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My boyfriend’s high sex drive has disappeared. I feel it’s my fault

Ask Roe: You are in no way obligated to have sex with your partner every time they want

Dear Roe,

My boyfriend has a very high sex drive, but I told him I don’t want to have sex all the time. He would get aroused easily and it felt like he was always all over me.

So he trained himself to not get turned on, but now he can’t get aroused, or has a hard time getting there, and I feel like it’s my fault, as if I pressured him. I’m not sure how I can fix this or get him back to how he was because I loved it, just in my head I always felt like he wanted to have sex. He has told me he didn’t always want to have sex, that’s just how he was.

It sounds like you are taking on a huge amount of responsibility around your boyfriend’s sexual fulfilment, and also that the communication in your relationship is lacking, leading you and your boyfriend to feel unclear around each other’s boundaries, desires and comfort levels.

If your partner has a higher sex drive than you, you are in no way obligated to have sex with them every time they want, and it appears that you felt pressured by his desire. I’m wondering if he ever said or did things that made you feel pressured, or if you just internalised the idea that you needed to fulfil his every sexual desire the moment he felt it.

Feeling internal or external pressure to have sex is awful, and can have damaging ripple effects on relationships. It can cause fear and resentment, as one or both partners feel disrespected, used and unsafe, and it can suck the joy out of other forms of affection, as you dread that engaging in any touching or flirting will be interpreted as a desire for, or consent to, sex.

I wonder if your boyfriend felt shamed or judged purely for having a high sex drive, and what he felt under pressure to do to alter his sex drive

It’s important that you explore whether your boyfriend has ever exerted pressure on you, or if you need to examine your feelings of obligation in a relationship. Because now that his sex drive appears to be lower, you are also blaming yourself and taking on that responsibility, which again could point to some personal or shared expectations about your role in this relationship.

I do also have questions about how you communicated with your boyfriend about his sex drive. “Training himself not to get turned on” is a somewhat worrying sentence. Feeling sexual desire isn’t a problem, as long as we act on these desires respectfully and with everyone’s consent. I wonder if your boyfriend felt shamed or judged purely for having a high sex drive, and what he felt under pressure to do to alter his sex drive. It could also be that other issues are affecting his sex drive – relationship issues, outside stressors or medical issues, and he could speak to a doctor about these possibilities.

Ideally, you could have communicated about this issue, with your boyfriend reassuring you that even if he gets aroused, he doesn’t ever expect you to do anything sexually that you don’t want to do, and you could have expressed that you really enjoy his attention and affection – but don’t always want it to escalate to sex.

For now, if your relationship generally feels safe and supportive, I would encourage you to start talking with your boyfriend about this, explaining how you feel and that you don’t want to shame or control his desires or stop him being physically affectionate, just that you want clear communication and boundaries around sex so that you both feel safe, respected and connected. Hopefully these conversations will help you both reconnect, in all the ways you want to.