How do I become intimate with my girlfriend?
March 2, 2008 7:28 PM   Subscribe

How do you become intimate with someone? Help me figure out on-going trouble with my girlfriend.

I've been dating my girlfriend for almost 2 years. We're both 22, graduating college in the fall and we've known each other since high school. It's my second serious relationship and her first. We've recently decided to take a break for a few weeks and figure some stuff out. We're your average upper-middle-class suburban kids, and neither of us have any crazy things in our past.

In the past two years, we've gone really slow with the physical stuff, just recently gradating to making out. She's shy and she's bad at giving signals that initiate intimate activity. She isn't the sort of person to give hugs, or to cling onto a boy. It's not that I want those things (well, I do), but it's that I want to feel special to her and I can't seem to do that without the physical stuff. This makes sense to me, but doesn't really make sense to her.

I often get upset because we can go weeks without spending any significant amount of time together. We do see each other, going out with friends, getting lunch; that sort of thing. But it's never just the two of us. When it is just the two of us, she never gives any signals either way about kissing or even cuddling. Basically she acts like we're just two friends hanging out.

We've spoken a few times about it, usually after I've gotten upset because she won't attempt to move her schedule around to give us some time together. She explains that she has a hard time with the physical stuff, because she feels pressured by me. She's also said that I'm selfish for getting upset when I can't spend as much time with her as I'd like.

I really like this girl and I'd like the relationship to continue if we can work things out. If we can't fix the physical and time stuff, I don't think I can continue in it.

Have any of you had similar situations, especially with the lack of physical contact? Is there a way to fix this? I'd accept that some people aren't physical people, but after 2 years you would think it's a little odd..

throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I think the bottom line is that neither of you is happy with the physical side of the relationship. If she is not interested in working on her end to move at least a little closer to where you would like things to be, well, I don't see much future in it.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:40 PM on March 2, 2008

"she acts like we're just two friends hanging out"

Well yeah, I'd say that's just what you are.

Perhaps I come from a different culture, but the whole notion of having been with someone from ages 20 to 22 and only just having got as far as a good snog seems odd, and far from average. Girls who are into you want to kiss you. Girls who do not want to kiss you are not girlfriend material.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:49 PM on March 2, 2008

I think the key is that it is your second relationship and her first. She has no background on how to act in a relationship, which is tough starting at age 20. I appreciate that you have put a lot of time and effort into a relationship, but that doesn't always mean you should keep trying. She has issues with intimacy (or with you, I don't know). If you really want to give it another shot, discuss your issues when not angry, perhaps even with an outside professional party.

You're right, some people aren't physical. But if physical is important to you, don't expect her to change drastically if at all.
posted by shinynewnick at 7:50 PM on March 2, 2008

What? That's not a girlfriend.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:54 PM on March 2, 2008 [14 favorites]

Questions like this are impossible to answer well, except by luck, because we're only getting a tiny slice of the story. We can only answer based on that slice.

And based on that, I'm going to say She's Just Not That Into You.

If a girl acts like just a friend around you, it's probably because she regards you as just a friend. You're both young, you're both figuring things out, and she may be with you because she hasn't figured out what she wants. But at some intuitive level knows that you're not it.

It sucks when there's this asymmetry of affection, but there's nothing you can do to fix it.
posted by adamrice at 7:55 PM on March 2, 2008 [6 favorites]

I was in a similar relationship when I was your age, and we had a similar dynamic in regard to the physical stuff. It turns out she just wasn't into me, but because she had so little experience in serious relationships, she didn't know how to put her feelings into words until after we had broken up and she'd had a chance to date around. Perhaps your girl needs the same opportunity.
posted by baho at 7:57 PM on March 2, 2008

Life is much too short, my friend. Much too short.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 8:01 PM on March 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

You have wasted two prime years of your life on what is a pretty lame substitute for a real relationship. DTMFA, it will be better for both of you.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:02 PM on March 2, 2008 [5 favorites]

Try not getting upset when you talk together about intimacy, maybe she feels pressured by that.

Sex is a wonderful thing and a great amount of fun to explore with a partner.

If it isn't happening after two years, and you feel she's being intimate only begrudgingly, well I'd move on. If it' missing from a relationship, the relationship will be difficult to maintain, especially for a 22 year old male.
posted by mattoxic at 8:02 PM on March 2, 2008

Sorry my friend. It's time to move on. I've been with that girl and when I finally that "relationship," she went and slept with another guy almost right away. Go figure. What she's really doing is keeping you around because you give her attention for free and she likes that. She's not that into you, but she probably doesn't want to hurt your feelings right now by leaving and status quo is better than making a big scene. You're obviously not comfortable with the situation and she knows this, but again she turns it around on YOU and says that you're pressuring her.

There is almost nothing you can do to make her change her mind--she's already decided. As others have said: Life is too damned short. Move on and don't look back.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 8:22 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

finally *ended that relationship...
posted by |n$eCur3 at 8:23 PM on March 2, 2008

I'm really sorry man, but you wasted your college years on this girl.

If neither of you are hardcore religious conservatives or believers in no-sex-before-marriage, or one of you does not have a past with abuse or something else, then only recently making out after two years into the relationship is bizarre. Absolutely bizarre, and an indicator that this girl has probably never been into you for more than just friendship. Actually, I would say that hardcore abstinent people move faster, because they would DEFINITELY be making out by now, if not married so they could feel comfortable getting it on.

This relationship is not worth it. If this was simply a case of you wanting more public physical affection, or to spend more time together, that would be one thing. But the complete dearth of physical affection, after two years, indicates this is a non-relationship. I repeat, it isn't worth it. It's been two years, and you may think it's worth it, but as soon as you break it off and find a nice chick who will want to bang your brains out, you will not regret this. And this bit about being selfish for asking for more of your time? Asking you guys get to spend alone time together more than once a month is not being selfish. You're asking for less than the absolute minimum for people who are in a long-term relationship. She's emotionally blackmailing you.

Get out. Get out now, while you still have your youth.
posted by schroedinger at 8:23 PM on March 2, 2008 [8 favorites]

Yes, n-thing the DTMFA advice. She's either not that into you, or she's just not into being physical. I know how the latter can hurt - I seemed to attract/be attracted to that type, before ultimately meeting the right person.

If that's not the kind of relationship you want, you have to say so. The key is to not put it as a "put out or we're through" ultimatum, but more of a "this is what I'm looking for in a relationship, and I don't think this is working out". Which, essentially, is the same thing, I guess. I just don't think you'd be any happier (well, a little, for a moment) if she slept with you just to make you happy, but wasn't really into it. That can't last, either.

There are more out there.
posted by ctmf at 8:36 PM on March 2, 2008

In the past two years, we've gone really slow with the physical stuff, just recently gradating to making out.

You have got to be fucking kidding. Even if - by some bizarre freak alteration of the laws of the universe - everybody here is wrong, and she actually is into you, you don't want to be with somebody like that. You really don't. Find somebody who really digs you, who's warm & fun in bed, and start enjoying life.

A word of warning, though: as soon as you find that person, you'll probably feel the need to take a week off to smash your head repeatedly against a brick wall for having wasted two years of your life.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:38 PM on March 2, 2008 [7 favorites]

Agreeing with everyone above who says it's time to move in. Tell her that you respect her a lot and enjoy her friendship. BE FIRM about ending things -- you don't want to get into a situation where she says "oh, well, we can fool around a little more if that's what you really want, you weirdo" and then she feels bad about it, and makes you feel bad about it, and you stay with her because now that you've gone to second base or whatever you would feel bad ditching her. Argh. Avoid that -- tell her it's been great but now it's over. You can continue being friends with her and it sounds like little will change.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:53 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ack. "move in" above means "move ON".
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:54 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

You have got to be fucking kidding. Even if - by some bizarre freak alteration of the laws of the universe - everybody here is wrong, and she actually is into you, you don't want to be with somebody like that. You really don't. Find somebody who really digs you, who's warm & fun in bed, and start enjoying life.

Couldn't say it better myself. You're young and (most likely) have tons of prospects. This girl takes frigid and non-communicative to a whole other plane. Lose her and find someone who will, you know, talk to you about things. Like the two-year relationship you've supposedly been having.
posted by Nelsormensch at 8:54 PM on March 2, 2008

OK. I was That Girl who waited till marriage for sex. My now-husband (who I am still convinced is a saint) waited 4 years. And even we had at least started making out after the first month.

I was also That Girl who let relationships drag on and on with no physical intimacy because I couldn't get up the nerve to tell the guy I just wasn't into him. Half the time I didn't know it myself. I honestly didn't know how I was supposed to feel until the first time I, well, felt it. Until then, I knew there was something wrong, I just thought it was with me.

I'm guessing your gal is the latter. She doesn't know what she wants, and she doesn't know that she doesn't know what she wants. Whatever it is, it isn't you, or she'd know by now.

If you followed that mess, congrats. Have a cookie. And cut her loose. It'll be better for both of you.
posted by CrazyGabby at 8:56 PM on March 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Been there, was that guy, felt like banging my head on a brick wall after it was over and I found someone who really was into me.

Also, if you DTMFA then you won't feel as used as when she dumps you after she finds someone else that she's actually into.

Sorry mate, cut your losses and run now.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 8:57 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

And re: the above - I'm not meaning to imply there's anything wrong with YOU, as opposed to her. Just that the relationship itself is going nowhere fast. Sorry if that came off the wrong way!
posted by CrazyGabby at 8:57 PM on March 2, 2008

I really like this girl and I'd like the relationship to continue if we can work things out. If we can't fix the physical and time stuff, I don't think I can continue in it.

I hope this means that you're moving toward the concept of breaking up with her in your mind. Frankly it doesn't seem like she is going to change.

I want to stress this: what you are wanting out of this relationship is not selfish or obsessive. The fact that you've gone this long without the physical portion of the relationship advancing is pretty extraordinary. I think a vast majority of guys would have left a long time ago.

If she's been with you this long, despite her flighty, non-committal behavior she probably has feelings for you. If I had to guess there is something preventing her allowing the relationship to advance in a physical way which may not have much to do with you. Maybe she has some sexual hangups or dysfunction that she needs to work out on her own?

Anyway, you say that you're taking some time off. If I were you I'd get out there and try to meet some new people. Good luck.
posted by wfrgms at 9:05 PM on March 2, 2008

There is only one reason that I can think of, other than "she's just not that into you". Is there any possibility that she is very self conscious about her appearance and body, and that she is just too afraid to move beyond kissing? Physical intimacy is very scary the first time, and if she does not have a particularly good self image, that could be holding her back.

The only way to overcome that is to continue to tell her how great she is, how pretty she is, what a great figure she has, how much you love how she looks. And then make sure that she feels safe with you, that you think she is perfect just the way she is - it's all about being sure you won't be horrified by seeing some tiny perceived flaw if you decide to move beyond kissing.

But to be honest, it's a pretty far cry from any relationships I've ever had - especially at that age. I definitely agree with the advice to move on. Like others have said, it really doesn't sound like a girlfriend/boyfriend thing, it's more like just a deep friendship. There is no reason you can't continue to be friends, even if you decide to pursue other relationships.
posted by gemmy at 9:06 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

She is broken. You cannot fix her. You guys are "taking a break" right now. Do yourself a favor and find someone who actually appreciates you.
posted by Happydaz at 9:13 PM on March 2, 2008

Dude, you don't have a girlfriend. Let me repeat that, with emphasis: you don't have a girlfriend. You have a friend who happens to be a girl. Two years?

Find yourself an actual girlfriend pronto. Seriously. Do it. You'll wonder what the hell took you so long.
posted by Justinian at 9:13 PM on March 2, 2008

|n$eCur3 seems to have had an experience that I have seen two girls put their boyfriends' through. Both girls dated their boyfriends for around two years, stating that they didn't want to have sex because they "weren't ready" or various other reasons. Immediately after the relationships were over, the next people they dated they slept with within a normal amount of time. Both girls mostly strung the men along because they liked the attention, but were neither attracted to nor in love with them.
So, I suppose I'm just nthing everything above. She's just not that into you. Time to jump ship.
posted by greta simone at 9:16 PM on March 2, 2008

Well, you can either concede that you've already been dumped, or you can talk about it with her and say, y'know, I want something more. It's not wrong to say it ain't working out.
posted by klangklangston at 9:24 PM on March 2, 2008

she's not attracted to you, or she's asexual. Either way - leave the relationship.
posted by lemur at 9:25 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've been dating my girlfriend for almost 2 years.

...just recently gradating to making out.

Ok. I don't have hard figures for this but lets say that when dating, on average, making out happens areound the two to three week mark for most (maybe earlier for some). Ok, so 21 days. It took you guys about 731 days to get to this point. I am again going to make up and average and say that after two to three months of serious dating, getting physical kicks in. Ok. So lets say 90 days. With my math (and my made up figures) I predict that you will be getting physical about 8.5 years from now.

So.... Ask yourself. Do I want to me 30 the next time I get laid?

I think you know what to do.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 9:38 PM on March 2, 2008

Shoot, I'm sorry, after reviewing your original question I realized I didn't answer it. How do you become intimate with someone? One of the more important things is being comfortable yourself with intimacy. You probably are somewhat - I mean, you had a relationship before the current one. But really being comfortable with touch, and touching and closeness is crucial. Learn how to give good massages, or learn how to ballroom dance or some other activity where you have to learn how to get inside people's personal space without it being uncomfortable or weird.
posted by Happydaz at 9:58 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow, this sounds awful.

But as has been said above: you have a friendgirl, not a girlfriend. Only seeing each other every few weeks (with, I presume, distance not a factor), with resentment on the other end whn you wan tmore time together, complete and total lack of physical intimacy after two freaking years... she's a friend. Nothing more.

I mean, yeah, disclaimers about hearing only one side of the story, but still.. after two years, I think any rational human being would expect more than having recently smooched a bit. Even if she has a history of abuse and/or body image problems, one would expect that in a loving and mutually supportive relationship, that would have come up.

Leave her. Be kind about it, be compassionate. But be firm. This is not now, and likely never was, actually a relationship. It was--and please, I'm not being mean here--one person getting lots of attention.

I'll also echo everyone above, and bet dollars to doughnuts that the next guy she dates, she's in bed with him significantly faster.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:36 PM on March 2, 2008

I'm not so sure this is as awful as everyone makes it out to be. If you guys have been going this slow because you, together, have chosen to go that slow, don't let these people here tell you that was wrong. My now husband and I were some weird variety of dating/friends/oops I kissed you once for two years before we actually got together. It worked out okay. Thankfully. So, hey, if it's worked this far, and you're really into her, don't give up until you're really ready.

Obviously this is something you need to discuss with her seriously. The bigger concern on reading just what we've got here is the not spending enough time together -- if she isn't making time to just be with you, then that's a problem. If she won't listen to you about what you need, that's a problem. If she does listen, and then blames you for being selfish, that's a problem.

Maybe she is uncomfortable for reasons you haven't figured out. Maybe she doesn't like her body. Maybe she's saving herself. Maybe she thinks your breath stinks. Who knows. It's your job to find out.

But, hey, if you're looking for an excuse to move on, this is a plenty good enough one. Even if she's saving herself, some greater level of intimacy is normal. The answer to the question of "how do I be intimate with someone" -- well, they have to want to be intimate too. Other than that, make sure that you're not selfish about it -- make it about her. Make it romantic. Make it clear the romance isn't about sex, but about caring for her -- that's tricky, in your situation. But even now as a married woman, there's a difference between the intimate moments and the "my husband is using me for sex because he's horny" moments. The latter are selfish. That's okay with me sometimes -- I have moments where I'm selfish too -- but without the first part... well.

Wow, i'm not sure any of this is helpful. Mostly I just wanted to say that, since you said in your posting that you wanted to work it out, to, well, try.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:55 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

How do I become intimate with my girlfriend?

You get a girlfriend who isn't afraid of intimacy.
posted by happyturtle at 12:05 AM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Uh, wow.

Just from the sounds of things ... I'm more physically intimate, on a regular basis, with my entirely platonic friends than you are with your girlfriend (we're a huggy bunch).

My husband and I were both the wait-until-marriage types - we got to making out within about a week, and aside from 3 months when I went overseas for work, the longest we went without 'just us' time was around 30hours between when we started dating and when we got married, 18 months after we started dating. The longest time we went without talking was maybe 12 hours, and that's because occasionally our sleeping times were offset. We slept in the same bed a couple times a week (but no sex - yeah, masochists that we were).

And my now-husband and I, while terribly clingtastic, took it relatively slowly on the physical front for the group we were part of (university students). Most of the relationships around us started with making out, and went on from there (this is not necessarily a good thing, but it was rather typical).

The speed you pair are going is beyond glacial.

Honestly, to me this girl sounds like she's possibly got abuse in her past. Either way, she needs time and professional help, or you're the wrong guy. In any case, from the sounds of things, she isn't the right girl for you, and possibly not for anyone right now. And I'm getting giant 'something is wrong' redflag feelings.
posted by ysabet at 12:35 AM on March 3, 2008

Yeah, I dated a really religious guy in high school for like a year, and even we started making out within a couple of months. Every couple's different, but 2 years is a loooong time to wait.

Without knowing what your girlfriend's deal is, it sounds like you have tried to tell her what you want from her, and she hasn't wanted (or been able) to give you what you need. It's not a condemnation of her actions or a failure on your part for you to get out of this relationship and find one with someone who will actually spend time with you and enjoy intimate physical contact (which most women who are in relationships with people they care about do enjoy). Seriously, you need to find someone whose definition of "dating" matches your own (and the rest of the Western world's) more closely.
posted by SoftRain at 12:44 AM on March 3, 2008

2 years before making out is ridiculous. Go bone somebody else.
posted by beerbajay at 4:23 AM on March 3, 2008

You've been put on the Friends Ladder, unfortunately.
posted by willmize at 5:44 AM on March 3, 2008

If she looks at your desire to see her and be intimate with her as selfish, find someone who doesn't think so. There are plenty of people out there who see that as a healthy, normal part of a relationship.

You may like her but your views on relationships don't sync.
posted by scabrous at 6:23 AM on March 3, 2008

My two cents...

She's not physically attracted to you. My guess is she's actually a lesbian and hasn't come to terms with it. It sounds like you might be a nice cover "boyfriend" so she doesn't have to think about it too much.

Life is way too short. Find someone who thinks your sexy mentally and physically.
posted by Nerro at 7:14 AM on March 3, 2008

Pretty much nthing - she has underlying intimacy issues. Why? Who knows. She's been blackballing you out of a real relationship for two fucking years. Porkchop sammitches, get the fuck out of there.

As for how to become intimate with your girlfriend: most recently (August) it happened for me like this:
- Hang out for a couple weeks, becoming great friends.
- Both of you smile and laugh with each other.
- Flirtatious touches on the arm or shoulder.
- Hugs, fun, and smiling.
- One person takes the leap of faith and kisses the other one at an opportune time.
- All systems are go.

Next time you think you're in a relationship, evaluate for a second and consider whether you've got your mutual respect, trust, support, communication, comfort, laughter, smiles, hugs, kisses, "quality time" together, and finally, hanky panky. If you're missing some of those things, you have to be proactive and fix your relationship. Depending on what it'll take to fix, if it can be fixed, you either stick around or Run To The Hills.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 8:31 AM on March 3, 2008 [6 favorites]

The thing that would worry me even more than the physical intimacy parts is the comment that you can go weeks without any significant one-on-one time.

One thing that might help is by stepping away from the question "Is what she wants reasonable" but "Is she willing to meet you part-way on things that are important to you?" From your description, she's not: she's getting things (not seeing you one-on-one, avoiding physical intimacy of most kinds) that you would like to change.

That's not a relationship - that's a monologue.

What are you getting that matters to you, other than time with her when you're out with friends? Can you see yourself being in this kind of relationship in five years? Would it make you happy if nothing changed? What would you need to have change to be happy? Can you see being able to talk to her directly about those things, and figuring out a mutual way to progress towards them? If you can't, then either significant things need to change in the relationship and how she (and you) approach it, or you need to find somewhere else to be.
posted by modernhypatia at 8:32 AM on March 3, 2008

man ... that some pretty fucked up shit. DTMFA Right Away. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars.
posted by jannw at 9:39 AM on March 3, 2008

Oh boy.

Your girlfriend reminds me a bit of myself with my first boyfriend-kinda-sorta. We were head over heels for each other but never did more than cuddle/hold hands/kiss on the cheek. I cared about him very much and was attracted to him, but was so completely intimidated by sexuality and hung up on the idea of some kind of romantic purity that I just couldn't handle anything more. No abuse or eating disorders or anything on my part, just divorced parents and a lot of books. And yeah, that lasted almost two years. (Granted also, we were 16-18 at the time, never technically a couple, and he went on occasional dates with other people. Big differences.) Even so, we made time--against the obstacle of him being at military boarding school--to talk almost daily and spend time alone about twice a month.

Doesn't sound to me like she's doing this on purpose--more like she doesn't really know what she wants. Maybe she does have body issues, or a history of abuse (or someone close to her does?), or ingrained religious feeling that makes her think sex is impure, or is asexual or lesbian. Or maybe she just hasn't had good models of healthy relationships. In any case...

To become intimate with someone--physically or emotionally--you have to spend time alone with them. A lot of it. And you have to acknowledge their needs. Your girlfriend not only isn't willing to do that, she apparently doesn't understand that that is a normal, necessary part of a relationship. She is not yet ready to be in a relationship. With anybody.
posted by hippugeek at 12:10 PM on March 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

I've been dating my girlfriend for almost 2 years.

Are you sure??? What you've described doesn't sound like you are "dating" a "girlfriend", it sounds like you have a female friend that you sometimes kiss, who doesn't want to be pressured by you to do physical stuff because you are just friends.

When you start actually dating someone else, be aware that many women use the terms intimacy and intimate to refer to deep conversation, not to physical intimacy. So if you are trying to explain about the lack of intimacy in your previous relationship, there might be some confusion. You wouldn't want to give your new gal the impression that she would really bowl you over with some intimate conversation, and it sounds like she might need to take the lead with you as far as physical intimacy goes.
posted by yohko at 2:22 PM on March 3, 2008

I once had a girlfriend just like the one you're describing. We somehow stayed together for nearly a year, and it was simultaneously one of the most depressing and exhilarating times of my life. In that year, I experienced both my first kiss and my first prescription for antidepressants--both, to some extent, thanks to my ex.

I'm gonna go with the general trend here, and say that what you have isn't a girlfriend; it's a girl who's manipulating you for some reason. In my case (though I can't speak for yours), it turned out that our mental pictures of the relationship were too different to coincide. Try sitting her down and discussing your expectations.

The most important aspect of that discussion is to be honest, both with yourself and with your girlfriend. Yes, it hurts like hell as you're going through the process, but a few years down the road, the only thing you'll regret is staying with her as long as you did.
posted by Chaotician at 3:54 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

i am 99.9% sure that if you break up with her, you will never regret it. you can be a lot happier than this in a relationship!
posted by tabulem at 8:18 PM on March 3, 2008

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