[Two Pronged] Not into it
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer:
My BF and I have been together for more than 8 years, and have done everything but penetration sex. This is not out of religious reasons, but more of practicality - I stopped studying for some years to work, and had just resumed recently. I wanted to make sure that we are both stable first before starting a family.
My BF is very understanding and respects my wishes. However, he wants to get intimate (e.g. hand jobs, oral sex, petting) with me when he gets home from work once a week. I, on the other hand, am losing interest in these and just want to cuddle with him, or play computer games with him, or take long walks with him.
Sometimes, I give in but we both find that it takes me longer to climax. I also sometimes feel annoyed when he motions for me to pleasure him. Worst of all, I think it's hurting his feelings and his ego when I refuse (he's the humblest, nicest guy I know, but I'm sure he's not a saint).
I've tried talking to him honestly about this, and for a couple of weeks, he tries to abide by my request. However, he has done it again this week, and I'm frustrated.
I don't want to lose him - I really, really love him, it's just that I'm not in the mood to do hanky-panky with him. I don't want to try anything else beyond what we do, as despite the over-all 97%+ reliability of contraceptives, nothing beats the 100% peace of mind that abstinence gives me. Besides, we've waited for 8 years, so I was hoping we can wait for 4-5 years more.
He's not showing anger, but it breaks my heart to see his disappointment and sexual frustration. I tried suggesting masturbation or porn, but he says he only wants to do these things with me.
So, any ideas how we can both deal with this?
Thank you for any advice you can extend my way!
- Not Into It
Dear Not Into It,
If I understand it correctly your letter seems to contain a somewhat mixed message but I must also confess to being a trifle irritated as I read it. Perhaps this is because, I am reading it as a man and can therefore be considered to be taking his side immediately. But I am also a rational human and I therefore think that if I am taking his side, it must be because reason is on his side too.
Let's take a closer look at what you wrote. Initially you suggest that you and your boyfriend (let's call him Ben) stop short of penetrative sex because you do not want to start a family until you both have achieved what I interpret as financial stability. Although you acknowledge that some contraceptives are almost 100% safe, you do not want to take that small risk. So far, so good - a very rational decision.
Further into your letter, however, a different picture begins to emerge. It is not just penetrative sex that you want to avoid but any sort of sex. Well, while a non-existent sex life is perfectly fine for you, apparently it does not go down so well with Ben who you tell us is hoping for a little more action than a brother-sister type relationship of pure companionship.
You say you have talked to him and he tries to accede to your wishes for a while but then the old urges come back and he wants more than companionship once again. When that happens, you sometimes, albeit reluctantly, give in but orgasms only come with difficulty and you are not so keen on helping him reach his.
You ask how to deal with this.
Starting with your comments about stability, it strikes me that after 8 years you both should have made some progress in this direction and your suggestion that another 4-5 years may be required is a trifle extravagant. Of course your definition of stability may be rather stricter than most; I hope for Ben's sake you are not aspiring to what Manny Panganiban or Mark Zuckerman might consider stability. But ultimately stability is a side issue for you because you raised it only in connection with penetrative sex and you and Ben actually have differences of opinion about all types of sexual activity.
There is clearly an imbalance of interest in sex between you. You have next to no interest whatsoever while he has at least a moderate interest (we do not know what if anything he does elsewhere though your statement that he is no saint could possibly be a hint). Our column last week entitled "Orgasm on demand" dealt with some of your issues. But there are also other areas that require scrutiny, in particular your definition of love and the different views you have about the nature of your relationship.
For example, you seem to consider that your love for Ben, which you expect will lead to marriage and a family, will have no sexual component at all, except presumably for conception purposes. This is an extreme position which you already know ill suits Ben and I would imagine that you are aware that he will appreciate it even less once you are married and your supposed fear of premature pregnancy has been allayed. But there are no real signs from you that you are willing to compromise over this.
As for the way you manage your relationship with Ben, what you tell us suggests that you expect him to accept your requirements - like long walks instead of raunchy sex - and furthermore you want him to take of his sexual needs without your involvement. While there is absolutely nothing wrong in your own lack of interest in sex, your refusal to consider being involved in Ben's needs is an indication that yet again compromise is not high on your list of priorities. This does not constitute a healthy relationship with someone you yourself describe as the nicest guy you know and who you really, really love.
Ben himself must really love you if he is willing to put up with this. Not many men these days would be willing to maintain an exclusive relationship which means abstaining from sex with a woman for 8 years and just saying ok when she suggests adding on another 4-5 years and I would be very interested to hear his version of your story as a couple.
For now though I will now leave it to my wife to give her view of where you both are and how best to proceed. All the best-Jeremy
Dear Nit (Not Into It):
Thank you very much for your letter, our very first since we changed our email address to email@example.com!
I feel Jeremy brought out some excellent points above and one of the most immediate you can deal with is when he said: “While there is absolutely nothing wrong in your own lack of interest in sex, your refusal to consider being involved in Ben's needs is an indication that yet again compromise is not high on your list of priorities. This does not constitute a healthy relationship with someone you yourself describe as the nicest guy you know and who you really, really love. ”
Jeremy’s right, isn’t he, Nit? One theoretical way of finding out whether he is or isn’t is to put yourself in Ben’s place.
But I feel you cannot sustain this for long. You personally would not stand for having limits imposed unilaterally about what you can do plus being judged negatively simply because you dare show how you feel, rather than meekly accepting, like a child or a slave, what the parent (your partner) - has decreed is something. And I laud that.
But why is it that you expect Ben to behave in such a manner?
This is a question I encourage you to ask yourself, and then, to start a conversation with Ben. I’d like to emphasize the word start. That is because, to do a good job, this will merely be the first of many conversations between you and it will go beyond an analysis of your sex lives, which is only a tiny portion of what you share now (at least, I sure hope so).
Choices: Why did Ben choose you - a woman who seems to feel entitled to call all the shots? Does he really like to be led around by the nose? And yet you “feel annoyed when he motions for me to pleasure him”? This is quite telling, not only on your part [for a change ϑ], but mainly on his.
Is he being passive-aggressive? Could his seeming docility merely be an excuse to avoid confrontation? Could his passive aggression be his way of evening the score for your “bossiness”?
What are the underlying reasons you chose Ben, and BEN chose you?
For example, as Jeremy pointed out, you used the phrase “not a saint.” I agree with his possible interpretation, but wonder if you have a need for a man who seems a really nice guy that everyone tells you you’re lucky to have, and yet it is just as important that he, being “not a saint,” keeps you on your toes.
Aware of Freud’s “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” I realize I may be imputing motives/needs/vulnerabilities that do not exist. But still, it’s better to explore possibilities than sweep things under the rug, isn’t it? Those possibilities include this final question for today: What is working for you both that staying together is worth the effort, despite the chasm between you that may open up if you explore your relationship fearlessly and more deeply?
The answers need not be negative but they need to be faced, hopefully with a clear head and a heart that continually loves, respects, and admires the other, despite the hard questions that follow. Good luck and please, please write us again should you want to - especially if you disagree with our reading ϑ. All the best - Margie
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