Q: My girlfriend and I have been together for about a year. She grew up in a home that was very Christian and against being gay. She recently told me that she has a hard time doing sexual things to me because she feels guilty, but she doesn’t have any problem with me just doing them to her. It makes me confused because it makes me feel like she’s just not attracted to me and uses it as an excuse to not do anything to me, because she’s isn’t attracted to me.
It’s rare that we even have sex. She only likes to on special occasions. Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, she said we have to wait until Valentine’s Day — and the last time we had sex was New Years.
I just feel like she avoids it as much as she can and it hurts my feelings and makes me feel unwanted. I’ve brought it u,p but every time I do, she says that all I want is sex — but that’s not true.
I’m just not sure what to do if she gets defensive when I try to talk about it. Any advice?
A: The guilt your girlfriend mentioned could be stemming from a variety of sources including the negative messages she received when growing up. Internalized homophobia is when a person believes the negative messages or stereotypes communicated by religion, society, or family members. Internalized homophobia is associated with mental health issues such as depression, which in turn has been associated with relationship problems.
Healthy relationships are supported by open and honest communication. “Assertiveness communication” is an effective way to communicate your needs and feelings without putting your partner on the defense. Using “I” statements and expressing empathy to your partner will help your conversation go better. An example of this might be, “I have noticed we haven’t been as intimate as we have been in the past. This makes me feel confused since I felt like we have been really close in the past. In a romantic relationship, I need to feel connected and want to understand why things seem to be different lately.”
Assertive Phrases Can Come Gently
Learning how to communicate assertively begins by stating directly what you see the issue is, how it makes you feel, what your needs are and then letting your partner know how she can help. This is a skill that is not easy, so practice is important. That way it will eventually feel more natural when you do sit down to talk. Remember, you cannot change how someone else feels, but at least she will know how you feel.
It can be very difficult to think or even feel as though your partner does not desire you. Communicating openly and honestly and being vulnerable with your partner are steps in the right direction that can build feelings of closeness and trust within your relationship.
Desire May Be Different
Both of you are entitled to your feelings about sex. Some people don’t have much sexual desire for other people. Some people are perfectly happy engaging in little to no sexual behaviors with partners. Other people have stronger desire, or experience desire more frequently. Neither of these experiences is wrong.
The challenge here lies in trying to connect, given these quite different levels of sexual desire or interest. This is a common difficulty that many couples of all sexual orientations face. Thus, it may be helpful to seek professional help from a counselor or therapist individually or with your partner. There are counselors and therapists who specialize in providing sexual health-related support services; you can find one in your area on the AASECT website, which is www.aasect.org.