Dear Dan: I’m a straight man in a live-in relationship with a beautiful woman. There are no sparks in bed, and it’s been more than a year since we’ve had sex. She says, “I’m sorry, but I’m just not interested.” Sometimes she asks me if I’m disappointed, and I say something like “I miss sex.” And she says: “Maybe someday. But the important thing is we love each other, right?” Before my last birthday, she asked me what I wanted as a gift. I replied, “A soapy handjob.” That would’ve been the most action I’d had all year. But when my birthday rolled around, all I got was a speech about how she loved me but was not in love with me. My question: In the year 2017, how does a straight man make it clear to the woman he’s with that sex is important to him without coming across as threatening? If I told her I’d leave her unless our sex life improved—and I have certainly thought about this—she’d probably “put out” to save our relationship. She has abandonment issues, and I fear she would be devastated if I left her. I only want to have sex with someone who wants to have sex with me, not someone I’ve coerced. What do I do? I love her, but a sexless relationship isn’t what I want or signed up for.
— Sexless Over A Perplexing Year
Dear SOAPY: There’s being sensitive to coming across as threatening and wanting to avoid even unintentional coercion and being cognizant of the ways women are socialized to defer to men and the ways men are socialized to feel entitled to women’s bodies, SOAPY, and then there’s being a fucking doormat. She isn’t in love with you — she told you so herself—and she’s never gonna fuck you or soap you up to get you off. If you don’t want her putting out to keep you — if you don’t want her to fuck you under duress — then don’t give her the option. That means ending the relationship, SOAPY, not entering into negotiations about the terms for remaining in the relationship. (“1. Tell me you’re in love with me, even if it’s a lie. 2. A sad, soapy handjob once a year on my birthday…”)
There’s nothing unreasonable about wanting a romantic relationship that’s both loving and fully sexual, SOAPY, and a man can put his wants on the table without pounding said table with his dick. Your girlfriend’s issue may be a mystery — maybe it’s her (she’s incapable of being in a loving and fully sexual relationship), maybe it’s you (you never turned her on or you did something that murdered her libido) — but you’re not obligated to stay in an unsatisfactory relationship indefinitely because your girlfriend will be devastated if you leave.
Also, devastation is a two-way street. If you dump her, SOAPY, her devastation will be immediate, like the impact of an earthquake or a hurricane. But if you stay, you’ll be the one devastated — but your devastation will be gradual, taking years, like the erosion of coastline or the destruction of our democracy. The destruction of your self-esteem and sense of sexual self-worth could take a decade or more, SOAPY, but it is already under way. She’s a lot likelier to get over the devastation she’ll feel if you leave — being dumped is a common experience that most people bounce back from — than you are to get over the devastation you’ll experience if you stay.
Your gonads/self-respect/preservation instinct are in that apartment somewhere. Get ’em and go.
On the Lovecast, Dan chats with Google powerhouse Blaise Agüera y Arcas: savagelovecast.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, follow @fakedansavage on Twitter and visit ITMFA.org.