How to seduce my boyfriend?
November 29, 2016 2:03 AM   Subscribe

Our sex life is dying, and my usual tricks don't work.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for a year and a half. We live together. We generally don't fight though over the past six months or so we've been having some difficult conversations about next steps - I (was) ready to commit*, he was still unsure. He is also really busy with work lately, and we moved recently so have been dealing with some loneliness, establishing new routines and social life, etc.

I give you all that as backstory in hopes that it explains what's going on now, but I'm not sure. Over the past few months, I've noticed that our sex life, which was previously great, took a nosedive. We now have sex only every few weeks or so. We've had a couple conversations, and I've tried to step up my game with initiating, but it hasn't worked. Yesterday we had another big (teary, on my end) conversation and made no progress on resolving things.

The gist of it is:
-My boyfriend still thinks I'm attractive (I haven't changed at all since we started dating) but is not motivated to have sex with me
-He has started finding the idea of having sex (with me) boring and repetitive (he still masturbates, I'm not sure if it's a libido thing)
-He would like me to motivate him to want to have sex, but there's a lot of issues and confusion there: he feels pressured when he knows I want to have sex, and it makes him want to do it less. So I have to get him turned on without being forward.
-Things I have tried: normal kissing and fondling, sending dirty pictures/texts, talking about sexy subjects (past encounters, things we'd like to try), suggesting porn, telling him I'm in the mood. None of these have worked - he says it's because he can tell I'm trying to have sex, and so it makes him withdraw.
-He doesn't have any ideas of what I should try, and he says if he told me something specific and then I did it, it wouldn't work because he would know what I was doing. He did suggest that he misses flirting and the more coy dance people do when they're first meeting and feeling each other out. I'd be happy to run with this but I literally don't know what to do.
-I feel as if he is not interested anymore because it's not new or a challenge, and I don't know how to change that. I still love having sex with him and find him very attractive.
-He says he is sorry and he doesn't want to hurt me, but he doesn't know how to change the way he feels. He is otherwise still affectionate (including physically) and loving.

*It has occurred to me that perhaps his pulling away sexually is due to being scared of commitment and intimacy in general. If that is the case, though, it still gives me no clues on how to resolve it.

Has anyone dealt with this issue? Everything I can find online and such deals with loss of libido when people have been married 20+ years, etc. It hurts me very deeply and I'm almost paralyzed with the feelings of rejection, shame and resentment. But I would like to give working it out my best shot - we do still love each other quite a bit.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

I don’t have any quick solutions for you, but this: “He would like me to motivate him to want to have sex, but there's a lot of issues and confusion there: he feels pressured when he knows I want to have sex, and it makes him want to do it less. So I have to get him turned on without being forward.” seems like a huge load to bear to me & not one that is in any way fair on you. He may not intend it that way, but it’s basically guilt tripping you for wanting sex because you wanting sex makes him feel bad. That’s not on.
posted by pharm at 2:20 AM on November 29, 2016 [99 favorites]

He sounds immature. His problem is that he prefers "new person" sex to intimate sex. You guys are in intimate sex territory but it doesn't sound like he's capable of having it. Sex with a long-term partner will -never- have the flirting/coy dance crap that he's saying he misses, and it's ridiculous for him to put it on you to try to recreate that (and all on your own?) You can't. That stage of the relationship is over. So is the type of sex that went with it--and that doesn't mean that it's replaced by worse sex but a different kind of sex (the kind of sex you can sustain a relationship on; the kind of sex you can only have when you're emotionally intimate with someone; the kind of sex that I would say is better).

Anyway maybe, MAYBE if he completely quit looking at porn and learned to appreciate you and having sex -with you- rather than trying to make you act like living porn in terms of getting him "in the mood," then maybe this would change but you cannot change this for him. He needs to look at what it is he wants and needs from sex and if it isn't you and he wants it to be you, HE needs to find out a way to change his attitude and do the work to make that happen.

It's really ridiculous that he's putting his lack of interest in sex entirely on you and essentially telling you to fix it for him without offering any solutions or help on how. He isn't working with you on this. Honestly, it is his problem. He would be bored of sex with anyone he was in a relationship with. No woman in the world can fix this problem for him. He needs to recognize that and figure out how to fix it, if he can.
posted by Polychrome at 2:28 AM on November 29, 2016 [72 favorites]

I do have one suggestion: Your boyfriend might benefit from reading “Come as you are” by Emily Nagoski. Yes, it’s aimed at women, but a lot of it is about the basic biology of arousal & how that interacts with our conscious emotional state.

But as polychrome says, if the basic problem is that he expects you to do the work of making him aroused & isn’t willing to engage sexually on an equal basis then that’s something he needs to fix if you guys are going to have a relationship that works in the future.
posted by pharm at 2:33 AM on November 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Well, no wonder you were tearful!

Go to the market, but don't plan to go, just sort of arrive there. When you get there go and ask for something under the counter, cigarettes say. But don't use the word cigarettes or discuss or indicate smoking in any way. Just sort of give the teller a vibe that makes them WANT to sell you the cigarettes without you having to ask. If you're good at it they might even give you the brand you wanted.

Do you see how ridiculous this is!? And no, ideally sex shouldn't be quite so transactional as buying cigarettes but COME ON. You are meant to turn HIM on, without setting out to and without being overt about wanting to or looking like you're trying to?

I can only second what is said above - this is HIS problem and you can't fix it, especially not on your own and without any input from him!

IME early relationship sex is basically masturbating using someone's body instead of your own hand. And as feelings grow that changes. That goes and you become more invested in the "us"ness. Maybe he can't handle that. Maybe he's scared to commit, maybe he likes his sex without feelings, maybe you guys moved in together and that shift in greater general life intimacy has met his intimacy need so well he doesn't need as much sexual intimacy. I don't know, and you can't know unless he talks about it. Does he actually feel fine about your less-frequent sex life aside from you not liking it?

I have been married for a couple of years but together a long time with my husband and 3 children/mortgage/dog in there. Sex does change as you go. Frequency went down but intimacy up after we moved in together. There have been periods of MONTHS AND MONTHS when we had no sex, after babies, in times of terrible stress. But we are evenly matched. Neither of us is unhappy particularly about it.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 3:23 AM on November 29, 2016 [24 favorites]

Would he consider therapy? It sounds like you have really tried every single thing that I would think of.
posted by getawaysticks at 3:36 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Come as You Are and you should read it even if he doesn't. My husband lost interest in sex with me and if that book had existed at the time I would have responded to the situation very differently than I did. So it's worth reading for yourself. This is a crappy situation to be in. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 4:00 AM on November 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Your boyfriend is an ass, if no sex is a dealbreaker you should leave him. His requests are beyond unreasonable.

He doesn't want to have sex with you, that's his problem but he's putting it all on you. That's completely out of order.

You need to decide whether no/little sex is something you can live with. Does the rest of the relationship make up for lacking in this area? If its not, then you need to lay it out for him, he has a problem that is killing the relationship and its his responsibility to fix it, if he isn't interested in working on the problem then the relationship is over. You will not be playing this ridiculous guessing game of trying to manipulate him into being aroused.

Stop trying. Take sex off the table until he's ready to come to you or you decide its over.
posted by missmagenta at 4:06 AM on November 29, 2016 [17 favorites]

I feel like he's being manipulative and unfair to you- telling you to try to turn him on but that it will never work because he'll know you're trying. Wtf is that? He's placing the burden on you for an issue that belongs to him. Sadly I don't think there's much you can do. Consider if you will be happy staying in a low-to-no sex relationship with him, and act accordingly. Sorry that you're in this situation.
posted by emd3737 at 4:23 AM on November 29, 2016 [17 favorites]

I struggled with this in my last relationship. I didn't find him attractive anymore, and didn't understand that about myself. I just thought I was doing sex wrong. He was tired of being rebuffed so he put the onus on me to initiate sexytimes, but I didn't really want to, so we just didn't have sex. For years. I regret not exploring my feelings more, I wish I could have been honest with him but I was young and dumb and didn't know how. It all got tied up in how I was failing him and how I was a terrible person for not meeting his needs. It would have saved us literally a decade of misery if we could have recognized how incompatible we were in that regard and broken up.

I'm not saying you have to break up, but you both have to come to the table and want to solve the problem. And sometimes it's not solvable no matter what you try, and recognizing that is really painful. I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by cabingirl at 4:23 AM on November 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

When I had a partner who behaved like your boyfriend, he was suffering from clinical depression and issues with substance abuse -- neither of which either of us were particularly aware of until long after the relationship ended.
posted by telegraph at 4:33 AM on November 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

He's asking you to manage A LOT of his emotions for him.
posted by raccoon409 at 4:52 AM on November 29, 2016 [20 favorites]

I think this guy wants you to break up with him. It's not just the not wanting sex, it's the setting parameters that are literally impossible for you to fulfill - he can't have new partner sex with you, because you are not a new partner, he wants you to seduce him without seducing him. Sounds like he wants to end the relationship, but is too cowardly. You should just go ahead and do it for him .
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:10 AM on November 29, 2016 [41 favorites]

I think if it was the other way around and your boyfriend was a girl, we'd be asking you to leave her alone and let her breathe. I get it. You're the one who wants sex so you're the one who is 'doing the work'. He's putting the pressure on you so that he doesn't have to feel it. I'm not saying it's okay (I would be crying too) but I understand exactly how he feels about sex (except I wouldn't say 'wear a see-through nightie but pretend it's not for me' or whatever he's saying) and I don't think there's anything you can do. You can't force it. He likes 'stranger sex' (me too) and is not sexually attracted to the familiar (me neither) and it's not something that is sustainable in a relationship but it's a hard thing to overcome. After a while sex becomes 'one piece of meat inside another piece of meat' - i.e. not sexy. I have no idea how people do it. You could try role play/psychological sex. That can definitely work for people who can't have 'normal' couple sex.

I fear you may have to find someone else if sex is important to you.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 5:18 AM on November 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

If he's still being affectionate with you and you don't have any reason to suspect he may be cheating on you, then I don't think this is manipulative -- it sounds to me a lot like depression.

You mention that you've moved recently and he's working a lot harder - he could be having trouble figuring out a routine for himself that works and you've become a safe space for him - so sex then becomes effort rather than reward for him. I would try to talk with him more about what he's going through, and work harder to assemble a new friend group, a routine that works in the new city, maybe start running or taking an exercise class together - something physical that you can do where you interact with people and aren't locked in a bubble together. And if he thinks it might be depression, a therapist can help.
posted by Mchelly at 6:24 AM on November 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

He should talk to a doctor about getting screened for depression and possibly checking things like thyroid function or testosterone level. If things went from good to him losing interest in sex, there could be something medical going on.

Otherwise, it sounds like he's kind of checked out on the relationship as a sexual one but doesn't want to have to do the hard work of breaking up, so he's trying to just let entropy do its thing.
posted by Candleman at 6:28 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I (was) ready to commit*, he was still unsure

-He has started finding the idea of having sex (with me) boring and repetitive

move on move on move on

doesn't matter why this is happening, life is so short

be with someone who adores you and finds you delightful
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:28 AM on November 29, 2016 [29 favorites]

The title is misleading, but I would recommend reading Passionate Marriage. It is about the intersection of sexual and emotional intimacy in a relationship and how to make sure you are in a relationship that meets everyone's needs.
posted by procrastination at 6:37 AM on November 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think if it was the other way around and your boyfriend was a girl, we'd be asking you to leave her alone and let her breathe

yeah except for the part where "He would like me to motivate him to want to have sex" but literally everything she does or might do is wrong including doing exactly what he says. That puts it on a special level you don't so much see with the run-of-the-mill 'my boyfriend wants more sex than I do' question.

If he simply said: I only want to have sex every couple of weeks and only when it's my idea first, that won't change, take it or leave it, I'd say fine, leave the boy alone and stop badgering him. no means no. but this is about that plus making her work for it and perform for him endlessly with no reward but humiliation.

first thing I'd recommend, anonymous, is stop trying, completely. If anything makes him come around, that will. it will be for you to decide whether that is just one of the mysteries of love or an indication that he was not telling you all this stuff in good faith. but look, a person who consistently loses interest in sex with somebody he's living with or somebody he loves, because he lives with them and loves them, is not telling you a problem about you but a problem about them. you can forgive it and maybe train yourself not to mind but if he considers this a problem, he must come to understand it is not something a girlfriend can fix for him without his help.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:01 AM on November 29, 2016 [16 favorites]

I'm not saying you have to break up, but you both have to come to the table and want to solve the problem.

I agree with this statement, whether his problem -- and it is his problem -- is depression or unrealistic expectations or whatever. Right now he's putting everything on you, and frankly, it seems like he is less interested in having you solve the problem than not being bothered by your distress at his disinterest.

The only other outside possibility you might discuss -- and he'd need to show a lot more respect toward you as a prerequisite -- is if literally everything else about your relationship is right, then possibly opening up to other partners. But even so, if you're going to have a close emotional relationship with no sex, while you each have other partners, you might just break up and work on salvaging a friendship.
posted by Gelatin at 7:02 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree with this statement, whether his problem -- and it is his problem -- is depression or unrealistic expectations or whatever. Right now he's putting everything on you, and frankly, it seems like he is less interested in having you solve the problem than not being bothered by your distress at his disinterest.

And as an addendum to this, if he isn’t interested in changing then your relationship is going to blow up the moment he finds a new girl who triggers all those “sex with hot new person” buttons for him.
posted by pharm at 7:12 AM on November 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

he says if he told me something specific and then I did it, it wouldn't work because he would know what I was doing

I legitimately feel bad for the guy on one level, because - assuming you are both Western/American/European/But Especially Anglophone culture - this is the almost the entire sum of the education we get about intimacy: that the way it's "supposed" to always be is spontaneous, mind-reading, and a surprise. It's supposed to just happen, magically. And in some subcultures, planning sex or pre-discussing sex means you're a bad dirty person and/or that the relationship is broken. There's a fetishization of Guess Culture here.

It's so toxic. It seems to work in the early stages of a relationship, but that's because arousal comes unusually easy in that stage. But eventually your brain has to go back to a more normal state where it doesn't do that anymore and if you don't know how sex/arousal even works in the first place, and you don't have a high enough level of emotional intelligence to figure it out/work with your partner to transition to a reality-based sexual relationship, it just drifts to a halt.

It's hard to say, though, if this guy in particular is capable of learning this with a little encouragement and some books, or if this is just a thing he's not going to learn until he's ready (or ever) and you need to walk. Because this situation can start veering into the territory you're already in, where this is completely your problem to solve because he can't/won't/doesn't know how to work on it, which is pretty much never okay in a relationship.

For many, many people though, spontaneous initiation from 0, expecting a person to go to 60 with no notice, is unfair to ask you to try to accomplish or for him to ask his body to do when that's generally not how it works. I can tell you from experience that when I am very much not thinking about sex, you start crawling up on me in that way and I have almost exactly the same reaction as I do to hearing someone chew. It's an instant anxiety reaction, and I want to hit something and puke simultaneously, which is never going to get me in the mood. The thing is, I know that's what it is. The last thing I would ask you for is to be even more spontaneous, as if you might be so sneaky I might not realize we were having sex until halfway through and then be delighted. Which is what he's asking you to do.

It doesn't sound like this person has any interest in working on this, though it might be worth getting him to read Come As You Are (you read it first) and see if it makes him think at all or unlocks some cultural baggage he didn't have words for. I wouldn't stick around forever, though, waiting for it to magically change if he's not motivated to do any of the work.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:15 AM on November 29, 2016 [15 favorites]

To be clear - it is unfair for him to put this on you and it's not about you. It's easy to fall into a shame cycle on issues like this. Please don't shoulder this on your own. It is for him to manage his feelings.

At this point I would suggest
1 - talk sex off the table
Stop trying to initiate / get him "in the mood". Let him initiate
2 - while waiting, do some introspection on the importance of sex in your life and know what is and is not a deal-breaker for you
3 - once you've reflected...don't wait forever if action is the answer

You are allowed to take care of yourself first.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 7:28 AM on November 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Mod note: Couple comments deleted. Please address answers to the OP and don't get into discussions with other commenters.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:57 AM on November 29, 2016

If I were you, I would worry less about what his problem is and start thinking in terms of what I want from a relationship, beginning with I want a partner who actively and productively addresses issues in the relationship. He is not doing this.

And I found this line infuriating (I can only imagine how frustrating this must be to you): He would like me to motivate him to want to have sex, ...: he feels pressured when he knows I want to have sex, and it makes him want to do it less. So I have to get him turned on without being forward. In other words, it's basically all on you. But short of coming up with some magical, indetectable seduction techniques, anything you attempt is virtually guaranteed to fail.

Frankly, I suspect he's checking out of the relationship. He's not breaking up with you because he's not miserable and/or hasn't found someone else, so he's not motivated to go through the work of a break up. Or, maybe this is how he is in long term relationships. Who knows or cares—either way is not acceptable for you.

One thing is certain, you don't need to be in a relationship that is causing you this much stress.
posted by she's not there at 8:24 AM on November 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

This guy is a child. Differing levels of desire for your partner occur throughout any long-term relationship, and handling the mismatches that may arise is a tough issue. But if he expects you to secretly manage his own damn sexual arousal for him, he will expect you to handle every difficult situation in the same way. Hit the eject button.
posted by praemunire at 8:46 AM on November 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

As others have pointed out, you don't say whether he is unhappy with this state of affairs. That makes a big difference as to whether he's being a garden-variety lazy partner or a straight-up shithead.

If he's not unhappy with the frequency of sex it makes sense, though isn't very nice or kind or thoughtful, that he thinks you should address the problem. If he is unhappy with it and is basically chalking it up to "because my gf isn't magic enough" then he suuuuuuuuuucks. And should be jettisoned into the sun.

IF it's the former situation: I have dated guys with this sort of fragile-snowflake libido before--almost always it was due to depression, whether biological or situational. It wasn't an enormous problem for me because my own sex drive is quite low, so I was fine with basically giving them all the space in the world. In some cases that meant we almost never had sex anymore, ever, and in others they eventually got leveled back out and things returned to their previous state. You are absolutely not required to stick with a guy for who knows how long waiting for that though.

You can't actually do what he says; it's not a human possibility. So I'm going to focus my advice on you, and what you can do to get through this patch one way or another. The way through is: to take incredible care of yourself. To basically treat yourself enough like a goddess on earth that all of his nonsense can't dislodge that understanding of yourself. Take sex off the table but take good care of yourself, ahem. Just basically aim to crush it, whatever crushing it means to you.

After a while of this he'll either have clued in that you're not going to manic pixie dream girl his donger, or you'll be feeling so awesome about yourself that you will not ever give a damn about his donger again, and you shall go forth and conquer the world.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

He is creating a scenario which is impossible: you get him interested in sex, but if you're initiating sex in any way, he feels too much pressure to have sex. This is crazy making. He can't put all the work on you.

The only thing I could possibly imagine would work for him is if what he wants is for you to do the hard-to-get, denial thing for awhile while he tries to "win" you. Another, easier way to get that pursuit feeling back is to go out to a bar or something and flirt with other people, then go home and have sex (the old "marking my territory," or "winning the competition," thing). Sometimes when we see our partners through someone else's eyes, it's like seeing them anew.

The whole thing about spicing things up for long term couples, though, is that of course both people know the fantasies they try out are just games they play together, not reality. Your affection for each other is the glue that holds the fantasy together - the "I'm doing this because it makes you happy, which makes me happy." Which makes me wonder, how much pleasure does he get out of pleasing you? I think that's the question you need to ask yourself in evaluating this.

You sound like an absolutely kick-ass partner for doing all you've done.
posted by Pearl928 at 9:02 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

This man is going to cheat on you. And then on the next woman. And on and on. His turn-on is novelty — he told you that explicitly. Your only failure is not staying novel (and obviously that's not actually a failure). So, not only are you not having your sexual needs met, you're going to soon learn that he is having his sexual needs met — with someone else.

I don't see any way to make this one work. I really don't.
posted by Capri at 9:55 AM on November 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

I agree with the other commenters that this is an impossible request, and if I were in your position I'd let him know that I'd be getting sex elsewhere. (And hey, that might even turn him on!) But assuming that's not the kind of advice you're looking for, if any of these are comfortable for you, you could try them:

Initiate sex first thing in the morning
Spend more time casually naked
Use body paint on each other
Suggest other sensual activities, like massages
Start masturbating to porn and ask him if he'll help. Keep the porn on.
Ask him to take naked photos of you
New sex toys/clothing
Ask him to try something specific that's notably different from anything you've done before
Experiment with drugs; marijuana for example makes sex more sensual for many people
posted by metasarah at 10:35 AM on November 29, 2016

I stopped wanting to have sex with all of my partners, or they with me, around 1-2 years of dating (yes, serial monogomist), until I found the partner I ended up marrying. I think this is a sign that it's time to move on. Nothing is wrong with you, and there may be nothing wrong with him, but he's bored of you sexually and I know it hurts but I think losing the spark so early in a relationship is almost always the beginning of the end. I loved many of my former partners, I'm still friends with many of them, but I am glad I didn't settle for someone I got bored of after 18 months. You deserve better.
posted by ch1x0r at 11:51 AM on November 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is after a year and a half? And he's saying bizarre stuff like "you have to seduce me only I don't want to know you're seducing me because then it's not magical enough" (yes, I paraphrase, but close enough)?

Don't futz around with books. Don't futz around with anything. You need to break up with him. He's not trying to fix the problem; he wants to break up but doesn't want to be the bad guy. Pull the trigger yourself. Life is way too short for this type of bullshit game-playing.
posted by holborne at 11:53 AM on November 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

After reading your post and some of people's comments, I'd say give him some space. A looooot of space. Just so that it looks like whenever you're looking or acting or feeling sexy, it couldn't possibly be for him.

In other words, it might work to make him jealous by acting distant, even casually wearing slightly sexy stuff to meet other people.

But TBH, if I ever got to the point where I felt I need to be doing that in order for my SO to want to sleep with me, I hope someone would tell me to wise up. I think he's not being fair with you, and you deserve to be treated better.
posted by ipsative at 12:08 PM on November 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Deal breakers all over. Deal breakers made of red flags made of fire and the fire is made of sadness.
posted by French Fry at 12:15 PM on November 29, 2016 [23 favorites]

Around two years is when the new relationship energy wears off and you generally find out what your actual relationship is going to look like. So your boyfriend is switching off now because he only likes new shiny things and you're becoming old news and also, he doesn't have the maturity to transition to a longer term relationship. (He's kind of a jerk dumping all his issues on you too.)

If it were a long term marriage or similar, I would tell you to work through it but this early on, it's highly unlikely to improve and definitely not if you're the only one trying to make it better. I'd move on. And if it makes you feel any better, without some introspective work on his behalf, he will be like this in every relationship, so essentially a serial monogamist.
posted by Jubey at 12:28 PM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd like to view it more charitably because I don't think all these negative statements about his motivation are warranted. He has lost interest in having sex with you and doesn't know why, and can't imagine any ways to get it back. These "solutions" he's suggested are guesses...he doesn't know what he can do, so maybe there's something you can do.

But I do agree that his guesses aren't helpful, and also they show that he's not coming from a place of sharing responsibility and effort. It's time now for you to evaluate the relationship as a whole. What if things stay as they are now? Why would you want to stay with him? I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't stay, but you would need reasons. Also, does he generally tend to be passive about things that aren't going well? If so, what does that mean for the future of your relationship?

It often happens that anxiety and/or depression cause a person to lose their libido. Has he lost interest in other things he used to enjoy? Is he willing to go to counseling alone or with you? If you love him and want the relationship to continue, the psychological angle really needs some consideration.

Don't accept the idea that you hold the key to his desire to have sex with you. Ask him to ally with you in finding answers. If he won't do it, or won't get help for his possible mental problems, you may have to leave because you can't fix this yourself.
posted by wryly at 2:13 PM on November 29, 2016

Lots of folks have rightly protested the notion that he seems to put all the burden on you, to try to thread the needle about what might possibly get him interested.

A slightly different description of the situation is this: you've made it clear what's problematic in this relationship for you, and he's not willing to be engaged and proactive at all to resolve the problem. That's out of whack: problem-solving is supposed to be a joint effort. Consider that what he's doing is a form of defensiveness, in the sense of "The problem isn't me; it's you." This is one of the four dynamics (with criticism, contempt, and stonewalling) that are pretty much guarantees of relationship deterioration.

Trouble is, you can't make him be willing to be open to the notion that he is part of the problem. By definition defensiveness is about a person being unwilling to face that prospect. I really do think all you can do is put up with it or decide to get out--and the latter is your best move.
posted by Sublimity at 3:03 PM on November 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have been your boyfriend on most of those points, and in hindsight it was always the case that I had subconsciously checked-out of the relationship, should have been the one to break up, and was basically being a wimp all around.

It may help to have a come to Jesus talk with him on the basis of his needs, like "what is your ideal sex life?" and questions like that to mine his position outside of the relationship. It could be that he wants/needs to do things that he's embarrassed to talk about, his porn habit, BDSM, bisexuality, asexuality...stuff like that. It could be any of a million things, but no sex would be a big deal for me in a relationship, especially after only a year and a half. In fact my last relationship was sorta like this (I was not the one to withdraw), and I kick myself for hanging around blaming myself for a year after it became apparent.
posted by rhizome at 3:28 PM on November 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just a random thought I had based on what he said here: "He did suggest that he misses flirting and the more coy dance people do when they're first meeting and feeling each other out." It seems to me like maybe he wants to feel more masculine and pursue you. Maybe because he is having a low sex drive lately he feels demasculated, and when you are wanting to have sex and he doesn't, he feels more so. What if you just totally stopped trying for awhile, did your own thing, tried to make YOURSELF as happy as you could, and then wait for him to try to flirt with you? And if he does, maybe don't give in all the way right away. Tease him out a bit, or act like you're fine where you are. Then maybe if he has to work at it for a bit it will be exciting to him, rather than him feeling like he has to perform.
posted by oracleia at 8:16 PM on November 29, 2016

I've been this boyfriend. It meant I loved the other person very much, would never want to hurt them, and that if I could have a waved a magic wand and ended the relationship without doing so, I'd have done it in a heartbeat.
posted by piato at 8:40 AM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

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