs for affection in other ways, like snuggling up to watch TV together, holding hands on walks, and pausing during the work day for a hug and kiss. While it's not sex, it's better than no affection at all. My spouse and I also do a lot of verbal check-in's about our marriage, where we discuss how things are going, what we're afraid of, and how we're feeling about things. It helps me communicate the thing that I think is most important: this is not forever, and my feelings about sex will change. Right now, I'm doing the work, being patient, and being honest with my spouse, so they know I love them, even when I don't communicate it sexually.