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Author Topic: Having a bit of a dilemma
Conny
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Hi Scarleteen! I've been stuck in a bind so I'm asking for some advice.

I have been with my boyfriend for about 5 years now, we've been living together for 2 years and spend most of our time as cuddly a couple as you can meet. We met in our teens and have been together ever since.

However, I'm starting to have some doubts about our sexual relationship. We both want very different things, and while I'm mostly happy to facilitate him, he will rarely do so for me. And I mean rarely.

We were both virgins when we met and knew very little about what we were doing. After some doctors appointments, I realized that the problem we had when we started having sex was that there was no foreplay, and thus I was in a lot of pain during sex. Sometimes I didn't even want to have sex out of fear of the pain, but did it anyway. Foolish I know, but I didn't really know what I was doing.

We talked about it, and you wouldn't believe the trouble I had trying to get through to him about foreplay. He threw around words like "boring" and "waste-of-time" and "impatient" but after a few months of frustration eventually he got the message and our sex life became so much better for it.

Since the trouble I had with that, I'm starting to hate having these conversations. I really try to talk to him or make suggestions, but he just doesn't want to see it from my point of view. We argue a lot, and I'm really not happy with the way things are going.

He says he's happy with our sex life, but I'm not and he doesn't understand why. Now, he is an attentive and sweet lover, but he has a lot of issues that I don't think I can put up with much longer. I'm very rarely allowed to touch or play with him, and when I do he just pushes my hands away or he gets frustrated with me. He doesn't enjoy when I go down on him (which is something I was miffed about but am since over) or kissing him anywhere other than his face or neck, so I don't do them out of respect for his wishes. But he has this nasty habit of making sex all about me, and I can't please him at all. When he orgasms I feel like a miracle has happened!

I like to think of myself as a very open sexual partner. I enjoy being touched and I enjoy touching too, but I'm just not getting the latter in this relationship. I like talking about it, I like asking him what he wants me to do, maybe fulfill a fantasy or just something he wants right at that moment in time, but I always get the same answer. That he's "fine" and "doesn't want anything" which is all well and good, but the ball always seems to be in his court.

He holds all of the power in our sexual relationship, and any time I'm thrown a bone and allowed to take charge, he's awkward and he humiliates me by laughing (actually laughing!) at my attempts, saying I'm silly and trying to hard.

I don't feel sexy anymore, and I'm not aroused when we go to have sex, I'm just nervous. I can think of other people and feel aroused; men, women, friends, but with my boyfriend he's just not doing it for me anymore.

It's like we just go through the motions now; he plays with me for the purposes of getting me aroused enough so we can have sex, we have sex, he rarely comes, and I'm left feeling dissapointed again.

And it's not for lack of trying. I truly try to talk to him in an open way, but he just argues that he's perfectly happy and questions why I'm not. Even though I have explained it. Hundreds of times.

I think we both just want different things and it's tearing us apart. But I don't want to leave him even though I'm seriously considering having sex with other people.

Other than the sex, our relationship is amazing. He's so kind and encouraging in my endeavors. We adore each other. I just wish he was a little more open to suggestion in the bedroom.

So now I'm stuck, one side wants to get rid of him and explore my sexuality with other partners, the other side wants to stay with him because I love him and the thoughts of being without him terrifies me.

Surely love is stronger than that; can survive without sex and intimacy. Or do they go hand in hand? I don't know what to do. I don't even know what to feel, I'm in a limbo of regret, anger, gut-wrenching fear and complacency. I want so much to enjoy sex with him again but I don't want to leave him over it.

So I ask you, is sex truly so important in our relationship? Should I just accept that this is something I can't change and get over myself? Or should I move away from this relationship in the hopes that I can explore my sexuality to my heart's content?

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Hey, Conny, welcome to Scarleteen.

before we dig more deeply into any of this, and also talk about more general all-relationship questions, can I check in about yours?

It sounds to me like with this relationship, specifically, it's a really bad sexual fit (maybe in other areas too, but you've only explained that aspect so far), to the point of sounding pretty unhealthy to me. It also sounds like it's been made very clear over time you two want radically different things and a meeting in the middle just isn't going to happen.

I hear you say you don't want to leave him, or end this relationship as a sexual relationship: can you perhaps tell me a little bit about why not?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Conny
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Thanks for your reply Heather.

I don't want to leave my boyfriend. Despite how dismal our sex life is, our emotional relationship is great!

We both have similar interests in life, food and entertainment, we work hard for each other and do little things for each other to make the other smile. He's so kind to me, and patient, especially when teaching me how to drive or when I'm bawling my eyes out on his shoulder. We really have a great rapport and I feel like I can talk to him about anything (well, besides sex, since he's too stubborn to make any changes). We work well together, travel well together, rest well together, and I can't picture myself getting along as famously with anyone else. For a relationship, I don't want anyone else.

His parents love me, and approve of us, as do both sets of mine, both biological and step parents.

Sure we have our little spats every now and again, but over silly things (like not closing the cupboard doors, that's how flies get in, close the damn door). The rest of the time we're watching our favorite shows on TV or playing video games or working through college work together.

I really love him, and I don't want sex to be the thing that tears us apart. Through all the heavy, emotional stuff we've been through together, I don't want this to end.

We've come such a long way together and accept each others flaws even through all the crap, I just wish he was an open a lover as I am.

I suppose, since we met when we were so young, I didn't come in to my sexuality until later and I realized I wasn't pushy about arbitrary things like gender or physical attractiveness. And in the relationship I'm in now, I never had a chance to explore these things or experiment in different ways as I started fr figure out what I enjoyed.

It's been the same motions again and again. And for all his kindness and his attentiveness, he just won't listen to me and we relive the same scenario over and over.

He says he wants me to be more dominating, yet when I try he laughs at me or I freeze up. When I want him to be more dominating, it's a chore. He plays with me to his heart's content, yet when I want to return the favor suddenly the mood is gone because he's frustrated.

Sometimes, I don't even want to have sex, but it always, always has to end in sex with him. For once I would love to get each other off with just foreplay, but it's never enough with him. When I don't want to have sex, but he's played with me, he acts like I owe him something; and I never give in. Ever. I owe him nothing.

Nothing kills the mood faster.

Should we just... stop having sex? Or see other people? I can't see either of those starting conversations ending well.

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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I wonder if maybe it might help you to sort this out if you thought about what you'd do or want to do (or think was best, etc.) if another part of your relationship was going like the sexual part has been?

In other words, let's say, for instance, that whatever part of it you considered was the romantic part had similar dynamics, was as totally disconnected and just not simpatico as the sexual part has been, but, say, the sexual part rocked, and the friendship rocked.

What would you do? What would you want to? Would you think about or even go ahead and say "I think we need to just be friends who have sex," or would you keep the romantic aspect despite it really not working?

Perhaps you can also think about the relationship you have and the ways it DOES work, and think about why not having it be a sexual one seems to mean, in your mind, leaving him?

Mind, I do think that if you're having sex when you don't want to, or sex you don't want, that does have to stop because that is just truly an unhealthy sexual dynamic, certainly for you, but in plenty of ways, for him, too.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Conny
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I... guess I never really looked at it that way - that if this was to do with our friendship and not our romance, I would handle it an entirely different way and we would probably be better for it.

Thinking of this makes me want to present him with this example. If we were incompatible in terms of liking a certain style of TV show, we would compromise. The same with food, or emotional uncertainty in certain situations. So surely we can do this with our sex-life too?

My boyfriend responds well to logical arguments, and I think saying it to him in this way rather than being over-emotional about it will help. Thank you for pointing this out!

I was so fixated on putting different aspects of our relationship in little niches that I wasn't seeing the big picture! Thank you!

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Heather
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I don't want to rain on your yay here, but I think you kind of interpreted this in a way, or took it in a direction, that was not really what I meant.

Personally, with what you posted about what he has said and expressed, I am hearing him pretty clearly, and very consistently, say and demonstrate that he just really, really doesn't want to have the kind of sex you want. In other words, I am hearing a clear no here. That given, I think at this point -- and likely well before now -- trying to push for compromise, or for him to do those things you want might actually be you potentially coercing this person. In other words, trying to push them to do what you want when they have said no, even though I understand there's nothing nefarious about your intent here, nor do you aim to hurt this person.

But you know, no is know. And I'd say "boring," "waste of time" as constant statements experessing frustration at being asked to do things he doesn't want? Those are all clear no's.

So, unless I'm misunderstanding something, or, say, you ask him if talking more to try and find middle ground is something he feels is NOT you not accepting his no, I think it's not okay to keep trying to make something happen one person doesn't want, and which it really seems just isn't going to happen without one or both of you doing things you really don't want to do.

I'd say that by now, you need to probably just accept this is how your sexual life is together: it's just not going to work with your sexualities being as different as they are, with all the trying to change them that has just created more tension and conflict.

And that means you have to decide what to do accepting there's probably not a healthy way for either of you to "compromise" here sexually. In other words, accepting that a sexual relationship between you means neither of you really connecting or having your wants and needs met, and probably will remain a world of hurt if you both keep trying to force it.

If you can accept that, THEN what would you want to do?

(The parallel I was trying to make with the other part of the relationship was more like this: if you were not romantically connecting, and wanted very different things, what would you do? Trying to create feelings neither of you had, or ways of being romantic that don't work for you both wouldn't be healthy options. What would you do if that aspect was just...well, broken, like this, and something to accept, not something to try and make different when it's not going to be, or not going to be without creating some really unhealthy stuff?)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Conny
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Well... I don't really know how to answer that.

I suppose our relationship would be over. We both really want to be intimate (or at least I do) but we're obviously not compatible like that, so if we were to decide together that sex would not be part of our relationship anymore, that would be the end of it.

I'm not comfortable with the idea of staying with someone if there's no intimacy, but if we just don't do well together... what's the point?

If I were to accept that we're not good sexually together, and I'm not willing to overhaul my whole sexuality to suit him nor would he for me... then we would just not be together anymore.

Huh.

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Heather
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When you say intimacy, do you mean sex? I ask that because while sex can certainly be a way to be intimate and experience intimacy, it's only one of many ways. But when some people say "intimacy" they use it as a euphemism for sex, so just checking in.

So, if I have you right, if you accepted that how things have been is how they are going to be -- from the start, it sounds, and for years, which makes pretty clear, especially given all you have both tried to do around it, it is -- despite having what you say is otherwise an awesome relationship together in every other respect, one or both of you wouldn't want to continue any kind of interaction or relationship?

For example, a close, platonic friendship would be off the table?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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(I'd also add that it's sound to bear in mind that no one can really choose to change their sexuality, just like we can't change -- to large degree -- how our bodies work, or what our personalities are like. So, even if and when we want to -- and it sounds like both of you have perhaps even tried -- that's just not something folks can generally do in big ways.)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Conny
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I do mean intimacy as sex, yes.

My boyfriend is fine with out sex-life, he is happy (or so he tells me). If I were to turn around and say I didn't want to have sex anymore, he would view it as an attack or an ultimatum; that if he doesn't change I won't have sex with him.

The same would happen if I tried to explain that we're not compatible together sexually. It is, at the end of the day, a problem that I have with our sex-life, and he would view it as my problem or that I am looking for a way out.

We've been together for over 5 years, we live together, and just ending our sex-life to become friends when we sleep in the same bed and are cuddling the crap out of each other every other minute doesn't feel appropriate to me.

But it's not salvageable, we can't be together if we're not having sex and the sex we have now is unhealthy and depressing; I for one am not going to stay abstinent just so I can keep my relationship intact.

It would hurt either of us to decide that there would be no more sex and I don't think it's something that we can just accept and continue on with our lives with. We would just drift apart, or end up hating each other.

So there's no way to save it? Is there really nothing I can do to make this any better? I just have to accept that, through all the crap we've been through together, there's no way we can work through this so we're both happy again?

That thought it... incredibly upsetting. Terrifying.

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Conny
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Upon further reflection, I seem to have come over a wall a little bit.

I realize (after some tears at the computer) that I'm really, really not willing to leave my long-term boyfriend and I'm also not willing to end our sex-life either.

Though I am starting to accept that this is how our sex is going to be, and that I can't change him no more than he can change me so we have to find what both of us enjoy instead of trying to force one and other into doing stuff neither of us want.

I think tonight I'm going to grab us a couple of beers and we can sit down and have a talk about this (nothing about what we want the other to do, but about what we want as individuals) and if we disagree on thing, we just won't do them.

I don't want to fight with him anymore and I want this relationship to work because I love him, I think I've just be approaching it the wrong way.

But I totally get what you're saying about coercing him into doing things he may not want. And that, even more so than the thought of leaving this relationship, is terrifying and upsetting. That is the very last thing I want.

I want us to enjoy each other and not be constantly tip-toeing around the issues. So I think we should start focusing on what we like instead of what we don't, and not agree to something we don't want just to keep the other happy.

Phew. I feel a bit better now.

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Heather
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I'd just put in a vote to make sure that *you* don't do what you're not going to ask him to.

In other words, that you don't agree to and keep having a sexual life that doesn't involve the core things you want and need, like having intercourse without the things you need to have that feel good for you emotionally and physically.

I personally don't really see a way for the two of you to have a sexual life that works and is healthy based on what you've posted here (especially if any "no" from you on a sexual life with him is something he's see as an attack). But I'm not you, with all five years of this relationship under your belt and to reference, perhaps including times where things really DID work for the two of you in this department.

I'm sorry this is all so rough on you, including this conversation, I'm sure: I know how hard it can be to have a big divide we really don't want to have with someone we want to be close to in a certain way.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Conny
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It has been rough, but unbelievably helpful. So thanks so much for all your replies!

It's definetly helped me see this from a different perspective, if anything. I never thought of myself as pushing him to do what I wanted, but now that I look back on how I've been feeling and acting, I really have been trying to force him into something he's not comfortable with and it has to stop.

As well as having sex when I just really don't want to.

I don't know if it will work out all full of roses and kittens but now I have a clearer understanding and that's of more value than just blaming him for not fitting in to whatever preconceptions about sex I had.

So I'm being... cautiously optimistic.

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Heather
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I think that it can be tough to see the possible or actual coercion in a situation like this because there's this common cultural meme in heterosexual dynamics that men who just want intercourse are jerks, or only just want that because they're self-centered, and there's no such thing as women who don't want all those other kinds of sex.

In reality, though, while certainly sometimes men who don't want other kinds of sex can be that way because they aren't considering their partners who are women, there are also men who, for any number of reasons, just don't have those other kinds of sex as part of their sexuality or sexual interest period, or yet, or don't feel ready for those other kinds of sex. In reality, while there';s the issue of the vagina generally not doing so well physiologically with a kissing-and-intercourse-only menu, there certainly are people with vaginas whose sexuality is....well, like your boyfriend's sounds. Who really feel like intercourse is the only thing that really revs their engines, is interesting, etc.

Sexuality is vast and diverse, and while there can be some common gender or body issues among big groups of people, like men and women, common doesn't equal every, know what I mean?

And of course, there's still much more focus on women needing to be able to say no to sex, any kind of sex, than men, and on women's free consent, without coercion, being vital than men's.

But for sure, getting that is a lot easier when, say, you study sexuality for your living [Razz] , when you're not straight or only exposed to heterosexual messages or dynamics, when your experience of the diversity of gender with sexuality is wider than just a partner or two, etc.

But it does sound like you're connecting the dots pretty quickly on this, and I think that if nothing else, having discussions about all of this stuff with all of this new insight and information will likely result in both of you feeling a lot better no matter what decisions you each make about the relationship and what happens with it.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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