Ask Polly: Should I Marry My Boyfriend Even Though He Doesn’t Want Sex?

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Hi Polly,

I am a 29-year-old female trying to figure out if my boyfriend is the man I’m supposed to marry. We’ve been dating for four years. I found out a year ago he was going to propose to me and I had to tell him I wasn’t ready. After that, we broke up for a few weeks and I started seeing a relationship counselor. Since then, I’m still at a loss. I’ve been in this limbo phase for far too long and I’m feeling a ton of pressure to come to a decision. I need your advice!

My boyfriend is kind, smart, forgiving, loyal. Like him, I love kids and want a family. My biggest fear is that I’m being too picky. He’s in his early 30s and I’m his first girlfriend, so I feel like some of our issues could relate to that.

One of my biggest concerns is our sex life. We rarely have sex. From the beginning of the relationship, he would have difficulty getting an erection at times. Additionally, I have felt that he is not turned on by me. My best friend was talking about a nude picture she sent to her boyfriend and my boyfriend said that he would never want me to send him a picture of my vagina, he would not be turned on by that. He also gets very red in the face or uncomfortable talking about sex or using sexual words in conversations.

When I went to the relationship counselor, she told me that having sex only once every few months was not normal and that for his age the erection difficulty was also not typical. The counselor told me there were a few possibilities — low testosterone, he’s gay, he’s asexual, or he’s cheating. After months of bothering him to get his testosterone tested, he finally did. It came back normal. Since then, he’s started taking prescription drugs to get an erection, but it hasn’t really improved his libido.

The sexual concerns go beyond erection issues. For the majority of our relationship, he never seemed to care if I climaxed. For a while there, it was me going down on him and him never reciprocating. After going to the counselor, I realized that one of my flaws is not saying/asking for what I want. So I told him that it hurt my feelings that he didn’t care if I climaxed, and it felt like he was sexually selfish. Since then, he has tried a few times to go down on me, but it feels very forced and awkward. I now find myself not even wanting to engage in sex. I have been in relationships where I feel very sexy and have had sex on a daily basis. This feels like a huge void in our relationship, and the connection isn’t there.

I also find myself bored in the relationship. My boyfriend is on his phone a lot. When we go to dinner with other couples, he texts on his phone, and when we go to dinner just the two of us, he always tries to find the nearest TV to watch or is reading articles on his phone. He’s never really in the moment. He’s also a busybody, always wanting to do the next thing, while I’m someone who likes to stop and enjoy the moment. I’ve expressed this concern to him and he has decreased his cell-phone usage around me to some extent.

I can be a really goofy person. It isn’t very hard to make me laugh. I noticed I’m laughing a lot harder with people at work and with other friends. It’s never with my boyfriend. He is a more serious person. Am I expecting too much of him?

I know that I have a lot of flaws myself. I feel lucky that a nice genuine person actually loves me for all my craziness. He would be a great dad, I love his family, he has the same morals as me. Are my concerns enough to decide to walk away from this relationship forever?


Please Help Me Figure Out My Life


Your situation is pretty cut and dry, isn’t it? Your boyfriend doesn’t fuck you, listen to you, or make you laugh. What’s the fucking point?

I guess he’s making some attempts to improve himself for your sake. But mostly he sounds like someone who needs to be alone and find himself. Quite possibly, he needs to find himself in the middle of a crowded gay disco at midnight, where maybe he’ll find that erections are not a problem at all in the company of 100 or so sweaty young men gyrating their smooth, vaginaless bodies to Madonna oldies.

Or maybe he’ll find that he never loved you enough, and was just scared of being alone. Maybe you nurtured him on a steady diet of blow jobs and before he knew it, he was dependent on you for everything. Maybe he’s asexual. Maybe he secretly hates you. Maybe he’s sleeping with ten other women, and that’s why he’s looking at his phone throughout every meal. Maybe he’s anemic and lactose-intolerant and gluten-sensitive and has no energy for sex. Maybe he’s allergic to you.

Whatever the reason is, it’s not your problem. It’s his problem.

I know you love him and you feel guilty. But his desire to marry you is misguided. If he’s going to get married, he should marry someone who holds his attention and makes his dick hard. Does he think he’s incapable of that? Does he believe himself to be someone who prefers to read articles and watch TV rather than talk to his girlfriend? If so, why get married at all? Why not be alone and free and eat dinner at a sports bar every night instead?

If he merely had some sexual dysfunction and he loved the hell out of you and listened to you and laughed at your jokes and made you feel happy, then I would say go to couples’ therapy. But that’s not what you’re describing. You’re describing a guy who doesn’t know himself.

Listen up, beautiful freaks! Marrying someone who doesn’t know himself is a giant fucking mistake. And yes, if we’re in the mood for reckless generalizations, it’s true that straight guys who only SORT OF know themselves A LITTLE BIT are all over the place. That’s just part of being a straight guy, isn’t it? You’re scolded for weeping into your hands one too many times and BOOM! You learn that your so-called manliness depends on NOT looking too closely at who you are or how you feel. And oh my God, isn’t that sad? I have to admit, I feel so much love and affection for those poor straight male dummies when I think about them, crying into their big sexy man-hands and getting scolded for it! I always wanted to be bisexual or something even more interesting, but you know how I can tell that I’m undeniably straight? Because when I think about the basic not-knowing-yourself-ness of straight men, I feel a lot of love and, frankly, also unfocused lust for them. That’s sex for you. Sometimes it’s the mutations and the dents and the damage that turn you on more than anything else.

It’s that not-knowing-yourself-ness that’s sexy, I don’t know why. That clumsy idiot-bear thing. It’s hot. I know not all straight women like that. Maybe just the real dipshitty navel-gazers like me love it. Mmm, a breath of unexamined fresh air, blowing in straight from the sea, clean and salty from miles and miles of open ocean. Sometimes I talk to my husband and, even though he’s smart and sensitive, there’s this open-ocean-sailing kind of void at the middle of things, lodged between what he’s always believed and what he’s open enough to imagine. It’s a little disturbing and also, highly fuckable.

But look, PHMFOML. You aren’t dealing with your garden-variety straight-guy woes here. You’re dealing with closeted-gay-guy woes. Or asexual-guy woes. Or confused, secretly-disgusted-by-you-guy woes. What do all of these woes have in common? They’re not personal. Yes, I’m being a little harsh with the Allergic to You theme for a reason. Because no matter what his problem with you is, IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.

And let’s be crystal clear about this: I’m not saying he’s bad or fucked up. I’m not saying he’s damaged goods or that no one will ever love him or that it’s wrong to want to read an article instead of listening or to want to sleep instead of having sex. All I’m saying is that he has a lot of self-discovery ahead, and no matter what he discovers, he’s clearly not a great match for you.

If your boyfriend’s strange little pockets of cluelessness and distraction were attractive to you (or at least forgivable), if they made you chuckle and smile and think, “Yep, he is one vacant, indifferent son of a bitch, but I love him like crazy,” then that would be different. But I think you feel so guilty that you can barely admit to yourself that you don’t love him anymore. You can barely admit that you feel bored and trapped. So instead, you want to find some way to get over these silly little nagging doubts and sign on the dotted line and stop torturing everyone with your cruel insistence on being unsure. Meanwhile, that so-called cruelty of yours is actually grace — it’s a burning fire inside of you that says, “YOU CAN’T LIVE THIS WAY FOREVER AND YOU KNOW IT.”

Right now, this guy is hiding from himself, and he’s doing it with your help. He decided a long time ago that you were the kind of woman who wouldn’t push him too hard, and he folded comfortably into your life without really showing up. So now he’s not showing up for sex, for naked photos, for conversations, for dinner, for laughs, for anything. Yes, it’s true that he filled a prescription for Viagra. He probably also bought an engagement ring. Those are actions. Those are things you can cross off your list. Showing up and knowing yourself is much harder than that.

So, no. Don’t do it! You want great sex and talking and listening and laughter and more great sex after that. That’s what EVERYONE wants. (Okay, a lot of people want that, anyway.) Find someone who wants that! There shouldn’t be any guilt here. You can love him and love his family and there’s still no blame to hand out. He is blameless and you are blameless. You can step away from him with love in your heart.

You are not responsible for his future. He is. You are beholden only to yourself and your future happiness.

You were very lucky to find a guy who was kind, smart, forgiving, and loyal. Those are great qualities, but there are more kind, smart, forgiving, loyal fish in the sea. Thank him for all of the love he’s given you over the years. Tell him he’s a good person, but he needs to find himself, and so do you. Then go out and find yourself. And if you find yourself in the middle of a crowded disco at midnight, surrounded by 100 or so sweaty young men gyrating their I-barely-know-myself-either-but-I-do-love-sex-and-talking-and-laughing bodies in your midst, so be it.


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Ask Polly: Why Doesn’t My Boyfriend Want Sex?