Ill-Equipped (Who Isn't?)

11/15/2006 03:00 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Jennifer Lehr answers your questions about sex, love, and relationships every week on Fearless Voices. To send her a question, click here.

Dear Jennifer,

Basically I am in hell and I don't know what to do. My boyfriend, 46,
(I'm 37) lives with me and I adore him, and I have never really loved
anyone like this in my life and can't imagine life without him. But the
sex has almost stopped.

We've been together since June and we had a great sex life for about
four months and then for the last two months, he's barely been
interested. He says he's just going through a phase but at the same
time I know he feels angry and feels pressure from me and this is making me feel even worse.
How can he not understand how upsetting this is to me?

Also, around labor day he quit drinking which I think is great but he's
not going to AA or anything. I guess we need to go to a therapist but I
don't know who or what and I know I am going to have to be the one to
push it because he just wants to ignore the problem. It is also so
expensive, so I am torn there, because I know you kind of get what you
pay for but we are not exactly rolling in it right now.

Please let me know if you can help me in any way. I am desperate!


Dear Sondra,

I hear your desperation and I know it's a terrible feeling. I hope it
helps to know that having problems with your sex life is just about the
most common thing in the world. I think the fantasy of what a sex life
should be does a lot of harm--in a sense adding insult to injury. I
don't think we would feel as badly as we do if we knew that once things
get serious in a relationship, issues are bound to crop up and those
issues are bound to affect our sex life.

In your case, your boyfriend has withdrawn from you. And in turn, you
feel rejected, more needy and afraid things won't work out. You're
right, therapy would help you both untangle your web of problems. I can
only guess that they include depression, money issues and fear of
intimacy and commitment. And you're right it is expensive. I'd get some
therapist recommendations from friends. I'd call the therapists and ask
if they can help you find someone who works on a sliding scale. They
should be able to help you out.

I do think, however, that it isn't a coincidence that your boyfriend's
lack of interest in sex coincided with him getting sober. Alcoholics
who stop drinking without working a program, are often called "dry
drunks." It is said that they are "white knuckling" it through
life--holding on real tight, just trying to get by. Really an alcoholic
who is drinking can be much more pleasant to be around because their
pain is being medicated with the alcohol. But if you take away their
medication, then they have no way of coping with the pain that drove
them to drink in the first place. And then they are really more
miserable than before. There is no alcohol to help them relax, to help
them talk, to give them confidence. Perhaps this is where your
boyfriend is at now. Unfortunately, you cannot make an alcoholic go to
Alcoholics Anonymous,

Alcoholics really do have to hit their own bottom to be motivated to
seek help on their own. The only thing you can do is focus on YOU. I do
recommend you go to an Al-Anon meeting because, by your own admission,
you are in a relationship with an alcoholic. It may take some searching
to find a meeting that feels right to you. When my husband was a
white-knuckling dry drunk, I went to Al-Anon for just a couple of
meetings. While it didn't feel like the perfect fit for me, I did pick
up some very helpful ideas that stick with me today.

Through Al-Anon, I realized that if change the way I respond to John,
then I will affect his behavior. I don't have to yell back. I don't
have to stick around for a fight. And Al-Anon is free!

I think calling a therapist and going to a meeting will help you feel
less desperate. I do know that one thing leads to another and that
nothing leads to nothing.