Dear Sree: Outlook's Agony Aunt
Dear Shree, My boyfriend and I have been dating for three years. He regularly has bouts of depression that he has suffered from since childhood. Although initially we had a fulfilling sex life, for the last two years, he has little to no interest in sex. He’s in his 40’s & has had a lot of relationships. I am in my early 30’s (the peak of my sexuality!) and I need/want a regular sex life. We’ve talked about it and he knows how I feel, that my needs aren’t being met. He blames his disinterest in sex on the depression. I crave for us to rediscover our passion and sex drive. Is there any hope for us? Also, he masturbates regularly, more than once per week. But I’m lucky if we have sex even once per month!!
Monica Narula, New Delhi
Sex is such an integral part of a relationship. When physical intimacy suffers for one reason or another, other aspects of intimacy also lose steam. Since depression is harder to see, it can be harder to understand. It seems like you are trying to be compassionate about his disconnection, but you also aren’t quite sure how to get your needs met. Although you described your relationship as sexless, I don’t think that’s quite fair. Once a month still means you are sexually active. Reduced sex drive is one of the key symptoms of depression. If his sex drive isn’t the primary culprit, perhaps his depression has resulted in a disconnection from intimacy. When depression is the primary reason, it is important to know that treatment must be sought asap. Depression might improve slowly, but it also might not. Treatment can ensure that he is receiving adequate attention and assistance for his symptoms. Psychotherapy and medication are both effective options in this case. Sex drive can also change with age and fluctuate with time. In addition, aspects of emotional and physical intimacy can fluctuate. While it sounds like you are doing an adequate job of trying to communicate with your partner on this key subject, it will be important for you to continue to talk. If the above-mentioned options aren’t effective, seek a consult with a sex therapist. They specialize in working with couples to understand their sexual dynamics including how to reconnect and restart your sexual life.
Dear Shree, I’m 25 and 6 years into a long term relationship. For almost the entire relationship we’ve known we want to be together for life. We have a very healthy relationship, except for one thing. My partner is a very feminine male and most of his friends are women. I’m cool with close cross-gender friendships as long as sex or romance aren’t involved. When I asked him about his friend choices he explained that he relates better with women. He’s also a photographer and sometimes does nude or partially clothed photo shoots with his female friends. I’m ok with this on an intellectual level, but I have to admit that it still makes me feel uncomfortable.
He wasn’t very open with me initially about his female friendships, but recently we started a series of really deep conversations that led to him coming out to me as polyamorous. He told me that he thinks the line between friendship and romantic interaction is hazy. This makes him really apprehensive when he’s hanging out with a close female friend and wondering if they are in “romantic territory” with hugs or cuddling or just being alone together late at night. He told me he wouldn’t do anything without my consent but that what he would like, is for us to remove the boundaries in our relationship so that if he ever found himself in a situation with romantic undertones he could love his friend and not worry about hurting me or stepping over the line. He says that he’s not sure he can ever feel happy or fulfilled without this freedom.
What he told me made me feel unsafe and hurt that he views our romantic and sexual connection so casually and wants to have such a powerful connection with someone else. Breaking up isn’t the alternative – we’re committed for life and I’d rather work through this than lose him. Like I said, he’s willing to stay monogamous if he needs to, but for me the fact that he even has these desires is hurtful.
Riddhima Mahapatra, Bhubaneswar.
Your partner is more than welcome to have his own feelings about attraction and sex. But in no way does that mean that you have to agree with them or experiment yourself. Certain issues are core to the very heart of your relationship, like sex and intimacy. When you commit to a partner, you are committing to be monogamous with each other in emotional and physical aspects. When those core boundary issues are violated (or discussed to be violated), this can create emotional and psychological wounds. This is where you are now, feeling unsafe and devastated.
You clearly love your partner and have done quite a bit of open discussion, soul searching, and Google searching about your sex life with him. But your feelings of hurt and betrayal throughout this process don’t mean that you aren’t valid. They likely mean that your partner is going in a direction that doesn’t work for you. Although you have hoped to find a way to make an open relationship work or that he can remain committed to a monogamous relationship, you may be searching for a solution that doesn’t really exist. Trust what your gut is telling you about your partner’s desires including that this may be not okay for you. You decide what is right for your body and your relationship, not your partner. If you feel committed to him and to giving an open relationship a try, let it be after you have weighed all the possible options.
Dear Shree, my boyfriend keeps calling me ‘bitch’ in public, when we are arguing, and also occasionally ‘slut’ when I wear revealing clothes. Even during sex, he likes it rough, and screams the word ‘whore’ occasionally. When I confront him he says he’s not implying that I am one, as in, literally. I feel very humiliated and more so because it's from a man I love. Am I overreacting?
Sunaina Sarin, Mumbai
A girlfriend and me were just discussing the same topic a couple of days ago with relation to women - the way we sometimes call a woman we perceive as ‘fast,’ a ‘slut,’ or someone who is married and has an affair, ‘a whore.’ And how so many modern songs use the word ‘bitch,’ casually. I think of the way we slot our own sex, using our narrow judgment, and how we think we are sitting on a high moral ground.
I think of a man doing the same - and how according to me calling the woman you are in a relationship with, a ‘slut,’ is insulting, and how aggression sexually is dangerous, in the long run. I think of how we women are so petrified and insecure to lose a man and the stability and social sanction being in a relationship brings, that we don’t put our foot down, and lay strict boundaries where the way we are spoken to is an intrinsic part of the way we are treated eventually. The same rules applying also to a woman. How it’s not okay to label a woman - a colleague, a friend, a relative, a sister, a girlfriend, even someone you may not really know with the following words.
The same way it's not funny when you are called ‘fatso,’ or ‘moti bhais,’ by a man, a father, a brother, a lover, a husband, a pal. How it's not okay to be body shamed, whatever maybe the situation/insinuation.
I ask myself why we need an Agony Aunt to tell us what we already should know? How we are looking for validation, even in the most basic, gut instinct of standing up for ourselves.
For further queries, write to Dear Sree at email@example.com
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