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Background:

My partner and I have been together for 9 years, beginning in high school. Around year three we went through a rough patch where my partner emotionally abused me into consenting to sex, which I had been holding out on due to religious reasons.

Within the next year, my partner transitioned from female to male (FTM). This put a heavy strain on our relationship, naturally, but I stuck around because I want what's best for him, and if being male is it, so be it.

Year five, we got engaged and he moved in with me. At this time, he was reminded of sexual abuse that occurred when he was five or six, and completely shut down sexually. Since then, any physical intimacy between us has ceased. He has become a sex-repulsed asexual.

He has also, seemingly chosen to, forget that I sexually prefer females, and becomes very upset whenever I am forced to remind him. As time moves on, it is more and more clear that he is not going to ever want to return to PiV sex. As I see it, any honest conversation we have has only two outcomes:

  1. We break up
  2. I force him to have sex on my terms

Question:

How can I have an honest discussion with my partner, when the only outcomes are undesirable by both parties.

Other info:

  • I am male, and identify as heterosexual, biromantic
  • He is FTM, and identifies as pansexual (mentally, he presents as asexual solely because of his body), panromantic
  • He is going to be going on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) in a month
  • I have tried to initiate conversation before, but he either shuts down, or talks his way out of it with promises of change.
  • We are both too monogamous to "out source" the physical intimacy.
  • He is solely dependent on me. He has no job, no education, no driver's license, and no emotional support outside of me.
  • 6
    He doesn't work, go to school or have any social life whatsoever? Is your partner suffering from mental health challenges? If so, is he receiving treatment for them? – Meg Dec 10 '18 at 18:51
  • @Meg Mostly true, yes. His only real social connections are his immediate family, and online friends. He does suffer from various mental ailments, and just recently started seeing a therapist. I've yet to see much improvement though. – ASadBee Dec 10 '18 at 21:09
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+50

What I think you haven't fully faced is that your conversation already has only one possible outcome: breaking up. I am certain that given what you have been through, the idea of coercing your partner to have sex on your terms and against his will must be as repugnant to you as it would be to him. Making sex he doesn't want a condition of continuing the relationship pretty much amounts to emotionally abusing him into consenting, as I am sure you have considered.

So, how do you break up with a long term partner, who has become incompatible with you for reasons essentially out of either of your control, but you still care about? With the utmost honesty, but limited details and rehashing of every wrong and flaw in your years together. Don't fall into the trap of trying to enumerate all the reasons to break up and every way in which he doesn't live up to your needs as a partner. It's okay if you cry, feel sad, openly mourn the ending of your relationship, but try not to verge into the realm of dramatics that might imply false hope. Be frank and straightforward, and be clear that the break is about your needs. You need to be in a sexual relationship as much as he needs to be in an asexual one.

You can't let him talk his way out of it with promises that he clearly has no intention (and likely no ability) to keep, or avoid the conversation that he probably already suspects is coming. Tell him directly that you need to have a serious, probably unpleasant talk. Ask for his buy-in and attention. Acknowledge that this is hard to hear, and that you also wish you were not in this situation, but, here you are, and there is no way to go but forward.

You can offer to help him get set up with a job, a place, a bit of a support system, but I don't think there is any way of making this easier. There is a balancing act here between 'I throw my helplessly dependent ex out in the cold' and 'I allow my ex to keep living off me for free indefinitely'. You will need to decide where that line is, and once decided, hold firm to it and try to make it a 'clean break'.

-1

If you go into a conversation assuming that you already know the possible outcomes, that conversation is doomed to failure.

A conversation where one participant has already decided the possible outcomes is either an order or an argument. Neither one is conducive to a healthy relationship, especially since you don't actually like the outcomes you see.

Instead, identify the conflicts that you perceive to be causing stress in your relationship, and the goals you wish to achieve while resolving these conflicts.

Be prepared to be flexible on your goals. You need to make space for your partner's goals as well, and some things may not be totally achievable.

In this case, it looks like your conflict is that you and your partner are no longer sexually compatible (or at least not compatible enough). Your goals are to resolve the stress this is causing and avoiding a breakup. (I'm putting words in your mouth here, so feel free to adjust if you feel these don't actually match your goals).

I didn't include "avoid forcing him to have sex on your terms" as a goal because I considered that part of "resolve the sexual incompatibility", but it might be worth stating outright. This conversation isn't about you having a problem, it's about the two of you having a problem together, and finding a solution that works for both of you. But being extra clear that the solution you are looking for takes into account your partner's happiness should help establish that this conversation isn't just about you, and will encourage your partner to participate.

Once you've organized the problem in your mind, then do the same thing in the conversation - lay out the problem, establish your goals, and then brainstorm what you might do for a solution. At each of these steps, make sure that you and your partner are in agreement before moving onto the next step.

It's okay if in your conversation you can't find a way to achieve your goals as long as you decide on some way to move the problem forward. For example, agreeing to couples counseling or trying something sexually that neither of you has done before. Neither of those solves your problem by itself, but trying them might lead the way to a solution in the future.

Starting the conversation with a reluctant partner

Your partner has been avoiding having this conversation, likely because they see the same possible outcomes as you, and they like them even less than you do.

Don't try to initiate the conversation all at once. Establish your desire for the conversation, and then let your partner pick the time and place for it. Giving them time to prepare and letting them choose a location and time where they feel comfortable and secure will help the conversation go well. Again, during this initial planning step emphasize that this conversation will be a joint effort for a joint problem.

Once a time and date has been picked, set it in stone (barring emergencies, of course). When picking a date and time, try and pick one that is unlikely to have a conflict arise. Similarly, pick a location that is unlikely to have unexpected disruptions or distractions. Turn off your phones (or at least put them on silent) for the duration of the conversation.

You've made an assumption that is wrong

I don't know what it is. You don't know what it is. But your understanding of this problem is flawed in some way. Be open to figuring out what that is.

What we have here is a failure to communicate

Sometimes people have true conflicts in what they want or desire. But just as often they simply misunderstand that they both want the same or very similar things, but are expressing what they want differently. Pay attention and try to identify where you and your partner are miscommunicating rather than conflicting. A miscommunication is neither person's fault, but both can try to fix the problem.

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