There’s not enough sex in this relationship

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I have been with a man for almost five years. He is caring, intelligent, loving, handsome and has always been there for me. I trust and respect him completely. However, once the honeymoon phase ended, our sex life completely disappeared. To be honest, it was never amazing to begin with, but I was content, or so I remember. I think what happened was that I started to realize I was the only one initiating, and I stopped to see what would happen and of course it just stopped. Another thing to mention is that we never really had a lot of chemistry or that flirty spark people talk about. Our relationship has always been comfortable. We were friends for years before we started dating.

I have tried to bring the sex issue up to him for the past two years and, from my perspective, he never really put in any effort to fix it. He told me that his sex drive just is never going to be on my level and that sex just was not a driver for him, and that was disappointing to hear. Since then I have been wondering if we are just not compatible in a fundamental way. I kept asking myself, "Do I need someone who is more sexually driven, or is this a compromise I can make? Doesn't passion and sex fade in any relationship? Is this my fate if I choose monogamy no matter what? Or do I need to leave?"

These questions kept creeping into my head and I had just about given up until a week ago when he called me out on acting different and hiding things from him. I had been texting and flirting with a coworker and to be honest, I never expected him to notice. Obviously I know what I was doing wasn't great, but I never felt like I crossed any lines. This emotional response from him is the most passion I've seen from him in two years. We had a long conversation and I began to realize all of the mistakes that I had made over the past two years as well. For the past week, he has basically been a different person. Super loving, putting in effort, opening up ... but something still feels off for me. I feel more connected with him now than I have in a really long time and it is really nice and beautiful, but I still get anxious when he tries anything sexual with me. I think I also resent how long this took and that I needed to throw another person in his face to get a response.

Can I come back from being halfway out the door? Do I need time to readjust? Or do I just realize I need something he can't give me and stop wasting his time? I love him so much and the thought of throwing away this amazing relationship over something like sex or flirtation breaks my heart and seems ridiculous. But so does the idea of never connecting on a sexual level with someone again. I was never going to leave my five-year stable, loving, respectful relationship for someone else, but I think it’s worth noting what this co-worker represented, which is this easy, flirty connection and sexual tension I am not sure I have ever had with my boyfriend.

And before you suggest it, I have gone to therapy, and all we talked about for months and months was my relationship, and yet here I am, still here, still stuck in indecision.

– Stuck


I wasn't going to suggest therapy, but since you mention it, it's interesting that you spent "months and months" talking about all of this. That might be your answer – the fact that after so much discussion, nothing changed. I understand why you're with this man. If you take the spark and the sex out of the equation, he sounds like an ideal partner. But sparks and sex are important to you. Those are big things to give up for life.

You suggest that the passion and drive for sex disappears over time in any long relationship, but I'm not sure that's true. Usually couples tell me it ebbs and flows. Also, some people have told me the spark comes back, sometimes because of the memory of what it was like in the beginning. Couples call upon the memories of those first moments of spark to help them reignite.

It's possible that if you end this relationship of five years, you’ll meet ... no one. For some time, at least. You'd give up so many wonderful, easy routines. You'd be upending your life in ways that might make you very uncomfortable. But you're already starting to do that work. The coworker flirtation didn't seem like a big deal, but it was. You were figuring out how it would feel to be unattached.

Your letter makes it seem like you're more than halfway out the door. Maybe give yourself a little more time to confirm, but when you're ready, start walking in the right direction.

– Meredith

Readers? Am I wrong to think the LW might have been ready to leave the second those co-worker texts started? Do you see a way to make this work? People in couples, can you talk about the idea that sex stops over time no matter what?