So first some content warnings: 1. depression and anxiety, obviously, 2. sexuality and sexlessness/libido, 3. antidepressants and medical history, 4. asexuality/lack of drive, 5. polyamory and non-monogamy, 6. non-binary gender discussion, 7. ADHD and Autism spectrum, 8. hypersexuality, 9. rejection dysphoria and hypersensitivity, 10. sexual dysfunction and erectile dysfunctionAnd a further caveat: While I do personally experience transient depression--especially so at the moment because of the situation this post is about--I am not the primary sufferer of depression in this instance, but am rather a loved one struggling with the complexities of being in a relationship with two people who both suffer from depression and anxiety. I am hoping this is a safe space to discuss the difficulties of interfacing with a depressed person. I tried Googling to see if there was a better forum and found one about sexless marriages but it linked in to a Dr. Oz site and he's a quack so I passed on that.
If this post is in poor taste for this forum, please just let me know and I'll take it down. Or if you're an admin, you can just delete it if you want. I would rather keep suffering than make someone else's day miserable or difficult.
Anyway, I'm in two relationships simultaneously. All 3 of us cohabitate in a house we jointly own, each 1/3 share in the equity of the house. We have done our best to be above board, open, and ethical in our decision make to live together.
One of my partners I've been with for 15 years; we'll call her Partner A (she/her, ciswoman in case that matters for medical purposes). The other for 3; we'll call them Partner B (they/them pronouns, AFAB person in case that matters for medical purposes).
When Partner A and I were first together, we had a vibrant, robust sex life. Details are unimportant, but we both had sex about as often as we wanted to and that was a good time. Over the years, the frequency dipped profoundly, edging closer and closer to maybe 2-3 times a year at best. I am a 39 y.o. AMAB agender person who uses he/him pronouns. I have ADHD and autism and suspect I am hypersexual from ADHD. I have almost always been the person who initiates sexual behavior in relationships. I found that over the years, my attempts to initiate with Partner A were met more and more frequently with her declining my advances. I'm not a creep, so when someone tells me no, I take no as a no and try to change gears and channel my frustration into sublimation and attempting to do something productive instead. Getting shot down occasionally is no big deal. Getting shot down for months on end is....well it feels like my needs weren't being met.
Now, to be fair, I was dealing with some on-again-off-again erectile dysfunction for several years and Partner A says that made sex take much longer and could get to the point of being physically uncomfortable for her. I 100% understand that and did not try to press the issue but a.) sex had steeply declined well in advance of any E.D. problems AND b.) I stopped having E.D. after switching to a vegan diet years ago yet sex and sexual behavior never returned to pre-E.D. levels despite having no further trouble with that issue.
A confounding factor in all of this was a move to New York City where I was working a very stressful job and Partner A ended up working a shift that only overlapped mine by about 2 hours such that about the time I got home she was starting work and about the time she got home I was going to bed to be up for work the next day. Two ships passing in the night. Awful situation.
It was in the midst of that period of flux and uncertainty that I met Partner B. Partner A and I had been poly for a while, maybe 2-3 years prior to this. Indeed, Partner A had several partners in the city who had shifts more similar to hers such that she saw them much more than she saw me despite our cohabitation, being married, and sharing a bank account, lease, etc. etc. as in a traditional monogamous relationship.
Partner B actually met with both Partner A and me and we all went to a festival as friends initially. I had no idea Partner B was romantically interested in me for a few weeks and genuinely was pursuing a friendship. When Partner B worked up the courage to say something, I was enthusiastic in pursuing that relationship because I was smitten. We had amazing sexual chemistry right off the bat and went at it like newly weds every time we were able to get together (lived on opposite sides of the city with a 1h+ commute on the subway during off-peak hours which sucked). Over the next 18 months we fell deeply in love and made the decision to cohabitate with Partner A's enthusiastic consent.
Partner A had been diagnosed years earlier with depression and had been treating her symptoms with psychiatrist-prescribed and managed Sertraline (Zoloft) every A.M. and Trazodone every P.M., the latter of which was prescribed both as a means to help with her anxiety AND to address her being a light sleeper so she could get better, more consistent sleep. I do not know whether some of the reduction in sexual frequency was due to side effects of either or both drugs, but I will say she regularly engages in sexual behavior with her other partners these days. She states that sex between us was great and doesn't have any other explanation for the fall off in frequency other than the aforementioned E.D. complications.
Partner B has had depression most of their life from about 10y.o. onward but comes from a family that does not place much confidence or stock in modern medicine preferring things like acupuncture, chiropractic adjustment, spirit mediums, and that sort of thing. No offense meant to them, but I feel at the very least a both/and rather than an either/or approach should be taken. At any rate, over the last year or so, Partner B's depression and anxiety have been coming to the forefront and really causing explosive clashes with very hurt feelings between the two of us. These clashes come in a cyclic nature about once a week or so. They have decided they are NOT polyamorous and are instead monogamous, so we have all 3 of us been going to counseling to discuss how to address this new hurdle. I see a counselor with Partner A, a different counselor with Partner B, and then Partner B's counselor also sees all 3 of us jointly every other week. Additionally, Partner B has their own counselor they see for one-on-one sessions and I am working with my Employee Assistance Program to determine what the best counseling option is for me in the midst of all of this.
So in the last 6 months, Partner B has started on antidepressants...tried Bupropion and a few others, felt they didn't really address the depression at all, almost made it worse. Eventually switched to fluoxetine (Prozac) and had phenomenal relief of depression and anxiety but started having a terrible gagging or choking sensation/tightness in their throat maybe 4-5 days a week (globus sensation or cricopharyngeal spasm). Tons of gastro and ENT appointments confirmed totally normal physiology in throat with no sign of nervous system disorder, so we have to assume it's a side effect of Prozac, what fun! Also made them start having to pee 10+ times in an 8 hour shift even if they barely drank any water at all and were thirsty. This is a person who is a very healthy BMI of about 18 and has no prior history of overactive bladder or globus. They also developed a frequent, very itch atopic dermatitis on the scalp that necessitated a medicated shampoo. And alas, they stopped having a sex drive. At first it was more like they felt they had sexual desire but when they went to act on it, there was a disconnect. Then it was just more like they had no sex drive at all. Now it's gotten to where they feel repulsed and objectified if any sexual behavior is exhibited at all, even if it is just hopping in the shower together or being in the room while they are changing clothes and that sort of thing. That was NEVER an issue ever before antidepressants, they often paraded around to get my attention and enjoyed my appreciation of them.
The side effects finally got to be more than they could tolerate and we requested a switch to Sertraline/Zoloft. It's been about a month on that at the lowest dose and now several days on a slightly higher dose. Their globus and hyperactive bladder have cleared up (thank god), but the dermatitis seems to be persisting though a bit less severe. Their sex drive is still non-existent.
At this point in time, I have not had sex in about 5 months. Because of Partner B's hurt feelings around the issue of non-monogamy, I have been temporarily abstinent with Partner A with her consent. However, she now feels that it has gone on long enough that she feels hurt by it and isn't sure she wants to resume sexual relations with me at this time. Meanwhile, Partner B feels no drive. I feel like I'm all dressed up with nowhere to go.
I am slipping into depression myself because I feel unwanted, undesired, and unable to express myself sexually at all. It creeps into most of my day and makes it harder to feel baseline normal. I suppose on some level that could qualify as an invasive thought and I could be diagnosed with something or other and treated for it, but I *LIKE* my sex drive, I *LIKE* enjoying sex, I think it is 'normal' and acceptable to want to have my perceived sexual needs met and I think it is 'abnormal' for two different partners who both previously met those needs with enthusiasm to independently both stop meeting them despite both indicating that they enjoy sexual behavior with me. So I am reticent to do much in the way of changing my attitude toward sex and sexual expression because I don't think I'm the causal agent here.
Instead, what I'm trying to do is figure out a way to deal with the grief and mourning that comes with the loss of one's sex life. I have been having awful thoughts about having a fling with someone from Tinder or Grinder or what have you as a fantasy means of enjoying sexuality in my mind. I wouldn't actually do it because I don't want to hurt my partners' feelings, but I feel miserable. I've conveyed this to both and don't seem to find a sympathetic ear in either A or B. I don't know what to do. I am having feelings that this will go on for a long time, maybe for the rest of the relationship, or maybe it will precipitate the end of either or both relationships. The latter thought really terrifies me because it would mean major changes in my living situation, not least of which would be selling the house and figuring out what the hell to do after that. I'm at the end of my rope with all of this and don't know where to turn for help other than like I said, the counseling sessions we go to an the EAP.
So...have any of you readers dealt with a sex life that completely evaporated when your depressed partner(s) went on antidepressants? Was that really disappointing and/or upsetting to you? Did it ever get better? Did you find a coping mechanism? Did the mechanism help? I just want to feel happy and content with my life, but I feel like there's this major rift now where there used to be an awesome sex life and I don't know what to do.
Thanks for reading my mess. And thanks for any help or support or commiseration you might care to share with me.
All the best!