I'm ready for sex — My boyfriend isn't

Dear Alice,

I have been dating the same person (exclusively) for over three years now. We have never had sexual intercourse, but, we have been intimate in every other way (physically). We haven't had sex simply because I haven't been ready. I am extremely attracted to this person, (and I have verbalized my strong attraction countless times) but I have had personal issues which have prevented me from feeling comfortable with the idea of losing my virginity.

After careful consideration, I feel that I am now ready for sexual intercourse with this person. The problem lies in the fact that he no longer seems interested in a physical relationship. We haven't even been intimate for three weeks! In short, I am wondering if I have "missed my chance," or if I have "messed him up" by not wanting to have sex. I haven't told him that I am ready, since he barely even wants to kiss! We are both athletic, slim, attractive, intelligent individuals. I don't feel that he is not attracted to me, he just seems uninterested in the physical side of our relationship. Aside from that, our relationship is absolutely healthy and happy, just very...PLATONIC.

One thing you should know: one year ago I kissed someone other than my boyfriend. It may not seem like a big deal, but I think it really devastated my boyfriend, and I think some element of trust was lost in the process. Do you think this other "affair" could have some effect on the lack of interest in intimacy now? I would never, ever cheat on him again, but what is done is done...my question is, since we used to be hopelessly passionately in love, do you have any advice on how to re-kindle the old flame?

Wanting It

Dear Wanting it,  

It’s great that you’re considering your needs as well as your partner’s through this process. Navigating intimacy in relationships can have its ups and downs. Recognizing when your connection may be off and having a conversation with your partner may actually lead to a deeper connection in the future. It’s certainly possible that your boyfriend’s lack of interest in a physical relationship could be connected to you kissing someone outside of your relationship. If that was an act that affected his trust in you, it could play a role in how he feels about having sex now. Having open and honest dialogue about the current state of your relationship, any feelings either of you have about the past, and how you would like to move forward could be a way for you both to better understand each other and continue to meet each other’s needs.  

Before trying to restore physical intimacy, you might start by trying to understand what's happening emotionally inside of you, what you’re feeling, and what you want. The next step may be to understand how your boyfriend feels without making assumptions. If you haven’t already had a conversation with your boyfriend, maybe you can start by talking with him about the current changes you've noticed in your relationship. Perhaps you can share with him what you’ve written — that you both seemed passionately in love and that there was lots of physical affection. Then your relationship shifted, and it now seems platonic. It would be good to understand his perceptions of the relationship right now. It’s possible that his focus is elsewhere this semester (such as on his studies, athletics, etc.) or that the nature of your relationship has changed for him. He could also be trying to respect your wishes not to have penetrative sex, and that he finds it easier not to pressure you if he doesn't get physical with you at all. Maybe your breach of trust still hurts in some way and his feelings about it prevent him from being physically closer to you.  

Whatever the case, one key to a supportive, long-standing relationship is to talk honestly with him about how you feel and listen to what he says in return. As you prepare for this conversation, it’s good to keep in mind that people deal with situations like yours in a variety of ways. He may share thoughts that might make you feel uncomfortable or that seem hurtful, or he may have kind words to share. He may also say nothing.  

A future discussion about your desire to have sex may evolve as you both become more emotionally close by sharing your feelings. Alternatively, it may become clear that this possibility is no longer a goal of his, and you may need to reconsider what this means for your relationship.  

Either way, talking together to figure out what is possible and what isn't might be a good place to start. Based on how these conversations go, you can decide how to move forward. 

Last updated May 14, 2021
Originally published Oct 01, 1994

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