I'm confused

He says he loves me, but he doesn't act like it and he rejects my sexual advances. What's going on?

Published November 18, 2003 8:49PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I've been with my boyfriend for about six months now, and we recently moved in together. He is amazing. We get along wonderfully and have a great time together. My friends and family love him, and I am completely in love with him. We're both busy with work and other commitments but always find ways to be together. He helps around the house, he's artistic, he brings me flowers and tells me he loves me every day. He's also the most beautiful man I've ever seen and I couldn't be more attracted to him.

The problem is I don't believe he loves me and I feel like he isn't attracted to me at all. We had great sex when we were first together. He was passionate and adventurous, but even then I felt like he wasn't really into it -- or I wasn't really doing it for him. The last two months we've hardly had sex at all (once or twice on the weekend), no matter what I try. I will try to be intimate or affectionate with him and he pushes me away, or gives me little peck kisses and then gets uncomfortable or distracted, and I give up. I have talked to him about it and he says he's just too busy and stressed out (he's been working overtime a lot).

I feel awful about myself now. I've started to feel completely unattractive and gross. I've never had a problem like this before. I've always had my insecurities and often have wanted to have more sex than my previous partners, but I've always felt sexy when I was with them. I've always known that they were attracted to me and I've never been rejected over and over by the person I was with.

It's torture to lie in bed every night with a man that I love and think is more beautiful than any other and feel like he doesn't even think of me that way and know that he has no desire for me. I cried for two hours this morning because I feel so ugly. Do I wait it out and hope that he comes around before I get completely depressed, or do I leave this incredible man and try to find one that thinks I'm sexy?

Rejected and Hurt

Dear Rejected,

If you want this to work, you are going to have to learn to talk about sex. The way you learn to talk about sex is by working at talking about sex.

At first, talking about sex is hard and emotional and upsetting and scary and weird. It may seem like a very bad idea to talk about sex. You may have many reasons why it is a bad idea. For one thing, it is not sexy. Having sex is sexy, and talking about having sex is sexy, but talking about not having sex and why you are not having sex is not sexy. Talking about why you are not having sex with the man you are not having sex with might even make the man you are not having sex with become no longer sexy to you. It might make the whole thing a gigantic turnoff. He might say some things that click that little switch in your brain that can't be switched back on again.

But it's a gigantic turnoff already, isn't it? What do you have to lose but your feelings of ugliness and rejection? So you have to not only talk about it but also make talking about it a good experience. Because if talking about it is a bad experience -- if you talk about it and then fight about it and make each other feel bad -- then bit by bit you are going to stop talking about it and eventually you won't be having sex at all and you won't be talking about it and you won't be able to remember the last time you had sex or talked about it or complained about it and you won't like your life.

So you have to talk about it.

But you also have to look in your heart and ask yourself if you believe him when he says that he loves you. If he's not attracted to you anymore, he's probably not going to ever tell you that. So you may be on your own. You may have to decide that if he doesn't kiss you, doesn't touch you, and doesn't make love to you, then he is not attracted to you. Maybe, though, if you start talking about it, and you talk about it enough, you will find that he is attracted to you, but certain things are happening to him that he doesn't understand, a certain not-sexy feeling of being cooped up in the house with this woman, a feeling of not being the studly conqueror anymore but being some kind of little office boy who just goes to work and takes orders and comes home and has dinner with this cute chick, and for whom because now you're paying rent together and doing laundry together and cooking together it just doesn't feel like sex anymore -- it feels like family life and family life was never sexy. Maybe he is having all these dark, conflicted emotions for the first time and he needs to shed them. Maybe you will talk and he will start really feeling things.

Or maybe it's mostly technical. Maybe there are things you can learn to do and not do that he will like. Maybe he wants you to quit with the kissy preliminaries and just put your hand down his pants. Maybe he wants you to get in the shower with him. Sex may be mysterious, but it's not complicated. If sex were complicated, then only smart people would have sex. But dumb people have sex too, because while it's mysterious, it's not complicated. You just have to find what works. If putting your hand down his pants works, then put your hand down his pants. Unless putting your hand down his pants doesn't work for you. Then you have to talk about that and why that is and it doesn't have to be a big deal. You have to talk and say well, when you put your hand down my pants before you kiss me it feels like you are the football player who put his hand down my pants once, and I don't like it. So you have to kiss me first.

Eventually, the truth will come out. If he genuinely is no longer attracted to you, if he made a mistake, both of you need to find that out and deal with it. And if he's feeling weird and unmanly about being in the house with you, you need to find that out. And if you're doing things the wrong way for each other, you have to find that out.

You have to talk about it and keep talking about it.

Good luck.

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