Hi Dr. Emily,
My boyfriend and I have been dating for just over 3 years now, but some days I question whether I should break things off. He really makes me happy. He looks after me, doesn’t flirt with other girls, always supports me, and even brings me sweets and chocolates whenever it is that time of the month. He is a true gentleman and a real gem of a boyfriend. I just feel like he is way more sexually attracted to me than I am to him, and that sometimes I almost view him more as a best friend than a lover. At the back of my head, I actually count the weeks and know that every two weeks it’s time for him to have his release and I’ll probably need to initiate something that day. But it’s never an urge or a want (more of a chore). Is that normal?
He is a really great guy, but he just isn’t my typical type looks-wise. I sometimes feel the ick when he tries to talk sexy to me over WhatsApp, and usually brush it off because it really isn’t something I enjoy doing. If he says he wants to “rip my clothes off of me” I’ll say something in response that I know he’ll want to hear, even though it isn’t something I’ll want to say. We started dating at the age of 17 and are now about 21 so sometimes I wonder if it’s because I subconsciously want the freedom of being single again. What should I do? Is there something wrong with me for feeling this way?
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First of all: you are normal. So, so very normal, for loving your boyfriend, but no longer having the urge to have sex with him. In fact, I spoke with anthropologist Wednesday Martin a while back about female sexuality (the subject of her book Untrue), and I think it might help you feel a lot better. Lots of women experience the exact same thing you do, so that’s the main thing I want you to understand. You’re not uncaring or “bad” or even that unusual, for recognizing that you’re with a wonderful person, but don’t want to have sex with them anymore.
Second, I’m going to be brutally honest: I think you already know the answer to your question. These two lines tipped me off:
“I actually count the weeks and know that every two weeks it’s time for him to have his release and I’ll probably need to initiate something that day.”
“If he says he wants to just “rip my clothes off of me” I’ll say something in response that I know he’ll want to hear, even though it isn’t something that I’ll want to say.”
Gina, this screams “obligatory sex” to me. You’re doing these things because you feel you should – not because you want to. It’s a pattern many of us fall into, and it comes from a good place: you don’t want to hurt his feelings. You feel obligated. He’s a nice guy! But let me ask you this: do you respect him?
Because when we respect people, we don’t placate them. And I get it: it probably seems really scary to be honest with him, and tell him you’ve lost your sexual attraction to him. But I fear that with each sexual encounter you have going forward, your resentment is going to grow, and your respect for him is going to tank. So let’s talk about how to change this dynamic.
In my eyes, you have two options: break up, or therapy. Many couples have opted for the latter with great success, restoring their sex lives to become hotter than ever. A lot of times, we get overly familiar with a partner, so much so that they start to feel like a best friend/roommate/sibling. It sounds like there’s some of that happening here, so therapy could help you figure out how to reclaim your individuality while maintaining your partnership.
But I also want to point out that you’re both very young, with a full life ahead of you. You mention that you may “subconsciously want the freedom of being single again” – is it really subconscious? Because I don’t think you have to be ashamed of craving that freedom. You are 21, a time when many of your peers are single, dating, and exploring themselves sexually. When our bodies stop responding with arousal, it doesn’t mean our heads stop recognizing all the beautiful qualities of an individual. It just means that our wants have shifted, and we don’t always control that process.
I’ll leave you with this, Gina. Universe willing, both of your lives will be long, so if you do decide to break up, know that the person you are today will be a different person 10 years from now. And same for him. So if you’re meant to be together later on, after you’ve both grown and gotten lots of life experience, it’ll happen. For now, though, I think you deserve to seek out the pleasure that is your birthright. Trust yourself. You know what the right move is.