Get Real! Why Can’t She Understand That I’m Not Ready?


Chad asks:

My girlfriend
doesn’t understand why we can’t have sex because I’m not ready. I keep
asking her to wait a little longer, but then she gets confused and she
thinks I’m not interested. I just don’t want to mess up or get an STD.
I don’t know what to do.

Heather replies:

Unfortunately,
some women don’t know or understand when they’re carrying around
double-standards when it comes to being ready for sex. You’re not the
first guy to ask this question or be in this situation.

Just like it is for women, guys are not somehow automatically ready
for sex any time their partner is or when sex is made available. Just
like for women, plenty of men have concerns about unwanted or unplanned
pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, physical or emotional
safety, or just mucking a relationship up with sex that happens too
soon or before it really feels like the right thing. Just like with
women, men will take a pass on sex for more reasons than just because
they don’t feel attracted to someone or aren’t in the mood for sex:
sometimes men, like women, will want to hold off on sex even when they
are very much in the mood and are very much attracted to a partner who
wants to have sex with them.

Just as it isn’t okay for men to pressure or push a partner for sex, it’s not okay for women to do, either.

A lot of people are raised with, or exposed to, some pretty
inaccurate, and even creepy, ideas about sex and gender that they take
at face value or enable pretty thoughtlessly, even when presented with
realities that make clear how wrongheaded those ideas are. Lots of
folks think that guys are ALWAYS ready, no matter what (and should be,
or aren’t "real men" if they’re not up for sex any time it’s made
available), and that girls either never are, only are in certain
situations, or that it matters a lot for girls to have sex only when
they feel ready, but not for guys. Some people think it doesn’t make a
difference if no one is ready, that it’s no big whoop to have sex even
when it’s not wanted or doesn’t feel right. And none of those things
are universally true, or even true for most people.

It matters just as much for sex to only happen for men when they
feel ready as it does for women, and having sex when you don’t want to
is going to be no less damaging and lousy for you than it would be were
the shoe on the other foot. For sex to be healthy and positive for you
– as is the case for her or for anyone at all — it’s got to happen
when it’s something you strongly want, something that feels right, and
something you feel ready for at the time. It also has to be freely
chosen, not something you do because you cave into what someone else
needs or wants. Partnered sex is supposed to be about something
pleasurable and meaningful — even though what kind of meaning that is
can vary a lot — that is shared, not about something one person just
gives over to make the other quit freaking bugging them already.

I can’t find anything even remotely sexy or healthy about having sex
in order to be left the heck alone by a nagging partner, or to feed
their ego. Bleck.

It’s so important that none of us make our sex lives with our
partners about having a partner need to, or feel they need to, have sex
with us to prove something, be it love, commitment or attraction. By
all means, one of the positive things any of us can experience during
any kind of sex with someone else is a bump of validation in any of
those departments, but it’s not sound to make sex about that
validation, nor to make that little side-benefit the whole of what’s
going on. We can demonstrate those things in a whole lot of ways: sex
is only one of them, and even when it is wanted by both of you, sex
alone is not going to be able to express those things all by itself.

I think you first need to make clear to your girlfriend that you not
being ready yet is not about a lack of interest in her, and that if she
keeps insisting it is, it’s past time for her to stop doing that. You
are telling her it is not, and if she cares for you, she needs to hear
and respect what you are actually saying, not what she is choosing to
hear.

Talk with her about what your real concerns are, and about what you
need — if you do feel like she’s someone you want to have sex with in
time — to address them. For instance, with your concerns about
sexually transmitted infections, you may need to be sure you’re both on
the same page about safer sex practices, and that you both have a
recent STI screening first: you could even go do that together as a
couple. Talk about what you’re worried you’ll mess up, or what you’re
worried could get messed up in your relationship. Make clear you need
some real time spent — probably not just one discussion — where the
two of you really work through your worries, and some more time with
other kinds of physical affection or more gradual entry into a sex life
together to feel more comfortable moving forward. You might want to
print out our Readiness Checklist,
look through it, and identify some of the areas where you’re not
feeling ready to help you cement your own thoughts and best have this
kind of conversation.

As well, ask her about how she’s feeling in terms of why sex is
feeling so urgent for her, or why it’s so important to her that you
fill that need right now. Since it sounds like part of why she’s been
pushing is about a need to feel you have a sexual interest in her, you
can ask about ways you might support her needs, and better demonstrate
that you are interested if she’s not feeling that as much as she’d like
to. Is she feeling pressure from friends? Is she worried about the
status of your relationship and feeling like sex needs to happen to
cement it? Is she just feeling insecure of late, perhaps due to other
situations in her life besides your relationship? Is she feeling
sexually frustrated and unable to take care of her desires with her own
two hands, thinking her sexuality can only start with a partner? Is she
just really crazy into you, feeling her desire big-time, and operating
under some of the double-standards I brought up and feeling upset
because of those assumptions? Finding out more about why she’s feeling
the way she is and where it’s all coming from might help you both to
better understand the other.

I’d suggest sharing what I have said about double-standards with
your girlfriend: you might even just want to print it out for her so
she can see it coming from someone else’s mouth. Now, your words should
absolutely be enough, but sometimes a little backup helps.

Lastly, let her know that you are clear that she feels ready for sex, and knowing that, if and when you also feel ready, you will let her know.
In other words, she tossed the ball, it’s in your court now, and what
she needs to do is just wait and see if you throw it back or not.

She needs to stop reminding you or bringing it up: you know she’s
interested and waiting on you, and her pushing for it not only isn’t
okay, it’s not going to make you be ready any sooner. In fact, being
pushed to have sex when it’s not where we’re at yet, and when we’ve
made that clear, is more likely to turn us off of sex than to turn us
on to it. I’d mention that she probably doesn’t want to have sex with
someone who only chose to do that because of pressure from her: both
you and she deserve a sexual partner who comes to sex because it’s what
they want, and because they are choosing it freely, without pressure.
If she’s looking to find validation by pushing someone into sex, she’s
likely to discover not only that isn’t healthy for both of you, but
that she might even feel more insecure afterwards than she does right
now.

If after talking about this some more, she still tries to make your
not feeling ready yet about her appeal, just won’t hear you, or keeps
pushing something you’ve made clear you don’t feel ready for yet on
you, then I’d suggest you reconsider being involved with her. Truth is,
when a person can’t respect another person’s limits and boundaries,
it’s actually a clear sign that they aren’t ready for sex,
because being able to do that is central to healthy sexual
relationships. Another part of being ready is having the maturity to
recognize when our sexual wants and needs just aren’t aligned with
someone else’s. Neither she nor you are obligated to be a couple. If
she feels like sex absolutely has to be part of any relationship she is
in right now and she cannot wait for it, but knows she is currently
seeing someone who isn’t ready, it’s up to her to take responsibility
for the things she wants and seek them out with someone else who shares
them. The person putting the brakes on is the person we always need to
defer to, but not everyone has the care and the maturity to recognize
that.

Hopefully, this talk with her will go well, and she’ll be able to
really hear you and respect where you’re coming from. Ideally, if you
two care about each other, and can get to that point rather than
talking past each other, that in and of itself should bring you closer
and demonstrate to her that you have an investment in the relationship
and strong interest in her. After all, we don’t invest energy and time
into working a conflict out when we don’t give a hoot. However, if
already you are just feeling like she’s not going to get this, or like
you’ve been pushed too much already, you certainly do not have to talk
with her about this any more: it’s valid to nip a relationship in the
bud when we just don’t feel understood or respected in it, or like
we’re doing more than our share of the work on it.

No matter what, I want you to know, for yourself, that one place we do
find maturity is in someone knowing what is and isn’t right for them at
a given time, and sticking to what they know is best for them, even if
making a different choice might in some ways be easier or less of a
headache.

In the work I do, I hear from guys of all ages often who don’t feel
ready for sex at any given time: you’re not alone in this. And if you
find yourself in a situation where you have to really fight for your
right to be in exactly the place you’re at in your life or a
relationship when it comes to sex, know that it’s not because there is
something wrong with you, but because someone else is viewing sex or
you in a way that is skewed and unhealthy. The bonus when that happens
is that if they don’t realize pretty quickly that they’re being
disrespectful or selfish, and don’t change their behavior pronto, you
get to say buh-bye and dodge a bullet. Sex with someone who can’t deal
with where you’re at and what’s best for both people involved isn’t
likely to be fun, pleasurable or positive for anyone.

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