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Miss Information: What happened to my girlfriend’s sex drive? And how can I make it come back?

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Miss Information

What happened to my girlfriend's sex drive? And how can I make it come back?

Tom Spianti

Have a question? Email missinfo@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.

Dear Miss Information,

I'm a twenty-two-year-old male, and I've been with my girlfriend for over two years. We're engaged, and nearly everything in our relationship is fantastic. I'm totally in love, we make our friends jealous, etc. etc. But there used to be a time when that jealousy also included our sex life. Six months ago, we couldn't watch get through an episode of Lost without having sex (and we were watching a lot of Lost). Over the past few months though, I'm lucky if we have sex once every two weeks.

I'm a good-looking guy in close to the best shape of my life, and she frequently tells me that she finds me handsome/attractive. But I've been getting the "Don't touch me" vibes, the "I'm really not feeling it" vibes and the "I'm really tired/ I've got a headache/ Look how cute our cat is!" diversion so many times I can almost predict the words before they leave her mouth.

A few days ago, she told me that she gets really annoyed and irritated when I rub her anywhere, i.e. initiate, and if I go for a different approach, she has to go to the bathroom or is "too busy" to get started. I've tried to talk more on the subject, but she reveals little except that she really has had no desire whatsoever for sex for a long time, although it has nothing to do with me, my looks, my performance, etc. Generally, our sex has always been above average, and we have good communication about it, so I don't think that's the problem.

I've mentioned that it might be a chemical imbalance, but she doesn't seem interested in talking to a doctor about it. Despite the attempts to salvage my ego, this whole situation is stomping on it. Most of my sexual desires are fueled by pleasuring her, so to think that she is in no way enjoying what I've got to offer or desiring it whatsoever has got me losing sleep, wondering every night what I did wrong or could have done differently. What else can I do to get my sex life back?

Man Is An Island

Dear Man Is An Island,

You suggested it may be a chemical inbalance? Whoa, Nellie, there's a line to get you slapped if ever I've heard one. Pro tip: we ladies hate having our feelings reduced to medical "seek and destroy." We've had this shit pulled on us for centuries (Sigmund Freud: "Hells yeah, you have!"). By suggesting she see a doctor, you're almost certainly pushing her farther away, because a) you're completely discounting her experience; b) you're turning into an accuser rather than a supporter; c) you're taking zero responsibility for her well-being; and d) that's a dick thing to do, period. How would you feel if she told you your pushiness needed to be checked out? Not good, right? So before we can move on, listen up: just because you don't understand what's going on with your girlfriend doesn't mean there's something medically wrong.

Any number of factors can be affecting her sex drive, and they likely have nothing to do with sex. Is she having a hard time at work? Having a fallout with a good friend? Having a bout of sickness or issues within her own body? Any of these situations could easily put up that "don't touch me" wall. Odds are good it's something external to you or her happiness with you. But the more you keep pushing the issue of sex, the more her disgust becomes about sex, and the worse your situation gets. And once you say, "Hey, I found you a lady-problems doctor! He even owns his own van!", you're definitely sleeping on the couch.

In a situation as delicate as this, she needs to know you're on the same team. And right now, it sounds like this issue has driven a serious wedge between the two of you. So talk to her again, but take the "how are you?" approach. Talk, listen, and ask questions, without an agenda and without trying to "fix" anything. Don't bring up sex unless she does; your job is to listen and flow with the conversation, not direct it. You need to make enough space that she feels comfortable talking to you about what is really going on. As long as you keep trying to slip your hand up her skirt or push an issue, she's going to feel attacked and annoyed and feel the need to retreat more.

I recognize that this is a painful situation for you, too. It hurts to be rejected by someone you love. That feeling is completely valid. As long as your ego is your driving force, though, nothing will get accomplished; ego is pushy and obnoxious and needy, and counterproductive in issues like this. I suspect that you'll start feeling more in control once you are able to shake out the real issues and work toward making changes.  In the meantime, dear God, please leave pharmaceuticals out of it.

Dear Miss Information,

I've been in a relationship with my current boyfriend for just about a year and a half now. Initially, it was a long-distance courtship, and to make it work I moved across the country to be with him. Even from the beginning our sex life was kind of "meh" — even though we get along great and I'm attracted to him, he never seemed to return the favor, so to speak. If I wanted sex, I had to initiate it — and I still do — and if he wants sex, well, he just watches porn. He says he isn't really a sexual person and that sex doesn't mean as much to him as it apparently does to me, but I'm not sure I buy that. Last March when we were going through a rough spot, he actually cheated on me — with a hooker. If that doesn't contradict his "not into sex" stance, I'm not sure what does, and though I do love him and want to continue our relationship, I'm not sure I can without getting some kind of intimacy.

On Deaf Ears

Dear On Deaf Ears,

Hang on, hang on. He cheated on you — and paid to do it — and you're still together? What, is he a dead-ringer for Alexander Skarsgard or something? Because I'm pretty sure that ranks just below "fucked a baseball team while you were buying popcorn" in terms of relationship deal-breakers. But okay, sure, I'll give you both the benefit of the doubt.

I can't claim to know what's going on with your boyfriend, ODE, but it sounds a lot like Advanced Placement self-centeredness. After all, it's far easier to watch porn and get yourself off than it is to engage another person and have to worry about her pleasure. And his brush-off answers — "I just don't like sex" — aren't doing much to help. One way or another, it seems like he's just not willing to put in the work that a relationship demands. You moved to be near him, right? And you initiate the sex, and he doesn't "return the favor"? How high are his cheekbones, again? Because it sounds an awful lot like you'd do better with someone who, I dunno, is actually willing to try.