[cw: relationship conflict, explicit sex talk]
Mary wrote in:
My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost three years. The first 6-9 months were filled with sex, as a relationship may in the beginning. It slowly started dropping off, with many fights of me feeling rejected again and again. I believe my boyfriend to be anorgasmic, which has come out in the past year He has told me he doesn’t feel anything when he orgasms. I’ve asked him before if he thinks he may be asexual, because I can tell he only wants to have sex for me; to please me, which obviously feels kind of awful. Unfortunately I can’t get him to be very open about his feelings or anything regarding sex – just that we start to try and have sex, and then suddenly he doesn’t want to, even though he is usually erect. And when I ask why or get upset, it brings such negative feelings around our whole sex life.
I’m just really sad and confused. If he was more open, I feel we could reach an understanding about his orientation or if maybe he just is sex repulsed. But with such an active sex life in the beginning, I feel that maybe he isn’t asexual? I don’t know. But without much discussion, I’ve turned to the Internet for help. I know I’m not really asking a question here, but if you have any guidance, I’m open.
Here are some thoughts, from reading your message:
It sounds like you’re very hurt by the thought of not being wanted in that particular way. You’ve said that it’s led to fights, you feel rejected, and it makes you feel awful that, you can tell, his reasons for wanting sex are more about pleasing you than himself. One thing I would recommend is some further introspection about why this bothers you (besides not getting the sex you want, of course). What may be the case for you is, I believe, the case for many people — taking others’ degree of sexual desire for them as a reflection of their worth, their level of attractiveness, etc.
But it doesn’t have to work like that. Please remind yourself that everyone has their own predilections (or perhaps, none at all, in this department) and that that individuality says nothing about you. If measuring yourself this way is what’s hurting you, then you may want to practice thinking in a different way and devising a new metric for how to assess yourself, your relationship, etc.
That said, it sounds like your boyfriend has a reason to be closed off about this subject. You’ve said that you two have fought about it multiple times, changing his mind about trying to have sex makes you upset, and you feel awful about what you can tell about him. All those factors could reasonably make it a touchy subject for him too. Maybe he wants to avoid the conflict, or maybe he doesn’t know how to explain what he feels, or maybe he just doesn’t want to hurt you. If you want him to open up and talk more about it, then you may want to mitigate some of those factors, depending on what you think is most likely at play and what’s the most doable for you.
For example, if he’s afraid that talking more about it will only hurt you, you may need to deemphasize your negative feelings or find another way to work through them. That may not be possible for you, and that’s fine. Another thought is that you could bring to the table more terms and points of reference and a show of understanding, which could build his trust as well. The kind of man you’ve described does sound like he wants to make it work between you; that’s something to appreciate. He may feel awful about all this too, so try to put yourself in his shoes. In the end, if you choose to stay together, you may have to accept that your relationship may not ever look the way you’d first envisioned.
A couple last things. You mentioned anorgasmia as a possibility. That could be, but I don’t know much about that. You also mentioned that the frequent sex early on makes you doubt the possibility of him being asexual. As a technicality, that doesn’t necessarily preclude anything. I’m not saying he is or he isn’t — that’s something only he can know — but it doesn’t rule it out, either. On that note, you two may be interested in this post by Talia about living as a sex-favourable asexual.
That’s what comes to mind for now. You can comment below if you have any more specific questions. Readers, feel free to weigh in.