My partner of a year and I live together and emotionally I’m so content! However, our intimacy has hit a wall. For a while, we enjoyed our pleasure-based fun and our communication was on point! I didn’t think much about the fact that he didn’t seem interested in intercourse (penis-vagina) because we were having fun regardless. Six months into seeing each other, I asked if he was interested in intercourse. He expressed that he was interested but was avoiding it because he’s terrified of pregnancy.

Hormonal birth control isn’t an option for me for medical reasons, and non hormonal options are expensive and frighten me. We bought condoms, agreeing that was our option, but they stayed in their box.

When I finally tried to have the conversation with him recently, he said that he’s still interested, but now it causes him anxiety because we simply haven’t done it. He said he’s anxious about performance and that “It” has become this large elephant in the room that stresses him out to even think about.

Now I have negative connotations with any of our sex. I feel like there’s so much tension around “Is this finally going to evolve into intercourse?” I’ve expressed that I want to respect his feelings and don’t want to pressure him. I just want to feel intimate with him — my long term partner — and right now I want something other than oral/hand play.

He always agrees that he wants to make it happen and work through it but then our ideas never come to fruition. We’ve tried sex toys to spice it up but it’s not working. This tension is affecting us in so many other ways now and I hate it. Something isn’t right here and I’m running out of ideas. I can’t tell if this is a communication break down or a sexual compatibility issue. Blah.

— Simply Stalemated


Dear Stalemated,

I’m not sure from your question if your partner has ever had P-in-V intercourse sex before or not. I wonder this because I’m curious about what has influenced his fear of an accidental pregnancy: has he had a scary accidental pregnancy experience/s before? Has he not had intercourse at all (or maybe even “enough” times), so that he hasn’t been able to experience over time that his birth control choices can be relatively trusted? Or maybe it’s just that general fear that many folks feel about accidental pregnancy?

Either way, I’m inclined to agree with your gut feeling that “something isn’t right here.” Don’t get me wrong: the fear of accidental pregnancy is super real. However, it’s also a risk many of us navigate if we want to have the P-in-V intercourse kinda sex he says he wants. So, this brings me to some avenues y’all could try meandering down: one is to have some more conversations about how to navigate the risk of accidental pregnancy. The other is to check in about how much he actually, truly wants to have P-in-V intercourse.

If condoms are your go-to, talk about how to make sure y’all are using them effectively and then also talk about what your thoughts/feelings/plans might be if an accidental pregnancy were to happen. Are you comfortable taking Plan B if a condom were to fail you? Is abortion an option for either of you and if so, how would you want to support each other in that? Sometimes mitigating fears include playing out the worst case scenarios and feeling prepared to handle them.

Sometimes we can really want to do something but our anxieties feel insurmountable to get the thing we want. And sometimes our anxieties become a really great excuse to not do something we’re honestly just not that into. I wonder which one resonates for him more and/or if he would even be able to answer that question — maybe not yet.

If it’s the former, more communication and digging into fear might be in order. If it’s the latter then, sure, maybe you have a compatibility issue here. Either way, it’s definitely time to directly break up the current anxiety/pressure/low desire cycle because it’s one that’s much more likely to breed accidental resentment than accidental pregnancy.

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, yanatallonhicks.com.