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Advice For Solving a Sexless Relationship

Hump Day: A Sexless Engagement

Welcome to Hump Day, TrèsSugar's sex advice column. If you have questions about sex, send them to TrèsSugar, and our friend Dr. Charlie Glickman from Good Vibrations will offer his sound advice!

Today's question comes from our Group Therapy community group. We thought it would be useful to have an expert weigh in. You can read the whole question here, but here is an excerpt:

I've been with my fiance for 5 years now. He is 30 and I am going to be turning 29. We just got engaged 3 months ago and I find myself questioning our relationship. We are best friends, we have so much fun together and I know he loves me. However, we have no intimacy whatsoever. He likes to cuddle and kiss and hold hands but that is about it. This issue has been raised for the last 2 years of our relationship. I have a desire and he's too tired or too lazy to do anything with me. We have sex less than 1 time a month. We had sex once on our engagement trip and that was it. And since then it has been maybe 2 times in the last 3 months. In fact, this month we haven't had sex at all. It's really bothering me and I am second guessing getting married to him. If I bring it up, he gets angry and I have been bringing it up for 2 years now. I'm tired.

To see Dr. Glickman's advice,


This is a complex situation, as most sexual difficulties are, so let’s take it one piece at a time.

His anger sounds a lot like a defense mechanism. Given how much societal pressure men often experience around sexual “performance,” he might be feeling touchy or embarrassed about it, so it’s not a surprise that he’s holding you at arm’s length. Unfortunately, that usually creates resentment, as you’re experiencing. The first thing that I think needs to happen is for the two of you to start talking about this. Whatever is going on for him, avoidance, anger and resentment aren’t going to help it get better.

He says he’s attracted to you, but there’s very little evidence of that. Whenever someone’s words and actions are out of alignment, either their words aren’t true or they’re not the whole story. Working through this sort of thing is one reason that many couples talk with a therapist. The therapist’s job is to help you each speak your truth to each other AND to listen to each other. In other words, they help you overcome whatever barriers you have to communication with each other. Of course, that’s not all they do, but it’s a big part of it. Given that you’ve been stuck in this place for at least a couple of years, I’m guessing that you could both use some support.

There is a limit to what you can try without his cooperation. In my experience, people often get trapped in these patterns because there’s something they need that they’re not getting. But unless he can tell you what that is, all you can do is guess. Unfortunately, there are more ways to guess wrong than right and it’s likely that when you guess wrong, he feels pressured. Until he feels safe and comfortable enough to tell you what’s going on, there’s not a lot you can do. Simply put, you can’t fix him. If he’s open to it, you can help him do whatever he needs to do to deal with his part of the situation. And you can do whatever personal growth you need to do in order to take care of yourself. But until he’s willing to engage with you around this, that’s about it.

There can be a lot of reasons why someone loses interest in sex. It can be due to medical factors, underlying emotional concerns, unspoken relationship problems, hidden resentments, or other issues such as sexual trauma or religious or other shames. A skilled therapist would probably ask you each to talk about what you think the start of this pattern is and you might be surprised to hear what he says. But whatever the cause, my guess is that lingerie and toys aren’t going to fix it.

I know that a lot of people might suggest any of a number of possible causes and some of them might be accurate. But really, they might as well guess randomly from a list of options. It could be anything, and until you know what it is, the best thing you can do is work towards finding out.

Since the two of you have been stuck in this cycle for a while, I also suggest that you take some time to think about why you’re still doing it. Given that this has been a problem for at least two years, what prompted you to get engaged with him? I’m absolutely not trying to blame you at all, but I think it’s worth asking questions like this because they might give you some insight into your relationship, which would help you figure out what you want to do next.

Whatever you decide to do, please know that you have all my sympathy. This sounds like a really tough spot to be in. I hope that you find the information you need and the room to find the answers that are best for you.

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