Dear Beth

Lesbian Bed Death

Dear Beth: My partner and I have had a loving, harmonious relationship for twelve years, to the point where we are an inspiration to many of our friends in the lesbian community who are struggling to build lasting relationships. But we have a terrible secret. We have not had sex for the past ten years. If our friends knew, not only would we lose the standing we have in the community--I am afraid that people would consider that we do not have a real lesbian relationship and perhaps do not belong in the community at all. I feel that I am living a lie. I have heard of "lesbian bed death". Do you have any idea what causes it, and how to treat it?

Beth answers: Lesbian bed death is a widespread phenomenon that has caused a great deal of distress. This type of problem is not confined to lesbians, as my straight clients from the burbs could tell you. In order to deal with the problem it is necessary to explore the causes, which are different for different couples. In many cases focusing on the relationship is the most fruitful way of restoring a good sex life to couples who have had one in the past.

Relevant to most sexual problems is that good sex takes place when both partners are feeling relaxed and carefree; when someone starts to see sex as a duty, or to feel anxious about his or her performance for whatever reason, a minor or temporary change in sexual interest can snowball into a major problem. In this connection, I think that the obligation you have felt to live up to your friends' idealized expectations has probably been a burden on your sex life and a big part of the problem. And please remember--you are not living a lie; you are having a sexual problem--one which some good couples counseling, psychotherapy or sex therapy can help you with.

See sex therapy for more on my work, online or in East Toronto.