“Zara!” my girlfriend screeched from the bedroom.
“What?!” I asked, startled. “Is everything okay?!” Dark thoughts quickly scattered into my brain, like rats skittering across dangerous subway tracks, risking their lives for a chance of devouring that abandoned slice of pizza.
Was my girlfriend having a heart attack? Did someone die? I clasped my hands over my heart and braced myself for soul-shattering news.
“Just come here!” she bellowed, her vocal register several octaves lower than I’d ever heard it before.
I flew toward the bedroom, panic pulsating through my veins. “Just tell me! Just tell me! Just TELL ME THE BAD NEWS.”
“You’re wearing my leggings.”
I looked down at my thighs which were wrapped tightly in shiny black spandex. “Yeah, so?”
“We can’t share leggings!”
“Why the hell can’t we share leggings? What is the big deal!?”
“Because we’re lovers, not sisters!”
While my girlfriend’s reaction was most definitely reminiscent of bad, melodramatic community theatre, I would be a liar if I claimed to not understand the source of her rage. Truth be told, we *were* getting into a dangerous habit. I kept “borrowing” her things without asking, which rendered her understandably livid. I was starting to feel like the annoying little sister secretly swiping my older, cooler sister’s makeup. And she was starting to feel like the older sister, forced to hide her proverbial lipstick and tube tops from the pry of her mousy kid sister’s sticky little fingers.
And nothing about that dynamic is sexy.
I realized a hard truth that day, kittens. I realized I had two options. 1) I could keep stealing my girlfriend’s expensive shiny black leggings. After all, they looked pretty good on me, and as a squat Jewish girl, it’s extremely difficult for me to find leggings that don’t make me look like a complete jackass. Or 2) I could stop stealing her leggings and keep my sex life intact.
As painful as it was, I chose to surrender my vanity for sex. But that evening, I sat in the tub and bathed in some well-needed self-reflection. I peeled back the layers of my past relationships and laser-focused on all the times we stopped having sex. I thought about my friends. I thought about the ones who still have sex with their girlfriends and the ones who have traded in hot, passionate nights for spooning with remote controls.
And that’s when I began to brainstorm a list of things to not to do if you want to keep the sexual spark from getting snuffed out.
Starting with this controversial classic:
Do not get in the (regular) habit of going to the bathroom with the door open.
Look, I get it. Sometimes you get wasted and stumble into the bathroom together. Before you know it, one of you has your pants folded down to your ankles and not because you’re about to have oral sex. Because you’re about to pee. You both giggle, wash your hands, and twirl happily back onto the dance floor. That’s cute.
However, for me, personally (I wrote about this belief of mine once and a girl was so wildly offended she took screenshots of my essay and posted it to her Instagram), there is no greater clit-killer than getting into the (dark) habit of doing my business in front of my partner.
Look, my toilet time is f*cking sacred. It’s an intimate moment between me and my body. I don’t need a spectator as I’m relinquishing my body of toxicity and waste. I don’t need to observe you relinquish your body of toxicity and waste either. It’s too much information. In an age of relentless oversharing, I like to keep a little ~mystery~ alive.
Sue me. Shame me on social media and ~bully me~ in the comments. I’m a terrible lesbian, full of deep-rooted, patriarchal bathroom-shame! But hey, at least I’m still having sex.
Do not let your pets run your bedroom.
This is the one I wrestle with the most. I have three beloved pets, that I’d rather spend time with over anyone — human, canine, or feline — in my life. I’m so besotted with my pets that I’m like one of those obsessive new mothers who can’t stop smelling her baby. “Luka smells like sugar cookies!” I’ve been known to swoon, whilst nuzzling my nose directly into my dog’s fur. And like most overprotective mothers reared in a household with poor boundaries, all three of my fur babies sleep in bed with me and my wife. In fact, they prefer to sleep diagonally, stretched out in-between us.
To say this didn’t completely ruin our sex lives for a while is the understatement of the decade! As soon as we’d get close to each other — as soon as the match between us was struck and that first flame of sexual desire emerged — the dogs would do whatever they could do to destroy the mood. Luka, the mini-Aussie, would climb on top of the pillow and rest his head on my face. Bowie the chihuahua would start licking our toes. Wild, my siamese, would break out into guttural meows so loud, it sounded like she was giving birth to a litter of kittens.
None of this, none of this, was synonymous with sexy.
Animals represent purity, a relationship untarnished by the ~sinful lure~ of sex.
It wasn’t until my wife and I set boundaries and kept them occupied upstairs with all the toys their spoiled hearts desired while we got down and dirty in the bedroom did our sex life come back.
And what’s a marriage without sex? Friendship? I didn’t spend what I spent on a wedding dress to celebrate a lifelong union of friendship.
Resentment is like swallowing libido-killing pills and expecting the other person to make you orgasm.
Resentment, unlike her step-sister Denial, is no glamorous river in Egypt. Resentment lives only inside of you, and she’s toxic.
Watch and learn from this scene, starring you.
You: Uh, babe do you think you could clean the dishes tonight?
Her: No, I’m sorry, babe, I can’t. I have an urgent deadline.
Deadline to hell, you think to yourself.
You: That’s okay!
Her: Amazing. You’re the best.
Cut to the next day.
You: Think you can take the dogs out to the bathroom this morning? I’m not feeling well.
Her: I would love to, but I can’t! You know what a rush I’m in on Mondays!
And I’m NOT IN A RUSH? DOES MY JOB NOT MATTER?
You: Got it. I’ll do it.
Thanks? SELF-IMPORTANT BITCH.
Cut to lunch. You call her on her cellphone. You’re upset.
You: I’m having a horrible day. My boss just embarrassed me in a board meeting in front of everyone. I hate this job.
Her: Let’s talk about it tonight! I wish I could talk now, but I’m about to lead my own board meeting and I need to stay focused.
Run a board meeting? I’ll run your ass over.
Her: I love you!
You feel like you’ve been socked in the gut. You feel under-appreciated. Undervalued. You feel like your life is somehow inferior to her life, therefore you get stuck dealing with the minutiae. You don’t feel heard or loved for that matter.
But what’s the point in saying anything? She’ll only get defensive. Or even if she doesn’t get defensive, why do you always have to be the one to bring everything up? Shouldn’t she understand you and your needs, inherently?
Cut to the evening. You’re in bed.
Her: You’re so hot. Let’s have sex.
You: I don’t know. I’m not in the mood.
Her: Why? What happened? What did I do?
Instead of taking the opportunity to communicate with her, you roll over and leave her swimming in a pool of mystery.
Why would I want to have sex with her when she can’t even wash a dish?! This resentment you’ve been harboring is getting bigger by the day. Each time you say you’re fine when you don’t feel fine, it inflates. Now, it’s taken up all the space inside of you, there is no room for feelings of desire.
The next morning, you decide to open the door. Maybe the beast of resentment will come out. Maybe.
You: I’m upset with you. You never do the dishes or take the dog out. You weren’t there for me when I needed support yesterday. I hate my job and I’m hurting. You’re the only person I can talk to about these things, and you weren’t there.
Her: Oh shit. I guess I have been acting like a self-involved dickhead lately. I didn’t even realize it. Thank you for telling me.
You: So you didn’t know you were hurting me?
(You’re bewildered by this concept).
Her: Of course not; I’m not a mind-reader. But now that you’ve told me, I’ll fix it. In fact, I’m going to let the dog out right now!
(She leaps out of bed).
The resentment flies out of your body. And your desire crawls back inside.
This is part one of a two-part series. To be continued…