Relationship

I love my boyfriend. So why do I fantasise about my workmate?


My boyfriend and I have been in a relationship for four years. Two months after we started dating, his mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Devastatingly, his father also developed cancer and both died within two years. We became a serious couple very quickly as a result. We have been through a lot and I love him like family. However, I don’t feel sexually attracted and have always fantasised about exes while having sex. Six months ago, I met a colleague to whom I am very sexually attracted. I have not acted on this, but it makes me worry that I have suppressed needs. My boyfriend is a very kind and emotionally supportive partner but our sex life is failing. We now have sex about once every two months – when we do it is brief and I don’t orgasm.

You may think that loving someone “like family” is a positive thing, but when it comes to sex it is not. In most human societies there are strong incest taboos, and these become engaged when a couple becomes too familial. To fix this you need some separation. Start pursuing different hobbies, meeting different people – anything that will help create individual identities. Once you reach a certain level of individuality, you may find that sexual attraction will emerge. But it is important to know that bereavement can trigger low libido, and that may be the case for both of you. You need time to heal and to learn what it is like to be together without sadness and worry.

Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to private.lives@theguardian.com (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

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