Boyfriend Won’t Have Sex With Me, And It’s Affecting My Self-Esteem

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Reader’s Question

I have been with my boyfriend for about a year and a half now, and we have been living together for the past 9 months. I love him to death. But there’s a big problem: we’ve never had sex.

My boyfriend and I sleep in the same bed every night. We fool around and do foreplay often, but it stops there. This is a major problem for me because I love sex. I thought every guy did too!

My boyfriend is 23 and has slept with only two girls in the past. However, I’m his first serious relationship. We’ve talked about this on several occasions, and he tells me that he doesn’t want to have sex yet because he doesn’t want our relationship to change. He dated his past girlfriend for only three months and had sex with her after only a week of dating. He told me that they would never spend any quality time together and that she would come over, they’d have sex, and then she’d leave. I think he’s afraid that our relationship will become based solely on sex, like his last relationship. Then again, I really think he’s just nervous.

I also think that in his other relationships, he didn’t worry about having to impress the girls, whereas he feels like he needs to impress me. I was with my ex-boyfriend for five years, and we’d have sex almost every single day (so I have a lot more sexual experience). One time my boyfriend and I were talking, and he jokingly said, “I’m nervous to have sex with you because you’re so much more experienced than I am…I’m not going to be good enough for you.” I laughed it off then, but I’m starting to worry that that is how he really feels.

I just don’t know what to do. I’m afraid to confront him about it because I don’t want to embarrass him, and I don’t want to make him feel like he NEEDS to have sex with me. However, I did bring this topic to his attention two weeks ago, and he said “I honestly don’t know why we haven’t had sex yet babe. I agree though, I want to have sex with you — we will when the time is right.” But that was two weeks ago and still, nothing has happened.

This is starting to really affect our relationship. Some nights I will lie in bed and will be so horny, but I know we won’t have sex, and so I get all upset. One night I got really upset and asked him what his other two girlfriends had that I don’t that made him want to have sex with them, and he looked me in the eyes and said, “Babe, it was totally different with them. I didn’t care about them at all. It was just SEX with them, and it’ll be completely different with you, because I’m in love with you.”

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I was talking to my boyfriend’s best friend one night, and he told me that the real reason my boyfriend doesn’t want to have sex is because he doesn’t like sex very much and he thinks sex is dirty. (My boyfriend is crazy about cleanliness, has OCD, and goes insane whenever things aren’t perfectly clean). But I’ve asked him before, and he said that he does like sex. Do you think he’s just too scared to tell me that he has a problem with sex?

Please help. All of this is really starting to affect my self-esteem because I feel like there must be something wrong with me.

Psychologist’s Reply

The most obvious issue appears to be the fact that you and your boyfriend are not on the same page with respect to your sexual interests and desires. And while a relationship based “solely” on sex is destined to have its own problems, an intimate relationship in which there is such extreme disparity between partners with respect to sexual attitudes and desires is necessarily on shaky grounds.

You seem to be entertaining many different possible theories about the causes for your boyfriend’s behavior. You’ve even gotten opinions from others who know him. Most importantly, you appear understandably skeptical about the reasons your boyfriend has offered, suspecting that there might be much more to his apprehension than even he might be aware of.

If you really want your relationship to work and to achieve a high level of intimacy (not just physical or sexual intimacy but also emotional intimacy) in your relationship, you’ll need to know and understand each other much better than you do now and be aware of any potential impediments to that intimacy. My best suggestion: let your boyfriend know how much you love him but insist that you both visit a professional with the right training (an advanced degree professional who can assess such things as the role of OCD, the presence of some type of sexual dysfunction or disorder, other psychological problems, etc.) to help you address and work through the issues threatening your relationship.

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