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“I Feel Like We’re Playing Pretend”

Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s letter is answered by freelance writer, Rachel East, AKA ReginaRey.

I’ve been having doubts about my relationship with my boyfriend, but I don’t want to break up with him. He’s a wonderful person and we’ve had a great relationship so far. He definitely respects me, makes me feel loved, and we attend university together. About three months into our relationship, I moved into his house with him, his mom, his sister, our friend Dan, and now his sister’s ex-boyfriend. I’m really grateful to his mother for letting me move in (my mother kicked me out and I was living in my car) while I finish my teaching degree. But lately, I haven’t felt as passionate about our relationship as I used to.

We haven’t had sex in almost six months. I just woke up one morning with no interest in ever having it again. My interest has come and gone a little bit since then, but I’m mostly disinterested. In recent weeks, it’s gotten even worse. I don’t want to kiss or cuddle or be affectionate at all. We’ve tried taking breaks and getting space, but it’s really hard when we both live together and with his family. As soon as I am able, I would like to move out of this house and have my own space, but for right now, it’s my main option.

I feel guilty for not being 100% certain that I want to marry him. My friends and family adore him, and he’s very sweet, but I’m just not happy. I’m also his first girlfriend ever (I’m 20, and he is 22), and while most of the things he does for me are sweet, they aren’t very deep. It almost seems like he’s imitating movies or TV shows.

I can’t tell if this is just a rough patch or if things are going to get better or not. I already see a therapist for my issues with my mother, and we’ve recently started going to see a couple’s counselor at our University. The couple’s counselor thinks that it is very important for me to “process” a previous relationship I was in that was extremely abusive. However, talking about it or even thinking about it makes me feel like vomiting, and it makes me really withdraw from my boyfriend. I personally feel like that stuff is in the past and there is no point in drudging up those feelings now. I’ve made my boyfriend aware of what he needs to know (that it happened, certain triggers to avoid, etc.), but for the most part, I just don’t like thinking about it.

This whole situation just baffles me, and even though my boyfriend is sweet and loving, I just feel like we’re children playing pretend. What should I do? Should I break it off? Do all couples go through this at some point? Am I horrible for not being happy? — Hoping for Happiness

The reason you feel horrible for being unhappy is because you feel guilty. You think you shouldn’t be having these thoughts because your boyfriend is sweet, and your friends and family adore him, and because he isn’t abusive. In your mind, your boyfriend doesn’t deserve for you to be having these “negative” thoughts about him, and it eats you alive.

Many women fall prey to thinking that because their relationship isn’t “bad,” they shouldn’t feel unhappy or dissatisfied. But here’s a secret: Relationships don’t have to be bad for them not to be good. You don’t have to have an obvious reason like “he’s abusive” in order to end your relationship. You’re allowed to break up with someone simply because the relationship doesn’t make you happy.

You asked if all couples go through this at some point. The answer is yes, couples tend to go through rough patches and many end up in counseling. BUT – there’s a difference between working through a rough patch in an otherwise solid, happy relationship, and trying to “work through” something that simply isn’t right in the first place.

You’re both quite young and this was his first relationship. You acknowledged that it hasn’t been particularly deep, and that a big part of you has lost interest. What you’re saying, without actually saying it, is that this relationship has fizzled. It’s normal! Relationships lose their spark, run their course, you fall out of love, and you learn it wasn’t the right long-term partnership for you.

But you’re scared, I understand. You’re worried that if you break up with someone on the grounds of “feeling like it wasn’t right,” you’ll constantly wonder if you made a mistake. How can you be sure of your decision when you’re so full of doubt? Well, here’s one hint: Being constantly UNsure about a relationship is a SURE sign that it’s not right. And here’s another hint: Your gut is rarely wrong.

Do you want to know why you have no desire for sex, or cuddling or even being affectionate? Because your gut knows that this relationship has fizzled out. Somewhere in your subconscious, you feel guilty for showing him affection and love because then, you’re making him think that you still feel the same way he does…and you don’t.

Your gut is telling you what your conscious mind refuses to acknowledge: This isn’t the right relationship for you anymore. It’s why you’re turned off by him, it’s why you’re less-than-satisfied with his lack of depth, and it’s why you’re unhappy. Your statement that “I don’t want to break up with him” isn’t going to fly. You need to acknowledge that you’ve tried for quite some time to be happy, and it just isn’t happening. Breaking up doesn’t mean you failed. What would be a failure is staying in a relationship that makes you unhappy and leaves you unfulfilled.

And finally, let’s be honest about something: I know you know that your living situation needs to change, pronto. As long as you’re in that house, you’ll never find a relationship that makes you happy as regularly as this relationship makes you unhappy. Isn’t changing that fact worth all the effort it takes to move out?

*ReginaRey (Real Name: Rachel East) is a full-time Events & Promotions Coordinator and a part-time freelance writer focusing on dating and relationships. One day, after tackling grad school, she plans to be your Marriage and Family Therapist…because the only thing better than talking about relationships all day is getting paid to talk about relationships all day. You can check out her weekly column here and follow her on Twitter @MissRachelEast.




Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar CottonTheCuteDog October 31, 2011, 7:33 am

why can’t she talk with the boyfriend about what would make her happy? Then he can try a little harder.

avatar 6napkinburger October 31, 2011, 9:00 am

Respectfully, I think this advice is well-intentioned but misguided.

Why can’t she talk with the boyfriend about what would make her happy so he can try harder? He already does try and it isn’t making her happy. Because no matter how hard he tried, he can’t make her happy. Because he’s not the right guy for her.

LW, the fact that you are talking about marrying someone who you haven’t been intimate with in 6 months and have zero desire to hug, kiss, cuddle or comfort is shooting off fireworks of “pay attention to this issue” that I can’t believe your counselor missed. Your life lacks stability, save your well-meaning boyfriend and his family. Your homelife clearly has not been stable. You’ve been in past relationships that have left you unwilling to discuss them. You don’t feel you have any other options and his mother/family clearly is a loving stable place that takes in strays (your friend? his sister’s ex?[ are those the same person?]). You want to feel like you belong to do something, so you are ignoring the signs that you don’t want to be with HIM.

Not being happy with someone is a good enough reason to break up with someone who, by all other accounts, is great. In fact, NO reason is a good enough reason. The truth is, you don’t really *like like* him anymore. Maybe you still love him. But you don’t *like like* him. And that’s ok. And there isn’t anything that he or you can do about it. Even if he “tries a little harder” and even if you do. You can’t force *like like*.

avatar DDL October 31, 2011, 8:08 am

This relationship isn’t fulfilling anyone if being physically intimate is a turn-off, and 6 months is a long time to go without sex in a relationship that started 9 months ago.

In light of this letter, I want to tell you all a story:

About a year ago, I went out with a guy who was very nice, smart, funny, but socially awkward for his age of 21. He didn’t speak English very well, and that embarrassed him which is completely understandable. But it was the social awkwardness (among other things) that got to me. He could only talk to me over text and would be very quiet in person, especially on a date. But he was really nice and I was having a rough time in my relationships with dudes (I have tons of horror stories) and it was refreshing to have someone who was basically devoted to me. We had met in a class and exchanged Facebook and numbers about a month before and had been talking over the Internet when, out of the blue, he asked me out. I was excited because I knew how much he had accomplished and how much he could make me laugh! So we went out… for a walk. Which would’ve been fine had he actually said something to me. Yeah, at least dinner eating gives the excuse not to talk. Then after he dropped me off, he asked if he could kiss me. I liked kissing boys, so I said yes. Then he asked me to be his girlfriend. And…I felt like I couldn’t say no because I knew how nice he was even though he didn’t talk much in person.

So I became his second girlfriend ever. And that’s about when he started bitching (and I mean bitching) about his first girlfriend. All the time. Whenever we talked within the two weeks we dated, she’d some how come up: how horrible she was for breaking his heart, how she used to love him but then let him go… basically he ripped several pages out of several different romance novels, only he managed to find the ones on how to drive a girl away instead of reeling her in. Even after I asked him to stop talking about her, he’d apologize and then say ‘Yes, I’m over her’…. for about ten minutes, then he’d start on again. So, being the dumb 18 year old I was, I broke it off over MSN about a week later. Then I had do it again over text after he wouldn’t stop bothering me about why I was breaking up with him.

So why did I break up with him? Other than his clingliness and his inability to STFU about his ex, I felt uncomfortable in the relationship. I had trouble kissing him and holding his hand, and even being out in public with him embarrassed me. The relationship had gone too fast for me and I was almost disgusted by it.

After two weeks and two dates, he wanted to act as though we had been a couple for years. Plus, he would not shut up about his ex! I know it was my fault; I could’ve said no, but I pitied him/thought I could help him/thought maybe with time he’d be okay with me in public. Of course, none of that is ever a reason to start a relationship.

The point I’m trying to make is don’t stay in relationships that make you uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve dated the person or how hot they are or how sweet and kind they are. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. You’re not a horrible person for realizing you’ve become uncomfortable, or for wanting to break up. Break up. Cos that’s probably the best thing for the both of you.

FireStar FireStar October 31, 2011, 8:14 am

It sounds like you have been through a lot. An abuse ex, a mother who kicked you out of your home – any one of those would rake their toll on almost anyone. Feeling sick just thinking about your ex is a clear indication that you haven’t fully healed from that experience. I understand you wanting to just move on from that experience but sadly our minds don’t always follow suit. Is there a possibility you are depressed? Loss of sex drive is typically a symptom and given your traumatic past maybe that is something to think about. Perhaps discuss the feelings you are experiencing with your primary counsellor. If you are serious when you say you don’t want to break up with your boyfriend then at least process what you are going through fully. It is not easy -it’s true – but it is the best thing you can do for yourself.

FireStar FireStar October 31, 2011, 9:40 am

*abusive ex
*take their toll
:( it’s Monday morning

avatar Carolynasaurus October 31, 2011, 12:27 pm

I think you’re right, she may be depressed. The difficult part may be it may have to get worse before it gets better because she won’t be able to get healthy until she can process all of this on her own. Holding on to this poor boyfriend will only drag him down as well. She needs to create a strong support system in her friends and start changing the direction of her life.

avatar Anna October 31, 2011, 8:15 am

Wow…it sounds like you need to get out of that house PRONTO! There’s nothing wrong with what you are experiencing. You are only 20, you may go through a few more “not quite right” guys before you find The One. I can tell you that I still have every desire to kiss my boyfriend, cuddle with him, and jump him at any time of day. We have been together for 8 years so far. Not every relationship fizzles with time, only the ones that aren’t right.

I know you are a very poor student right now (believe me, I’ve been there) but you need to make a plan to move out very soon. I would suggest getting a job if you don’t already have one and looking through the classifieds for your area for potential roommates. Especially in college towns, it is not hard to find 1, 2, maybe even 3 other students to split an apartment or house with. Even if you have to work long hours and chug extra coffee to do your homework, your independence will be worth it. I worked full time when I was in college because my parents were not helping me with anything and the other option actually *was* living in my car. It was tough but well worth it!

JK JK October 31, 2011, 10:02 am

Your 1st paragraph is exactly what I was explaining to a friend a few months ago, she´s a serial monogamist, each guy is¨”the One”, until the next one comes along. SHe was saying that it´s normal for things to fade after a few months, that she wasn´t going to look for the perfect partner anymore (we´re 32).
As I told her, I´ve been with my husband for 9 years already, and I still get butterflies when I hear that he gets home, when I see his name on caller ID, etc. Sure I guess there are couples that do have passion whatever fade, but there are also many that carry on, no matter how long!

CatsMeow CatsMeow October 31, 2011, 4:52 pm

That’s nice to hear, JK!!

My boyfriend said he thinks that he’ll still get “butterflies” around me 20 years from now, and while I thought it was really sweet of him to say, I also thought it was unrealistic and then I got kinda worried/paranoid/neurotic. But it’s great to know that it can and does happen. :)

avatar Jess October 31, 2011, 10:25 am

Not every relationship fizzles with time, only the ones that aren’t right.


TaraMonster TaraMonster October 31, 2011, 3:55 pm

Exactly- and there’s a difference between passion cooling and passion fizzling. Passion in relationships wax and wane, but it shouldn’t evaporate. If it’s like pulling teeth to stoke those coals and fire it up again, then I think it’s safe to safe to say that particular relationship has run its course. It sounds like LW has already checked out of this relationship and needs to MOA.

avatar Ktfran October 31, 2011, 8:23 am

I agree with RR’s advice 100%. I really don’t think there is anything else to add. I do, however, want to reiterate what RR said becuase I think the LW needs to hear it.

By ending this relationship, you are not failing. You are giving you and your boyfriend a chance to find a partner that suits each of you.

Sure, you will have “what if” moments, it’s only natural. But as quickly as those moments come, remember those feelings of disinterest and you’ll know you made the right decision.

caitie_didnt caitie_didn't October 31, 2011, 8:44 am

Why does the LW feel so much pressure to be certain about wanting to marry someone she’s dated for 9 months, at the age of 20? In addition to taking a break or ending the relationship entirely and moving out, I think she needs to address with her therapist why she feels this way.

avatar MissDre October 31, 2011, 9:07 am

Most likely because she’s afraid to be alone. She’s likely afraid that nobody else will ever come along and love her and treat her well. I’ve been there. Tried desperately to save a relationship that wasn’t right, because I was afraid there would never be anybody else. She needs to learn how to feel confident being single.

caitie_didnt caitie_didn't October 31, 2011, 9:10 am

I think you’re definitely right about this…..but I still think that it’s something that absolutely needs to be talked about in therapy. Not wanting to talk about her past abusive relationship is no excuse for avoiding the subject entirely.

avatar Jess October 31, 2011, 10:20 am

maybe its to justify living with him/accepting so much help from his family

avatar oppositeofzen October 31, 2011, 9:06 am

If you’re not happy with the relationship, then get out of it. and I applaud you for going to both individual and couples therapy. But you need to still go to your primary counselor. If you still want to vomit after your last relationship, you’re not over it. And that’s ok. What’s not ok is to think that it’s in the past and doesn’t matter. You still need to heal from what happened and by pushing it down and thinking it doesn’t matter, you never will. And it will continue to surface and re-surface until you face it head on and deal with it.

Budj Budj October 31, 2011, 9:13 am

Breaking up with someone doesn’t make you a bad person – if you aren’t feeling it you aren’t feeling it. Staying with someone for fear of not having a place to live is pretty shitty though…and nobody talked about this, but I think that is an aspect of your guilt…not all of it…but this is the elephant on the blog.

If I was your bf I would totally be thinking red flag over the lack of sex…he probably already suspects this and his “movie romance” attempts are probably because he is trying to win you back over. Be open about it and try to figure something out or you will continue to feel crappy.

avatar 6napkinburger October 31, 2011, 9:35 am

I think you’re right about both. Though I do think the “where to live” thing is on two levels: a purely practical level and a deeper “stability” level. Permit me to psychoanalyze a stranger with limited training and very limited information, if you will.

On a practical level, I think you are completely right: she feels the need to stay in the relationship because his parent’s house is better than her car. It’s warmer, it has showers, and it isn’t a car. Chances are, she can’t keep living there for free if she breaks up with him. So she stays with him, so she doesn’t get kicked out, and feels guilty for using him, feels crappy about that, feels trapped and feels sad. I think there is an awareness of this, maybe at like 15% aware that she is staying in the relationship so she has a roof over her head.

On a deeper level, I do think she enjoys the stability that this house gives her and she may be unable at this point to give that up. In less of a selfish-bitch-who-is-using-him-for-a-bed kind of way, and more of a person who craves acceptance, love and stability kind of way. Imagining his mother as a warm, inviting, loving woman, who raised a nice, kind, respectful, loving son, this family offers her a feeling of belonging and stability she does not have otherwise. And breaking up with him means not only losing her abode, but losing a “home.” Combine this with her actual mother and feelings of abandonment, she might not be able to sever this tie yet, or at least she may not feel like she can. I give this about 10% awareness that it is the “home” aspect that she values in the relationship.

So maybe it isn’t as black and white as it seems. As you say, clearly the guy knows something’s up. He’s willing to go to couple’s therapy at 22 with a girl he’s been in a relationship with for 9 months. Maybe he’s “special” in some way so he feels like this is it; maybe he’s sheltered, inexperienced, or maybe he wants to “save” her and he thinks that those feelings of wanting to protect her means he loves her for eternity. Maybe in THIS situation, she CAN talk to him, and then the mother, about what’s really going on: She doesn’t *like like* him anymore; that is, she does not feel romatically about him. But she loves him (like a brother?) and loves his family, and feels like she’d be lost. Maybe talk about that with the therapist. And maybe there’s a way to keep living there, but not to be in the relationship anymore. If the sis’ ex is living there, maybe the “brother’s ex” can too. Maybe give it a time limit (the end of this semester?) Maybe the mother can help her find another place to live (a friend who needs an au pair?)

My point is, this girl feels all alone without this family and maybe it isn’t time to throw off all of their support. I wasn’t “fully independent” when I was 20; and I can’t say that she has to be, if people are offering to help her find her way. Maybe she can “use” this family as a resource, the same way I “used” my parents as a resource, in that I didn’t “pay them back” immediately and they were happy to help. Maybe this family has enough true love and affection for her that they’ll understand that at 20, not all relationships last, and they’ll still help her figure out how to be happy. I would start saving all you can and go with craigslist as a back up (rather than your car); but maybe give them a chance to support you first. They may be there for you, and your “secret” that you want out of the relationship is probably not that much of a secret.

Budj Budj October 31, 2011, 9:52 am

I think you are right. Which is why I added at the end to be open about it and “figure something out”. He could kick her out…or he could try and work out a living situation for her…20 is kind of young to be forced out of your house when you’re still finishing up your degree so I definitely have some empathy with the LW’s situation.

I just wanted to point out that that is adding to the guilt so if she is either hiding it or just plain not recognizing it in her own head (in either case it is unhealthy for her) then she needs to acknowledge it and rectify the situation.

Regardless…this guy sounds like someone that would sacrifice his own well-being for her (that’s another issue I won’t dive into) and the sister’s ex-bf is still there so I think chances are in her favor for maintaining her living situation.

avatar Joanna October 31, 2011, 2:50 pm

I want to “like” this times a million! You are absolutely right about her being able to use the family as a support and resource.

avatar H October 31, 2011, 10:17 am

Oh, you are absolutely right. I think fear of having no where to go is a HUGE factor here. Which, it is hard to blame her for. She is only 20 and a student and probably really afraid of surviving alone. Let’s face it, some of us who are much older struggle with financially making it on our own. But, she needs to find a way. She might know a few girls who are living with their parents and would LOVE to get a little apartment to share for cheap rent. Or maybe a sibling she could stay with for a few months? I know living with this guy can’t be her only option…

Fear and guilt are the two main motivators to staying with this guy.

LW, it’s okay to be afraid. But, please know that you CAN do it. You are young and have been hurt badly before- but you CAN make it on your own. And as far as guilt is concerned, don’t feel sorry for your boyfriend. You would be doing him a great service if you left him. He may not realize it initially, but he will have the freedom to find a woman that is genuinely happy to be with him.

leilani leilani October 31, 2011, 9:19 am

No, going 6 months without having sex with your boyfriend is not something all couples go through. I can’t imagine going six months without sex period, much less if there was a guy I loved sleeping next to me every night. I agree that this relationship has reached its end. Whether because of past emotional trauma or just a lack of physical chemistry with this guy, you are unable to give your whole self to him. I’m sure he doesn’t feel loved, fulfilled, and attractive if his girlfriend doesn’t like to kiss him or cuddle with him and refuses to have sex with him at all. I think you would be doing both of you a favor if you cut things off and worked on your issues on your own for a while.

avatar silver_dragon_girl October 31, 2011, 9:30 am

Just to touch on one aspect of your letter…if you just woke up one morning with no desire to ever have sex again, you might consider speaking to your doctor about it. There are a lot of things that can affect a person’s libido, and it could very easily be something physical. It could also be mental. Bottling things up just because they’re “in the past” is kind of a recipe for emotional disaster. Believe me.

That being said, neither of those problems necessarily mean you should stick things out with your boyfriend. It sounds like you’ve already pretty much checked out, and you’re just looking for that final impetus to leave. You don’t need a “reason” to break up with someone, or move out of his house. If you know it’s over, leave. It’s really as simple as that. It’s not fair to either of you to drag things out any longer.

avatar honeybeenicki October 31, 2011, 9:32 am

LW – read the above advice from RR and the commenters about your current relationship – I have nothing new to add. Also, I wanted to add that I think it may be worth exploring your therapists advice about processing your past relationship. You say that the stuff is in the past and there’s no point, but the thing is that it really isn’t. If it still creates a strong enough reaction that you want to vomit just talking about it, I don’t think you’ve fully processed it. And, you must have brought it up in the counseling sessions for a reason. It is important to work through abusive relationships that were in your past for your own mental health. Not only can it affect you deeply, it can definitely affect your future relationships as well.

avatar MiMi October 31, 2011, 9:33 am

This whole situation is not fair to anyone in it – the BF sounds sweet and clueless and doesn’t deserve to pay for the LW’s past bad experiences and the LW is in need of serious healing before she is in a good place to be in a relationship…
the first step is to extricate yourself from this household, LW, and regain a sense of independence and objectivity. As kind and lovely as these folks have been to take you in and try to make you happy, finding a way to stand on your own two feet has to be a priority for you, along with your individual counseling. Maybe your counselor can hook you up with social services or find a women’s center that can give you options for temporary housing or some other living situation that will give you emotional and physical space to sort out your feelings and prioritize your goals without a daily burden of guilt and gratitude clouding the issues… good luck to you.

avatar Jess October 31, 2011, 10:01 am

RR is right, you’re just over this relationship. People fall out of love, especially in your early 20s, and that is clearly what has happened to you. The only influence your past relationship has on this one is you think you don’t have a good enough reason to end it. guess what? It’s already over!! No sex for SIX MONTHS??? If you guys weren’t living together, would you want to go out on dates with him? No- you don’t even want to be around him. You guys are already broken up, you’re just still living together so you have to still see him. But clearly, your heart left him months ago. Do whatever you need to do to move out, ASAP.

avatar Jess October 31, 2011, 10:09 am

Where is everyone getting the “they’ve been together for 9 months” thing? They moved in together after 3 months, and for the last 6 months she hasn’t been feeling it, but surely there was time in between. I wouldn’t be surprised if this relationship is around the year and a half mark. As com mentors have brought up before, this is a period of time where a lot of couples lose the spark and go their separate ways. Six months is not a rough patch, btw, it’s the end.

And I 100% agree the reason she feels horrible/guilty is that she is still living with the guy, which makes total sense. I would feel guilty too, and trapped. Good luck LW!! I hope you can find something else soon! Since you are in university, I’m sure you can find an affordable sublease somewhere so you don’t have to worry about buying furniture/signing a year lease, etc. etc. I would try to find someone who’s studying abroad.

avatar SGAC October 31, 2011, 10:15 am

Since it hasn’t been said yet: LW, I’m sorry you’ve been through so much – an abusive ex, your mother’s abandonment, temporary homelessness. With all those issues with people who you’ve brought yourself to trust, only to be extremely hurt by them, it is no wonder that you feel like you’re going through the motions of pretending in your current relationship and your intimacy issues with your boyfriend. In your mind, you may love your boyfriend – he certainly does sound good in paper.

Yet if your heart is not willing to trust him to the point that you can give yourself permission to be vulnerable with him, whether it is in the physical intimacy of sexual relations or the ability to disclose to him your deepest emotions, you are not capable of having a relationship. With all that you’ve been through, I wouldn’t blame you if that were the case. I think you need to break up with him, yet not because you are not that into him – you should break up with him and move out because all this time on focusing on how you two stand as a couple is an obvious distraction on how you stand on your own.

avatar Jess October 31, 2011, 10:18 am

I don’t agree that the reason she isn’t feeling it with her current boyfriend is that she isn’t capable of being in a relationship right now. There’s a huge possibility that she’s just over this particular guy, and there’s nothing wrong with her or her intimacy skills at all. I think losing feelings for someone who is good on paper, only to go on and meet someone else and have a fantastic relationship is quite common. She’s only 20! This is what people in their early 20s go through.

avatar SGAC October 31, 2011, 10:56 am

There’s also the huge possibility that she’s also not giving herself the permission to invest emotionally and physically in the relationship considering her past abusive boyfriend and her relationship with her mother, yet she hasn’t brought herself to end it with her boyfriend because she doesn’t want to be alone and homeless again. I’m not saying that your reason isn’t wrong either – some relationships run their course and don’t necessarily equate to potential lifetime committment. I personally feel that the early 20s is too young to start thinking about marriage, but there are others who walk down the church aisle as soon as they get their college degree. Yet I also recognize that most people in their early 20s also don’t go through what this LW has.

Despite the rationale, the conclusion is the same – she needs to end the relationship and current living conditions with her boyfriend. If he’s going to ask her why she had to do so, she can either tell him that the relationship fizzled the course, which could be the honest truth. Yet she could also tell him the overwhelming nature of all she’s been through with her abusive ex, her broken relationship with her mother and her homelessness and her desire to take care of herself first before she starts thinking in terms of coupledom, could also be the honest truth as well. The fact that she’s currently going through therapy and can’t bring herself to discuss her past without feeling physically nauseous and emotionally withdrawn, tells me that she needs to focus on taking care of herself first. The relationship, whether it is with this boyfriend or another one yet to be found in the distant future, can fall into place much easier when she is the best possible person she can be on her own first.

avatar Kristen October 31, 2011, 11:25 am

Even though this is one of the least of their issues, I thought I’d bring up another reason she may not feel like having sex: their living situation. If I were the LW, and I were living with her boyfriend’s family, I would be really freaked out by the idea of having sex with her boyfriend’s mom in the next room (or down the hall, or whatever). Sex is as much about your mental desire as your physical desire. Maybe if they got out of that house for a weekend, she’d realize she was still attracted to him, just not in that house. I’ve been there, and it was frustrating to try to explain to my boyfriend why I couldn’t let everything go and be fully in the moment when, in the back of my mind, I’m constantly wondering if his parents could hear us. It’s hard to be sexy when those are your thoughts!

With that being said, it still doesn’t sound like the right relationship for her. I just wanted to throw out a possible reason for the low sexual interest.

avatar Slamy October 31, 2011, 1:37 pm

My ex-boyfriend and I moved in with my mom about 3 years ago because we had no money. It absolutely killed our relationship. I don’t regret it, because I’m at a better place in my life now and we probably would have broken up anyway, but yeah. Having sex in the same house that your parents are in? Couldn’t do it.

avatar LW October 31, 2011, 11:02 pm

I’ve considered this…but my sex drive has gone completely. I used to watch porn and masturbate and have sexual feelings for cute celebrities and such…but I have absolutely no interest anymore. It isn’t limited to my boyfriend. I’ve gotten 2 physicals done and been tested for anything that could cause loss of libido. I’ve stopped taking birth control to see if that would help. It didn’t. I’m not on any of forms or types of medication.

avatar LittleLuWho October 31, 2011, 11:07 am

I agree with most of what’s been said above, that you really owe this guy the decency of admitting to both him and yourself that this relationship isn’t “the one”, but want to touch on the lack of libido aspect.

Personal story: About a year ago, my libido took a nosedive. I went off of an antidepressant and lost all desire to be physical with anyone, much less my bf who I’d been with 6 months at that point. It waxed and waned a little bit for a few months- some days I’d actually be in the mood and others I wouldn’t even want to cuddle- and then through the winter it just died entirely. My loss of sex drive has never had anything to do with my attraction to my bf- I’ve always loved every aspect of his body, his personality, how he handles himself, how he treats me- so we decided to try to ride it out. My bf was extremely patient and I did what I could to still be a good partner and make sure his needs were (relatively) fulfilled but this put a HUGE strain on our relationship. Even when things were great with us, this issue of me not being able to be physical with him was simmering on the back burner. I saw a doctor around February and all of my physical health checked out and I’d previously had a pretty high sex drive so I figured I could go just a little bit longer with the “wait and see”. Finally, in July, my sex drive started to come back with no real warning or notice. It’s not what it used to be and I’m definitely not rearing and ready to go every day but it’s coming back in bits and pieces and it was something we had to process and work through together as a couple and our relationship is a lot stronger now that we’re on the other side of the problem. The fact that my bf was willing to work with me on this was a huge sign of his character to me because what if something happened to my girl bits and I couldn’t have sex or do a handful of other intimate things? It wouldn’t mean I loved him any less and the fact that he understood that and did his best not to pressure me to just “fix it” really cemented, to me, how great the rest of our relationship is.

That said, I would take a two-tiered approach and make it a point to unpack any issues you have with your body or being physical with your therapist as well as making an appointment with an OBGYN or a general practitioner to get some blood work done (check your testosterone levels! maybe change birth control if you’re on the pill/ring/patch/shot!) and rule out any physical causes. It’s possible that this is a symptom of the stuff in your past you want to forget (it doesn’t just go away, like it or not) and/or may have a medical component.

Now everyone is going to jump down my throat about suggesting that the lack of libido doesn’t have anything to do with the relationship passion expiring. That (lack of passion) might be the only reason you don’t want to bone like bunnies anymore, but just in case it’s not, I’d say get it checked out- if even for the next person you’re with (which probably shouldn’t be for at least a few months and after you’ve had a chance to thoroughly process this relationship and your past).
And don’t use this response as an excuse to not address the OTHER issues in your relationship! Because there appears to be a few.
And I promise that it’s really ok if you and this guy aren’t meant to be together. I’m sure he’s great, but everyone has to kiss a few “toads” (even the cute and sweet and caring ones) before they find the prince.

avatar Kerrycontrary October 31, 2011, 12:19 pm

I totally agree with you that it COULD be a medical issue. While I think it’s more likely that she’s just not feeling it with her boyfriend, there’s always the possibility of depression or any other hosts of medical problems is causing this lack of sex drive.

parton_doll parton_doll October 31, 2011, 11:32 am

LW, to touch on a part of your letter that you didn’t ask for advice on … please reconsider discussing in more depth your past abusive relationship with your therapist. I am not saying that you should do it right now (especially since it evokes such a strong physical and emotional reaction from you) but please reconsider when you feel better able to process it. Burying experiences like that can take such an emotional toll on you and your future relationships. I am not saying that you are burying this experience, I am just cautioning you against it. It is possible that once you process this, it will be easier to have a solid and more fulfilling romantic relationship. Even though your life has been tough at a young age, keep moving forward and taking care of yourself. Sending you positive thoughts.

As for the situation with your current boyfriend, hopefully you can use some of the advice that was given above to your benefit. Best of luck!

avatar amber October 31, 2011, 9:00 pm

I completely agree with you. While it might not be the biggest issue going on in this relationship, it’s something she is going to have to deal with. I went through abuse from my father and as I’ve gotten older I’ve found that dealing with those issues has allowed me to be more present in my relationships. I did the typical build up a wall, don’t really let people thing in when I was a teenager and somewhat when I was in college. Therapy helped me to deal with those issues. And I found the more I talked about it and the more people I told the less sick/nervous it made me. I used to shake/get nauseous/etc whenever I thought about it or talked about it. Now I’m able to tell my story without feeling that way. I hope eventually the LW gets to a place where she no longer feels this way when she deals with those memories.

parton_doll parton_doll November 1, 2011, 1:30 pm

Thanks for sharing your experiences and I am so happy that you have been able to work through your past issues :)

avatar HmC October 31, 2011, 11:59 am

Couples counseling is not the place for a 20 and 22 year old. In Western culture, with the kinds of relationships and marriages that we want, that age is for learning about yourself and making mistakes and growing. Sure, be in counseling for yourself. But if you need couples counseling at 20, you should probably just break up and be alone for a while. Free yourself up to eventually find someone who is a better fit.

It’s possible that a relationship at that age will grow into something mature and very long lasting. I think it’s more the exception than the rule, but of course it does end up working out for some people and I don’t deny that. But LW, your relationship has been going downhill for months. I suspect that if you weren’t living with him, you and your boyfriend would have ended it permanently long ago, instead of having to take these uncomfortable breaks where you are still forced to be around each other. Those breaks are your psyches trying to get away from each other because that’s what you should naturally be doing when a relationship doesn’t work any more. There are so many other worthwhile people out there for you to meet, that forcing a failing relationship at the age of 20 just strikes me as such a waste.

avatar AKchic October 31, 2011, 12:58 pm

Oh dear. There is so much going on here that honestly, one thing isn’t going to help. Honey, you can’t make something work when it’s broken. Your relationship is done. You can’t rebake a finished cake, and expect it to come out better than ever, can you? No. That’s what you’re trying to do. It’s over. You want to keep trying to force yourself to have feelings that you think you should be having because this guy (and his mom) are letting you stay at his house, so you think you need to be in a relationship in order to have a roof over your head.
This makes you a very weird prostitute. Trading a relationship for a place to stay. No wonder you feel weird.
I get the whole feeling awkward about relationships after an abusive one, trust me, I do. You DO need to find a balance and talk things out to find a centering in order to move on and learn how to balance new relationships, otherwise you end up in limbo in future relationships. Do you want to continue in limbo like this again? No.

End this psuedo-relationship. Find someplace else to live as soon as possible. Graduate and stay in therapy until you’re resolved.

avatar Rachelgrace53 October 31, 2011, 1:18 pm

As a person who was in an abusive relationship for 3 years, I’m almost certain that a huge issue in your current relationship is that you’re not over what happened with the abusive ex. It’s ok not to be! That relationship of mine ended 3 years ago, but I still deal with the “leftovers” sometimes. I’d bet that your sudden lack of interest in sex almost certainly has something to do with that ex. Maybe something was triggered and it just shut you down. That factor along with the unnecessary guilt (possibly a response learned from your old relationship) on top of the desire to vomit just thinking about the ex makes me think that you should really go to counseling alone. This is much bigger than just your current relationship.

I wish that I had let myself just be single and free of attachments so I could have had a while to deal with things. I didn’t really do that and I regret it. I couldn’t see how wounded I was and thought I could handle it, but I was wrong. So I strongly suggest getting some help in dealing with things, let yourself completely open up to someone about it (preferably a professional as most friends aren’t really equipped to deal with such intense things) and go through it all until you are really healed. Cry, scream, get a punching bag, do whatever you have to do to let it ALL out. I think that may help you a lot. For what it’s worth, I’m so sorry you were ever in that situation and I’m sorry for any effect it’s having on you now, but the best thing you can do for yourself and future relationships is to seek healing so you can move past it.