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My husband got sober and suddenly can’t bottom. What’s a top to do?

Hi Jake

My husband and I have been together for 11 years and our love is still very strong. There’s just one teeny tiny but also very LARGE problem. I am the, um, girthiest guy he’s ever been with. In the beginning, this wasn’t as much of a problem. With enough booze and poppers (and lube!), we were able to have great sex for hours at a time. Then about a year ago, he gave up drugs and alcohol entirely. Being sober has helped him tremendously… except when it comes to our sex life. He says he can’t bottom anymore because he can’t relax and it causes too much pain. Obviously, I don’t want to hurt him, but I also can’t go the rest of my life without ever topping again. 

From Top to Not

Dear From Top to Not,

I want to first congratulate your husband. Getting sober when you know your life is out of control is a courageous and brave accomplishment. That said, it can definitely change the dynamic in a relationship. Some couples have a rude awakening that they don’t have as much in common without the partying component. Others have to work through a shift in how they spend their free time, if they aren’t constantly out at the bars.

The good news is, in your case, the love is real and transcends that aspect of your life, changing only your dynamic in the bedroom. I tend to feel we can work through sexual difficulties with respect, honesty, trust, and compassion, as long as the love for each other is there.

The question is how? First, it’s important to understand the concept of erotic plasticity. This is the degree to which the sex drive is shaped by social, cultural, and situational factors. In your case, your sex drive towards your husband has changed due to a situational factor. That’s completely OK, and not your fault. You enjoy indulging in your BDE, and you shouldn’t have to relinquish or suppress that part of yourself. Sexual dynamics in a relationship should evolve and change, otherwise, we lose the excitement that “newness” brings.

They key to moving through a sexual roadblock like this is communication. Talk to your husband. Let him know your concerns, your desires, your disappointments, and do so in a loving, respectful, and non-blaming manner. Simply by having that conversation, and hearing his response, the paths forward may actually begin to show themselves.

For example, your husband may say that he’ll try to practice, to see if he can get comfortable bottoming sober. You may want to start with a sex toy that is easier to handle, or even increase the amount of foreplay and titillation of that area of the body before you want to “go all in.” If it’s hard for someone to relax, allow more space and time. Reduce the pressure to “perform.” In fact, you could even set the stage by saying you are going to do everything BUT have penetrative sex, to take that pressure off of the table. Ironically, he may actually be able to finally relax then, and ultimately want to try it.

If the above strategies don’t work, that may warrant another conversation, akin to “What do we do next?” If partners deeply love each other, they would want their partner to be fully satisfied, so perhaps he would be OK with opening up your relationship, in whatever way works for both of you. It might give you the opportunity to get your needs met by someone who’s able and willing to handle you, and it wouldn’t involve cheating or hiding that from your husband. He may even enjoy getting off to the idea of it, joining in, or satisfying some urge of his own.

If an open relationship isn’t something you’re comfortable with, what other ways could he satisfy you that might fulfill that desire of being a top? Maybe oral penetration, additional sex toy options, or simply indulging in fantasy or adult videos might suffice, so that it’s not a deal breaker in your relationship.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s key to have an outlet (therapist, community, or friend) to talk about your frustrations, without putting them onto your husband, or shaming him for not being into something he once was. He’s now his true authentic self as a sober person, and he’s rediscovering his sexuality in a new way. Ask him if you can go along the ride with him, exploring, communicating, and trying new things, so that you can both get closer towards satisfaction.

Remember, sexuality constantly evolves and changes, so what you or he like today may not be what gets you off tomorrow. Having large girth is a privilege, so enjoy it the best way you can that is both authentic to yourself, and your partner.

Jake Myers the Founder of LGBTQ Therapy Space , the first LGBTQ-owned and operated national platform for teletherapy. He has a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles, with a specialization in LGBT Affirmative Psychotherapy, and is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in both California and Florida.

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