“My boyfriend (or husband) pressures me sexually” is something I commonly hear as a therapist.
When a person feels pressured sexually by their boyfriend or husband, it often leads to a lot of complex feelings.
What it Looks Like For a Boyfriend to Sexually Pressure
Sexual pressure by your boyfriend or husband can both be verbal and physical.
Your boyfriend may pressure you sexually by guilting you. They may tell you that they don’t feel loved by you without sex. Or your partner may list the things they do for you.
Other times, your boyfriend or husband may be more aggressive when they pressure you sexually. Your partner may touch you sexually and grab intimate body parts. Other times, they may be more coercive.
Sexually Pressuring Someone Can Lead to Abuse
Sadly, sexual assault can be perpetrated by a boyfriend, fiancé, or husband. If this has ever occurred to you, please know this is abuse and highly traumatic. The only way to truly heal this relationship would be to attend therapy together. If your partner is unwilling, please know love is not supposed to hurt.
On a core level, you will not want to have sex in the future with your partner because they have assaulted you. It’s healthy to not feel sexual desire towards someone you don’t feel safe with.
Understanding Your Sexual Needs
If you feel pressured sexually by your boyfriend, it’s helpful to explore your own needs and desires.
Asking yourself why you don’t want to be sexual at times is a useful question. Commonly, the answer to this question is very simple: You and your partner may simply have different libidos. If this is the case, the solution is to negotiate your needs together by openly communicating.
Other times though, the answer is more complex. Perhaps you have lost attraction to your partner out of resentment. Or you no longer feel safe with them. If you don’t trust your partner, this is an example of no longer feeling safe with your boyfriend (or husband). This is very common after an affair or cheating of any kind.
Avoiding Intimacy after Being Pressured
When your boyfriend pressures you sexually, it’s natural to shut down. This is especially true if he becomes irritated towards you or guilts you.
If your boyfriend or husband has a pattern of sexually pressuring you, it’s also understandable if you start to avoid affection completely.
Sexual pressuring can be done by a range of people for a variety of reasons. These reasons include insecurity, the inability to communicate properly, and less commonly, narcissism.
At times, a partner may sexually pressure you because they see sex as a tool for themselves. In these relationships, with a narcissist, sex does not exist for sexual intimacy. Rather sex is “all about them.” Of course, this may manifest as a selfish partner sexually. Other times, you may feel used when you have sex with them. It’s natural to avoid sex with your boyfriend (or husband) if you feel used by them sexually.
Having Sex Because You Feel Guilty
Other times, you may have sex but only out of a sense of guilt. It’s common that when you feel sexually pressured feelings of guilt or obligation arise. This is especially true if you learned that it’s your responsibility to please your partner sexually. Or that if you deny your partner sex than they are “entitled” to look elsewhere for sexual intimacy.
The Messages You Picked Up About Sex
These messages you picked up around obligation and sex may be overt. You may, for example, have been explicitly told that it’s a “wifely duty” to keep her husband satisfied. Or these messages may have been covert such as watching movies that emphasized the importance of keeping your man “happy” sexually.
Other times, you may learned that sex is not something you should do for pure enjoyment. Rather you may have learned that sex is something you trade for love, attention, or financial support. If you picked up any of these messages, it’s likely you will feel guilty or anxious if you set limits when your boyfriend pressures you sexually.
Exploring your beliefs around sex, worth, and love is valuable. To start, you may simply journal your responses to this prompt:
What do I believe is the true value of sex? What am I obligated to do sexually? What do I hope to receive when I’m sexual?Journal Prompts
Safety and Trust in Your Relationship
You will likely feel disrespected when your boyfriend pressures you sexually. Or if your partner only touches you sexually, you may feel devalued.
When a person has healthy sexual boundaries, they will naturally feel turned off by disrespect. If this is happening in your relationship, it’s important to talk to your partner that their sexual touches or pressuring you sexually, makes you shut down.
Hopefully, your partner will be understanding.
Healing from Sexual Pressure
When couples are healing from sexual pressure, it’s important to communicate around needs, wants, and feelings.
Commonly, your boyfriend may sexually pressure you out of insecurity. Deep down, he may fear that if you don’t want to have sex with him than you no longer find him attractive. Women are not the only ones who pick up messages around worth and sexual desirability.
If you still find your partner sexually attractive, you may want to reassure him of this. You may want to emphasize it’s the sexual pressure that turns you off not him.
Having Vulnerable Conversations
If you no longer find your partner sexually attractive, you may need to have an honest conversation about this. Perhaps you are simply bored and need to spice things up? Or maybe your bodies have changed, and you would like to focus on fitness together? If you struggle to communicate in such a vulnerable way, couples therapy helps provide a safe space for such conversations.
(If you don’t find your partner sexually attractive, this may be something you need to explore in therapy as to why. Sometimes, a person is with someone they aren’t attracted to out of a belief that they must take what they can get because they aren’t “good enough.”)
Physical Intimacy without Sexual Pressure
To heal your relationship, it’s also helpful to focus together on non-sexual touch. Examples of non-sexual touch include cuddling on the couch and hand holding. To feel safe, you will likely need to assert to your partner that you do not want them to initiate sex at these times.
You may want to explain to your partner that by respecting these boundaries they are helping you feel safer. This, in time, will likely be a turn on you can add.
Trauma and Sexual Pressure
There are times where you may find that your partner is respectful around sex, yet you still feel pressured. You may find that you try to avoid all sexual intimacy. Or maybe force yourself to get drunk, or use drugs, to feel more comfortable having sex.
If you find that you trust your boyfriend and feel respected, you may want to explore this sense of pressure a little more. At times, if a person has a sexual trauma history, sex in general can feel overwhelming – even with a person you trust.
This is deeply painful, embarrassing, and confusing. Yet, it’s all an understandable reaction to trauma. If you find this is true for you, please seek the support of a trauma therapist to help you heal trauma. If you cannot afford therapy yet, you may want to read The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. This book will likely be highly validating that your trauma symptoms make sense. Also, yoga is proven to help with trauma symptoms, so this is another great place to start. There are many free yoga resources online too where you can do yoga from the privacy of your own home.
You Have the Right to Sexual Consent
Even in long-term relationships (and marriages) consent is an ongoing process. It is important to be honest about your consent.
If you feel pressured by your partner sexually, it’s critical you communicate about this concern. You can heal with the support of honest communication, therapy, and non-sexual intimacy. This is a process but in time, hopefully your partner can understand that this sort of healing and negotiation is necessary.
If you continue to feel unsafe, or disrespected, you may also want to dig deeper and explore your needs, limits, and if you need to leave.
About The Author, Krystal
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
She is currently working on her third book, Self-Love Made Possible: The 5-Step Guide to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy and Become Your Own Best Friend. To be notified of its release, please join the waitlist here.
Her course, Confidently Authentic: Stop People Pleasing and Start Being True to Yourself, provides the skills necessary to have a healthy relationship. This course features over a year of relationship skills you would learn in therapy. Students share this course has been “life changing.”
Each week, she answers your relationship questions from a place of expertise and compassion. To submit your relationship questions, please DM her @confidentlyauthentic.com or you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to submit your question.