Doctor’s Note: It’s an all Ask Dr. NerdLove week as I’m traveling for the holidays. Regular columns will be resuming on Monday.
I moved to a new city about six months ago to start a great new job and to be closer to my college buds. I had an awesome job right out of college but in an inconvenient location, which probably cost me my ex girlfriend due to long distance.
Anyways, starting anew in my new city, having been single for about a year, I was ready to find a new girlfriend that met all my qualifications (very smart, successful, and attractive obviously). It didn’t take me long to find someone who met all my standards and liked me(!!!). She’s very cute, has an awesome/prestigious job and went to the same elite school as me (we never met in college). We went on a few dates and it was clear that we were both into each other, so we started a relationship.
Now, a few months into the relationship, I’m realizing that she is very inexperienced with relationships and the bedroom. She was a bit of a late-bloomer and came into her own only recently. She may still be recovering from previous insecurities. We haven’t had sex yet even though I’ve made my desire to known. She has been coy about her sexual experience, but has said that she isn’t a virgin. I think this aspect is draining on my patience with our relationship and it is definitely leaking over into our otherwise, exceptional compatibility. Little things like suggestions on how to do things come off as condescending and annoying now.
Making things even worse, my roommates are both single and enjoying a more casual dating life with great success. That isn’t necessarily what I’m looking for (I enjoy a more intimate experience than the casual bang even though that’s what I would settle for before my recent relationship), but I am not going to lie to myself and say that sex isn’t important to me and my overall quality of life.
Did I jump in too quick?
If I eventually find that it isn’t going to work out anymore, should I pull a Paul Simon and “get off the bus, Gus, drop off the key, Lee” and get myself free? How do I do that? I’ve been in many relationships before and usually it ends mutually or I’m the one that gets broken up with.
Your advice would be much appreciated.
– Easy Z
As fate would have it, this letter came right after I read after I read Vulture’s oral history of Donna Martin losing her virginity on Beverly Hills 90210. The universe, it seems, has a strong sense of irony.
Speaking strictly for my preferences, I’d say yes, you leapt before you looked. Personally, I’d have recommended waiting for more than a few dates before entering into an exclusive relationship with somebody; at the very least, it would’ve provided you more time to discover and work out any sexual compatibility issues prior to deciding that you were forsaking all others for the foreseeable future.
Of course, it isn’t helping that your roommates are going out and having crazy nookie-filled adventures and leaving you feeling frustrated and deprived, watching the rest of the world (or so it feels) going out and doing all the things you wish you were at the moment.
Also: this provides me with the excuse to link one of my favorite music videos one more time.
Sex and sexual compatibility is a critical part of a relationship, EZ. It’s also one that gets people the most riled up when you point out that you’re not happy with it. It’s a sad part of our deeply sex-negative culture that people – usually men, but women too – get shamed when they admit that they’re not satisfied with the sex in their relationships and are considering ending it. They’re told that they’re being selfish, that they’re being pigs, that if they actually care about their partner, they’d get over this seemingly minor problem and so forth and so on.
(Of course, as soon as said dissatisfied person mentions the possibility of looking somewhere else for sex, that minor issue is suddenly a great big one… but I digress.)
So this is a way of warning you in advance that you’re probably going to take some shit from folks for wanting to break up with a girl because you want sex and she isn’t ready to have sex yet.
The tricky part is that you’re both entirely right. She’s perfectly within her rights to want to wait to have sex until she’s comfortable – for whatever metric of “comfort” works for her. Since she hasn’t been the most forthcoming about her views on sex and sexuality – other than that she’s been a late-bloomer and is otherwise not a bloomer – it can be hard to tell just how she feels about things; she may be waiting for an arbitrary deadline (ten dates, your six-month anniversary), until she feels secure in the relationship or some other reason… and that’s entirely cool. Nobody should be having sex if they’re not feeling ready and secure for it.
It’s also entirely reasonable for you to want to have sex with someone you’re dating. As long as you aren’t pressuring or coercing your date/girlfriend (generic date/girlfriend, not just your current squeeze) into something she’s not comfortable with, being upfront with the fact that yes, you would like to have sex is just fine… as is not necessarily wanting to wait on her schedule.
The key question then is: what are you willing to do? Waiting for sex is going to be the price of admission with this particular woman. It’s up to you to decide whether the other aspects of this relationship – your shared interests, your mutual emotional intimacy, etc. – makes it worth hanging in there until she is ready to sleep with you.
If it is, then it’s time to use your words. You and she need to be able to talk about sex – not just in the abstract or what you’d like to do to one another, but about how you both feel about the sexual component of your relationship and about sex in general. She needs to be able to be up front with you about how she feels and her experiences without feeling as though you’re going to belittle her or push her into something she may not be comfortable with yet. You need to be able to explain to her how you feel and that you’d appreciate some insight into her perspective. She should also be able to give you an idea of what sort of timeline the two of you are working on.
And quite frankly, if you can’t talk openly and honestly about sex, then you’re really not going to work anyway.
You should also talk about potential compromises. You don’t mention whether there’s any sexual contact at all – mutual masturbation, oral sex, frottage, and so forth, or if everything has been strictly about some PG-level making out on the couch – so it’s hard to get a handle on just where the line is drawn and what she’s comfortable doing and not doing. Working out an agreement where you’re both willing to meet each other half-way (so to speak) could help both of you with the relationship maintenance.
But if waiting – even with the potential of the occasional orgasm assist – isn’t something you’re willing to do, then you need to end things, and soon. It’s not fair to either of you to drag it out if this is going to be an insurmountable problem or if you would be waiting longer than you feel you could stand. You have a right to a sexual relationship with somebody you’re dating, and it’s better for you to be with somebody who you’re sexually compatible with than to try to cram someone into a hole that doesn’t fit1. If the sex isn’t working, then the rest of the relationship isn’t going to work. Meanwhile, you’re already frustrated and more than a little resentful – which is relationship poison – and she deserves someone who is cool with her attitudes about sex and is willing to be on the same timeline as she is without feeling as though she’s holding him back or depriving him.
As I always like to say, the cleanest breaks heal fastest and leave you with the best chances of salvaging a friendship – or even a potential future relationship – out of this.
How you do it is simple: you tell her that you’re just not working out. It’s not anybody’s fault, it’s just a matter of the two of you not being compatible. You’re in different places and want different things and it’s not fair to her for you to be demanding something she isn’t ready to give. Let her know you respect her and her choices and this is why it’s better that the two of you break up now rather than letting things go on and making it worse.
There is the (small) chance that, when you tell her this, that she will offer to sleep with you; I can’t stress enough that this would be a horrible idea on many levels. To start with: that’s not going to be what she actually wants, that’s going to be her doing whatever she thinks it’s going to take to salvage the relationship… and that’s going to be more damaging to both of you than to simply part ways and reconnect later on as friends. It also would put you in the same place as people who hold their partner’s anxiety over the relationship as a way of coercing them into doing things they wouldn’t be willing to do otherwise. Do not be one of those scumbags.
If you do decide to end it, then make it fast and make it final. Do not take “time apart” or “go on a break”; all that is going to do is drag things out and prompt one or both of you to do things you would regret.
TL;DR: if everything else is worth the price of waiting, talk to her, find out how she feels and see if there’s some way the two of you could work out a compromise together in the meantime. If it isn’t… break it off quick and clean and walk away.
- fnar [↩]