A friend recently came to me in a tizzy over her dating life. She is dating a polyamorous woman who is also currently dating my friend’s sociopathic ex, yet what has her most uneasy about this budding relationship is not the social complications if they were to pursue a committed, romantic relationship. Rather, what concerns her is the lack of sexual tension.
My friend and this woman have begun spending time together frequently, but the sexual chemistry is presently one-sided, and my friend fears that she may never feel anything beyond platonic admiration toward her.
On their second date, my friend panicked over the suggestion that she might not be attracted to her. So, she kissed her, only to further confuse them both.
“Maybe I’m just too comfortable around her to feel any real sparks,” she lamented. “What’s wrong with me?”
“She’s a good kisser. But I didn’t feel anything,” she further confessed. “I always have this problem where if I don’t feel anything, I feel guilty or like a freak.”
I asked my friend if, by sexual tension, she meant sexual attraction. Sexual tension implies a degree of frustration over the inability to express sexual desires within a relationship, either between partners or from one partner to another. My friend doesn’t lack the ability; the woman is eager to consent to sexual relations with her. Rather, my friend lacks erotic inspiration.
Because of the lack of reciprocal sexual attraction, my friend wanted to let the woman know she wasn’t interested in continuing to date her. “…but I also want to stay friends with her,” she added. “She’s intelligent and spiritual and an all-around cool person.”
I then asked if she genuinely wanted to befriend this woman. It sounded to me like she was trying to simultaneously force sexual feelings and a friendship to grow, which is usually a bad idea.
I know as well as anyone that it is possible — and can be quite fruitful — to take a one-sided, sexually tense relationship and build it into a platonic-but-meaningful friendship. However, that’s not something I would generally recommend pursuing, nor is the platonic aspect likely to be maintained long-term.
My advice to my friend was simple: be as upfront as she could muster and divulge all the uncertainty she had about this relationship.
I encouraged my friend to let the woman know that she recognizes how sexy and amazing she is, but for whatever reason, she just isn’t feeling a spark.
Then, my friend and the woman can decide together to (1) slow things down to give the sexual attraction time to grow, (2) label the relationship as platonic and agree to keep it that way, or (3) cut off all contact and agree to go their separate ways.
My friend was understandably cautious to implement my advice.
“…but if I couch it as let’s-slow-things-down, is that just postponing the inevitable?”
Again, I suggested that my friend tell the woman exactly how she feels: that she’s torn between slowing their relationship down and “just” being friends.
Fully disclosing what’s in your head — and I would strongly encourage you to ask your partner what’s in their head, too — allows you both to make informed decisions. It also prompts each of you to re-evaluate what you want from the relationship, if your needs are being met, and if it’s worth sticking around while you figure out if (and how) you each plan to satisfy those drives.
Personally, I’d rather recognize that there is an imbalance in the sexual interest in my relationship than to either not know what’s going on inside of my partner’s head, or worse, incorrectly assume that we are mentally aligned and be blindsided later on when my partner suddenly leaves the relationship.
Remember, you’re not dead. You can both change your minds in an hour, a day, a year, forty years… whenever. This need not be a permanent decision.
The next time you find yourself in my friend’s situation, take a few days to explore how you’re feeling. Then, practice verbalizing your thoughts by yourself. When you have a comfortable grasp on what’s going on in your mind, sit down with your partner, and share your thoughts — all of them. Then, listen while your partner reacts and responds, and reevaluate the relationship.
For better or for worse, if you’re not in it together, maybe you shouldn’t be together.