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‘My partner was raised in a religious family and won’t discuss sex’

Ask Roe: Open communication is a necessary requirement for a healthy sex life and relationship

Dear Roe,

I have had a variety of positive sexual experiences in the past and understand what I enjoy; I like being adventurous. My partner, who I love more than I ever thought possible, has not had the same experience with sex, he was raised Catholic and his only other long-term partner was a Mormon. He has insecurities about his body and avoids discussing sex in general.

When we have sex it’s great but it’s always the same. I worry about approaching the subject because he shuts down. I don’t want to push him into trying things he isn’t comfortable with but I want to be stimulated and excited. I don’t know how to change our circumstances?

From your description, your partner seems to be suffering from a double-barrelled source of shame around sex and around his body, which could be tied to his religious beliefs, or could also stem from another source of shame and insecurity altogether. Shame is a hugely debilitating force that makes people believe that they are inherently flawed, and unworthy of love and acceptance.


Shame causes us to believe that no one could love us if they truly knew us – so we keep them at a distance, or hide important parts of ourselves in order to protect ourselves. But all we’re really doing is pushing people away and ensuring that we feel even more alone.

If your partner just enjoyed vanilla sex – which can be great! – this would be a sex-style compatibility issue. But the fact that your partner won’t even discuss sex is a serious problem. Open, ongoing communication is a necessary requirement for a healthy sex life and relationship, and it’s not sustainable for you to not only suppress your desires, but to feel like you must be silent about sex to keep him comfortable.

How he responds to your request to discuss this will be telling, as this issue isn't just about sex

This is one of the ways shame becomes contagious – it silences everyone.

The fact that your partner loves you, a person who embraces their sexuality and feels empowered and connected to others through sex, shows that he is aware that being sex positive is not an obstacle to being loved and accepted.

Start a conversation

Expressing how sex is one way you feel connected to yourself, and to him, could be a helpful place to start a conversation.

You could begin a dialogue by saying, “I love you and want to feel connected to you, but I feel that not speaking openly about sex is affecting our communication, emotional intimacy, and our physical and sexual connection. I know this is a difficult area for you, but it’s also difficult for me because the silence is now affecting our relationship. Would you be willing to start talking about this?”

You could suggest that he go to an individual therapist, and you could both go to a couple’s counsellor so you can slowly start to open up a dialogue about sex in a way that feels safe and supportive, at a pace that is manageable for him.

How he responds to your request to discuss this will be telling, as this issue isn’t just about sex, but about how you as a couple tackle issues together and if he’s willing to work on issues affecting your relationship.

I really hope you work it out, but in supporting him, don’t lose sight of yourself: sex is important to you, and you are allowed to want a relationship where sex is openly embraced.