Painful Sex — Is My Girlfriend Cheating?

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Reader’s Question

I started dating my girlfriend almost two years ago. At first our sex life was completely normal, however, after almost a year my girlfriend got hurt during sex because of lubrication issues and also because I am bigger than average. She went to see a doctor, who confirmed that she did have a few cuts. After that, we continued having sex but she got hurt a few more times. After getting hurt more often, her sexual desire slowly disappeared, which is understandable.

For the past year we have been having sex on average once every three weeks. At one point, I was absolutely convinced she was cheating on me, and that’s why she didn’t want to sleep with me. I have told her clearly that if she is not comfortable with me she can find someone else with whom she can be happy and will not get hurt. I have also mentioned the cheating idea that I have about her. But she says she only wants to be with me.

Every time I tell her I think she’s cheating on me, she starts crying and says that she would never do that to me or to anyone. Based on her reaction, she seems really honest and I am convinced she’s not cheating. Also, I have never seen anything suspicious going on — no anonymous phone calls or text messages or anything like that. I am also with her almost 24/7 so I really believe her when she says she’s not doing anything.

Although we have these sex problems, my girlfriend always tells me she wants to marry me and spend the rest of her life with me. I ask her how that can be possible if she doesn’t really want to sleep with me? Her reply is: “I love you. I don’t love you for sex, and I don’t need that.”

I am absolutely confused. I don’t need sex. But my concern is, is she lying? Is this situation normal? Do you believe that my girlfriend is honest when she says she wants to marry me? Is is possible that she doesn’t need sex as much as I do, and that’s why it doesn’t matter to her?

I don’t need sex and I don’t mind having sex once every three weeks, as long as I know that she is honest and really loves me for who I am; that sex is really not that important for her. If sex really were important to her then wouldn’t she simply leave me?

Psychologist’s Reply

It seems like there are a few different issues at play in your relationship. First, let’s address sexual intimacy. If sexual intercourse is painful for your girlfriend, it is understandable that her sexual desire has waned. I recommend that your girlfriend speak again with her obstetrician/gynecologist or primary care physician about the pain she is experiencing during intercourse, and have both a full physical and a gynecological exam to rule out any underlying health concerns or issues that may be contributing to her pain. If it truly is a lubrication issue, you and your girlfriend might want to begin using a personal lubricant, which may help with pain. I also recommend taking your time and incorporating plenty of foreplay (e.g., kissing, hugging, touching, etc.) into your sex life, as women often need sustained attention and stimulation to reach arousal and enjoy being sexually intimate. Additionally, there are sexual behaviors (e.g., mutual masturbation, oral sex, etc.) other than just straight vaginal-penile intercourse that you and your girlfriend can engage in to help have a mutually pleasurable, satisfying and fulfilling sex life, if you both so desire.

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There is no ‘completely normal’ sex life and no norm for sexual frequency. Different people have different levels of sexual needs and desires. It is not unusual for partners to sometimes have differing sexual needs and ideas about their desired frequency of sex. It is possible that engaging in sexual behaviors once every three weeks is satisfying for your girlfriend, and that she does not desire increased sexual contact. Or, perhaps if her pain issues were resolved, her sexual desire would increase; perhaps not. It’s difficult to know. For many people, being sexually intimate with their partners is a very important aspect of the relationship, but how that plays out in everyday life varies from couple to couple. How often you engage in sexual behaviors is not nearly as important as if that frequency is satisfying to both of you. From what you wrote, it sounds as though you are confused and conflicted about your own desired frequency, which is worth exploring more.

Finally, trust is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. You write that it is understandable that your girlfriend’s sexual desire decreased as her pain increased, yet it seems as though you equate that with her not wanting to engage in sex with you; and that has you feeling undesirable and insecure in your relationship. If your girlfriend has given you no indication that she is untrustworthy, you need to believe that her words and actions are true and sincere. In other words, you need to trust her unless she has given you a reason not to. If that is difficult for you, and you continue to struggle with insecurities around your girlfriend’s faithfulness, it might be an issue worth exploring more in individual counseling. Accusations of cheating will do nothing to improve intimacy between you and your girlfriend, but can slowly destroy the fabric of your relationship if they continue without cause.

I also recommend that you and your girlfriend see a qualified couples counselor together, before you make the decision to get married, to help you sort through and explore these issues together and how they affect your relationship and future.

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