Dear Advice Goddess,
I’ve been dating a woman for several months. She is wonderful. She is smart, cute, funny, mature (i.e., not at all neurotic), and I enjoy doing things with her very much. I also enjoy doing nothing with her. It’s a very comfortable, relaxed relationship. She really has her stuff together. She brings out the best in me. It’s everything anyone could hope for in a relationship, except one thing: sex. The sex just doesn’t work for me.
It isn’t incompatible sex drives. It is the actual act. I just can’t “get there” with her, and I don’t know why. I’ve had to fake it more than once. When was the last time you heard of a guy faking it? She seems to enjoy it. Either that or she is really good at faking it too. She tells me she loves it and that I’m good at it. It’s not just some sort of emotional/mental-holding- myself-back or fear-of-intimacy psychoanalysis stuff. It’s physical incompatibility. I’m old enough that I’ve been around, but I’ve never experienced anything like this. And speaking of old enough, just to make sure I’m not destined to be the next poster boy for Viagra or Cialis, I slept with a few other women recently and it worked great.
You could take the attitude of frustrated married couples everywhere and say, “There is more to a relationship than sex.” True, but was it Nietzsche, or maybe Dr. Phil, who said “When sex is good it’s 10% of the relationship, but when it’s bad it’s 90% of the relationship”?
I know I should tell her the relationship is going nowhere, but I don’t know how to do it without hurting her feelings. I think anyone would feel terrible if told, “You’re great, but the sex is horrible, and practicing isn’t going to make it better,” but that is the situation.
How can I break up with someone so wonderful? I don’t think I can. You know the saying, “Sex is like eating cookies. Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good”? I’m here to tell you that’s not true. Have you ever had bad sex? I feel horrible.
Dear Feeling Horrible,
Yikes, this is a tough situation. Speaking from experience, I know how much it sucks to find someone with whom you think you’re compatible in all the important ways, only to learn that there’s one major deal breaker.
Of course there’s more to a relationship than sex. But intimacy is important. I’m not saying we need fireworks every time; but a relationship in which one partner lacks sexual attraction for the other is bound to fail, assuming that both people involved want a sexual relationship. (I knew a couple once who maintained a platonic marriage, but that’s another story.)
You sound pretty sure that this situation cannot be salvaged, but I’m compelled to ask: have you talked to her at all about this? I mean, thank goodness, you don’t seem the sort to declare, “I have to fake it when we have sex,” but have you made suggestions about what trips your trigger? Offered to show her what you like and how you like it? Tried to spice it up in whichever manner works for you both?
And speaking of her, is it possible she’s just not completely comfortable with you yet? Sometimes it takes a while to develop a deep trust, let go of inhibitions, and let the freak flag fly! Also, not to cast aspersions, but are you positive that she’s having as much fun as she lets on? If she thinks things are a little lackluster as well, she might not be giving it her all.
I guess what I’m getting at is I’d hate for you to toss in the towel on a good relationship with a wonderful woman you care about unless you’re sure the sex will not or cannot improve.
If you’ve made up your mind about that, then the question becomes how to break up with her. Right, clearly you can’t be brutally honest. (Funny, some friends and I were just talking about brutal honesty, a discussion sparked by another friend’s email signature, which says: “People who are brutally honest are usually more interested in being brutal than in being honest.")
I don’t have any magic words for you, I’m sorry. Because there is no good way to be broken up with. There’s nothing you can say that isn’t going to hurt her feelings. Well, aside from a bald-faced lie, like, “I’m moving to another country,” “I’m becoming a priest,” or “I’m gay.” (And I think we’ve already established that you’re not.)
If you’re going to break up with her, do it soon. You will upset her, and you'll feel horrible for a while longer. But know that ultimately it’s the right thing. You’re not a terrible person. You deserve a good sex life. And she deserves to be with someone she thrills.