Location: Santa Cruz, CA
I’ve been with my current lover for 5 years and I dearly love him. A couple of years ago he had hemorrhoid surgery and was in the hospital for a month. When he got home he refused to have sex with me but once a month of so. After two years his sexual interest is less and less. We have a wonderful time together, except for the sex. He’s a great guy and I know he loves me. We talk about it, but he tells me that he doesn’t need sex and he wants a platonic relationship. He’s not open to therapy. If he doesn’t want to be physical, I don’t want to force it but I’m masturbating all alone and I’m very frustrated. I don’t what to leave him, but I can’t stand the status quo.
This is a classic lament, Barbara. So many couples struggle with much the same thing. Love, intimacy, and sex—three very different things—yet we are socialized into thinking that they should always come to us as a package deal. And anything that doesn’t is less than optimum and often downright bad or sinful. What a tiny little box we’re all supposed to fit in.
I believe there is a fundamental difference between love, sex, and intimacy, but so many people confuse or conflate these very different needs to their detriment. Some go so far as to destroy an otherwise good and vibrant relationship just because it doesn’t conform to what we perceive as the norm…ya know the big package deal I just mentioned.
I don’t know how we got it into are head that the only legitimate or wholesome sex is the sex that happens in a loving relationship, or that if there is no sex in a loving relationship, then that relationship is somehow flawed or defective. That’s simply not the case.
The way I see it, passionate sex is dependent on a good deal of sexual tension. Ya know, like the grips of hot monkey love that happens at the beginning of a relationship. In time this sexual tension dissipates. I might add that it takes a great deal of work to keep that kind of tension alive. Most couples don’t invest that kind of energy, even though they may pay lip service to the desire for it.
Intimacy, on the other hand, is dependent on domestic tranquility, in other words, the elimination of tension in the relationship, which often also includes sexual tension. And since most couples desire intimacy over sex they choose (either consciously or not) the domestic tranquility option. But the result is the kind of sexual frustration you report, at least for some.
Those who wish to have both sexual passion and intimacy need to be creative in developing both. It simply isn’t enough to believe that loving someone is enough to make it happen. It takes a lot of very hard work.
That being said, Barbara, if your partner refuses to join you in any effort to find a solution to the problems that plague your relationship, he is telling you that your sexual concerns are unimportant to him. My counsel is always the same under these circumstances. If your sexual needs are as pressing as you say they are, then confront him in no uncertain terms. No beating around the bush, darlin’, it’s ultimatum time. Tell your partner that dragging his feet, or obstructing all together your efforts to solve your relationship problems signals to you that the relationship, at least as it is currently configured, is in desperate trouble.
As I’ve suggested earlier, you can tell him that there are several ways of keeping the relationship going without expecting he fulfill all or any of your sex needs if he’s gonna be fulfilling your intimacy needs. But living without sex in your life is a deal breaker. He needs to know that you are serious about the crisis that exists. Of course, if you do this you will have to follow through on the ultimatum. To do otherwise would tell him that you don’t believe your concerns are all that important either.
If you ask me, life is too short to be living with all that sexual frustration. Don’t tolerate the frustration make it work for you. Your sexual frustration could be the very thing that motivates you to create better your situation for yourself and possibly your old man too.