Beth*, 35, has been dating Andre* for nearly five years but for more than half that time now they have not been sexually intimate. Beth discusses how her boyfriend’s refusal to have sex has affected her, as told to Melissa Chan.
“I met my boyfriend, Andre, in 2014. We’d both recently came out of long-term relationships, and I knew when I met him that we had something special. We both had a lot in common and shared the same sense of humour.
We dated for about six months before Andre moved into my apartment – he’d been spending a lot of time there anyway, so it made sense for us to live together.
For slightly more than a year-and-a-half, Andre and I enjoyed a pretty decent sex life. We weren’t exactly swinging from the chandeliers – we didn’t experiment much in bed and stuck to old-fashioned missionary sex – but we were intimate at least twice a week, which was more than most couples I knew.
Then one day, the sex just stopped.
The start of our sex drought
Andre, who was pursuing a Master’s degree part-time, was busy with assignments, and I had just started a new job and worked late most nights, so I figured we’d just been too busy to remember to have sex.
I only noticed something was wrong when I initiated sex one Saturday night. Andre and I had both had a few drinks and I was tipsy. When I pressed myself up against him in bed and grabbed his crotch, he gently pushed me away.
‘Please, not now,’ he said, ‘we’re both tired.’ I was surprised, to say the least. Andre had never turned down sex with me, no matter how tired he was!
Hurt and confused, I turned over and tried to sleep.
Andre’s refusal to have make love weighed heavily on my mind the next day, but I decided not to ask him about it and put it down to his being tired.
A few days later, though, it happened again. Andre put his arms around me when we went to bed, but when I attempted to pull his pyjama shorts down he moved my hand away. ‘What’s the matter? What’s wrong?’ I asked. ‘Nothing,’ he replied, ‘I just don’t feel like doing it.’
No sex for three years…and counting
I didn’t think things could get worse but they did. In fact, over the next couple of years, Andre would push me away, move my hand away, cover his crotch with his hands or pretend that he was asleep whenever I tried to have sex with him. And his excuse was always the same – he was too tired, he had to wake up early the next morning, he wasn’t feeling well, or he wasn’t in the mood for sex.
At one point, I thought I ought to spice things up a little, so I bought a sexy, see-through lace slip and wore it to bed. But instead of getting excited and pouncing on me, Andre ignored me and went straight to sleep. My eyes filled with tears and I quietly cried myself to sleep that night.
I tried everything I could think of to get Andre to be sexually interested in me again, but nothing worked. At the suggestion of a friend I even got a Brazilian wax – something I was never into because it seemed strange to me – yet, Andre would make up some stupid excuse as to why we could not be intimate.
One night, he even turned down a blowjob: When we got to bed I quickly wormed my way under the blanket and positioned my head at his crotch. I was just about to pull his shorts down when he pushed my head away and asked me what I was doing. When I told him what I had in mind, he shook his head and, believe it or not, said, ‘Thanks, but I don’t think so’. What made me feel worse was that he actually sounded annoyed.
Andre’s lack of sexual interest extends beyond the bedroom. Once, I tried to join him in the shower, thinking that it would turn him on, but he asked me to leave and give him some privacy.
No answers, just arguments…and confusion
The last few years have been hard on me emotionally. Andre’s refusal to have sex with me or even be naked with me has damaged my self-esteem to the point where I don’t feel sexually attractive or desirable anymore. I don’t bother dressing sexily anymore and I’ve completely stopped thinking about sex. Whenever I feel horny, I simply distract myself with housework. I know it’s not normal and I know I’m not being fair to myself, but what else can I do? I’d never cheat on Andre; I’m not someone who’d turn to another man simply for sexual gratification.
I wish I had an explanation for Andre’s behaviour. It’s not like he had a low sex drive when we met. Just a couple of years ago, he mentioned that all his ex-girlfriends were kinky in bed. I don’t know what he was hinting at but it was hurtful to hear. I couldn’t help but think that I maybe I wasn’t kinky enough for him. Then again, the few times I asked him if he was sexually attracted to me, he always said yes.
I’ve only raised the issue with Andre twice, and on both occasions I got so emotional that I could barely get the words out of my mouth. Both times, the argument also escalated to the point where he stormed out of the house. All he told me was that he was going through ‘emotional stuff’ and preferred if I didn’t talk about sex with him again. When I asked him if he had erection problems or wanted to attend couples’ counselling with me, he got defensive and told me to leave him alone.
The weird thing is that Andre tells me he loves me and does nice things for me. If he were a complete jerk I’d probably have left him ages ago, but I have no doubt that he cares deeply for me. We still go on dinner and movie dates, and we still holiday together once a year. It’s just the sexual part of our relationship that’s not going the way it should be.
I don’t know if I’m only still with Andre because I’m scared to be single. Maybe I need to go for counselling to figure that one out but that’s what my sister believes? I’ve always been in relationships and have never been single for longer than a few months.
I’m not sure if Andre and I will ever have sex again. The thought that we will grow old together, in a sexless relationship, terrifies me, so I try not to dwell on it.
Right now, I just live in the hope that someday soon, he will be the one to initiate sex with me. God knows I’ve stopped trying.”
*Names have been changed