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Q. I am a 40-year-old divorced woman and mother of two. I have been dating a 39-year-old single father of three for two months now. He has been divorced twice. I am really attracted to him. We have fun together, I love his kids, etc. But there is no sex. He says for now at least he wants us to be platonic, that sex "can get in the way." My marriage was based on sex. Is he just not over his last marriage? Is he just not attracted to me? Is he impotent? He dances around this issue whenever I bring it up, and while I don’t want to pressure him, I also don’t want to get hooked on a guy who only wants a roommate. Any suggestions?
A. You know the saying, "If there’s smoke, there’s fire"? Well, this seems like a possible case of "If there isn’t any fire, the furnace is out of commission."
Carla Hall, a 40-year-old New York musician, can relate. "I was ecstatic when I met a man who was very respectful and not in a rush to kiss me or jump my bones," she explains. "Sex too soon can get in the way of getting to know someone." After four months, platonic morphed into passionate. "It was very loving." Unfortunately this wasn’t the end of the story. Hall came to realize why it hadn’t been difficult for her boyfriend to postpone getting horizontal. She sighs, recalling, "His sex drive was very low. He wasn’t really interested in becoming a better lover even when we did have sex."
This is not to say your story cannot have a happy ending. But an element that’s even more important than sex in a relationship is communication. He’s got to stop "dancing around" whenever you bring this topic up and come clean about his reason for the no-sex stance. How did he come to be twice-divorced? Was sex an issue in his marriages? Psychologist and sex therapist Stephanie Buehler, PsyD, says, "He may have a lack of confidence or feel guilty about being with a new partner."
Tina B. Tessina, PhD, states bluntly, "Something is going on — either he’s gay or committed to someone else, or sexually dysfunctional in some way. The dysfunction might be solved but the other two won’t." The author of Money, Sex, and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage suggests, "Why not just be friends and look for someone else to date?"
The ray of sunshine here, Ms. My-Marriage-Was-Based-on-Sex: His hesitancy, whatever the reason, is forcing you to slow down and build a relationship built on intimacy. The other way doesn’t work, as you’ve discovered. Dr. Buehler points out, "He may not be brushing her off so much as slowing her down. If this is a relationship that is meant to be, being patient will be well worth it." If and when you decide to add this activity to your couple repertoire is a decision that should ultimately be made by both of you.
But as previously cautioned, it is important to learn — and quickly — whether he is willing and able and just not ready, or whether he is someone who, for whatever reason (none of which is your fault!) is sexually just not that into you.
Do you have a tough question about dating or relationships?E-mail Sherry at DatingExpert@More.com and your question might be featured in an upcoming column.