Should I leave my girlfriend?
November 14, 2004 10:31 PM   Subscribe

Should I leave my girlfriend? [more inside]

We've been together three and a half years. We've had lots of good times, but there's one big problem in the relationship. Sex. It's very important to me, but not at all to her. She's never managed to have an orgasm (with me or anyone else), which I guess could be either a symptom of, or the cause of, the problem. I've been supportive since day one, tried to get her to deal with it (candles, wine, self-help books, 'marital aids') without putting on pressure, but she's refused to. I love her it saddens me that I'm not needed sexually (I guess we have sex less than once a month), and find myself resenting her. I've talked to her about my feelings, but nothing changes, so I think the resentment is going to grow.

But she's warm, interesting, beautiful and funny, and one of the most caring people I know. She's very affectionate towards me, and I know if we stay together, she'd make a great partner in every other way.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'll stand in for Dan Savage here:

Give her one last chance. Maybe a two week period, maybe a month, but definitely set a limit. Explain that you love her like no one you've ever loved before, but you need good sex. It doesn't sound like she's put a good faith effort towards trying to get to like it. And even if she does, it may turn out that she's just a person for whom sex will ever be important. If it is important for you, and you're already feeling resentment, it will just get worse as time goes on. Stay friends, by all means, but this will probably be a relationship ender sooner or later. If you're not compatible, you're not compatible. It's no one's fault, but it is a problem.
posted by kavasa at 10:45 PM on November 14, 2004

My off-the-cuff opinion: if you're posting something like this, it's already over. You just haven't come to terms with it yet.

Sexual compatibility is pretty basic for happiness, and I think you and your girlfriend have pretty solidly established that you're not ever going to be compatible that way.

There are great womens out there who also happen to enjoy sex 5 days out of 7; you might even find one!
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:51 PM on November 14, 2004

I don't want to automatically pathologize your girlfriend's behavior. Some people simply have a low sex drive not caused by any trauma. If that is the case, you have to decide for yourself if her wonderful qualities mean you can live without the amount of sex you desire. Or, you'll have to find sexual surrogacy, with or without her consent, which countless men do. You can also discuss doing surrogacy together. Just because you've put a lot of effort in doesn't automatically mean you're doing well at pleasing her: you may need to learn a few things about sexual performance too. Even if she naturally has a low drive, she should understand that this is important to you, and should be willing to discuss this openly and explore options. As should you.

However, if there's the chance that her low sex drive may be attributable to trauma -- if she's been raped, or molested, or suffered from severe body image issues, all of which are far more common than should be -- she should get professional help from a therapist with excellent references and credentials in working with these specific issues. And you should stick with her while she does so, the way I'd hope you'd stick with her if she acquired a physical handicap preventing her from being very sexually active in the course of your relationship.

Ultimately, if you truly love one another, you will put aside talk of leaving and try a lot harder to work your way through this. Sex is no different than any other important value of a relationship. Either it's worth it to both of you to seek solutions and a respectful compromise, or you find more compatible partners.
posted by melissa may at 10:54 PM on November 14, 2004

If that's not the saddest thing I've ever heard. Personally I wouldn't leave her, but that's just me - because having a wonderful life partner is more important to me than sex, especially considering in my experience (a) wonderful life partners are hard to come by and (b) bad sex happens to most people. So, personally, I'd stick with her and choke the chicken on my own.

But that's just me - if sex is more important to you than beautiful/warm/funny/caring/affectionate partner, then that's the way you go.

If you're not compatible, you're not compatible.

That's what makes this sad - anonymous says they are compatible in every way except one, and it seems like a waste to give it all up because of that.
posted by Jimbob at 10:59 PM on November 14, 2004

If she's compatible in every other way, then that sure as hell ain't bad. In the end, you can always find something where you aren't perfectly compatible.
Also, as someone with a low sex drive who honestly doesn't care for or about it, her drive most likely won't change. Some people like us are just wired that way...It's not because we hate it or because of trauma or anything. It is just another element of life where other things in life are more important and interesting.
But, as already mentioned, if you are resentful about it and can't get over it, well, drop her because it'll cause big problems in the long run beyond your dissapointment in sex life.
posted by jmd82 at 11:06 PM on November 14, 2004

Jimbob - it's not really giving it up. As he said, he's already feeling resentment. It's just a fact about human psychology that most people need - really need - sex. It's not the poster's fault that that's the case, and it's not the girl's fault that she has a low drive. Especially since, as melissa said, the pretty predictable result of this is that in 5 or 10 years he'll be cheating on her, which is much much worse than breaking up now. In fact, melissa's answer is altogether better than mine. Follow it. ;)
posted by kavasa at 11:10 PM on November 14, 2004

I'd suggest reading this for some suggestions on things you can do to change your situation.

One of the things you'll find out (or you may already have) is that being resentful, angry, and issuing sexual ultimatums will make her libido even more anemic. If you can't make yourself give up your resentment and try to start with a clean slate then it's just going to get worse until one of you can't stand it any more and leaves. Have hope, though, because it is a fixable problem, and since you guys are compatible in so many other ways it'll be well worth the effort in the end.
posted by stefanie at 11:10 PM on November 14, 2004 [1 favorite]

I should also add that if her low sex drive is trauma-based and she refuses to get help, you are not dishonorable for leaving the relationship, especially if you've spent a long time trying to get her to deal with the problem and you know you'll never be happy unless she comes to grips with it. Since you said nothing about that in your post, though, I'm just being speculative. Given the length of your relationship, if there is indeed something like this affecting her, you might suppose you'd already know it. But there are many women who never tell anyone, even those they love, so it's worth broaching the issue with her if you suspect that trauma might be a factor.

However, DON'T DO THIS if you aren't going to stick around and help her. I didn't stress this enough in my other post. If you aren't brave enough to handle it, do her a big favor and leave now.
posted by melissa may at 11:11 PM on November 14, 2004

I've generally found that when it comes to relationships, if there is any doubt, then there is no doubt. In other words, would you even be asking this question if the presumptive answer in your head is "I'm going to stay with her"?
posted by ChasFile at 11:27 PM on November 14, 2004

If you're not happy, and you've talked about it with her, leave.

How much more difficult does this need to be?
posted by cmonkey at 11:32 PM on November 14, 2004

On the one hand, you say you're not putting pressure on her, on the other hand, you've tried to get her to deal with it with all of these hoops to jump through.

I guess my question would be what are you trying to get her to deal with? Her lack of interest or her lack of orgasms. If it's the latter, you need to let that go. If it's the former well, compatibility is important. From just what I read here though, it sounds like a lot of pressure.
posted by willnot at 11:33 PM on November 14, 2004

I think you probably know right now whether or not you want to remain in the relationship. If you'd already weighed all the different ways the two of you were compatible and found the results to be 'good,' you wouldn't have posted this thread.

So my advice (really, whether you want to stay in the relationship or not) is to go ahead and act on your feelings. Soldiering along in a relationship you don't want to be in, or half-assing it in a relationship you do want to be in, is only going to create problems. Better to decide now and have less baggage later on.

posted by Yelling At Nothing at 11:43 PM on November 14, 2004

You know, I've been reading the excellent site stefanie linked, and I think I'd like to backpedal a bit.

What struck me the most about this post:

a) that it was made in the first place - the poster's obviously feeling quite desperate;

and, more importantly, b) that the poster feels that he's exhausted his efforts to try to get her to deal with it. This is hard to evaluate; he lists a lot of efforts, but we really don't know how hard he's tried, what he's expecting to change, or what her attitude, feelings, and so on really are.

If the two of you agree that you have given it a good-faith go for three and a half years, I'd suggest that things are unlikely to change much. If you both can agree that you think there may be more to do, you would probably benefit a great deal from a couple's counselor. The last sentence of the first paragraph makes this sound unlikely, but it's hard to tell.

If the two of you disagree about whether there's more to do, I'm afraid the pessimistic person wins by default.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:44 PM on November 14, 2004

I think it should be more complicated than a simple "leave her." Every person is flawed, including anonymous, who isn't telling us about his profligate ways with money or his hypochondria or whatever it is that's wrong with him -- and despite which she loves him, too. If they are compatible (or have compromised to be so) in all other ways than this, it's worth the effort.

Love shouldn't equal misery -- no one should martyr themselves just to have a partner. But tossing a good relationship with a good person aside is a shame unless you've fought the best fight you can.

But she's warm, interesting, beautiful and funny, and one of the most caring people I know.

I wouldn't give up on such a person without a fight, and like everyone else here, anon, I don't know how hard you've already fought. But from that sentence, I'm sticking to the opposite side of the growing consensus: I assume you wouldn't be asking unless you had a little fight still left in you.
posted by melissa may at 12:14 AM on November 15, 2004

Would developing an "open" relationship be an option? You say she isn't interested in sex, so perhaps she'd be open to you pursuing sex with other women, while remaining in an otherwise committed relationship with her.

Of course, I have no idea if that situation can work, but I don't think it's as crazy an option as most would claim.
posted by Doug at 12:18 AM on November 15, 2004

Jeez, it's only sex. If you're this shallow SHE should probably leave YOU.
posted by krisjohn at 12:24 AM on November 15, 2004

Let's see if we can draw out some of the threads. I'm not suggesting anything here, but I am trying to untangle parts of your post...

How much do you resent her now? What does it mean to say that you "think" your resentment might grow? Think hard about a year from now, or two years from now. Being married to this person. Having the same sexual relationship that you do right now. Can you picture it?

Obviously you want to have more sex. Do you expect to have more sex? Do you hope to have more sex? Do you assume that eventually, you'll be having more sex "somewhere down the road"?

When you talk to you partner, why does nothing change? How does the conversation go? Does your partner seem to hear what you're saying? Does she acknowledge your needs? Has she indicated, in any way, that she is aware that you are unsatisfied sexually? Does she know that there is a problem big enough for you to seriously question ending the relationship?

I find it curious that you write about all the things you've tried to "help" your partner, yet your partner has never had an orgasm. Has she never masturbated? If she has tried and was unsuccessfull, has she consulted a doctor?

When you say you only have sex once a month, what constitutes sex? Does your partner refused to engage in any sexual act - mutual masturbation, oral sex, etc. - with you? Would she be willing to perform those sex acts for you? If she is, would that be an acceptable solution? If she is not, would she be willing to talk to someone about why?

Or, is she already doing all these things for you? Is the problem that you want to be more sexually fulfulling to her, according to your understanding of sexual fulfillment? Is it that you want her to want to have more sex with you, essentially?

If she truly makes a great partner in every other way, then you two should be able to communicate each others needs to each other in a way that can be gentle yet clear.
posted by cohappy at 12:39 AM on November 15, 2004

If it was me I would stay with her. I've had enough great sex with awful people and mediocre sex with wonderful people to know that my general happiness level has little or nothing to do with what the sex was like.

krisjohn has a point, also.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:46 AM on November 15, 2004

I was in a two year relationship where one of my needs was not getting met. All efforts to communicate (which has to come before an attempt to "fix" anything) were rebuffed. The wonderful relationship we had spiraled downward under the strain of that gulf. We broke up, and a year later, I don't regret it at all.

Don't feel bad because this is about lack of sex-- the bottom line is one of your legitimate needs is not being met. If she didn't want to have kids, and that was important to you, I don't think anyone would imagine that the relationship would work out. You deserve to have the kind of relationship you want. Is this it?

You can't improve the relationship on your own. If she won't help, then I would advise leaving her. There are other fish in the sea.
posted by samh23 at 12:46 AM on November 15, 2004

Jeez, it's only sex. If you're this shallow SHE should probably leave YOU.

If anon thought it was "only sex", we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Don't feel bad because this is about lack of sex-- the bottom line is one of your legitimate needs is not being met. If she didn't want to have kids, and that was important to you, I don't think anyone would imagine that the relationship would work out. You deserve to have the kind of relationship you want. Is this it?

Good point clinical as it sounds, everybody has conditions that need to be met in a relationship (sometimes unspoken).

As others have said anon, if you're already feeling resentment, I think you crossed the rubicon a while back.

(it's a shame anon can't continue posting on this thread anonymously.....)
posted by SpaceCadet at 1:22 AM on November 15, 2004

I don't know why humans (or, at least most Westerners) are generally built this way, but it seems to me that we come with the factory default set to "regret", and it takes some fairly deft modding to change that. Just assuming I'm right in this case, if you leave her, you will probably come to regret it. And if you stay with her, you will probably come to regret it. And of course the inverse is equally true, though we don't always choose to view it that way. So the answer is that there is absolutely no "correct" or even informed choice; so many possibilities exist that it's almost a crap shoot. You could leave and find a woman with all those qualities, as well as a sex drive that mirrors your own. Or you could stay and find that what it really took was the time for her finally trust in you completely, and that this sense of security finally broke down the barriers. Or you could leave and never find someone as wonderful as she is. Or stay and find that this issue becomes worse instead of better.

From my own perspective, I can only say this: If I were to find a man with all the excellent qualities of my husband and none of his bad habits or irritating quirks... And let's say that as a cherry on top, he was rich as well, and maybe a celebrated author, and that he worshipped at my feet (and I like that!) — my heart would still always yearn for my man instead. Ultimately, the only possible real answer lies there, in what makes your heart sing. If you can imagine a life without this woman, then there is a good chance that this is where your future is pointing. If you can't, that is also your answer.
posted by taz at 1:58 AM on November 15, 2004 [2 favorites]

Taz, you rock.
posted by humuhumu at 2:40 AM on November 15, 2004

You're looking at this the wrong way. You've found a wonderful woman who hopefully loves you back. Instead of obsessing over her disinterest in sex, take this as an oppurtunity to go out and bonk hookers to your hearts content. Its the best of both worlds, a lady who loves you, and unlimited wild sex with a variety of hot slutty women. Ask her if she's ok with this plan. If yes... you've got it made. If no, then there is always masturbation. And RealDoll(tm).
posted by Meridian at 3:15 AM on November 15, 2004

I was in a similar situation a while ago. I was the disinterested party. It was the source of a lot of dischord in our relationship. I really believed that other than the sex, we were very well suited to each other and happy. As it turns out, I was wrong. I was lying to myself.

After the worst breakup in history and a lot of therapy, I realized that it wasn't that I didn't have a sex drive at all, but that I just didn't have a sex drive with him. I wasn't ever really attracted to him. And I never really had a good attitude about sex before (damn that Catholic upbringing).

After discovering the wonderful world of adult toys and giving myself permission to just enjoy myself and freedom to explore, I realized that I do indeed have a sex drive. And after meeting a really wonderful guy, it's a pretty intense drive. (One thing to note - I have yet to find a horomonal birth control method that does not dampen my drive. Tradeoffs are a bitch.)

So - what I'm saying is - at least for me - the lack of a sex drive was just a symptom of a deeper underlying problem. But there could also be other factors at work (the pill). IMO, therapy is always a good idea.
posted by MsVader at 4:56 AM on November 15, 2004

My live-in and I have a very low-libido lifestyle but it works for both of us. I've been kicked out of relationships before for just not being into sex enough and I've always been pretty pragmatic about it. It's a difference, a significant one, between two people and at some level it's an incompatibility. Stefanie is right, more pressure makes a relaxed attitude towards sex much more difficult to get to, no matter how supportive and loving you are, there's always a "how about NOW?" attitude towards potential times for sex like bedtime, morning, whatever. The questions I have for you, anon, to mull over are many of the same ones that others have raised.

- Has your girlfriend ever had an orgasm, with or without you? If not, she may have some other issues that have nothing to do with lack of desire that might be able to be addressed medically, if she was interested. Even if this is the case, however, it's unlikely that she'll turn around and be a sex once a week gal and sometimes medicalizing a sex drive is really not what anyone wants to do.
- is your girlfriend sympathetic to your sex drive, even if it doesn't match her own or does she see you as sort of being "on her" for sex a lot? the answer to this would help determine if an open relationship, surrogates or some other in-between solution might work for both of you.
- in your girlfriend's mind, is there anything wrong with this relationship? Or is your sex drive what's wrong? if your girlfriend is problematizing your sex drive, that itself is a problem. No one should feel bad about wanting, or not wanting, sex, they may just need to choose partners appropriately. A lot of this has to do with what the two of you perceive to be problematic here.
- You mention not being "needed" sexually, but many women I have known are a little more laissez-faire about sex and I'm not sure "need" is how I would describe my sex drive, personally. On the other hand, ikkyu2 is totally right, there are a ton of women who like sex a lot, all the time, probably even with you. If you feel like you want to be with a woman like that, find her, don't try to make your girlfriend into her.

At the end of the day, if you're not having sex with your girlfriend, you may be able to keep her in your life in many of the same ways she is already there and be free to have sex with other people. I know that doesn't fulfill your life partner desires specifically, and this is the tough choice for you. Many people have long term relationships with people they are not sexually compatible with. Then again many people lead lives of quiet desperation in long term relationships no matter if sex is the issue or something else is. If this woman is really something special you might want to see if you could conceive of working out your desire for sex in a different way, or with her in a different way. There are many ways to be in a loving long term relationship together that don't follow the boy + girl+ house + family = happiness route and you might want to see if you and she can pursue an alternative path that makes you both happy.
posted by jessamyn at 5:50 AM on November 15, 2004

I had a similar experience to MsVader's. A few years back, I was with a wonderful young woman -- pretty, smart, good-hearted, with a really powerful libido and strongly monogomous wiring. But it just didn't work for me.

To say "it's just sex" misses so many points. I have a very high sex drive; as w/ MsV, I just didn't have it with her. I've actually given a fair amount of thought to the reasons, but they don't matter here: I felt I should, and because of my "failure", I started to feel resentment. I started to resent her, she started to resent me, ... and it just didn't work.

As humans, we don't really have choices in a lot of things. We have needs. Sex, for many people (most? I don't know...), is a lot more than "just sex". For me, I can't feel emotionally satisfied in a relationship without decent sex. Bad sex makes it worse. This isn't true for everyone -- that's another thing we don't really have a choice about as humans.

Taz, I think, is saying the most important thing to say about this: No matter what anon chooses, he'll regret it. It's a bad situation. I have a world of sympathy for him.
posted by lodurr at 6:19 AM on November 15, 2004

I would never consider someone with a low sex drive to be romantically compatible with me. No matter how great a friend someone is outside the sack, a mismatched libido will lead to way too much disharmony for either of us to be happy in a mated relationship.

There's a real danger that you're imposing your desire for a libidinous woman on someone who simply won't ever want to -- and can't -- provide that. It's going to be hard for you to find happiness with someone who can't provide you what you want in a relationship, because left untended this will turn into resentment and conflict. A few more years down the line, she may come to be bothered by what she sees as your constant desire for sex, while there you are troubled because she'd rather spend the evening flipping through magazines. You don't see eye-to-eye on this now, and you shouldn't put it off as something that will work itself out later.

If you really do like keeping her around, and vice versa, you don't necessarily have to dump her. There are some options. You could take on other sex partners and continue your relatively nonsexual relationship with your girlfriend. You could give up trying to change her and instead try to change yourself, if you feel an exclusive relationship with her is worth taking such a difficult road.

Perhaps my experience is unusual, but I've found that it's much, much easier to find compatible partners "in every other way" -- I'm a pretty open, easy-going guy -- but rare to find someone willing and able to match my relatively high sex drive. Sex isn't the only thing that makes someone special, not by a mile, but don't delude yourself into thinking it's not something important to your happiness.

I'm not going to tell you that you should or shouldn't break up, but I'm going to predict that it will be very hard for you to find happiness until you've done something about this.
posted by majick at 6:39 AM on November 15, 2004

Taz said exactly what I was thinking - I broke up with someone a few years ago who was perfect in certain ways and -well, not, in other ways (it wasn't as much a sex issue, though there was some of that). And I regret the choice sometimes, especially when I'm feeling lonely or down, while other times I think it was exactly right. But nearing the end of that relationship I was going through a cycle of wanting to leave and wanting to stay, as well. It is never easy. I almost felt like I was breaking my own heart when I left - but I knew I would always feel resentful if I stayed.

Also, I would emphasize what others have said about her level of interest - it may be that she simply isn't attracted to you. Have you talked to her about previous relationships? Has she ever had fantasies about people? How old is she? Maybe she's interested in women, or different guys, a certain type, or a certain style... Sex drives can have a lot to do with the chemistry of attraction - my vibrator gets a lot more use when I have a crush on someone, and I have had a serious range of levels of sexual activity in different relationships, depending on that chemistry.
posted by mdn at 7:33 AM on November 15, 2004

Is she on antidepressants, depo-provera? Both can be fab medications for their intended purposes, but decreased libido can be a side effect for both?

What is unknown is if she is concerned about her lack of sex drive or not. Does she see it as a problem?

I've been supportive since day one, tried to get her to deal with it (candles, wine, self-help books, 'marital aids') without putting on pressure, but she's refused to.

Has it occurred to you that you're trying to fix something that isn't broken? Maybe she takes this as nagging.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:41 AM on November 15, 2004

I was once in the same situation. She was everything I could ever want and we were both deeply in love.
There was loads of intimacy and affection but no sex to be had. I was as hot as she was cold. We shared a bed, but she would not bring herself to go further.
I struggled for over a year to accept this. Then one day, in discussing our "difference" it came out that she enjoyed pleasuring herself. In an instant, the relationship was over for me.

I came to realize that sometimes, intragender friendship mutates into something it really shouldn't be, and in my case it cost me a dear friend. I consider it one of the more important lessons I learned about life in my twenties.

But if I had it all over to do again, I'd save the friendship for as you describe it, its clearly got value to you both. It needn't be an all or nothing situation. And if you remain friends, and she has problems with your next relationships, well then, you know the problem isn't and wasn't yours but rather hers and you gave it your best shot. . .
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:50 AM on November 15, 2004

There have been lots of good points brought up. I want to add a few others from the perspective of another "low sex drive" woman who doesn't know the meaning of TMI.

For starters, you say you've tried "wine, candles, self-help books, marital aids" - to me, this suggests that you haven't really tried anything at all that's about her, but just generic soppy female things. Candles don't get me "in the mood". Wine makes me horny but I can't perform, I just get sleepy and giggly. And these things are terribly, horribly superficial. Frankly, it's a bit insulting that this is all you've tried.

I have a low sex drive as well, most of the time. Sometimes it's stronger and other times, like this past month since I started a new formulation of the pill, or when one of my chronic illnesses is kicking my ass, it's completely non-existent. And if my husband was pressuring me to have sex, I know I would never want to (thankfully, he does not.) But sometimes I pressure myself into it - if I'm stressed out, I tend to start worrying about other things, and if I start worrying that I'm not having enough sex to please my husband, that's enough to kill the drive entirely. So if she's feeling your resentment, and worrying about it - forget it.

That said, even when I don't want to have sex (or can't due to pain) I'm willing to give handjobs and snuggling and things like that. This is because I never feel pressured and the way my husband is so amazing and considerate to me, I find that giving him pleasure is the best, and sometimes just that gets me off. I just love making him feel good. This is directly correlated to how he treats our sex life.

Also, even when he does touch me, or we have sex, I don't have a screaming orgasm everytime. I'm not built that way. I do have small ones almost always, little things that I find very pleasurable and rarely desire anything more. I feel good and smushy inside and I'm perfectly happy. Have you ever discussed different reactions with your girlfriend? Are you positive she's not enjoying herself, in her own way? I'm not trying to be rude, but she might be feeling that if she doesn't scream and whimper and shout your name, you won't think she's enjoying herself. And so that, again, could be holding her back.

Now I want to go back to the first point for a moment. There's no way your girlfriend isn't aware that you are problematizing her sex drive. Doing things like setting up "special times" for sex, with candles and wine - that makes it you choosing that this will be "the time" for sex. That's incredibly pressuring and if she's a thing like me or a lot of women I know, she'll shut you out completely. Some possible suggestions: set special times for sex, with her input, but if just snuggling results, be happy with it. Let your partner know that you really, really enjoyed just spending the time with her. After a few "dates", you might find that it'll progress - it'll start to feel like a fun thing, and not a pressure thing. Relatedly, try spontaneity. Your girlfriend may be associating bedtime with "time when he tries to get me to have sex." That can be, at the very least, extremely unsexy. Do not do this all the time (or it's just a different form of pressure), but every now and then, join her in the shower; kiss her senseless right after you wake up; find some time on a nice Sunday afternoon when sex is usually the last thing you'd be doing. Make it fun. And if it doesn't end in sex each time, don't give up, don't be disappointed. She's not dumb - if she cares for you, she knows how you feel about this.

Also, I just don't think this was adequately expressed above - have you taken a good hard look at your sexual techniques and desires? There's no info in your question - for all we know, you want her to take it doggy-style while you pull her hair seven days a week. Have you discussed sex, openly and frankly, with her? Found out which things she likes best, which positions, etc? I dislike that this has been overlooked because we've all been problematizing her sex drive while being really careful not to criticize yours. And while so long as the things you do are legal (notwithstanding if you're in a dumb place where sodomy is illegal), I don't think anyone should worry about their sexual preferences - so long as their partner is good to go on it. If they aren't, I think expecting them to conform totally to your wishes without you taking their desires into account is completely wrong, and I won't condone it. The problem you describes leads me to think that you both need to work, hard, to fix it.

In the end, after trying these sorts of things, and really trying to understand her, if it doesn't work out, you may be sexually mismatched. But I'm not convinced you are right now, and if she's as good as you say she is, for gawd's sake, don't let her just slip away.
posted by livii at 8:23 AM on November 15, 2004

Don't give up before you at least tried an accredited sex counselor.
(good post, livii)
posted by ruelle at 9:15 AM on November 15, 2004

Okay, for some of us, it's not "just sex." I can't say for certain how this poster is wired, but I know that for many people sexual intimacy is a vital part of how one interacts with and expresses affection for a partner. It's not the physical release, it's the physical intimacy as an expression of deep emotional intimacy, i.e. it takes two to tango. Having an open relationship wouldn't solve the problem, because that is just sex, by virtue of the fact you are staying emotionally monogamous to your girlfriend.

If I was in a situation like this poster's, my inability to decide whether I should leave a sexually disinterested partner comes down to a what may seem like a basic incompatibility that you desperately want to overcome, and fight to do so, because you love the person and want sex with them.

That all said: my advice to you, anonymous, is to try to be as open and honest as you can with your girlfriend.

If the above does describe you (and don't be a liar about it), your girlfriend needs to know it. She needs honestly know that sexual intimacy is an aspect of a long-term relationship that you are wired to need and want, and that what you want is sex with her, not just sex. You need to have an honest discussion with her that you want to work on this because you want to stay with her, and because her needs being met matters to you because you want a partner who can look at sex the same way you do. You have to be humble when you bring this up, you need to put your cards down on the table and hope she does the same. These conversations should hopefully answer as to whether:

- There's something you should be doing differently whether in techniques or attitude (livii hits this right on the head)

- You just need to be patient because she has issues she needs to overcome (and she needs your support while she does so).

- She isn't actually interested in you sexually.

- Or she isn't interested in anybody sexually (it happens).

The latter two outcomes don't bode well for the future of your relationship. If you need physical intimacy as part of your romantic relationships and she doesn't, that is an incompatibility you probably can't overcome. Regardless of how much you love each other otherwise, both of you would be happier with someone with the same needs.

If it's the former two, well you have some hope. She may even have the same attitude towards sex as you do, but isn't showing it in a way you can recognize for some reason or another. You can work on that within the relationship if both of you are willing to do so. But it may need time, and it will take effort, especially in understanding and patience. In the end you are going to have to decide for yourself whether it's worth it to stay with her or not, and I suspect it will come down each of you having the ability to be honest and open in the bedroom.


However, if the above doesn't describe you, and you do just need sexual activity in one form or another, divided from emotional intimacy: you could to consider broaching the subject of an open relationship with your girlfriend: IF there isn't more to the story as to why she can't get geared up for you (medical, trauma, sexually disinterested in you, you're a terrible lover) AND she is aware of, and acknowledges the fact, that you love her very very much but she doesn't meet your separate, more carnal needs. My feeling is that only a vindicative partner would deny a loving partner access to fulfilling a need they have no interest in meeting themselves (This goes for you just as much as for her). My best advice if this won't work is to give her up, you can't keep resenting her for the rest of your life.

(p.s. I'm female, and a satisfying love life has taken a few conversations along these lines, and a very understanding, giving partner. I would much rather be with a partner that has the same attitudes toward sex that I do)
posted by nelleish at 9:18 AM on November 15, 2004

Doing things like setting up "special times" for sex, with candles and wine - that makes it you choosing that this will be "the time" for sex. That's incredibly pressuring

There are a lot of great points in that comment, but I think some of the ephasis is a little out of whack. Yes, a bunch of overt efforts to get your gf horny might put her guard up, but no, lighting candles and putting on music is not "incredibly pressuring." Neither is it "insulting" that you've tried many things to access her libido but you're now out of ideas. You're here looking for help, and that's a productive step.

If you want to make this work, you're going to have to set your own mind aside for a while and think the way she thinks (aka: understand her). But make no mistake, at the end of the day, that what you are asking for, SEX, is a basic human need, a function of your love for her, and an entirely reasonable expectation in a committed relationship. In other words, you've got some difficult problems to navigate, but don't strap a bunch of psychological baggage onto yourself because you are sexually functional.

Being sexually functional and frustrated and trying to do something about it is not to be confused with being manipulative, coercive, insensitive... Your needs are important, too.
posted by scarabic at 9:34 AM on November 15, 2004

But she's warm, interesting, beautiful and funny, and one of the most caring people I know.

This is not how I'd describe someone I love. This is how I'd describe a close friend. It sounds like you really care about each other but the fire has died.

I would say, yes, leave her. Maybe she is not making much of an effort because a) She knows its over b) She is into sex just not sex with *you*.

It's not easy. Its a step into the void. But nobody ever said it was easy.
posted by vacapinta at 10:17 AM on November 15, 2004

My wife and I went through a couple-year period in which I was depressed and she wasn't horny. The causation of both was probably somewhat intertwined. The result was quite a bit like you describe in your question.

We're now both happy fuckers. Indeed, sex has never been so good.

So while I don't have any actual advice, I do want to provide another data point for you. It is possible that things will improve if you work on them. For us, at least, it's a damn great thing that we stuck it out and figured out how to make it work.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:12 AM on November 15, 2004

Every relationship is a series of compromises; everyone involved has to give up, in some way, something they want. Compromise can only work if there is good communication; everyone needs to know what the trade-offs are. It seems as though you and your partner are having trouble both communicating and compromising. A vigorous sex life is important to you, not having a vigorous sex life is important to her. There doesn't seem to be much if any discussion about this fundamental difference, which means it will never be resolved.

This problem also bodes poorly for the future. If you can't resolve this relatively trivial (I think) difference then how will you handle significant differences in, for example, how to raise children.

Your focus shouldn't be "how do I get the sex I want", but how to have a relationship that works.
posted by TimeFactor at 12:01 PM on November 15, 2004

not having a vigorous sex life is important to her

Or having a vigorous sex life is not important to her. That's wholly different from actively not-wanting sex.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:08 PM on November 15, 2004

Yeah, I inferred the former from the original post. I read that she'd avoid any sex at all if she could. But I could have misread it.
posted by TimeFactor at 1:03 PM on November 15, 2004

Don't give up before you at least tried an accredited sex counselor. Or, perhaps more to the point, a couples or marriage counselor. Sex is probably a small component of what is really going on here.

It seems to me that even though you both are talking about this situation, you are not really communicating about it. Communication, to some degree, is founded upon trust. Trusting each other is a fundamental part of any relationship, and without it people become afraid to expose their weaknesses, and keep things bottled up.

The end result of couples therapy might be that you learn to communicate and work things out. It might be that you learn to communicate and realize its time to end it. Or it may become painfully obvious that one of you really isn't willing to do the hard work, making the decision to move on easy.

But, if you don't at least ask her to try it, you will never know. Or, if you aren't willing to do this kind of work to save the relationship, you may have your answer there.
posted by jester69 at 1:29 PM on November 15, 2004

This is not how I'd describe someone I love. This is how I'd describe a close friend.

vacapinta has an excellent point -- something was bothering me about the post, and I think this was part of it. And consider what MsVader and lodurr said: what if she actually has a sex drive but you don't set it off? And what if, one day, she runs into someone who does? I know it's hellishly painful to contemplate, but that would be a lot worse than the current situation.

It's impossible to give good advice based on so little info, but I have to say I'm leaning towards the "cut your losses" school of thought. If you stay friends and find someone else who's nuts about you and wants to have sex every night and twice on Sundays, you've got the best of both worlds!
posted by languagehat at 2:00 PM on November 15, 2004

In case livii didn't make it clear enough, anonymous, what ever is wrong is totally your fault, you insensitive clod.
posted by NortonDC at 5:14 PM on November 15, 2004

Well it's not just sex. It's affection, and being attractive to the other person.

So talk about how she's not attracted to you as much anymore. I guess she once was - she must have wanted to jump you at the beginning.

Say talk about her not being attracted to you like she was and if there's no change then accept it or dump her.

There's no point rethinking it unless you can get some new information, so figure out what'll make you happy and stick with it.

Good luck. Take care d00d.
posted by holloway at 9:08 PM on November 15, 2004

I'm coming in very late, but I would just like to say that you should give it a chance. Do see a sex counselor - not just a relationship counselor. You don't know what technique can do. There are lots of reasons for these problems (I have been there, from the other side) - stress, tiredness, etc, but techniques can help. So can talking and openness, etc.

If she has never orgasmed, even during masterbation, this worries me. That's not just a low sex drive - something isn't working. She should see someone about it. Barring trauma, it may be that she needs to become more familiar and comfortable with her own body. If she can come to orgasm while masterbating, but not during intercourse, then technique can help. I would suggest manual manipulation during intercourse as well, by her (instant feedback), and that you both communicate about how "close" you are, or whether you've "fallen off the road" (I'm sure almost everyone knows these feelings). Lubrication (for both intercourse and manual minpulation) is always a good thing.

Also, experience reinforces feelings - bad intercourse experience can make someone wary, all the more tense the next time, and thus have an even worse experience. But if intercourse gets better, through changing technique, than she might start looking forward more to it, being more interested. It's not always just a simple question of having one set sex drive for life (though people do have different needs).

As for whether anon describes her in a way that is romantic - well, I would describe my love that way - funny, cute, a complete freak, etc. (We're just not the hearts and roses types).
posted by jb at 11:08 PM on November 21, 2004

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