My partner only wants to have sex when he is half-asleep

If I make a move when he’s awake, he tells me he’s not interested. Is this the end of our love life?

My partner and I have been together for four years and used to have a good sex life. He has a diagnosed sleep disorder and falls asleep very quickly. While I am still awake and reading in bed, he will sometimes half wake up shortly after falling asleep and try initiating sex. I always fully wake him, ask if he actually wants to have sex and then we either do or don’t, which is fine. But for the past 10 months these encounters are the only time my partner seems interested in sex. When I try to initiate, he says he is not interested. A few nights ago he tried initiating while half-asleep and I told him I wasn’t interested as he only seems to want to have sex while half-asleep. His reply was: “We won’t have sex then.” I asked if he understood why I was upset by this and he didn’t answer. We haven’t discussed it since. I have gained two stone (28lb/13kg) during the course of our relationship and I know he now finds me less attractive. I’m worried that I have killed off our sex life completely with my comment.

Your partner’s sleep disorder has led to enormous challenges for both of you. You need specialised help and sometimes it is necessary to have more than one expert involved. I believe you need to have the physician who diagnosed (and is presumably treating) the sleep disorder work with a sex therapist or sexual medicine specialist to try to help you both navigate this. Your concern about consent is laudable, but the communication issues between you are significant and need some real work.

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 [email protected] (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.

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