Dear Dr. Love:My fiancee and I have been dating for about 3 years and have been living together for the last year and a half. We’ve been engaged for about 2 months now. I’m 28 and she’s 24. When we first started going out, we had a great sex life. We had sex 3-5 times a week, and she would initiate sex almost as often as I would.11 months ago, her father passed away suddenly. This was obviously a terrible blow to my fiancee, and for me as well since I had a really good relationship with her Dad and had looked forward to having him as a father-in-law and grandfather for our future kids. Of course neither of us were’in the mood’ for quite a while after he died, but I just assumed our sex life would go back to normal eventually. It hasn’t.Ever since her Dad passed away, my fiancee feels uncomfortable having sex because it’s always in the back of her mind that her Dad can see us. She never initiates sex anymore, and we only seem to do it about 2-3 times per month. When we do, it almost always seems like she’s grud gingly giving in to something I want to do, so I’ll be appeased and not bother her for a while, and she seems like she wants it over with as quickly as possible.I wish it would be more like the two of us enjoying something we both want to do, rather than her occasionally giving in to something I want to do but she doesn’t. The fact that I have a very strong sex drive and she has basically none has created tension between us.We’ve tried talking about it, but it hasn’t seemed to help – it just seems to make her get defensive. I’m frustrated because I don’t know what to do about the situation. I don’t want to be insensitive to her feelings, but I want to do something about this. It bums me out to not feel wanted sexually by her, even though I know she loves me, and I love her.I know our relationship is based on a lot more than just sex, but sex is an important part of it, and I think that part is in real trouble. Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.Ps. I’m sure you don’t use people’s names in messages you post on your website, so if you decide to post mine (which I really hope you do), you could just refer to me as’Frustrated Guy in Texas’ or something like that. Thanks.
You are in a touch spot. You are feeling sexually frustrated, which is hard enough (if I may say) but to make matters worse, you don’t feel desirable. In other words, you are interpreting your fiancee’s lack of desire for sex as a sign that you are not attractive enough to her. Please, before we go any farther, understand that her lack of desire for you has nothing to do with you. As we go on you will see why.The fact that you had frequent–and I assume willing–sex with your fiancee before her father’s death, is proof of two things. One, that you are attractive to her; and two, since her sex drive dried up since her father’s death, we know that her lack of desire is connected to the death, not to you.Our job is to find out how and why her lack of desire is related to her father’s death and to resolve the issue.Our clue to the answer lies in your passing remark that she thinks her father is watching her when she has sex with you. Many people who have lost loved ones think that their loved ones are watching over them, and this belief is often part of the normal grieving process. However, if this belief lasts more than six months and it interferes with every day life, then we have a problem.In your fiancee’s case, the fact that she feels unable to perform sexually, because her father is watching her, indicates that she has serious guilt about her own sexuality.Let’s dissect what’s going on here. She says she has a fear of being seen by her father while having sex. In the language of the unconscious mind, fear often conceals a deep wish. In other words, her unconscious fear of being seen while having sex means that on a deeper level she had strong sexual urges for her dad.Because such wishes are unacceptable to many people, a layer of defenses arise to conceal the true feelings. In this case, the, I am afraid to be seen, is a defense against the deeper wish to be seen in the throes of passion.To backtrack to childhood for a moment. All children go through a normal developmental stage in which they want to show off their naked bodies and genitals. As we grow older, that wish is transformed into the urge to show off, or be the center of attention, etc. The wish to exhibit oneself is normal.Your fiancee’s problem is that she is not comfortable with her exhibitionistic side. Why?If your fiancee is like the rest of the human race, she felt feelings of sexual desire and attraction to her dad stemming from her youth. I think that her attraction to him was quite strong, likely because he himself had strong feelings for her, or, perhaps he was seductive with her. In any case, it is normal for children and parents to feel sexual attraction for each other. But, since most people confuse feelings with actions, they feel guilty and terrified to simply feel their feelings. So, defenses crop of to protect us from the feelings that are terrifying or unacceptable to us. The problem is that the defenses end up being more crippling than the feelings themselves. In your girlfriend’s case, her defense against her sexual desire for dad has taken a very crippling form–the fear of being turned on sexually in front of her dad.Keep in mind that our adult struggles with sex– the shame, guilt, fears, etc. can usually be traced back to unresolved issues from the formative years.Now, all this being said, what can we do about her block? The treatment plan for her is one in which we try to soften her intense guilt about her sexual urges for her father, so that she can feel free to have sex once again.How can we do this? We can begin to chip away at her defense (the fear of being seen by him) by talking about it. To do so, you might ask,’So what’s the objection to his seeing us?”Even if he sees us, so what?’ ‘ Do you think he would feel turned on if he saw us? We could turn off the light.’ (Insert a little humor in this to get her to lighten up). If you think that sufficient time has passed so that you can joke with her a bit, you might say,’So, what if he’s turned on? Doesn’t a dead person deserve a little pleasure? I think you get the idea.If you can’t succeed in softening her defense and crippling guilt, then the next stop will be individual and/or couples therapy with a modern psychoanalyst who can understand the dynamics of what is blocking her.Good luck.