I’m not attracted to my girlfriend – but I want to spend the rest of my life with her

<span>‘Sex with her is never really passionate and I don’t get much satisfaction from it.’</span><span>Composite: Guardian Design/Getty Images (posed by models)</span>
‘Sex with her is never really passionate and I don’t get much satisfaction from it.’Composite: Guardian Design/Getty Images (posed by models)

I’m struggling in my relationship and I think my girlfriend is catching on. I am an 18-year-old man and she is 19. I know already that she is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I know I am lucky to have found her and I don’t want to let her go. But, while she always has a high sex drive for me, I do not have the same for her. I have sex with her semi-regularly, but it is never really passionate and I don’t get much satisfaction from it. I’m aware that my feelings about her are coming through in everyday conversations. I sometimes mention, for instance, that what she is eating isn’t the best, or that she should go to the gym more often. I know this is unhealthy and is making her unhappy. I don’t know how to solve this problem, let alone work out what it even is.

At 18, you are just at the beginning of your sexual and relationship journey. It’s important to recognise that learning how to navigate sexual relationships and how to achieve true intimacy is a process that takes a lifetime. No matter how smart or accomplished a person might be, they will always make mistakes and have to learn from them.

What you are sensing in your girlfriend is a resistance to your attempts to control her. Where did that tendency come from? Is it similar to a relating style of, say, your father or your mother? Discuss it with your girlfriend. You might say: “I’ve noticed you resent it when I make certain suggestions and I’m sorry if that annoys you. Please help me to understand how it feels.”

Regarding your uncertainty about chemistry: if you have to question whether or not you are attracted to her, then there is most likely something about her that turns you off. That may not be her physicality; it could be a relationship element. You need to talk about true feelings; help her to feel safe and loved; and share what you both need, including what arouses you.

• Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

• If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to private.lives@theguardian.com (please don’t send attachments). Each week, Pamela chooses one problem to answer, which will be published online. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions.