Back to school with Fs in sex and social life.
November 8, 2013 8:36 AM   Subscribe

I just started an intense school program and I have very little sex drive or social drive. This is frustrating for my boyfriend.

I started a physician's assistant program at one of the top ranked schools in August. I've been dating my boyfriend Chris for three and a half years. We've previously had a sex life ranging from very active to non-existant (when Chris was depressed a few years ago), but mostly 2-4x a week. We've relocated for my school. I am stressed, overwhelmed, and very much focused on my academic work and the new pressures. He is a bit lonely in our new location and works from home. We have been living together since January.

Previously, in our old two, I was working a normal job; we had a lot of friends; and I went out and drank or had dinner a lot - I had disposable income and time. Now I have neither, and I'm also stressed and tired. I'm managing it - I have a therapist, I'm taking meds, eating well, working out, etc. But my priorities have shifted from what they used to be, because school is a huge priority now. I knew this going in, and we talked about it.

Chris is lonely and somewhat isolated in our new city. I feel bad about this, and sort of guilty. He has friends, but they live a town a bit further out and he tends to isolate himself. I am not pulling my weight socially; I have always had more friends than him and lead our social life somewhat. This is more pronounced here, except I straight up do not want to go out most nights. That means he doesn't go out. In fact, sometimes he doesn't leave the apartment for a few days straight. (I spend 6-12 hours out of the apartment with my commitments; this is not a big departure from my previous work schedule, though.) I feel at fault for this, because I don't want to go out for drinks, and I'm not setting up fun things with friends (because I really have not a lot of friends yet), and that leaves him lonely. I've tried to suggest things from volunteering to meetups to therapy; no dice.

Big problem 2, I've always had a high sex drive. But now that I'm constantly in class or studying or working at the clinic and so on, I'm not as high sex drive. I would love to have sex just to feel close to him and for stress relief, and I love physical affection. But I need more foreplay than I used to, and the things I used to like are now not at all what I want. I used to like roughness and was usually ready to go without much to-do. Now, I don't want to be rough and I don't want to be harsh; I want to feel loved and I want things more gentle. Some of the things I used to like straight up turn me off now. I've tried to steer him that way (with instructions - keep kissing my neck, etc), but he tends to get frustrated, bored, or just ask if I'll go down on him. Rather than discuss it further in the moment, I've just been disappointed over and over when we start fooling around and it doesn't go anywhere. He keeps returning to stuff that I've steered him away from, because either he forgot that i don't enjoy that or because he enjoys it?.

How do I stop feeling bad that I am not as social as I was? Is it my fault that my boyfriend is not as social as he was? What do I do about the sex thing?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total)

It sounds like he is pretty unhappy with the changes in your dynamic and is doing everything he can (unconsciously or intentionally, I don't know) to push against it. From what you wrote he has made no efforts to embrace the changes or adapt to them. He isn't trying to make new friends, he isn't trying to solve his loneliness on his own, he isn't trying to make the best of the situation. I get that this is a difficult time for him as well, that he uprooted his life for someone and now his life is "worse", but he did agree to this move knowing that you weren't going to be able to lead the life you had. Maybe it is harder or a bigger change than he was expecting, but the reality that he was going to have to fend for himself more often would still be there.

I think his loneliness and lack of friends is his responsibility. I'm sorry, but if he isn't making any efforts to help himself then I don't have a huge amount of sympathy for him. Like you said, you both knew going in to this that you were going to be crazy busy and not able to lead the life you were used to. It sounds like he hasn't done much of anything to try to solve his problem. He's a grown up, he has to take some agency in this. He could have done something, ANYTHING, to try to make the best of this and improve his situation, but it sounds like he is opting to instead pout.

I think it is okay to have your sexual preferences change and evolve over time. Right now you need more tenderness, loving touches. Like the not making friends thing, it sounds like again he isn't making any efforts to adapt or accommodate your needs. I understand why it could be hard for him, but he has to meet you half way here. Have you talked to him about it during a not-sexy time?

Basically, I don't think he is being at all supportive of you. It isn't your fault that your boyfriend isn't as social as he was. He could be doing things to solve it but he isn't.

Also, how is it that he can not leave the apartment for days?? Doesn't he have a job or school or something? If he doesn't, maybe he should. Having a job could be the social outlet that he is wanting.

It sounds like you two are growing apart.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:59 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

You aren't wholly responsible for Chris's social life. It's on him to get out and see friends, etc. You have a demanding program and a whole new set of stressors and it will take a few months before you feel that you have a handle on it.

You can suggest to Chris that he find a work at home meet-up group for more social interaction, or that he find a job that isn't remote.

As for sex, you were understanding with him, he can return the favor. Also, it's okay to want different things at different points in your life.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:07 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, how is it that he can not leave the apartment for days?? Doesn't he have a job or school or something? If he doesn't, maybe he should. Having a job could be the social outlet that he is wanting.

Just to point something out: The OP's boyfriend works from home.

I also work from home, and, yeah, it can be a challenge to make sure I get out of the house sometimes. Is there a co-working space he could work out of, even just a couple of days a week? Shared office space is really helpful for avoiding those feelings of isolation that can come from spending all of your time staring at the same four walls with nobody around.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:24 AM on November 8, 2013

Relationships are about compromise, and they take WORK. If you want to continue the relationship, you're both going to have to make an effort.

Maybe y'all could start with scheduling a 'date night' once a week? Just dinner and drinks, or maybe a movie, either just the two of you or with friends. See where and what that leads to.
posted by matty at 9:35 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Part of being in a relationship is maintaining your own mental health and it sounds like maybe he's not doing that? I would lean on him a bit more to go to therapy, just so he has someone else to talk to about the move and help him figure out how to rebuild a social life (and examine why he hasn't tried so far).

With the sex stuff, it sounds like you're doing a lot of hinting, but have you outright told him that what you want has changed and that you want gentler sex with more foreplay? Another thing to try is scheduling a date night and using that to sort of consciously de-stress and get in the mood, cuddling, touching, whatever.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 10:06 AM on November 8, 2013

You are actually not AT ALL responsible for his social life; he is a grown-ass man, you are not his mommy, and the fact that our culture defaults to making women the cruise directors in hetero relationships does NOT mean it's legitimately your job to make playdates for the pair of you.

He can join Meetups. He can go see the friends he has. He can join a gym or do Couch to 5K so he gets out every day. Yes, making friends as an adult is hard but that doesn't mean the correct response is "I'm bored, lonely and horny; what are you doing to fix that?"

That said, you do need to make time for him, specifically as a couple; a once a week date night is the traditional remedy. Note that it doesn't have to be just the two of you; you can invite people from your program to come out as well if you want to broaden your group of couple friends.

As for the sex, I am very impatient with this sort of bullshit. Sex in a LTR is often about change and often about compromise but "we don't have sex so often so when we do, we have it my way" is not a compromise. If you've been clear and explicit about your needs and he is still being a self-absorbed asshole, I'd go through the following thee options in the order of your choosing:

2/ Tell him again, in front of a couples therapist, to increase the chances that he hears you and takes this seriously
3/ Tie him to the bed, say "This is how I want it" and show him, slowly and explicitly, with props. If this bores him, see #1.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:59 PM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Your guilt about his social life sounds really misplaced. He's an adult, he's responsible for his own social life.

Your guilt about his sexual needs sounds really misplaced. He's an adult, he's responsible for telling you what he wants, listening to what you want, and working with you on a compromise.

Your responsibility as a partner for the relationship's sexual activity is to tell your partner what you want or don't want, listen to what he wants, and working with him on a compromise. "I don't want to even think about sex for the next few months" is a completely legitimate way of expressing what you want.

It's not your job to make sure that the entirety of your boyfriend's wants and needs are addressed, and it would be impossible to do so even if you wanted it to be your job. He needs to put on his big-boy pants and address his own problems, and you need to stop taking emotional responsibility for his problems.
posted by jaguar at 6:38 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Congrats on your new PA program.

I agree with the substance of the comments thus far expressed: Your BF agreed to this move and now he needs to be supportive of you. However, I am not quite clear how invested you are in your BF after 3 1/2 years. Do you see marriage ahead? Are you committed fully to him, and him to you? If so, then I'd suggest that he see a therapist so as not to relapse into depression again. And he will need to take the lead in your social life for the next couple years while you go to school. If the strength of the relationship is in question, then I guess this will be a bit of a proving ground for Chris. Essentially, can he weather three years of a PA program and fully and unselfishly support you with an eye toward a better future. This is really 80% on him and 20% on you; there's a limit to what you can reasonably be expected to do. So for Q.1, apply to Chris the standard advice (well documented on this site) about finding new friends in a new town. He needs to get started pronto if he's at risk of depression and now lonely.

As for #2, I think it's inevitable and understandable that the frequency of sex will go down--you're physically and mentally exhausted. Again, standard advice applies--your BF can make a concerted effort to handle household chores, run errands and try to ease your home stress. You'll be more amorous if you don't have these added stressors. And just like a couple with kids, you may sometimes need to force yourself to have sex twice a week even when you don't always feel like it. Keep the bond tight. I am not sure what to suggest on the changes in your sexual preferences. He hasn't appeared willing to address thus far. Try a sit down outside the bedroom to discuss perhaps.

Good luck!
posted by Sonrisa at 8:00 PM on November 10, 2013

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