Hi Yana,

I have a conundrum! I recently started going on dates with a friend of a friend, and it wasn’t until our third date last week that I realized that, as much as I like them, I don’t think I’m sexually attracted to them.

We’ve known each other for about a year and a half and have hung out in groups a lot. We have developed a very caring, intimate friendship and I feel something more than platonic towards them. But every time we start making out, I instantly want to run away. I love hanging out with them and cuddling them, but the sexual attraction I thought was there flies out the window the second we become remotely sexual.

Part of me thought that it was just because they’re a bad kisser (they really are), but that it was something we could work on. Three dates in, I’m starting to suspect something else.

What’s strange is that I’m a highly sexual person. I’m non-monogamous and I have two romantic partners and a handful of regular hook-ups that could be considered “friends with benefits.” I’ve never had a problem gettin’ groovy with someone I consider a close friend before, so this is throwing me through a loop. I’m also unsure of how to break up with them while I do feel some amount of romantic attraction to them, but just increasingly less sexual attraction.

I know I need to act sooner rather than later, but part of me keeps wanting to say that it might be worth it to work through their relative sexual inexperience and maybe my attraction will follow? But I also want to treat them with kindness and not string them along if I really truly don’t feel sexually attracted to them.

Sparkless in Seattle


Dear Sparkless,

Sexual attraction is a slippery sucker hard to pin to any one thing in particular. Personally, I believe in remaining open to the growers-not-showers (Hello! I mean in the sexual attraction/romantic feelings department). Like, if the spark isn’t there immediately, that doesn’t mean that those things can’t develop especially if there are some foundational elements present like thinking they’re a cutie or enjoying their cuddles.

However, if it’s not there, it’s just not there. Three dates and a couple months in is a pretty decent amount of time to have put in to decide to call it official quits in the sex department. And you’re right, the sooner the better, especially if your next mission is to be kind.

I mean, which do you think is worse?: Having a new(ish) date tell you that the sexual chemistry just isn’t there for them? Or having them grin and bear your bad kissing skills while they try not to physically bolt from your bedroom all in the name of trying to preserve your rapidly-complicating friendship?

If you’re having these waffling sexual feelings, chances are that your date is as well. It takes two to not tango and if you think the kissing is missing something, your date is likely picking up on that. Maybe they’ll be relieved when you pull the plug on advancing past a tender snug.

In the new world order of Everything’s on a Spectrum 2018, you can also keep yourselves open to having your relationship take on whatever form you’d like! “Friends with benefits” used to mean something specific but now the “benefits” portion of the “friends+” arrangement are becoming more and more customized. Maybe your benefits have nothing to do with sex (and good lord stop kissing each other because it sounds awful!) and instead has everything to do with cuddling, romantic cuteness, and hanging out.

Finally, perhaps you’re picking up on something that your date isn’t even aware that they’re putting down. Meaning, sometimes our GTFO alarm is activated by something unspoken like your date reminding you of someone else who’s done you harm or a bodily sensation that is triggering something else. This doesn’t mean you should figure it out in order to push a sexual connection with this person, but it’s something to consider if all other hypotheses come up blank and unsatisfying.

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, www.yanatallonhicks.com.