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He Doesn't Want to Have Sex Anymore: How Can I Change His Mind?

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cupcakewars77 asks:

My boyfriend for about two years now told me he doesn't feel like having sex. I told him I still do. He says all we ever do is have sex. That's not true. It's frustrating but I want sex and he doesn't. He is going to college this year and I won't see him as much because he will be so far way. Whenever we are to "fool around" he gets all serous and say I don't feel like having sex or no it doesn't feel right even though I am on the pill and we always use perfection. Always. Am I doing something wrong? Is there a way to even get him to have sex with me? I am confused and stressed out. It's been months and I feel like he is pulling away. Help!

Heather Corinna replies:

I want to get something basic and important sorted first: there's never a healthy way to "get" anyone to have sex with us when they don't want to.

Someone either wants to be sexual with us or they don't, and when they don't, that's something we just need to accept, not try and change.

If and when we try and persuade someone to be sexual with us when that's not something they're feeling or want, be that persuasion with physical force or with words, then if that person took part in sex with us in any way? It would no longer be consensual: it would instead be an abuse or assault.

That's something that's often pretty clear to many guys about women, but I find that many women and girls don't get that it's just as true and important the other way round.

If your boyfriend doesn't want to be having sex right now, or sex as often as you want to, that's not something to try and change, but something to accept. You can talk about this with him if you like, and see if it's something he wants to change, and then work from there, working together to have more sex together in ways both of you feel comfortable with and agree you're both cool with. If he wants to be sexual with you more often, you can ask about what he thinks you might be able to do to help facilitate that. But anything someone would do to try and change someone's mind who doesn't want to have sex, and who isn't on board and in active agreement with whatever you're doing to help them feel more inclined? That's coercion, and that's just not okay.

That said, I do understand that this sucks for you, and I also understand that you're feeling upset and worried about it, especially with the big change coming up in your relationship soon.

I also understand your concern that you might be doing something wrong, and the idea that maybe if you did something different, his feelings might change. And of course, when we start feeling less and less connected to a partner, like they're pulling away from intimacy, we will often, understandably, have some concerns about something bigger going south in our relationship.

It sounds to me like one thing you're assuming is that when he says sex doesn't feel right for him, it must be about contraception. There are so many reasons someone may not want to be sexual at a given time, so unless he's said that's what it's about, I'd not assume that. Just having contraception covered doesn't mean anyone automatically will always want or say yes to sex. That's only one factor, often of many, that influences how comfortable someone is being sexual with someone else. If this is something he's open to talking about, I'd ask questions and listen to find out, directly from him, rather than making assumptions, what doesn't feel right for him.

One clear thing I'm already hearing from your boyfriend is that he feels like all the two of you ever do is have sex.

I hear you saying that's not true, but if he's saying that, know that it is true for him. He's telling you it feels like that for him, so it's real in that respect even if the way you feel lately is like all you ever do is anything BUT sex.

People certainly can have radically different experiences and feelings like that about sex, where for one person, sex feels like it's happening all the time, while for another, like it hardly ever happens. Since it sounds like your ideas of what kind of sexual frequency -- how often sex happens, and how often you each want it to happen -- you each want are really different, it's not surprising to me that you're experiencing this very differently.

What he's saying tells me that he feels like this relationship is more about sex, for him, than he'd like right now, or maybe in general. What I'm not sure about -- and you might be, as perhaps he's told you -- is what he'd like to be doing with you instead; what parts of the relationship he'd like to spend more time on rather than the sexual parts. Has he filled you in on that? If not, then that's something to talk about, since that's a big part of the picture here that seems to be missing.

Too, if he's been asking for space away from sex, and you keep trying to put sex back on the table, he might also feel pressured, or like you're not respecting the boundaries and limits he's trying to set. That's something else to check in with him about. And by all means, if he says that's what it is, in whole or in part? That's a clear message to you that you've just got to back off. It sounds like you've made pretty clear you're interested in sex with him, not like it's something he doesn't know. If he's not interested now, you can probably be pretty sure at this point that if he changes his mind, he'll let you know. Plus, if he is feeling pressured, backing off and giving him the room he's asking for may well create some of the kinds of changes here that you want. After all, almost no one finds being pressured sexy: for most people, it is, validly, a big turn off.

One thing I hear clearly from you is that you feel like he's pulling away from you emotionally, and perhaps that not wanting to have sex with you is part of what feels like distancing to you. Have you talked to him about that? Rather than only talking about how you want sex he doesn't, have you also talked about how, emotionally, you feel like he's distancing himself from you? About how you're worried about that because you soon won't be able to see each other like you can now?

If you haven't had a conversation that basically starts with an honest, "I feel like you're pulling away from me and I feel really confused and scared," then I'd say that's perhaps the most important place to start. That sounds like the super-big stuff underneath all of this, and it might be the better thing to lead with than "I want more sex!" especially if he is feeling pressured (or you have already told him that), if that's what's really freaking you out about his lack of desire for sex with you, or both.

One thing you might want to talk about together, too, is how he's feeling about soon going to college. That's a big life change for him, and it's also a big change in your relationship. Have you two talked about what you plan to do when he leaves? Are you planning to try and continue your relationship as-is, or is one or both of you thinking, instead, it might be time to shift it in some way, or even phase out of it as he moves, and moves into this new phase of his life away?

It might be he's not sure about that, and is trying to feel that out right now. Sometimes when people distance themselves from us in some ways, or when they want to explore other parts of the relationship, it's because they're trying to figure out how they feel about a possible or coming separation. At a crossroads like getting ready to go away to college, I'd say that's a common spot for people to be in.

If you two haven't done some big talking about that, and what you each want to do, it sounds like it's time. Mind, that might not mean he wants or chooses to have any more sex with you than right now, but it might also be some of why he's been more serious lately, and wants to talk or do other things besides having sex. So, even if that doesn't change the sex situation, it may be something, for your relationship as a whole, you need to work through together and make some decisions about.

I'd suggest seeing if you can't put into clear words all the things you feel like sex with him offers you. See, chances are good that some of those things -- such as emotional intimacy, physical affection, affirmation your partner is still into you or they find you attractive, affirmation they're still invested in this relationship with you -- are things you two can also find in other ways or parts of your relationship, and he might be much more open to and interested in those avenues right now than in the sexual ways to explore those things. Finding alternative ways to get some of the things you want and need that sex provides you could be a good way for you two to find some middle ground right now, where both of your needs get met.

I also want to add that if you have the idea, and plenty of people do, that if a guy doesn't want to have sex with a woman, something must be terribly wrong with her -- she's not attractive, he likes someone else, he's gay, whatever -- because guys will always say yes to sex? Please know that idea is busted.

People, of all genders, will and won't want to have sex at various times, will want to be sexual with some people but not others, and will also vary greatly in terms of how often they want to engage in sex. People, of all genders, may also sometimes find that a relationship they once felt good or comfortable about being sexual doesn't stay that way, for a whole host of reasons, from having issues in that relationship, having their own stuff, or a change in the way they feel about themselves, the other person, or their sexuality or sexual life.

Him being where he's at with this doesn't make him any less of a dude, or you any less of a woman. It also doesn't mean either of you is necessarily doing anything wrong: you or him. It just makes you two people who don't want the same things at the same time and who, it sounds like, may even have pretty different wants and needs in this department, especially lately.

Lastly, it is possible that as you have these conversations, you won't hear what you want. (Which, for the record, I don't think means you should skip them to avoid that: sounds like they clearly need to be had.) He might say he is pulling away, with why he knows or thinks that is. He might say his feelings gave changed, or are changing, or that he's not sure what he wants or how to do things with his going off to college. Heck, he might say he thinks you have been doing something wrong.

I don't say any of that to scare you, but just so you know those are possibilities and can prepare yourself to deal with them. Sometimes when people think the problem or issue is sex, or only sex, they can be pretty overwhelmed if and when they find out it's really whole-relationship stuff, not just about one part, the sexual part.

I also say that because it's scary to have someone we love about to not just go away, but go into a time or way of life where we aren't able to follow, or aren't following. Probably scarier, I'd say, for the people close to them who aren't going with them than it even is for the person heading off into a new place and new phase of life. So, I'll bet you've already been feeling a lot of worry and anxiety, and it's also been making what's happening around sex feel pretty gigantic. You might be feeling pretty vulnerable and on edge right now, so tough conversations might hit you harder than they would otherwise. In other words, whatever the outcome of these talks, giving the timing, they might be a little rough: so, limber your heart up some, and take a big breather, before having them, just to take care of you.

One last thing: I talked about gendered stuff up there in regards to guys and desire for sex. But there's also this thing out and about that says or suggests that women who want sex more than men or male partners are . And suggests something must be wrong with you if and when you want sex when a guy partner doesn't, or want sex more often than a male partner does.

I want to make sure you know all of that is full of baloney, for one. And that maybe it turns out you have a partner who, for whatever reason, doesn't want a sexual relationship, period, anymore, but you do? Or you figure out, now or later, that this isn't the partner who, with your sexual self, is a good fit for you? None of that, or anything like it, would be about something wrong with you. And it is 300% okay to feel frustrated and bummed when you want sex a partner doesn't, whatever their gender or yours. It's absolutely okay for you to feel sexual desire as often as you do. Maybe you already know all of that: if so, awesome. But if not, I'd try to take that in. It's hard enough to be confused and scared like you are, as well as perhaps feeling sexually or emotionally hungry, you don't need to be dealing with that while also -- mistakenly -- feeling like what you want sexually means something is the matter with you, or that if it's something your partner doesn't want from you now, it means that.

I'll leave you with my best wishes, as well as a few links that might help you out some more:

written 15 Jul 2013 . updated 15 Jul 2013

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