My boyfriend and I have been together for four and a half years and we have a wonderful relationship. We are affectionate, and we are both supportive and encouraging of one another; we love spending time together, laugh a lot, have similar values and are both committed to one another fully.
The problem is he has little to no interest in being physically intimate. We haven’t been sexually active on a regular basis for about two years, and have probably had sex once in the last six months. We visit a therapist, but it’s moving very slowly, and I feel like we spend all of our time talking about ourselves, our childhood and the dynamics of our lives, with little feedback or constructive advice offered so far. It’s hard to see this moving toward a resolution any time soon.
I’m growing impatient, and I’m at the age where children and marriage are becoming increasingly important to me. I don’t want to leave this relationship, everything about it is wonderful, except what appears to be this one, isolated problem. At the same time, if physical intimacy and having children are not possibilities in the foreseeable future, I’m not sure I can stay.
He doesn’t appear to have any physiological ailments. I do believe he is genuinely confused about why his desire has waned. He said to me once that it was when he really fell in love with me that his sexual desire started to wane. I’m sure he has some deep-seated abandonment issues, since his father left him as a child. However, these are the only ‘clues’ I have so far.
My question is, how long do I wait, and is there anything more I can do to move toward resolution?
Our Clinical Psychologist’s Reply
I can understand how frustrating this situation must be for you. Please know that you are not alone. Many couples experience low or inhibited sexual desire in their relationships. Despite what our movies, books, and television shows suggest, many men experience low sexual desire. This can feel even more frustrating for women who have been (erroneously) taught that men want sex all the time! The causes of low sexual desire are complex, but can be helped.
You mentioned that you are visiting a couples therapist — good for you. However, if the therapy does not feel as if it is progressing, it would be most helpful to bring that concern directly to your therapist’s attention. Sometimes therapists and clients are not always a good fit for one another, and that can also be discussed openly with your therapist. It may be helpful to find a therapist who specializes in sex therapy and who also collaborates with a physician. A good place to search for a sex therapist near you is through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. Although you mention that your boyfriend doesn’t appear to have any physiological ailments, it is essential to have a physician rule out any biological basis for his waning desire. Testosterone plays a significant role in desire for both men and women, and many men experience a decrease in the hormone after they turn 30 years of age.
Waiting is a difficult place to be. Taking action by telling your therapist your concerns, asking for a referral to a therapist (or finding one on your own) who specializes in sexual issues, and seeing a physician may help you feel more active in moving toward a decision about your relationship. A book you might also find useful is Inhibited Sexual Desire [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK] by Dr. Jennifer Knopf and Dr. Michael Seiler.