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I wasn't ready for sex, so he opted out of being with me, and now I feel like a loser.

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Lisa asks:

There's this guy I've known for a long time. We were going to pursue a relationship. The problem is he has a high sex drive and I'm a virgin at 22. He's a lot older: he's 28.

The fact I'm a virgin - it's a issue to him. I want to take my time and wait until I'm ready. He can't understand why I'm not ready. Anyway we decided not to take it further. He decided to get back with his ex as she can give him everything he wants and needs. I can't help but feel insecure and inadequate. I keep comparing myself to her. Thanks for your help.

Heather Corinna replies:

Lisa, I can't implore you enough not to take this personally and not to think about this as you being inadequate. You're not inadequate: you two just wanted different things.

Our needs and wants and someone else's needs and wants are just not always going to mesh, even when one or both of us really wants them to. That can happen with a lot of things when we're dating or considering a romantic or sexual relationship.

For instance, we might want to have children in the next five years when someone we're dating might never want to have them. We might want not to marry when someone else very much wants to be married. We might want to have the freedom to take a 2-year-trip for school or something in life we really want to do that would make a relationship long-distance when someone else doesn't want a long-distance relationship. We might want monogamy before someone else is ready for that, or when they know they prefer open relationships. We might need a certain kind of communication or a time commitment another person just can't provide. And by all means, we might not want sex yet -- or a given kind of sex, yet or ever -- when someone else does.

We're just not going to be compatible with everyone we like or get along with. What dating really is is all of us meeting people, getting to know people, over some time to see if, beyond an initial shared attraction or interest, we want the same or at least very similar things. And often, we'll have to date at least a few people before we find someone where all of that is in alignment.

Age differences can often make a big difference, and not just when it comes to sex, though that certainly is one area where we'll frequently see disconnects: older people are often ready for sex earlier in a relationship than younger people are, and older people often are less sensitive to where younger people are at than someone your same age can be. But I'm seeing another incompatibility here which is that he didn't seem to understand you in terms of why you'd want to wait: being understood by the person we're with -- or if not understood, at least accepted -- is a major part of compatibility.

Often, incompatibilities aren't something we can spot right on the first date. It sometimes can take a while, a few dates, a few months, sometimes even a few years.

That's one reason it's important to try, when dating, not to get too invested too soon because finding out if you and someone else are compatible, and both want the same things, including a deeper or specific kind of relationship together, does take that time.

Even though you have known this guy for a while, if this was the first time you two really tried dating or considered dating, in that regard you were starting something new, so getting very attached to a romance together before one even started isn't so wise. Ideally, what we want to do is figure that we will see how things go for a while: to have a few dates, give things a few weeks or months, before we start really getting our heart set on anything. That helps save us heartbreak when something doesn't work out, and it also helps us to approach possible relationships with a clear head and to assess them realistically as they develop.

I do want to make clear that someone can have a "high sex drive," and that really only influences things so much.

In other words, if we just want sexual activity a lot, we can masturbate: masturbation fulfills those physical needs when that's all that they're based in. We don't need a partner for that.

Wanting sexual partnership -- as I'm betting you know, since that's probably part of why you want to wait for it some more -- is about more than just satiating a physical desire. When we want, and feel ready for, sexual partnership, some of it is about those physical desires, but also about wanting a kind of communion or sexual companionship/partnership with someone else. That includes wanting the sex we have to really be about the other person as much as it is about us: if someone is telling us they just don't feel ready, and we just can't grok that, we're probably not thinking much about their needs. However, if we are saying that we hear that, but that doesn't work for us and are then exempting ourself from a romantic/sexual relationship with that person, that's fair and also in accordance with considering that person's needs. I don't know your friend, and I can't get a sense of what the tone of all of this was like -- save hearing that you're obviously disappointed -- but if he spoke with you about this with sensitivity, didn't suggest you should be ready and if he didn't say or suggest you were inadequate, the it seems to me he was making a sound choice pretty respectfully. I also think that's a far better choice than walking into something with you he knows isn't likely to work for him or you.

Only you can know what this conversation was like. I'd just suggest that if it wasn't at all sensitive, or if you got the impression like this guy just wanted to see if he could get into your pants when he was already en route back to his ex, you put some thought into if this is something you even want to continue as a platonic friendship.

It may well be that this guy went back to his ex because he already knew her well and knew they were a good fit in this area as well as others. You may have also been in the unfortunate situation of this guy rebounding if he started dating you after a breakup with her, or a separation they were trying out to see how they felt about it.It sucks, but it happens. While sex -- or a lack of sex -- can certainly be a dealbreaker for people sometimes, and that's okay no matter what aspect of it is, it often isn't the lone dealbreaker when it comes to leaving a relationship or deciding not to pursue one. He might have had other reasons why he wanted to go back and be with his ex.

But even if sex was the only dealbreaker here, that doesn't mean you're inadequate nor does it mean your friend is a jerk. You have your set of sexual ethos, wants and needs -- which for you right now is waiting on sex -- ad he has his -- which for him, right now, is having sex. Both of those different wants and needs are valid, they just happen to be diametrically opposed in this situation.

A right partner for you is going to be someone you are compatible with in this regard, someone who has a slower pace themselves in regard to sex, or who, even if he doesn't, is totally down with going at your pace. They're also going to be someone who if they don't understand why you have the pace you do, is truly interested in understanding. So, really, it sounds to me like you're both probably better off in terms of being in a relationship that makes you happy and fits you, just as you are without either one of you having to give up something you feel is important. He's with someone he feels compatible with in this respect as well as potentially others, and you still have the opportunity to find someone to date with whom you are more compatible.

Okay? So, do whatever you need to do to mope through this for a while and put a band-aid on your heart and your expectations. Then stand up, brush your knees off, take a big breath and go forth with an eye out for someone to date who may be a better fit for you: there really are always multiple possibilities out there for all of us, we just have to be willing to invest the time, be prepared for more misses than hits, and honor and respect the things we know are our unique wants and needs without second-guessing them or compromising things that doesn't feel right.

In other words, the guy (and likely more than one to choose from who could be a good fit for you) is out there. It'll probably just take some time to find the hims who'll be the right kind of fit for you for the relationship and sexual pacing you want and need, and it often can for pretty much anyone.

written 17 Aug 2008 . updated 17 Jan 2014

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