I was in a sexless relationship for years and it broke me

‘What about this weekend?’ I asked my boyfriend of five years, my heart racing as I prepared myself for rejection.

We hadn’t had sex in months. I was used to it, but still held on to hope that his answer would be different this time.

‘Yeah, probably’, he replied, without enthusiasm. My heart sank as I knew what that really meant: ‘No, we won’t be having sex, but I can’t be bothered to discuss it now.’

It hadn’t always been like this. When we first started dating, our sex life was thriving. For eight months, we had sex at least twice a day. It was passionate and exciting, and made me feel alive.

As the honeymoon stage phased out, our sex life died down, but we were still intimate and in love. 

It wasn’t until two years into our relationship that things started going downhill.

I became unwell, and was diagnosed with a chronic illness. He was struggling to keep a job.

We’d been living together for a year, and already he was finding it difficult to pitch in his side of the rent. I’d substitute him constantly despite battling with my health. It was overwhelming.

Despite this, I tried desperately to remain close with him – because when unfortunate things in a relationship happen, you’re supposed to go through them together. You’re supposed to be a team. But he started drifting away from me.

His texts became blunt and less frequent, dates became non-existent, and passionate kisses turned into goodnight pecks. It felt like he was emotionally disconnected from me; like I had become a habit, instead of a partner.

Our sex life started to suffer. We’d have it now and again, but it didn’t feel intimate anymore. I didn’t feel close to him, and his mind always seemed to be elsewhere.

It felt like he was emotionally disconnected from me; like I had become a habit, instead of a partner

I’d bring up the fact that I was upset with our lack of intimacy, but he would tell me that he had just become lazy and used to our relationship. That it wasn’t me, and that he still loved me and found me attractive, and that he would try harder. 

From that point, things only got worse.

I’ve always been a firm believer that sex is vital in a healthy relationship. It is what distinguishes you from friends to partners.

I no longer knew how to go about trying for physical intimacy in our relationship.

We’d be lying in bed and I would try to initiate sex. But he would push my hands away and would say that he didn’t feel like it, was tired or felt unwell.

I’d smile and say okay, but inside I was dying. I worried that he no longer found me attractive, didn’t love me anymore or was thinking about someone else. 

We’d watch movies together but on separate sofas. Eventually we stayed in separate rooms most of the time.

I felt humiliated, but I still loved him and for the sake of the future of our relationship, I decided to simply ask for sex – loud and clear – to see what reaction I’d get.

Most times, it was the same reply: ‘Later’.

In a last-ditch attempt for intimacy, I bought a sexy outfit and walked into the living room, where he was sitting. I was both excited and nervous while also having a feeling of doubt. I hoped that this would be the ice breaker we needed. But half of me already knew that it wasn’t going to work.

He looked me up and down and sheepishly said: ‘I have a stomach ache’. 

I went back into the bedroom and spent the rest of the night crying in silence.

I stopped initiating and became emotionally numb.

On the few occasions where it seemed like it might actually happen, I’d be so hopeful – only to be crushed once again as the night went on and he fell asleep on the sofa, while I went to bed alone.

I worried that he no longer found me attractive, didn’t love me anymore or was thinking about someone else

Our relationship was over, but I still stayed. And so did he. I think we’d been in each other’s lives so long that it just seemed easier to remain together – especially since we shared a home. 

But there was always a deep-rooted sadness within me, and a bitterness when I saw people in happy relationships, or when my friends talked about their amazing sex lives. They were aware of what was happening in my own relationship, and would tell me that we needed to separate – but I just couldn’t do it. 

I was worried that if he didn’t want me – who would? Maybe this was the best life would get for me, I thought.

In the last two years of our relationship, we’d had sex twice – and each time, I was relieved when it was over. In my head, it meant that at least we could say we had done it, and perhaps we didn’t need to see it as an issue for another six months.

Finally, after five years together, we broke up. He’d been cheating on me with multiple women from work – one of whom he left me for and got into a relationship with 10 days later.

As hurt as I was, things also made sense. I had wondered whether his libido was low – and had even suggested he see a doctor (to which he declined), but it turns out he just didn’t want to sleep with me – and was getting it elsewhere.

For a long time afterwards, I felt broken and was convinced nobody would ever love me again. I didn’t love myself. The amount of rejection I had faced over the years had stripped away my confidence and self-esteem.

I had been alone in a relationship I desperately wanted to work. It is the most humiliating feeling trying time and time again to feel wanted by someone who doesn’t want you. 

Two years ago, I met someone new.

I’m finally happy again, but being in a sexless relationship had a long-lasting effect on the way I view myself as a sexual being. 

I still carry the trauma from my previous relationship.

I’m trying to regain the confidence to initiate sex naturally, even though it makes me anxious. I’m also re-learning how to love myself, and how to be confident and spontaneous.

But luckily I am with someone who is very understanding, and who I can talk to about absolutely anything. He is aware of what went on throughout my last relationship, and he makes every effort to ensure that I always know how much he loves me and how attracted he is to me.

Because of this, sex is a lot better – physically and emotionally. Because the intimacy is natural, not forced. There is an actual sexual connection.

It’ll take time to fully get there, but with such a loving, supportive partner, I know that it will happen, eventually. 

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