My boyfriend never initiates sex – how can I help him to be more confident?

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I met my boyfriend shortly before the first lockdown in March last year, and had never been in a relationship as peaceful and happy as this one. I am 25, and he is 30, and I can imagine having kids with him and growing old together, if only for this one problem. I have always had a high sex driveand, although, at the beginning of our relationship, we had a lot of sex, after a while, I began to realise that I was always the one initiating it.

I didn’t initiate for a couple of weeks to see if he would, but he never did. This led to us only having sex if I started it. I brought this up with him and told him how unwanted it made me feel. At first, he said it just wasn’t on his mind; then, he said he felt dirty and unattractive. Later, he said that now I had brought it up, he was too insecure to initiate out of fear he wouldn’t be good in bed. I have tried to build up his self-confidence by making compliments about his appearance, kissing him and jumping on to his lap.

He is very good-looking, so I don’t understand where his insecurities are coming from. I have also suggested he may want to see a therapist. After I brought all this up, he would initiate a little more for a week or two, but then everything would go back to the way it was before. I feel he doesn’t really care or think about my needs and, though I love him and feel really sad at the idea of breaking up with him, I’m starting to think I might not have any other choice. I’m worried that if we’re already facing these kinds of problems at the beginning of our relationship, it will only get worse.

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The word “initiate” scares some people, especially those who are not used to taking charge. Instead of asking: “It’s time you initiated,” it would be far better to gently help him understand exactly what that means to you. Where, when and how? How exactly would you like him to approach you? Exactly what kinds of touches or caresses do you prefer? And what quality of touch … soft and sensuous or strong and masterful? Teach him to please you in incremental steps so he doesn’t feel you are pressuring him. Reward even small successes with praise and reciprocation. Because you are sexually confident and easily take your own pleasure, you may think it comes naturally for others; it doesn’t.

  • 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: see gu.com/letters-terms.

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