Help me figure out how to address sexual issues
January 17, 2012 7:53 AM   Subscribe

I am feeling guilty and confused about sexual issues I had with my ex. Please help give me ideas about how I should have handled this, and what I can learn from it (sorry, this is long and a bit convoluted).

A few months ago I broke up with a man who I had been friends with for two years, but had been dating for only three months. He was close to finishing his PhD and moving out of the country (Canada), and I had other reasons for breaking up with him. But I'm feeling confused and guilty about some sexual problems we had, and I'd like to get some outside opinions on how I can interpret what happened.

I'm from Western Europe, he's American; I was twenty-six when I met him, he was thirty-nine. He had left a sixteen-year relationship (his first and only) several months prior to dating me. Before dating him, I had kissed several guys and one girl, and had given one guy a blowjob, two years ago. So I was very inexperienced; the reason for that was that I take a long time to trust people, and wanted to only have sex with somebody who I felt fully comfortable with (self-esteem issues haven't helped with that). But I masturbate daily and love reading erotica and books about sex, and watching some kinds of porn, and I'm used to talking openly about sex with my close friends.

Openness and silly, guilt-free joy in sex is very important to me, particularly since I feel that there's an undercurrent here in Canada of shame surrounding sexual pleasure. I slept with him on the first night we decided to be more than friends, and I told him early that I wanted us to be comfortable and open about sex. I loved being with him, and I was thrilled to be able to explore my sexuality with him, and to be able to learn about his sexuality.

He was on Wellbutrin and Citalopram, and as a result, he was unable to come. After we got together, he lowered his dose of Citalopram under his doctor's supervision, but was never able to come with me. This wasn't a problem for me; I was only sad for him, as he seemed (understandably) frustrated. I told him that. I also told him that I understood that even if the lower dose of Citalopram helped, his body might take a long time to adjust to me after being with another woman for so long, and that I would love to try anything that would give him pleasure (whether he came or not), and that I would be happy for him to finish himself off if it was easier for him to come that way.

He was good with me, gave me oral sex and fingered me often, and had vaginal sex a couple of times a week (he had problems staying erect). He seemed very happy to see me come. We cuddled all the time. I gave him oral sex often, which I loved doing and which he mostly seemed to enjoy. I'd ask him if there was anything he'd like me to do differently for him, and the response was always the same: "No, that's very nice." Sometimes as I was going down on him he would seem bored, and I would ask if there was anything I could do differently, and then he would tell me that he wasn't in the mood; I never pressed the point, and told him that he needn't feel uncomfortable telling me he wasn't in the mood.

But the more time we spent together, the more he seemed not very sexual. The first time he fingered me, he was very pleased when he found my cervix, because he thought the cervix was the G-spot. I asked if I could watch him masturbate once, and he didn't seem to understand why I would want to. I brought up sex dreams while we were snuggling, and he told me he'd never had any. I told him when I'd first started masturbating, and that I masturbated daily; he told me about his first time as a teenager, but said that he'd never really masturbated much after that. He did tell me that he'd sometimes fantasized about M/F/F threesomes. He never once referred to the sex we were having - he didn't talk about us making love, or having sex, or fucking (I switched between all three). There was no playful flirting or rude jokes or innuendo from him. At first I felt he was not yet comfortable with me; then I was puzzled by his lack of curiosity. In the last month we were together, I blatantly came onto him (whispering to him in public what I wanted him to do to me when we got home), and was completely ignored when we got home. It really started to sink in that, even though I'd told him that I loved sex with him and would be clear if I wasn't in the mood, he had initiated sex only twice in our time together. I was frustrated that while I loved having sex with him, we didn't seem to be clicking sexually - it seemed to be something that he was doing for me but wasn't into much himself.

His ex was in a new relationship, and we had remained friends. I knew that she had been happy when their relationship ended and was on friendly terms with him, so I asked her if he had been more open with her. She told me that he hadn't been interested in sex in years, which had frustrated her, and that when they'd been together he'd seemed puzzled by the concept of online porn.

I had been feeling pressured because of the pace of the relationship. He wanted deep commitment very fast, and I'd tried to slow the pace down a bit without much success; and I felt that sexual incompatibility on top of that meant that we weren't a good match. When I broke up with him I tried to be gentle, and tried to emphasize that I didn't think that either of us was wrong, just that we weren't very compatible sexually.

Now the part that I'm confused about. A week later, he sent me a long e-mail in which he told me that he didn't have a lower sex drive than mine, instead he was repressed. He said that in fact he masturbated - to orgasm, even though it took a while - first thing when he got home every day, and had over a gig of porn pics (he gave me the names of his favourite sites and even links to some of his favourite clips), but that he had never admitted this to anybody. He said that he'd been frustrated by his ex's low sex drive and unwillingness to talk about sex, but at the same time he said that he'd felt ashamed of his own sex drive because he felt like it weakened him. He said that he'd got the impressed that women weren't really into sex anyway, that it seemed to be a generally uncomfortable thing foisted onto them by men (??!!!). He said that I had changed his mind about that, and that he was ready to be sexually open.

For various reasons I didn't go back to him, but - I'm still confused. One part of me thinks that we simply didn't have similar sex drives - it happens! - and that he was lying after we broke up in order to get me back. Another part of me believes him. How can I tell the difference, and in either case, what should I have done differently? What should I do if this happens again - the standard answer seems to be to talk *more*, but by doing this am I pressuring my partner? At the time I tried not to pressure him in any way lest he feel that I was worried about him not coming, but now I feel guilty that I've now shamed him even more for his sex drive, whatever it may be like. Did I allow my own years of pent-up sexual frustration to blind me to his needs? If lots of sex is important to me, how can I balance my needs with not making the other person feel ashamed of their needs?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Dont worry. He sounds hoplessly messed up either way. You dodged a bullet by dumping him
posted by zia at 8:06 AM on January 17, 2012 [12 favorites]

It sounds like he was doing all the shaming himself. I don't think you have anything to feel guilty about. He's a grown man, thirteen years older than you, in fact, and whatever sexual hangups he had acquired over that time have nothing to do with you.

In fact, I would say that if anything, you helped him learn how to be more open by demonstrating that women do, indeed, need and enjoy sex. He (and his future partner(s)) may have reason to thank you someday.
posted by tully_monster at 8:08 AM on January 17, 2012 [11 favorites]

Yes. You dodged a bullet. Had you gone back to him, he would have transferred his feeling of shame and revulsion about sex onto you. You would have become a "whore" or some such in his eyes as soon as his twisted beliefs about sex took over again. These beliefs have been in charge of him for a long long time, it sounds like.

Nothing you could have done. You dodged a bullet. Carry on....

(He doesn't sound very emotionally mature or self-aware or emotionally stable, FWIW. Sad. But not your fault.)
posted by jbenben at 8:23 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

What should I do if this happens again

Break up sooner. Seriously, this is one sexually messed-up bloke. Maybe he'll get fixed one day, maybe he won't. I expect your future sexual partners will be delighted by a woman for whom 'openness and silly, guilt-free joy in sex' is very important. If you find yourself with another man (or, god forbid, a series of men) like this, that will be the time to sit down and figure out what you're doing wrong. Until then, chalk this up to experience and look forward to the next one being much better.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:27 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nthing that it's not your fault. He sounds as if he was, perhaps, quite repressed and was either lying post-relationship or just didn't know what he wanted. I think it's more likely that he just has a low sex drive, though. Which is fine, of course; he just needs to find someone who is a good match sexually.

In the dating world, you will be a very hot commodity. Women with a moderate/high sex drive who understand their bodies and are open sexually are less common than men with the same characteristics (this is almost certainly cultural "slut shaming," but it is reality).

Good luck; something tells me you won't need it.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:30 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

You thought you were sexually incompatible. His email reveals you are SUPER sexually incompatible. He sounds like he would be happier with a woman who thinks sex is dirty and will do it twice a year, lying on her back and thinking of England.

It sounds like to me that, in spite of your relative lack of experience, you have the right attitude and philosophies about sex. If this "happens again," I really don't think you COULD do anything differently. But, I don't think it will. Most guys aren't (sorry to be harsh with your ex) this screwed up.
posted by mreleganza at 8:32 AM on January 17, 2012

Forgot to add: I'm on citalopram, the maximum dosage allowed, and while I have noticed it lowers my sex drive it doesn't completely obliterate it and I can still come. Just a data point.
posted by mreleganza at 8:33 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

There seem to be quite a few AskMes from confused women, trying to deal with young-ish, sexually dysfunctional guys. The guys usually blame poor technique (on behalf of the girl) or medication, or a traumatic ex girlfriend, or anger about being circumcised. It nearly always boils down to the fact that they're secretly wanking it too tightly and too often.

He's just trying to make you feel awkward/sorry for him and get even with you for breaking up with him. You did nothing wrong. Get out sooner next time.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:06 AM on January 17, 2012 [9 favorites]

Seriously, as a guy who can be standoff-ish about talking about sex stuff sometimes, you sound like a treasure of a girlfriend. Keep being you.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:08 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

The only thing that blinded you to his needs was him -- his actions, his resistance, his issues. You have even found affirmation from his ex. Honestly, it doesn't matter how healthily and sanely you approach people, you can't heal their problems for them that way. He had all these opportunities to take advantage of what you were offering, but chose not to. That's definitely sad, but it sounds like you met him more than halfway.
posted by hermitosis at 9:18 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like you're doing things right. Whether he is lying or not, you did the right thing (open communication), and ended up in the right place (not together with someone who is not compatible with you). If he is telling the truth, your openness may have helped him start to work some of his shit out. Doesn't change the fact that you're not compatible, but nice from the national parks view of relationships: leave things better than your found them.
posted by Nothing at 9:46 AM on January 17, 2012

Seriously, you did everything right. It sounds like there was a basic incompatibility between the two of you, exacerbated by his inability to communicate with you about it.

Did I allow my own years of pent-up sexual frustration to blind me to his needs?

Wanting to have guilt-free sex with your partner is not an unreasonable need.

If lots of sex is important to me, how can I balance my needs with not making the other person feel ashamed of their needs?

Honestly, it sounds like you did a pretty good job of that here. If you screamed at him for not meeting that need, that would be unreasonable. But it sounds like you were low-key and non-judgmental in the way that you expressed your needs.

Unfortunately, it's not enough for one person in the relationship to assert their needs, communicate, respect boundaries, etc. Both people have to do that for it to work well. It's tempting to think that you did something wrong, because then you can figure out what to do "right" next time, but sometimes it's out of your control.
posted by the essence of class and fanciness at 10:14 AM on January 17, 2012

If lots of sex is important to me, how can I balance my needs with not making the other person feel ashamed of their needs?

Don't settle for less than someone who is as enthusiastic about sex and willing to understand themselves as much as you are. Seriously. Don't own somebody else's shame --that's their responsibility as an adult to figure out, not pass on to someone else once they're in a relationship.
posted by human ecologist at 10:22 AM on January 17, 2012

This was him, not you. You might meet another man similarly mixed up, it's not uncommon (though usually it's fine by that age), but it will still be him, not you.

You can act as education for such men but it's up to them to get themselves sorted out. You do not need to adopt their problems or wait for them.
posted by ead at 10:44 AM on January 17, 2012

You are not responsible for their shame. You can help them work through it, but not at the cost of your needs. And the ethical thing to do is to break up if helping them would cost you more of your needs than would be good for you.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:15 AM on January 17, 2012

but now I feel guilty that I've now shamed him

And he has now accomplished his mission.

I realize you're confused right now, but what you should be is pissed at a man who lied to you continuously and decided to throw it in your face when you left him.

As far as talking goes it sounds like you brought your thoughts and concerns about sexuality to the table. It was his duty to do the same; It's not your duty to pry it out of him.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:27 AM on January 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

His shame is his shame. You didn't cause it, you didn't contribute to it, you were a responsible and caring partner.

Now he is trying to shame you in order to ease his burden of shame. This is a shitty thing to do, and I am sorry you encountered someone who is trapped in that cycle. However, you don't have to be trapped in that cycle.

Move on and keep being true to yourself and what you want. That's the gold standard. Anyone who has a problem with that is someone with a problem.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:14 PM on January 17, 2012

Whether the 'repression' trope he's trotted out to you post-breakup is accurate, he's basically lied to you over and over [and his ex - who said he was bemused by online porn] about sex. The big reveal of 'ha HA, I've been secretly jerking off to porn for years, every day!' is not remotely an inducement for you to feel like you shamed him, or that you need to re-evaluate his potential.
posted by honey-barbara at 3:50 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think what he's doing is called "saving face." Forget about all of it -- it was him, not you.
posted by Houstonian at 4:55 PM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

By the way, the M.O. he mentions (secretly masturbating to porn every day while sexually denying his partner) is a reasonably well known pattern for sex addicts. It's akin to the secret drinking that you see with some alcoholics.

A fresh angle on this might be to consider your own role, if any, as an enabler/codependent/whatever.

One thing I can tell you for sure -- if you were up against his addiction you were destined to lose from day one. On the plus side you can walk away from the situation knowing that leaving him is likely more healthy for him (in terms of consequences of his actions) and you both.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:02 PM on January 17, 2012

what you should be is pissed at a man who lied to you continuously and decided to throw it in your face when you left him. QFT.
posted by endless_forms at 9:30 AM on January 19, 2012

« Older M&Ms stores: profitable?   |   Step 1: Data; Step 2: ???; Step 3: Insight! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.