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Q. I have been with my partner for the past 2.5 years. He loves very much as he tells me all the time, but think I have fallen out of love as we have not had a physical relationship or intimacy for at least 18 months.
The last time we had sex was May of last year.
I have been asking, begging him to seek help for the past 18 months, and he seems to avoid doing this. He doesn’t ever talk about his past, as he doesn’t see a point. I have been telling him for 18 months I don’t feel connected, or close to him as I have been deprived of intimacy or any kind of physical relationship for so long.
I feel emotionally detached from him, and feel he does not support me emotionally but he is there for me if I need anything. I feel very distant from him, and can’t see how this relationship can work if he doesn’t seek some help. I believe he has deep issues that he has not resolved and have advised him if he doesn’t know how to communicate openly or meet me on a deeper level (as I am a deep person) then I am done. I have given him many chances, cried to him, begged him to fix this situation, and even though he tells me he loves me and doesn’t want life without me, he still has not done anything to help himself.
I was diagnosed with bowel cancer September 2015. I have had surgery and have been going through chemotherapy for the past 5 months. He has been there to get things for me or do things for me, but not emotionally. I don’t want to hurt him, and I do love him but don’t feel the same way I felt when we were first together, as every time he says he will fix it, I get my hopes up and he constantly disappoints me.
I told him 6 weeks ago that if he wants this to work he needs to seek external help while I am a couple of states away getting treatment. He said he would.
When I ask him if he has done anything about it, the answer is always “no.”
I don’t know what to do.
A. First, I want to express how astounding it is that you are able to face your physical challenge with such grace and still hold your partner and your relationship with such care and concern.
This can’t be easy for you. I hope that your treatments continue to help you progress toward healing.
Certainly, when a partner loses sexual interest it can be a devastating thing to the relationship. Often we worry if the loss is temporary or indicative of a much larger issue. Typically, talking to our partners can help us gain some clarity. In your case, it seems you have talked with him, but in some way he is not opening up the way you might need him to.
Perhaps he is not even ready to open to himself.
You mention that you have not had intimacy since May of last year, which would imply that your partner’s desire for sex began to wane, essentially just shy of two years into your relationship. It is typical that the hot and heavy lovemaking of early relationships tends to taper around six months to a year—but to cease intimacy altogether is another story.
I wonder if a particular event happened at that time that may have affected your partner’s desire. A life shift of some sort? The death of a loved one? Moving in together? Life-shifting events—or even serious discussions about them—can have an effect on our sexual drive.
It’s also important to consider that your cancer may have had an additional impact on your partner’s desire for sexual intimacy. Making love is such a profound act of communication. When we make love we speak with a depth that we simply do not at other times in our life. Because if this intense communication it could be that your partner is shying away from it. Perhaps even unconsciously he fears he may lose you to your illness. It may not be rational, but there is a part of the human psyche that tends to withdraw as a form of self-protection from extremely painful feelings.
I absolutely agree that your partner needs to receive some assistance working through his intimacy block. I’d suggest that in addition to individual therapy, that you both might consider couples therapy. In a co-creative environment, you can both be heard and develop the skills necessary to honor each other and move forward in love.
It’s clear you both already have a connective and supportive relationship. This offers you both a solid foundation on which to create a deep and lasting bond. Taking the additional step to resolve the blockages to your intimacy will serve you well in the long run. You may find in therapy that there was merely a miscommunication that could be cleared up with a non-judgmental third party present to hold space for you both and lead you toward new knowledge of yourselves and the relationship as a whole.
Author: Rachel Astarte
Editor: Renée Picard