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My girlfriend and I have been together for eleven years now, and she doesn’t want to have sex with me. It’s not as though she wants to have sex with anyone else either, but her sexuality is very personal to her and she is more interested in masturbating than being with me. She has also been uninterested in oral sex throughout our entire relationship. We have a lot of deep love for the other, and we get along very well, but I don’t know what to do with this lack of desire. It feels very fundamental for me. My girlfriend does understand that it’s important to have sex, and she sometimes will have sex with me in order to keep me kinda sorta (not really) satisfied, and she can bring me to orgasm. Neither of us are interested in an open relationship, but we’re not interested in breaking up either — because of the aforementioned love and care we have for one another. We have been in couple’s therapy to try to deal with this, but it just doesn’t seem to be getting better. I don’t see a way out of this. I’m in complete despair. Do I continue to sacrifice my own needs in order to stay in this relationship where I am undesired, or do I end a relationship with so much love and care for the other?
Love and care is great! It really is. I love and care for so many close friends who I also get along with “very well.” I imagine that most of these friends don’t want to have sex with me, and I don’t want to have sex with them, and that’s one of many reasons why we’re friends and not girlfriends!
There’s nothing wrong with you and there’s nothing wrong with your girlfriend, you just probably aren’t the right people for each other.
Before we even get into the sex part — can I tell you something that stood out to me in your question that you may not have noticed when you wrote it? You said that you love your girlfriend, but you didn’t say that you’re in love with your girlfriend. You said you get along “very well,” but you didn’t say that she makes you laugh, that you’re crazy for her, that she’s your favorite person to spend time with, that she “gets you” in a way nobody else does. You didn’t really sell me on this relationship being so amazing that your very fundamental human need for sex might be worth sacrificing. Although it’s totally normal that your sex life would be a little less intense after 11 years together, it sounds to me like this has been a problem for you since the start. You also say that you’ve been to counseling and counseling didn’t help, but you’re still together, which suggests that you’ve both surrendered to the illusion that your lives and your romantic relationships will never get better than this. I want you to know that that’s not true, and that leaving is opening yourself up to the possibility that things could be better… for both of you.
I’m sure at first it felt like a little compromise, ’cause relationships do involve a lot of sacrifice and compromise in order to work. But sex is a big (and one-sided) sacrifice to make for someone with a sex drive! It doesn’t sound like this compromise is making either of you happy, and a good compromise should make someone happy. Personally — and this isn’t true for everybody, but it might be true for you — I think a mutually satisfying sex life is a necessity for a healthy relationship between two allosexual human beings. What “mutually satisfying” means depends on the couple — it could mean once a month, it could mean twice a day, it could involve kink or not, it could involve oral sex or not. It could also mean never! Sex is also a huge part of your Special Private Relationship World, which’s another thing I think is often part of a healthy long-term relationship between people — the private jokes, the shorthand, the weirdo things you do with each other that you can’t do with anyone else (or don’t have as much fun doing with anybody else). The things that bond you to each other even when you’re on opposite ends of a crowded room.
Many humans are totally happy in relationships that don’t involve much sex, although I imagine those relationships at least still involve intimacy and romance on some other level. As I said, there’s no rule for how often any given couple has to have sex and it’s not unusual for sex to grow infrequent over time or for one partner to have a higher sex drive than the other. But that’s not what you’re dealing with here: your girlfriend literally never wants or wanted to have sex, and you do want to have sex. When you do have sex, it’s framed as a favor she’s doing for you. You feel (kinda sorta) satisfied afterwards. You never have a chance to satisfy her, either, and you’d probably like to!
This is not sustainable.
You cannot be satisfied by something that is unsatisfying to you.
I think what drives couples apart most intensely are Unsaid Things. Unsaid Things can take many forms: they can be secrets you’re keeping (you cheated, you started smoking again, you have feelings for someone else), feelings you’re afraid to share (“I’m not attracted to you anymore” “I think you drink too much” “I think you love me more than I love you” “I hate your friends”) — and they can be things you’re not allowed to talk about because your partner won’t let you, like “when are we gonna get married?” and “when are we gonna have sex?” These unsaid things pile up like bricks in a wall you’re building between the two of you until you can’t see over it anymore. You can’t be wide open to loving somebody and connecting with them when you’re constantly censoring yourself, when you can’t even tell your partner “that thing we just watched turned me on” or “I want to fuck you in those sweatpants.”
You deserve to feel not only loved and cared for — but wanted, desired, fulfilled and ALIVE. Eleven years is a long time, and you’re probably scared of life without her. It’s so easy to get used to something and let inertia take over, but fear is an arm of laziness. I’d argue that it’s far more terrifying to feel your human needs will never be met by your partner than it is to not have a partner at all. Ultimately, being alone is probably really similar to being with someone, in that sometimes it is sad and hard and sometimes it isn’t. Feeling lonely because you’re alone is, believe it or not, a much easier feeling to work with than feeling lonely despite not being alone.
Otherwise, it’s probably only a matter of time before you meet somebody who will make you feel desired. I’m pretty sure that “I didn’t feel wanted by my partner” is the #1 reason people cheat, so it’d be easier for everybody if you prepared for this possibility by becoming single right now! She’d also be a lot happier, I imagine, with somebody who’s sexual needs are more on par with her own.
There is a huge wide world out there beyond the couch you sit on with her. You can decide what to do with it, who you love and what you want. I promise you that as soon as you do find somebody else — whether that happens this year, or next year, or in five years, you will look back on this relationship and have no clue how you dealt with it.
In conclusion, you deserve to get eaten out. Go forth and clam dive!