feature image photo by praetorianphoto via Getty Images
My girlfriend and I got together about a month ago, after years of friendship and many months of secretive hooking up (very hot). The sex felt really awesome and explorative and most importantly: safe and intimate. I have only had one actual relationship before, and for her this is her first relationship. We went to university together for the last 4 years, and the “secretive hookups” started right after we graduated this year in April. We decided to be official about a month ago, and had sex a bunch right after that, but after about a week she told me that the idea of sex suddenly felt really unappealing and that she abruptly didn’t want to have sex. She assured me that no boundaries were ever crossed before, just that for the moment she didn’t want to have sex. Maybe for a few days, could be like a week, she couldn’t say.
I honestly am really glad she felt like she could talk to me about this so openly, and we seemed to land in a good spot with me saying that her not wanting to have sex for a bit didn’t change anything or make me feel any less attracted to her. I honestly did feel that way, and I never want her to feel like she isn’t enough if we aren’t having sex.
However, it’s now been about 2.5 weeks, and we haven’t really even been making out or doing other sex-adjacent things, even though we have been spending lots of time together. The hiatus from sex has really revealed to me that I think I find a lot of affirmation about being desired through even just kissing/making out — so not even doing much of that has left me feeling like maybe she doesn’t ever want to have sex, and in some way maybe that’s my fault.
Anyway, would love any input about how to talk to her about this and whether or not I even should? I just want to have sex with my girlfriend, but the last thing I want is for her to have sex with me if she doesn’t fully want to.
This is absolutely something you can — and should — talk to her about.
I agree that it is good that your girlfriend felt comfortable enough to express this shift in her needs/wants to you, but it also doesn’t really sound like she gave much by way of an explanation. There are a lot of reasons people’s sex drives change; I do think you both owe it to each other to talk about it, even if this leads to uncomfortable or uncertain waters. I think it is totally reasonable and appropriate to do a check-in where you ask where she thinks this shift might be coming from. Has anything else shifted for her about the way she sees your relationship? What changed for her?
It’s possible she herself doesn’t know where this shift is coming from, and that’s okay, but when you initiate this conversation, she has the opportunity to say that. The question of why is really important here, even if there isn’t a concrete answer yet. Asking her why she has changed her mind about sex isn’t pressuring her to do something she doesn’t want to do. It doesn’t signal that something is wrong with her. It’s just an opportunity for conversation, and it’s one she should be willing to have if you are in a relationship. She is entitled to her own needs and desires — or lack thereof — but she doesn’t get to overwrite or dictate your experience in this relationship either.
You write that this has all made you feel like she doesn’t ever want to have sex and that it could be in some way your fault, and while I understand that impulse, it doesn’t sound like you’ve done anything to cause this, especially if she has assured you that her boundaries have been respected throughout this.
I don’t want to answer for her as to why this shift has occurred, because again, it could be so many things! But I do wonder if there’s something about the transition from secret hookups to “above board” hookups that has caused some tension or uncertainty for her. Sex within a defined relationship can feel really different than sex in a more clandestine arrangement. You could ask her if she has specific feelings about that and if there’s a way to cultivate a sense of secrecy and exploration that defined your sex together before within your new arrangement. Again, she might not have answers right away, but I think getting that conversation started would be a good step, especially if you’re feeling insecure or undesired. Both of your needs and desires are important here. It’s also possible that this exists entirely outside of your relationship; she could be discovering new aspects of her sexuality, especially if this is her first relationship.
To me, both of these things are true: 1. People’s sex drives can change for any number of reasons, at any time and 2. If sex is important to you, that’s valid, too! It’s all about balance, compromise, open communication, and making sure both of your needs are met. I know your mismatched desires are causing an uncomfortable incompatibility, but I don’t think it helps to pave over your own needs/wants on her behalf. Again, this does not mean you’re pressuring her. Saying sex is a priority for you is not inherently manipulative, especially if you approach the conversation from a place of wanting to really understand where she’s at. You can ask about the sex-adjacent things like making out, too. Is she comfortable with bringing that back into the relationship? What does and does not feel off limits to her right now?
The hardest part of this is having to accept that the conversation could lead to really tough choices and considerations. It’s possible you might have to redefine/restructure your relationship in some way that works for both of you. It’s also possible she really does just need some time. But you’re never going to know without asking open, honest questions or without talking about your own feelings about sex and intimacy in a relationship. Addressing all these things as early in a relationship as possible is really important and will make it easier to have tough conversations down the road. You are allowed to value your desire to have sex while respecting her lack of desire for sex right now — even if it means that your mis-matched needs might not be compatible longterm.
You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.