‘My partner has no sexual appetite. I’m considering visiting an escort’

Our relationship is perfect in every other way and I don’t want it to end

Sex is rarely – if ever – just about sex. In a relationship, sex is about connection and communication and intimacy and desire. Photograph: Getty Images

Sex is rarely – if ever – just about sex. In a relationship, sex is about connection and communication and intimacy and desire. Photograph: Getty Images

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Dear Roe, My partner has no sexual appetite whatsoever, whereas I sit on the opposite end of the spectrum. This causes endless frustration and arguments as I want to explore and experiment with new things but for all my pestering and pleading, missionary in the dark is all I have to look forward to, if a row doesn’t erupt instead.

To keep the peace, I just leave her be and hope that pornography and masturbating might suffice but that seems to be compounding the problem. Our relationship is perfect in every other way and I don’t want it to end but at this stage I’m considering visiting an escort to supplement this part of my life.

You say that you don’t want to end your relationship, and so your plan is to cheat on your partner.

Let me be perfectly clear: By cheating on your partner (and employing the services of sex workers which, I must point out, is illegal in Ireland), you will be ending your relationship.

First, you will be ending the type of relationship you have now, which is one of monogamy, commitment and trust, where you and your partner may have issues, but respect each other enough to at least try and address these issues honestly.

Then, later, you will be literally ending the relationship when she finds out that you have been cheating on her. Because she will find out. And then you will have chosen to end your relationship in a needlessly destructive way that inflicts a huge amount of emotional distress, because you selfishly wanted to avoid having a real, uncomfortable conversation about your sexual needs and the future of your relationship.

I’m not unsympathetic to the problems you and your partner are having around sex – in fact, I think you are undermining how important these issues are by claiming that your relationship is “perfect in every other way.”

Sex is rarely – if ever – just about sex. In a relationship, sex is about connection and communication and intimacy and desire, which is why your approach of using masturbation as a substitute for sex with your partner is not working.

Not being able to recognise and articulate how important sex is to you, or addressing sex without it escalating into a row is not just a libido compatibility issue; that’s a communication issue, and one that’s having a devastating effect on your relationship.

It’s time to be open and honest with your partner. Explain why having an enthusiastic, exciting sexual relationship is important to you, and how your current situation is affecting you.

Tell your partner that this isn’t a minor issue, but may be a deal-breaker. Doing so isn’t to intimidate or coerce your partner into doing anything she doesn’t want to do; it’s so that you are both aware that this is a serious issue, and one that deserves real honesty and care. Only then can you both know if you want to try better your relationship through communication and compromise, or if this is no longer the relationship for you.

One compromise that could be considered is an open relationship, where you get your sexual needs met elsewhere. It may be a difficult conversation – but if you are willing to devastate your partner and cheat rather than have an uncomfortable chat, I’m not sure you should be in any relationship.

Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright Scholar with an MA in Sexuality Studies from San Francisco State University. She’s currently undertaking a PhD in Gendered and Sexual Citizenship at the Open University and Oxford.

If you have a problem or query you would like Roe to answer, you can submit it anonymously at irishtimes.com/dearroe

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