Miss Information: Birth control has wrecked my girlfriend’s sex drive. What can we do?

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Birth control has wrecked my girlfriend's sex drive. What can we do?

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Dear Miss Info,

I have a wonderful girlfriend. I have never met anyone I'm as compatible with, on so many levels. Unfortunately, sex has been somewhat difficult for us. My girlfriend is on the ring. She takes it mostly due to menstrual issues. Without it, she has almost unbearable problems during her cycle.

It seems, however, that her birth control may be negatively affecting her sex drive, and giving her pain during sex as well. She gets rubbed raw during sex very easily, and we have to stop. There are many positions that cause her pain, limiting the variety we can play with. I am always being cautious not to move in a way that could hurt her. In general, she has a low sex drive, which I probably would have too if sex was painful for me (though that can also be a side effect of birth control even without pain). It comes and goes. As time goes by, we are having sex less and less often. It's been about twice a month as of late. 

She's gone to doctors. They've given her a steroid cream and a numbing cream; neither worked. They tried changing her prescription from the ring to the pill, but she won't change her birth control because she doesn't want to deal with having to remember to take the pill every day. She can't go off birth control to see if it makes a difference due to her menstrual issues.

Help! I love my girlfriend. I also love sex. I'd also love my partner to want and enjoy sex. I want sex to be a gift I give my partner, not something that will potentially hurt her. Her doctors (she's gone to two) haven't been able to offer much. I've suggested there might be other birth-control options, but so far she hasn't put a lot into exploring them. Maybe there is a way to help with her menstrual issues besides birth control? Maybe there is a real expert doctor out there who specializes in this type of case? Whatever you can offer would be very appreciated.

— Birth Controlled

Dear Birth Controlled,

I really appreciate your tone. You're trying to support without jumping to intervene, which is a tricky line to toe. First, though, I need to point out birth control is territory for a medical professional. I have a Liberal Arts degree and an inability to keep a houseplant alive. Thus, I'm a poor substitute. The good news is that I'm better with women's health than I am with remembering to water things. The bad news is that "a girl on the Internet told me…" won't get you far with a pharmacist. 

As you surmised, it sounds like she's not seeing the right doctors. If it's having this much of a negative effect on her life, then her birth control is definitely not working. While "don't effing touch me, I feel terrible" is a form of birth control, it's less than ideal. I recommend she (and you, if she wants research help) invest some time into finding a provider — an M.D., nurse practitioner, or physician's assistant, all of whom can do birth-control counseling and write prescriptions — with a specific women's-health background and a sex-positive attitude. Weirdly enough, you can find pretty good patient reviews of providers on Planned Parenthood is also a tremendous resource: they handle birth-control counseling day-in and day-out, and usually have a staff of supportive and sex-positive counselors. Do your research, find someone she loves, and you may find it's a total game-changer.

You didn't say much about her health situation, but it may be worth looking into the patch or Mirena, the hormonal IUD. Both are low-maintenance, and the IUD is basically no-maintenance. And — just checking — you're using copious amounts of good, high-quality, hypoallergenic lube, right?

Ultimately, this is your girlfriend's issue, and she should be taking an active role in it. It concerns me a little that you're having to write in on her behalf, and that she's taking kind of an "eh, whatever" approach to switching her method. It can be overwhelming, for sure, but if she's going to feel better, she has to work on it herself, and that means doing the work of finding a good doctor. The world of birth-control options is much bigger than "the pill" and "the ring," and you both deserve to have someone who'll walk you through it.

Dear Miss Info, 

I just met someone whom I'm really attracted to and have a nice intellectual banter with, but on a couple of occasions I've felt condescended to. ("Oh, that's what you did in that job interview? Here's what I would have done.") Also, he refers to women as "bitches" quite freely, a word that flies for some people, but certainly not for feminist me. 

As someone who's normally quite skittish when it comes to dating, what should I make of these early nagging feelings? A friend once told me that the seeds of a relationship's demise are planted at the beginning, meaning that you almost always know what makes you incompatible right from the start. Some people choose to power through and others give up.

Am I being unrealistic with my hyper-vigilance? Or should I take heed of what feel like early incompatibilities?


Dear Uncertain,

Oh, you don't like the word "bitch?" That's weird, because it's how I refer to every woman in my life. "Hey bitch, I'm at the grocery store. Should I pick up more paper towels?" "Bitch, I'll have a medium iced coffee with a splash of half and half, please. By the way, I love your shirt!" "Hi bitch, thanks for giving me life. I love you. Happy Mother's Day." Bitches, amirite? High five!

Here's the thing. If you were turned off because he incorrectly uses the word "literally," that'd be nitpicking. If you didn't call him back because he wears socks and sandals, that'd be harsh. But throwing around slurs and putting you down isn't just some quirk; it speaks to a much deeper disrespect. He's subtly undermining you, and just because you recognize it doesn't mean it won't get to you. No one should have to put up with that.

You're also writing in because you have serious misgivings about this guy. So let me bolster you: you're totally right. Your gut reaction is trying to tell you something, and you should listen. This may be what your friend meant with his "seeds of destruction" theory: if you ignore an instinct and proceed anyway, that's when it will bite you in the ass.