You Need Help: Am I Being Unreasonable for Feeling Undesired by My Girlfriend?

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Hi there. I’ve been with my girlfriend for almost a year now. We are not u-haul lesbians because of where we live and the fact that we’re Asians. We started out great. We used to have very regular sex (at least once a week), and we hung out, went on date nights regularly for the first six months. Now, I know that honeymoon period doesn’t last forever, and I know that very well. It’s just that I feel like I’m not wanted or desired as much anymore. Once a week sex turned into once a month sex, and just earlier this month, we had a short getaway. Sex happened but after two months of not having any, it felt like I wasn’t missed or desired or yearned for. Now she wants more space and time alone, and I’m okay with that. It’s just that I’m starting to feel like I’m just at the mercy of whenever she wants sex, and I’ll just have to wait for that. Whenever I try to ask for more time together, to be more intimate with each other, I’m given indisputable reasons that I can’t be upset or disappointed about like being tired, wanting more time alone, other limitations, etc. Am I’m being unreasonable for feeling like I’m not desired in this situation? Is it right for me to feel this way?


Sex and dating isn’t usually my beat, but I wanted to respond to this because I think the topic of Asian desire doesn’t get nuanced attention often enough. There are a few things that are at play here, in my view, and most of my answers will likely involve more questions for you (and also, possibly, your partner) to consider, than anything else.

First, I think there is a lot of value in being able to express your sexual wants and needs. This may not be your or your partner’s experience as Asians, but for myself and many others, Asian cultures across the board (and especially in really conservative families) can make even the idea of desire so taboo, so cloaked in shame, that it becomes even harder to learn to express our needs in healthy ways. As they say, there’s a kernel of truth in every stereotype, and there’s a reason why Asian women are stereotypically docile and passionless, having sex done to us rather than being active agents of our own pleasure. So, I think it’s important that there’s space in your relationship — and any relationship, really — to be able to express your sexual wants and needs in a healthy, non-coercive, non-toxic way with your partner, even when those wants and needs don’t match.

I’ve said it twice, and I’ll say it again a third time just to be really clear: the key here is healthy communication on the part of all involved.

And to that end, I want to share a reel from consent educator Sarah Casper that friend and fellow writer mat shared with me when we were recently talking about desire. What I love about this is that Casper goes beyond saying, “Your wants are not anyone else’s responsibilities to fulfill” — which, of course, is a must — and also emphasizes the point that the people we are with need to be able to hold space for us to express our wants. I really think that both of those are critical to having healthy communication around consent, intimacy, and sex.

In my first relationship, I was with a person who had a lot of boundaries around physical intimacy, and so, like you, I often felt at the mercy of her desires. My self-imposed response to this was to not voice my own sexual wants and go along with whatever she wanted to do. At the time, I said it was because I was respecting her space and boundaries, but after the fact I realized that it was also rooted in my own deep fear of rejection. And later still, I realized that the impulse to silence my own desires ended up recreating the sexual suppression of the culture I was raised in.

So, what does it look like to be able to express your desires in a way that is just about stating them without any expectation of change or action? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure, but I do think that there’s room for work here on both your part and your partner’s. It’s hard, and in some ways, I feel like I can relate to your situation but also may be just projecting my own experiences onto them, so take what I say with a grain of salt, of course.

In my case, part of the issue was my own work around getting comfortable with my own desires. It seems like that may not be the case for you, but I would ask you to consider what “feeling desired” means to you? Is it just about having sex with a certain amount of frequency? Are there other things that are either present in your relationship or, possibly, missing from your relationship that leave you feeling undesired or, even, undesirable? Can you verbalize them clearly as your own wants?

Because the thing is, I’m not sure this is entirely about how often you and your partner have sex, and I think focusing on that may be a bit of a red herring. Sexual needs are real, of course, and I think it’s valid to want to have your sexual needs fulfilled, but that’s separate from feeling desired and, when it comes to sex specifically, as you know, your partner isn’t responsible for that, either. But, there are a couple of other ways you can have your sexual needs met: masturbating or possibly opening up your relationship, if that’s something that would work for you and your partner.

But I really would encourage you to think about what different types of intimacy (besides sex) would make you feel hot and wanted, and whether those exist in your relationship? Do you feel like you can have a conversation with your partner about them? Again, not from a lens of changing anything, necessarily, but as a simple statement of wants. Approached this way, this line of exploration may open up valuable conversations about other ways in which you can feel desired in your relationship. It might also lead you to really take time to reflect on the things that are special and fulfilling in your relationship that you maybe aren’t valuing right now because (based on the letter you shared, at least) you seem to be primarily focused on sex, specifically.

The other side of this is your partner’s ability to engage in this conversation without feeling the need to problem solve or explain why they can’t meet your wants. This has to start with you in the conversation — frame things in a non-coercive way by, for example, stating clearly, “I’m not asking you to change anything, but I need to feel like I can express my wants and desires and that they can be heard as such, and not taken as any expectation from you.” If you feel like your partner may not be able to hear your wants in this way, then it might be helpful to start by sharing that Instagram reel and engaging in a conversation about it. What resonates? What feels right? What feels wrong? How can you apply this lens to the way you approach communicating about intimacy, desire, and sex in your relationship? Do you both even want to?

The final thing I want to say, is that after having these conversations, you and your partner may find yourselves at an impasse. Maybe you’ll find that your wants are misaligned, and there isn’t really a path forward. Sometimes, the history of the conversations that have already happened — especially if there were any serious breakdowns in communication along the way — make it hard to approach intimacy and sex from this framework of stating wants without needing to act on them. And so maybe, your best and kindest option for each other is to break up.

Part of being able to name and also sit with your own wants is recognizing when you need to take action and take responsibility for fulling those wants yourself. If you’re not getting what you want out of a relationship, and that’s becoming a deal breaker for you, then you can also say the relationship is no longer working for you, end it as kindly as you can, and instead look for one where you feel more desired and have your sexual needs met. That’s also completely valid.

You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.

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Himani is a dabbler of a writer. Her work includes reviews of media centering Asian stories, news and politics, advice and the occasional personal essay. Find her on Instagram.

Himani has written 53 articles for us.


  1. I really appreciate the careful handling of a difficult subject. On one hand, it is a hard but important task as queer people to unlearn the shame around expressing our sexuality and desires. On the other, I feel like there is a lot of messaging these days that amounts to “expressing your sexual needs is coercing your partner”, which is incredibly harmful. How do we balance unlearning shame with leaving room for rejection and future discussion? Your language around “expressing needs is not always asking for that person to meet them” is very insightful and I am going to be chewing on the applications of that for a while.

    • I can’t say that what happened for me is what is happening with your girlfriend but I can say that once I understood I had a degree of sexual aversion due to years of experiences where I needed to have sex in order to keep the relationship (I recently learned the power of sex in maintaining connection – where previously I thought sex was only about power [I still play with that a lot in my kink!]) and feel safe (and other situations I won’t go into here). I had decades of sex I didn’t want, but that lack of desire was rooted in a lack of agency, even though most of my partners didn’t know I was feeling a lack of agency. Mostly I was either having sex I didn’t want to have and dissociating, or I was avoiding situations where my dates would possibly come onto me. Eventually they would give up and we would lose one of the primary connective experiences in our relationship. Once I realized this, I worked with my current partner to alleviate all sexual pressure, or perceived pressure (this was and is super important for me). For a while, only I initiated sex, and that was hard for me, but I did it because I wanted to heal and I wanted to to save my relationship. This was hard for my partner also but we worked through it with some failures and successes. Eventually my desire resurfaced after some therapy and reorienting myself to my sexuality. Eventually we opened up to them initiating sex also, but if I said no, they were not allowed to show me disappointment, even if they were feeling that. In fact, when I would say no, they would celebrate me in that I was coming back into my agency. We have come a very long way and it was very very hard. But I am changed for the better, in this relationship and my next one, and my partner feels safe I am truly consenting to sex because I can say no now and and that means I can also say yes. My desire came back and I feel so much relief and safety. We are still on this journey and I feel confident we are doing it right.

      I hope if anyone reads this, and sees themself or something in my story that it might be helpful. I would have given anything for this to have light shed on it 20 years ago.

  2. Oof this advice asker’s experience hits hard. A mismatch of sexual desire was the biggest downfall of my last relationship.
    I even started seeing a therapist specifically figuring out my own stuff around sex. But the biggest component of my lack of desire for sex was something that neither my therapist nor i ever named, and I didn’t figure out until 3 years after the relationship ended.
    I’m asexual.
    Which isn’t to say i have never enjoyed sex, but I sometimes wonder what my conversations around sex and desire with my ex would have looked like if i had known that I reside on the ace spectrum.

    • I really resonated with this inquiry, and thank you for your well thought out response. Im in a queer relationship and we’re both asian as well, and the topic of sex and feeling desired is something we both talk about extensively. Lots to take away here!

  3. Another option is shifting to being polyamorous and having another partner who is sexually compatible with you. My wife is mostly asexual (like this OP said, it tapered off after the first 6 months or so) and we were monogamous for 16 years. The hardest part was not feeling desired, even more so than not having actual sex.

    Then 18 years ago, I took control of my own sex life. I became polyamorous, and in that time I have had 3 serious relationships with people who I was sexually compatible with. It was very hard on her at first, and I still cringe to think of all the pain I caused her by not handling my side of it very well. But we survived and now it works pretty well for us. Taking sex off the expectation table entirely has enabled us to keep our relationship, because there’s no pressure or resentment around sex anymore. I’ve had 3 secondary relationships: 3 years, 4 years, and now 11 years. I spend my weekends with my secondary partner and my weekdays with my wife. It’s not for everyone, but it works for us.

    • Would you be willing to share more about how you hurt your partner when you were setting up this dynamic? I’m considering seeing if my partner would be open to more of a poly dynamic because of sexual compatibility issues but I’m nervous because I keep seeing threads online about how this is a terrible way to save the relationship, how it never works etc. I’m trying to learn more and educate myself so that at the very least if we talk about it or even try it I can try my best to avoid hurting her.

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