He can’t have sex

Dear Meredith,

I have a boyfriend of two and a half years and we live together. I'll call him Peter. He is 32 and I am 30. We have a fun social life (mainly with my friends, he never really had any of his own) and we travel, which I really enjoy. We make each other laugh. I've broken up with previous partners because we didn't have the same outlook on life or they didn't want to travel, so feel lucky that I've found him.

Peter and I have lots of ups and downs. He has been taking medication for mild depression for eight months. He was struggling for at least a year before he sought medical advice and had taken medication for depression as a teenager. His depression manifests itself in anxiety, lethargy, and lack of sexual desire (including difficulty getting and maintaining an erection). We have had sex five times in our two-and-a-half year relationship, and none of those times were satisfying for me (or for him, as he was so stressed about it, he said).

There used to be other sexual activity but that has tailed off over the last year, and now there is nothing whatsoever. One of the main attractions when we first met was that we both were interested in BDSM and had played around with it in the first few months of our relationship. I feel bitterly disappointed that one of the most exciting things about a potential new partner has not only fizzled out, but that our love-life in general has completely disappeared. I love him dearly (I really, really do) and have always said that I would support him while he worked through his depression and impotence. He has always assured me that both of those problems have nothing to do with me and that there is nothing I can do to help.

I am trying to be patient and help where I can (attending medical appointments with him when he asks, giving him massages when he is feeling anxious) but the depression and lethargy is rubbing off on me and getting me down. Part of me thinks that Peter is worth sticking it out for, but then part of me thinks that if things haven't really improved since he started the medication, then they probably won't now. We have had several discussions about our relationship and the unhappiness that we both experience but they don't result in anything. We are just like very good friends now – we have a close connection but that sexual spark has long gone. Can sparks come back? I don't want to make him feel terrible by leaving but I'm getting to the end of my tether.

– Unluckily lucky-in-love


Has the doctor given you any hope? Has medication been changed to see whether a different drug or combination of drugs can help with the sex problems? If you've been passive at these medical appointments, or your boyfriend has simply focused on the depression without talking about how it has affected your relationship, please get specific. Sometimes it takes a long time to figure out what medications work best.

Of course, if you guys have already had that conversation with the doctor, and the status quo has been accepted as the best-case scenario, you should leave – because you're not really tethered to anyone right now. You've tried for years to make this work, and you deserve happiness.

The spark could return if your boyfriend's sex drive came back, so that's the key – to figure out what's possible. It sounds like it's time for another medical appointment to get some more answers.

Readers? Should she stick around? What’s possible here?

– Meredith