Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships

Bedroom Barriers to Marriage?

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Courtesy Tina Franklin.

Dear Stacy,

I’ve been dating a man for more than two years. We are both approaching 40. Things have been wonderful between us as we are very compatible and have a great friend group. It’s all I’ve ever wanted and I want to get married. He does, too, but he has one reservation in that he thinks I’m not adventurous enough in the bedroom. We both know that it’s not that I won’t go along with things. It’s just that I don’t initiate them, and he is disappointed and assumes it’s because I’m “inhibited.”

I have talked to a therapist and know I am interested in healthy, frequent sex, I just don’t approach it in the way he wants. He says I’m his first girlfriend to not be “wild” like that and it hurts me to think that this is the barrier between us getting married or not. I don’t want him to have a sex life that is constantly disappointing to him, but I also can’t turn into someone I’m not. It’s so hard because he knows me, says he loves my personality, but then still says I fall short. I am not sure I can change. What can I do? I am so sad about this all the time.

— Not (Wild) Enough

Dear Not,

Boyfriend’s decision to let you know that there is something he desires from you sexually is admirable. Sometimes a partner keeps quiet about her wants and holds it against her partner when s/he is not able to read her mind. But when Boyfriend used his past against you in his explanation of why he wants what he wants, he went a step too far. I am imagining that telling you that you’re the only female he’s ever been with who didn’t rise to this standard has been deeply damaging.

Let’s start with the fallacy that every Old Girlfriend has been wild in the bedroom, spontaneously and 100-percent honestly. Hmmm. Next, we can look at the fact that he is no longer in any of those relationships, and instead has chosen to be with you for the last two years; in other words, those wild relationships — if indeed they were genuine — did not last.

I make these arguments to (hopefully) help you realize that his interpretation of what happened in his past is exactly that: an interpretation. You can also make an interpretation about that time in his life and it would only be a viewpoint. It’s a waste of time to look backward in this way if the two of you want a future together.

So, I’d recommend you both focus your attention on ensuring the rest of your relationship is operating smoothly (e.g., communication of emotional needs, finances, familial expectations). If that inventory still points to making the big Long-Term Commitment, then take the time to read Emily Nagoski’s excellent, groundbreaking, eye-opening “Come As You Are” together. Then get yourselves to a sex therapist who can help you work on his expectations and your self-esteem through the lens of intimacy.

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