Morning Quickie: “I Don’t Want to Sleep With My Fiancé”

No satisfaction

My fiancé and I have been struggling recently with the whole sexual part of our relationship. I’ve had a really bad experience in the past that also happened to be my first time, and I am still getting flashbacks. Not to mention, I have zero desire. Also, I don’t approve of his watching porn. I’m overweight, and for him to look at naked girls and get pleasure out of it is cheating to me. Also, back to the experience before: That guy used to always have the Playboy channel on, which also contributes to flashbacks for me. I hate it. I want to help him out and not make him feel bad or rejected, but I have to look out for myself too. I have anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder, and I have hurt myself in the past because I have no self-worth. I am doing better with that, but he says it’s one of his needs that I’m not meeting and it’s a deal-breaker. Should I just leave, or is he right and it’s my fault? — Held Back by Flashbacks

Ok, so, you have no interest or desire in having sex with your fiancé, you disapprove of his looking at porn (and actually consider it cheating), he says you aren’t meeting his needs, and you’re wondering if the issues you’re having are your fault? Yes, yes, they are. As a romantic partner to someone, you have certain responsibilities, including getting yourself healthy and emotionally stable so that you can satisfy basic physical and emotional needs within your relationship. Not only do you not seem to be doing that, but you are actually blaming your fiancé for your own insecurity. Because you feel insecure about being overweight and because you have flashbacks of past experiences, you consider it “cheating” when your boyfriend looks at porn. Looking at porn isn’t cheating. Just because you say it is, doesn’t make it so.

Rather than make your boyfriend pay for the issues you have, you need to be proactive in seeking help and treatment. If your anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, lack of libido, and low self-worth (not to mention your unresolved issues around whatever experience you keep flashing back to) is keeping you from having an emotionally healthy relationship (and life, in general), it is YOUR responsibility to get help. In the meantime, you should put your relationship on hold. You can’t focus on someone else’s needs when you have so many unmet needs of your own that you have to take care of first.

You’re not ready to be someone’s girlfriend, let alone someone’s wife. And, as your fiancé already said: The restrictions you’ve placed on him within the limitations of your own ability to love him are a deal-breaker. So it sounds like the decision to MOA has already been made for you anyway. I really hope you use this time to focus on yourself and get healthy. It’s not your fault you have the issues you do . . . but it is your fault if you decide to sweep them under the rug and continue letting them ruin any potential you have for happiness.


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  1. Sunshine Brite says:

    You need significant mental help. Find a trauma specific therapist – maybe someone trained in EMDR. Flashbacks don’t have to be the norm. A lack of libido can also be mental health related if you had it before.
    I don’t find watching porn to be cheating. Some do and I inherently disagree with that stance unless it’s affecting the relationship in some way – to the level of addiction really. You’re punishing your boyfriend for your bad experience. You need to build yourself back up.

    1. rocketgirl says:

      I second the trauma informed therapy especially EMDR. I have been trained in EMDR and found it very effective in relieving PTSD symptoms. Also, everything! WWS!

  2. You sound miserable, are you getting help for all of these issues? Have you discussed with him how you want things to be different? It’s a deal breaker for many in relationships if they aren’t having sex.
    Everyone has their own feelings on porn, I feel like yours are extreme. How is he supposed to deal with his own sexual desires if you won’t interact with him and you don’t want him to do anything on his own? Is he supposed to be as miserable as you, and then it will be ok?
    You should leave him because you’re not ready. You need to focus on getting better and being comfortable being in a sexual relationship before you date or marry anyone.

  3. Avatar photo juliecatharine says:

    Wendy is right on point per usual. LW, your fiance’s dick is not yours to keep under lock and key. Monogamy doesn’t give you the right to police his fantasies and that’s what you’re trying to do by declaring porn cheating. I understand the insecurity that is driving you (I’m overweight and my ex cheated and was addicted to online porn) but you can’t make your boyfriend pay for what your ex did. It sounds to me like you’re blurring the line between standing up for yourself (good) and trying to control your partner (not good). Having sexual needs that he won’t ignore does not make your fiancé a bad guy–it makes him an honest one. You need some help to sort through these issues. You owe it to yourself to be in good working order mentally and right now you’re not there. Do not get married until this is resolved.

    1. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

      WWS, WEES.
      juliecatherine, I really like your statement that, “[i]t sounds to me like you’re blurring the line between standing up for yourself (good) and trying to control your partner (not good).” I think that is a really stupendous observation, and describes what exactly rubbed me wrong about this letter.

      1. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

        Just FYI, when I tried to modify this, because I (thought I) used ‘[ i ] t ‘ for “It,” as THAT IS HOW YOU DO IT, but for some reason it comes up in my comment as just a T, when in the modify box it shows with the brackets correctly… I dunno. Ok, punctuation/grammar nazi OUT

  4. WEES… Sex is a non negotiable part of a relationship for most people. You cannot deny your long term partner that and still have your relationship be ok. Break up or at least put the wedding on hold, get some therapy, and get yourself emotionally and physically healthy before you try again.

  5. You sound very young to me and like this is your first boyfriend.

    1. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

      LW, I dont mean that to be dismissive. But…your thought process(es) here comes off immature and well…inexperienced. Which is perfectly fine. But yes, please get yourself healthy before being in a relationship, especially one anticipating marriage.

  6. I really dislike using the word “fault” here and pointing fingers as the LW already has low self-esteem and has had traumatic experiences with sex. LW, sex is such a mental thing for women, and your experiences have you locked in your head in a negative way. Do let your boyfriend go as the relationship isn’t meeting both your needs, but don’t internalize it as you doing something “wrong” or obsess because it’s your fault or that you’re “wrong.” Just get help. Second, third, fourth, fifth, etc.. the ideas of getting therapy to deal with your traumatic 1st time and to help you enjoy a loving physical relationship with another guy in the future.

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      I don’t know about that. I think it IS “wrong” to blame someone — like your romantic partner — for issues you haven’t dealt with or gotten help to process. That’s not to dismiss the LW’s fragile emotional state, but to call attention to the fact that we are all responsible for our behavior and being proactive in our well-being.
      The LW doesn’t have to be a victim here. By saying, “Oh, no, it’s not your fault,” it’s like saying: “This has just happened to you. You have no control or power in this situation.” And that’s not true. She has the power to get help and to make healthier choices moving forward.

    2. I wouldn’t say that it’s her fault, just that she needs to acknowledge that this situation is not working. We can say that someone is responsible for addressing a problem without implying that they have done something wrong.

      1. Avatar photo something random says:

        @SasLinna this is true. People who don’t know any better can’t do any better. This letter writer is seeking honest feedback and that is brave and telling. She is trying to know better.

        Also, the time required before a person is educated and healed enough to feel comfortable and confident in an intimate relationship is highly subjective and in no way in itself indicative of some inherent personal failing.

      2. Bittergaymark says:

        Oh for FUCKS sake. If YOU have problems and issues — and fail to seek help in resolving them, then… YOU. ARE. AT. FAULT. End of story. Especially when your issues are so fucking and hilariously obvious…

      3. Avatar photo something random says:

        I also agree, but we don’t know if she is currently seeking help or not. Perhaps some forceful honesty will be motivating. Perhaps some extra caution will be applicable.

      4. I just don’t see the point in turning every issue into a who’s to blame debate. What’s the utility of letting the LW know that she’s at fault, in terms of giving good advice? It’s not going to make her more likely to address her problem at all, in my experience. If you go to a therapist you’re never going to her “hey, it’s all your fault”. There’s a reason for that, it doesn’t help people but makes them feel worse.

    3. Avatar photo something random says:

      I thought it was weird phrasing on the part of the letter writer. Her finance didn’t actually say it WAS her fault, only that it was one of his needs that was failing to be met and it was a deal-breaker. It seems she is the one who is filling in the blank of it being a personal failing on her part. And as someone who has low self-esteem, she sounds susceptible to attributing this failure to herself on a global level. By that I mean rather than seeing it as a set of behaviors which are malleable she might confuse it with being reflective of her whole identify. I’m no therapist, so I can’t really speak to that.

      There are asexual people who get in relationships with sexual people. But whenever there is a major difference in compatibility there must be a willingness from both or all parties to come to a workable compromise. To me this letter writer doesn’t sound strong or secure enough to know her personal limits. So she is being a bit rigid because she doesn’t feel safe enough to be flexible. I liked JulieCatherines comment that the letter writer is going further than asserting her own feelings/boundaries and trying to control her partner and her partner is refusing to accept it. Trying to control people and not respecting their limits is setting the stage for dysfunctional and potentially abusive relationships. A healthy partner won’t accept it. So that’s actually a good sign about the finance. He sounds like a direct and honest communicator, too.

      WWS and everyone else is saying all the way about therapy. Trauma is hard. Mental illness is hard. Such issues require exertion. Its the only way for the issues to become manageable enough to have a healthy, satisfying life. I hope this letter writer will hold off judging herself and her fiancé and just work towards understanding herself more.

  7. Aubrey Ray says:

    I think the porn thing is a difficult concept for a lot of women with low sex drive to grasp. There was a time when I thought my boyfriend was cheating because he watched it. Granted I was 14 ,but I vaguely remember my reasoning. You have to understand that your SO is not forming any signification connection with the naked people he sees on the screen. Yeah, he might have a favorite “actress” but he’s not wishing you were her. As a woman, how many times have you watched The Notebook and drooled over Ryan Gosling? (Insert your own preference) It’s literally the same thing for your guy watching porn. And I bet he would trade every porn video out there if he had the chance to come home to find you wearing some sexy lingirie and ready to go. I know the porn thing wasn’t the main point of the letter, but you don’t have to let that aspect of it cause so much anxiety for you LW!

    1. Virtually every guy makes use of some erotic material. Most that tell you they don’t are lying. It’s just a fact of modern life. The internet makes it so much easier than the old days, but even then, there were magazines, the lingerie section of the catalog, national geographic, and in a pinch, one’s own imagination based on the experiences of the day (otherwise known as the “spank bank”). Not directing this at you, AR, but we can’t afford to live in some fairytale world on this issue. It simply is what it is. My fave cartoonist Zach Weiner has a great joke on Amish porn: a drawing of a tree with the caption “Behind yonder oak is a lady.” Where there is a will, there’s a way. And there is a will, oh yes there is.

      1. I don’t use visuals, but I definitely had sexual fantasies that go on in my head…. so that’s my porn.

      2. Aubrey Ray says:

        (Just noticed how many typos I made on my phone… ouch)

        Nicely put Diablo. Don’t take it personally LW. It just means your man has working eyes and, well, other parts, and is so attracted to you that he’s asked you to marry him and deeply wants to have sex with you!

      3. A lot of women use erotic material, too. It’s way too often discussed as a men vs women issue. Personally, I can’t understand being jealous of porn actresses and feeling threatened by them at all. And I think many women feel the same.

  8. How do you get to the point of being someone’s fiance but are totally unwilling and uninterested in one of the core features of a romantic relationship, sex? I get it if it’s shared belief and both are waiting till marriage (though i would not choose to live my life that way). But you seem to be saying that he should just shut off desire and be a monk for you and your issues. So how did you get to the point of saying you wanted to be married with all that in the way? Also, and I’m no expert on psychology here, but does someone wanting to marry you and have sex with you not do something for your self-esteem? It does for mine. You clearly need to get yourself some help here, LW, but beyond that, I would think the best way to get over bad experiences in the past would be to gently, respectfully build up some good experiences. The reason everyone is so crazy about sex is: it’s awesome. I truly hope you can find your way to being open to this very important and enjoyable human connection.

    1. Avatar photo something random says:

      This is a good observation. I wonder how long this relationship has been going on, if the last boyfriend was the letter writer’s first experience and she is still so traumatized? The timing of deciding to get married seems off. Having a major difference in sexual compatibility seems like the kind of thing most couples would address before agreeing to embark on a legal/life commitment unless sex is viewed as being more about baby-making than pleasure and morally confined to marriage.

      1. Flashbacks can really come and go oddly, especially with changes in meds, etc. I’m wondering if there has been a stressor (potentially even the getting married) or change in medication, etc that has caused weight gain, changes in moods, changes in sex drive since the decision to get married happened. It would make sense with the way she uses the wording of ‘recently’. That being said it might have been something they both thought would magically get better with marriage, or that the other would simply change.

      2. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and suggest that she’s exaggerating about the ‘flashbacks’.

        Maybe I’m getting cynical, but in my experience when someone claims to have a laundry list of trendy diagnoses that justify their selfish behavior, they’re typically full of it. She just seems very self absorbed and self pitying.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Who knew someone could have such a low self-esteem and yet be so utterly self absorbed? NEWSFLASH! The letter writer IS at fault here. End of story. Just because you have issues, doesn’t give one the right to totally leave their lover sexually stranded and then somehow blame him FOR EVERYTHING. Oh and everyone who feels this way (thankfully few here) enough with the porn equals cheating. That argument not only fails to hold water — but reveals anyone who makes it to be exceptionally dim. if you are NOT ready and willing to enjoy sex? Here’s a concept — don’t fucking date much less become some poor saps fiancé.

    1. This has to be BGM, right? Otherwise a very good imposter 🙂

      1. What tipped you off, the use of “NEWSFLASH?”

      2. Bittergaymark says:

        It is me. I hit submit before logging in and the post vanished — I thought — into the ether. That’s why I posted part of it again.

      3. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

        Can’t be BGM. Anonymous only insulted the LW, not women in general

  10. ArtsyGirl says:

    LW: outside of getting help for the sexual trauma you experienced before your relationship with your fiance, you might also want to talk to a medical professional about any medications you are on to control you anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Most mental health medications decrease sex drive and cause the patient to put on weight. It is possible that if you change dosages or types of medication, you might have better responses. Also, since you are unhappy with your weight and suffer from a string of mental health problems, you might want to take up some form of exercise like swimming, hiking, or biking. There have been numerous studies done that link physical activity with better mental health and as an added bonus you might loose some of the extra weight.

  11. MiMi Latour says:

    LW, as a young person with bipolar disorder, working closely with a doctor to find the right medication regimen and with a cognitive therapist to help you find strategies for success is essential. If you are already on medication, low libido could be a side effect and possibly amenable to some drug tweaking to improve this area. Check out the ketogenic diet as an additional tool that may help mood (I have a near and dear who has had a lot of success reducing medication and feeling better using this diet). A therapist can help you learn to negotiate your way through past events and find ways to improve your self esteem. The point is that you don’t have to figure everything out by yourself and there are professionals out there who can support you in a way that no friend or fiance is qualified to do.

  12. Bittergaymark says:

    Who knew someone could have such low self-esteem — and yet be so utterly self absorbed?

  13. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

    LW, a person has a responsibility to themselves and the people in their lives to be in good working order mentally and emotionally before entering into a romantic relationship. You are not meeting your fiance’s needs. You’re not meeting your own needs. You need to break up with him, not because he’s done anything wrong (sounds like he has the patience of a saint, honestly) or because you’ve done anything wrong, but because if you love him and yourself, you owe it to both of you to get help for your problems, and to let him move on to a relationship that will be healthier for him.

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