Hi Yana!

I’ve been with my partner for a year. He’s in his mid-30s and has some chronic back pain from a sports accident that happened a few years ago and he still takes pain meds for.

Our sex life is nonexistent right now. We agree we both want more sex and that his back issues get in the way because for him, it’s hard to get the motivation to initiate sex. I’m generally a pretty sexual person, but for some reason I can’t bring myself to EVER put a move on him. And now I feel SO in my head about it all it’s even harder. I’m attracted to him and I love him but I feel like sometimes it’s easier to just not have sex.

He’s expressed that with his back pain and his lack of ability to give me what I need sexually that it makes him feel less than a man. I want him to be the type of man that can … I don’t know how to put this in this day without people getting offended … but basically I want to be taken. And he just isn’t really that way, unless he drinks and allows himself to just go for it.

How do we motivate ourselves to have sex and is it just awful that we have to motivate ourselves when we are just in our early 30s? Him and I going to get married but shit, in some of my old relationships the sex was soooooo much better. Anyway … help?

My Neck, His Back (Pain)


Dear My Neck,

Sounds like a classic case of ye old tires-spinning-in-the-mud-sex-stalemate. No, it’s not awful that you’re feeling this way in your early 30s. All sexual relationships go through at least some kind of cycle where the beginning is a passionate pit of romance, sex, and the sweet sound of deadlines whizzing past unmet as you ride your shared oxytocin high into the glorious sex-fueled sunset. At some point, reality sets in. Chemically speaking and also it just has to. Otherwise y’all would actually never get any adulting done ever again.

At some point, all long-term sexual relationships require some maintenance. This is completely natural and the sooner you normalize this, the better equipped you’ll be to tend to your sex life proactively and productively.

You’ve both got some desire brakes to deal with. Chronic back pain is no joke and meds can certainly mess with erections, sex drives, and sexual confidence. For you, feeling doubts in your boyfriend’s ability to sexually satisfy you (some of which might be reality and some of which might be speculation or fear) is a big brake, too.

First thing: put it on the table. Neither of you can tackle this in a vacuum cut off from the other. And continuing to try to hit the gas when your sex tire is firmly stuck in the low-sexual-motivation mud is a great way to continue to dig yourselves into a big ol’ rut. It’s time to try something else and that something is not continuing to try the same thing while hoping for a different result.

It sounds like your boyfriend’s back pain will likely never fully resolve. So, discuss some strategies about how and when you can have that take-me-now sex you desire. His ability to pull out the stops when drinking flags to me that he either has a mental block around taking on that kind of role and/or that the drinking numbs his back pain or his mental fears about that pain. This isn’t a safe or sustainable way to satisfy that need and it’s important to brainstorm some alternatives.

For you, think about how you can get at least some of your sexual needs met without the reliance on your boyfriend’s body to be firing on all cylinders. There are lots of ways to get creative around the power dynamics involved in that “take-me-now” feel that don’t require his back to be up to the challenge of consensually throwing you around or what-have-you. Tristan Taormino’s book The Ultimate Guide to Kink might give you some good starting point ideas, even if y’all don’t identify fully as “kinky.”

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, http://www.yanatallonhicks.com. You can also catch her on our new Valley Advocate podcast.