I've been with my girlfriend for two years. At first, things were amazing, but after six months she said she didn't want to have sex anymore because she was afraid of getting pregnant. Being the understanding guy, I said OK, and for the last 15 months we haven't made love. Now, despite what she tells me, she doesn't seem to have any interest in me physically. We cuddle while watching TV, but basically, our only sex life is kissing; and not the passionate kind, but the kind of peck a guy would give his mother. I'm extremely unhappy, but every time I try to talk to her she starts to cry and tells me she couldn't live without me. I do believe she would do something drastic, as do all our friends. Should I stay with her and hope things get better, or should I leave her and hope she's bluffing?--Dismayed
"All you need is love," sang The Beatles. Of course, they were pop stars so they got more sex than they knew what to do with.
Now, there are people who manage to go decades without sex -- until the police talk them down from the tower, ordering them to drop the high-powered rifle and come out with their hands up. Don't minimize (or let your girlfriend minimize) the importance of sex in a relationship. Sex bonds people in a way warm feelings just can't, it's good for your health, and, with movie prices what they are, it's pretty much the biggest entertainment bargain around. A relationship without sex is like chicken-fried steak without the steak, Weight Watchers without the fat people, Howard Stern without lesbians, strippers and porn stars. You've become your girlfriend's gay best friend. What a shame you aren't gay.
Surely you don't believe, after six months of sex, your girlfriend suddenly realized it can cause pregnancy? What, she had an extremely delayed reaction to eighth-grade health class? Chances are, what she's most interested in preventing isn't pregnancy but sexual contact of any kind. If a woman is sincerely determined to keep her womb fetus-free, she can choose not just one, but a combo platter of birth control options. Some of the most reliable are Depo Provera, the IUD, Norplant and the pill. Consult a doctor or Planned Parenthood about combining methods. Add condoms, and maybe even one of those new fertility computers like Bioself (sold in drugstores), and if there's still a pregnancy, keep your eyes peeled for the Three Wise Men.
At what point do you expect your girlfriend to go all nympho on you? Come on. Chickens don't bark. Leopards don't toss their spots in the Goodwill drop box, then prance home all paisley. And, no, sex-averse girlfriends don't grow up to be horny housewives. They marry you, slip into something long and flannel with cartoon cats printed on it, and give you a little wave from across the honeymoon suite specially equipped with two twin beds.
To elevate your status from human pillow to sex partner, let's imagine you could get your girlfriend to stop crying long enough to agree to see a medical doctor. If she gets a clean bill of hormonal health, the next stop is the sex therapist's office. Some causes to consider include anorexia, drug use (anti-depressants or the kind sold in alleys), and sexual abuse. Maybe she's a closet Catholic. Maybe she doesn't like sex and simply had it for as long as she could stand it in order to reel you in. Or, maybe she just isn't attracted to you.
Now, I know the din from "down there" must be deafening at this point, but the problem here goes way beyond the fact that she expects you to put your sex drive in "park." Sci-fi novelist Robert Heinlein defined love as "that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." Forget "essential." Does the fact that you're miserable seem even minimally important to your girlfriend? If you even dare to mention your needs, she holds up the threat of suicide like a stop sign.
There is that chance she'll kill herself if you leave -- but, are you really willing to give up your life in hopes of keeping her from taking hers? Assuming you aren't, do your best to prevent her death by giving her friends and family ample warning of your departure, and her shaky emotional state, and encourage them to set her up with a therapist immediately. In breaking up with her, point out all the advantages of sticking around on the planet. The choice is yours: Leave her and fill your life with somebody who can live without you, or resign yourself to a lifetime of neighbors complaining about all the loud hugging.