On accepting emotional responsibility

My boyfriend of three years hasn’t initiated sex with me in nine months. When I finally asked him why, he said that I “make [him] feel like a failure” because I’ve never had an orgasm, so he doesn’t want to have sex with me. I. . . Don’t really have a question, I just want to know what you think about this.


First of all, I am immediately wary of anyone who uses the phrase “you make me feel.” That’s a red flag for me. It’s evidence that a person isn’t accepting responsibility for their own emotions. Whenever I’m in a conversation with someone who says I “make them feel” a certain way I immediately correct them with, “I don’t make you feel anything.”

If instead your boyfriend had said “I feel like a failure,” that would have been an entirely different starting point for the conversation. Still, he would have ended the sentence with, “because you’ve never had an orgasm,” and that’s an awfully deep pile of shit to step in regardless of how he phrases it.

Now, it may be true that you’ve never had an orgasm (which is perfectly okay and nothing to be ashamed of), and it may also be true that your boyfriend has been wallowing in sexual insecurity for a good chunk of your relationship, but I assure you, that only scratches the surface of why he doesn’t want to have sex with you.

Maybe he’s emotionally checked-out of the relationship. Maybe he watches too much internet porn. Maybe he’s fucking other people. I dunno. Whatever it is, he’s not telling you the whole truth, and it’s a real punk-ass move for him to try and blame any part of it on you or your sexuality.

There are much larger forces at play here, and while I can’t be 100% sure what his underlying reasons are without knowing more about you both, I can guarantee you that the orgasm thing is nothing but douchebaggery and misdirection on his part.

It’s one thing to patiently work out some sexual dysfunction with a long term relationship partner. It’s an entirely different thing to put up with the glaring character flaws of a partner too pathetic to accept responsibility for his own feelings of inadequacy.


24 thoughts on “On accepting emotional responsibility

  1. chupacabra says:

    What about situations where people’s behavior causes an emotional reaction in other people like anger, self-doubt, or misery? For example, isn’t behavior like gaslighting a result of someone’s behavior and manipulation “making” you feel a certain way? In that case, would it be fair to say that someone is “making” you feel something?

    After writing this question I realize its far removed from the context of the original post, but I’d still like to ask- I don’t in any way, shape, or form think the original questioner is gaslighting or manipulating her boyfriend.

    • The Coquette says:

      You’re missing my point. Your feelings may have a perfectly justifiable cause, but you still have to take ownership of them. They’re yours. You’re the one who feels them. They come from you, and ultimately, you’re the one responsible for them. That’s what I mean when I say no one ever makes you feel your feelings.

      • chupacabra says:

        So in the situations previously described, its not “You’re making me feel this way”, it’s, “I feel like this when you do X”. Isn’t that essentially the same thing, since your feelings don’t exist in a vacuum, and you wouldn’t be feeling them unless the behavior that you are reacting to wasn’t present? It seems like a semantic difference more than a literal one.

        I THINK I understand that anything I feel I am ultimately responsible for dealing with myself, but if someone is causing a reaction, do they have some responsibility for the reaction occurring?

        • Hanbanjo says:

          I see what you’re saying. But just because someone did something that caused you to feel angry or despondent doesn’t mean that they ‘made’ you feel that way, and it also doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t or can’t feel that way. Feeling anger, self-doubt or all those emotions? They’re all yours.

          How you handle those emotions – that’s all you, too. The only responsibility they have is to their own actions. Not your reaction to whatever they did.

          • chupacabra says:

            I can get behind that, and if so, what’s the best way to express how you’re feeling to someone in reaction to their behavior without saying “You’re making me feel this way when you do X”?

  2. Kath says:

    Yes “you MAKE me feel like a failure” implies that it’s your job to be having orgasms for him. Like your orgasm is not about you at all but a measure of his prowess.

    I mean I totally understand worrying that your partner isn’t satisfied but if that concern was sincere the conversation would have been about your pleasure, not about his ego. So yeah, something else is going on.

  3. moxiejames says:

    My old boyfriend kinda did the same thing to me. We were young so we weren’t having sex yet, but we were fooling around all the time. Never had an orgasm with him doing those things.

    Finally he just stopped mid-fooling-around-session and said “Well, I don’t know, so when you figure it out, you let me know.”

    He made it feel like he wanted me to orgasm for him, not for me.

    Needless to say he dumped me once he went to college and realized there were plenty of empty vessels to stick himself into who would gladly fake it for him or already knew what worked for them.

    And I did figure it out with another partner, who is now my spouse. I think it was because he actually took the time to learn what worked for me because he wanted me to orgasm for me, not for him. He also never gave up on me or made me feel like I owed it to him to have an orgasm.

    • “Well, I don’t know, so when you figure it out, you let me know.”

      While his timing and wording were shitty, I can’t disagree with the overall concept. If I want orgasms (and obviously this doesn’t apply to anyone who doesn’t mind not having them), then it’s on me. I need to figure out how to get myself there first and then show my partner how.

      It’s great when you find a guy who’s willing and able to figure it out with you, but that should not be the expectation. Being treated with respect, though, absolutely.

      • moxiejames says:

        “I need to figure out how to get myself there first and then show my partner how.”

        I agree with what you’re saying now that it’s years later. I was not masturbating at the time we were dating so that had a lot to do with it. I didn’t even know that is how a lot of women find out what works for them to be honest (I know, ‘then you shouldn’t have been fooling around with guys then!’…well, get over it, ’cause I was, I was having fun (safely) even if I didn’t have all the pieces of the sexual puzzle yet)… he didn’t have all the pieces either, so I don’t feel bad that I didn’t know what I liked.

        I don’t blame him for my lack of orgasm in our relationship, I wasn’t really bothered by it, HE was bothered by it. And he took it out on my in the wrong way at the wrong time.

  4. Perspectivator says:

    I’ve been the guy in that situation and never really said it. That relationship ended about four months after I finally figured that out. God I was stupid.

    Anyway, this might be the razor for you to decide whether to cut him loose.
    If he says it again, or you find an opportunity, maybe try this.

    “No, you’re not a failure. WE are a failure. If we aren’t able to achieve simple goals together, how would we ever accomplish something truly complicated? What do you think we can do about it?”

    Chances are he’ll flail about with excuses, and that’s how you’ll know. If he comes back with ideas, then he’s a keeper. If you don’t have any ideas, then maybe you’re part of the problem.

    There’s a million goddamn instructional porn videos on you porn dot com. He can take a couple hours and bone up.

  5. Kiwi says:

    “No, you’re not a failure. WE are a failure. If we aren’t able to achieve simple goals together, how would we ever accomplish something truly complicated? What do you think we can do about it?”

    NO. Getting there is not an easy goal. Its fucking hard for some women. And some women don’t really mind not getting there. The issue is that he cares less about whether she’s enjoying herself than his own damn ego.

  6. Mike M says:

    “hasn’t initiated sex with me in nine months”

    Either poster is complaining about having to initiate all the time, or they have chosen a funny way to say “my boyfriend and I haven’t has sex in nine months.” I’m going to assume the latter. So…

    Why can’t poster initiate?

    • gauzy says:

      Not the point. Nobody wants to be the one begging for it all the time. Can you really not see how your significant other never being the first to make physical advances can make you feel like something is wrong with you? If you were married and your partner never once touched you without you touching them first, are you telling me your self esteem would be at 100% during sex?

  7. J Lynn says:

    Can she orgasm on her own? If not, and if she wants to orgasm with a partner, she needs to practice and learn about her body more. Dr Betty Dodson’s books and Web site has fantastic resources. It’s hard for a man (exceptions for gifted lovers or just good luck) to please a woman who doesn’t know what works for her individually, and we learn that easiest through masturbation.

    If she knows how to get herself off and does it regularly, but doesn’t come with him, then it’s a matter of communication, demonstration (masturbate while he watches!), and practicing what she shows him. Adding a vibrator to the mix might help if hands and mouth need an assist.

    To paraphrase Dr Betty, an insidious, damaging part of feminine socialization is that women are subtly and overtly discouraged, even shamed, from seeking their own pleasure. Thus so many of us wait (impatiently at times) for the kiss of Prince Charming to awaken us from sexual repression. We wait to be “given” an orgasm, like a present, rather than taking and enjoying it as our birthright. I definitely had my mind unconsciously clouded with this cultural anti-sex crap when I was younger. But no more! I have learned over the years that men are usually grateful when a woman helps him please her.

    So that’s on the sex part. Re emotional responsibility, yeah, he was being blamey and self-centered with the “you make me” stuff. Words matter. Why not just “I feel I’ve failed because…” or better yet something less loaded, “I’m frustrated because I want to make you come but haven’t yet.” Another way is to be positive (if you can manage it without being pushy or passive-aggressive), “I’d love for you to have orgasms with me if you want that too, do you want to explore that together?”

    • J Lynn says:

      Ps, having said all that, if he hasn’t wanted to have sex in 9 months, your lack of orgasms may just be an excuse or red herring, like Coke says. If he isn’t enthusiastically on board, you’re better off exploring your orgasmic potential solo or with someone else.

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