Six months ago, I started dating a man with whom I have been friends for the past two years. We are seeing each other exclusively, and overall the relationship is off to a good start. We have fun, great conversation, enjoy each other's company and get along well with each other's friends. The problem is we've had sex only three times since we’ve been together. I would even settle for a good make-out session every once in a while, but that doesn't seem to be happening either. Please help!
- Ana B.
Even before the days of “When Harry Met Sally,” many people engaged in dialogue and debate over whether men and women could be “just friends.” Furthermore, many have questioned whether it is ever wise to cross the line from friend to lover. Your question exemplifies how tricky this transition can be. Currently, you are in “relationship purgatory” – caught between the “heaven” of the relationship you want and the “hell” of worrying about it ending.
There are many reasons why your boyfriend may be uninterested in sex. He might have a health issue that results in a low libido. It could be that his views on sex are different from yours. Or worse, your boyfriend might be fulfilling his sexual needs elsewhere. I don’t know whether the lack of physical intimacy came on suddenly, but disinterest in sex can be a sign of depression. If it was accompanied by a change in sleep patterns, a loss of interest in activities he previously enjoyed, and a notable fluctuation in his weight, then depression – not disinterest in you – is probably the source of the problem.
However, there is one other theory that merits exploration as we consider the complications of transitioning from friend to lover: It may be that your boyfriend regrets the decision to date you and is trying to force the romance to die out so the relationship can return to its platonic state. As sad as that is, it’s something you need to consider.
Whatever the cause of his disinterest in sex, the easiest way to find out what’s going on is to ask him! Here are a few dos and don’ts for that discussion.
• Start the conversation at a time when you’re both comfortable and in a neutral space.
• Use “I” statements. Try to make the issue about you, not him. A good way to start might be to say, "I really enjoy being with you, but I miss connecting on a physical level, too. It seems like we're not on the same page. Have I been reading you wrong?”
• Make it clear that you are supportive and receptive to anything your boyfriend has to say.
• Accuse him of anything.
• Argue with him about his feelings.
• Take anything he says too personally.
Whatever he says, your mantra should be filled with reminders of your worth, and if this guy doesn’t want your whole self – body and mind – there are many more guys out there who will.
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I am in my third serious relationship, this time with a wonderful man. Even my parents love him. But there was abuse and cheating in my past two relationships, and I am having a hard time letting go of the past and trusting that my boyfriend won't do the same things my exes did. How do I overcome this fear?
- Bethany M.
It sounds like you're really asking two questions:
1. How do you heal from your past relationships?
2. Can you trust this new guy?
Unfortunately, the emotional wounds of being in an abusive relationship are tough to heal. Although we might feel better from one day to the next, the lingering uncertainty of whether you can trust yourself may make life – and future relationships, such as the one you're in now – difficult to handle. Talking to a therapist can help you sort out the early warning signs of abuse that you might have missed in your previous relationships. It can also help you avoid getting involved with abusive men in the future.
An abuser will typically exhibit these behaviors:
• Physically harms the partner
• Tries to control different aspects of the partner’s life
• Humiliates or declares the unworthiness of the partner
• Threatens to hurt themselves or the partner if the partner leaves the relationship
• Twists the truth to make it seem as though the partner is to blame for the abuser’s actions
• Demands to know where the partner is at all times
• Becomes jealous or angry when the partner wants to spend time with others
• Makes unwanted or coercive sexual advances that, when rebuffed, are followed by guilt trips (such as “If you really loved me you’d…”)
Trust your intuition. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. You have one big hurdle to overcome though. Because of your past abusive relationships, you may have automatic reactions to anything a man says to you. I call this a “listening filter.” Instead of hearing what is actually said, you hear what you expect. This can cause many different problems because you aren’t connecting to your current partner on a present level.
Sit down and ask yourself these questions:
• How did my other relationships start out?
• Am I somehow indicating that I expect my current guy to hurt me the same way that the last two did?
• Am I talking about my past relationships too much?
• Does this new guy seem markedly different from my last couple of boyfriends?
• What do I need to feel safe in this relationship?
Write your answers down, and then try some “reality testing.” Ask other people if they agree with your take on the situation. Although it’s good to trust yourself, it’s also good to double check things – especially if you’re feeling confused about your own opinions and views right now.