In Bed With Gigi Engle

In Bed With Gigi Engle: My Girlfriend Is Sexually Closed Off and I'm Not Sure How to Fix It

in bed with gigi engle
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Welcome to In Bed with Gigi Engle, a weekly column in which sex and relationships writer Gigi Engle answers your most intimate questions. Nothing is off-limits! From threesomes to anal, unrequited love to cheating: We want to hear it all.

For questions on relationships, sex, or anything else, email Gigi at AskGigi@thrillist.com.

Dear Auntie Gigi,

Lately, my girlfriend has been acting a little closed off sexually.

I know for a fact that she watches porn, but she denies it to me. So to spice things up I bought some wrist cuffs and a porno for us to watch together. She said she didn't want to see me get off to other women and refused to watch with me. Understandable, I guess? I can't tell if this is a self-esteem issue for her.

I know she has this sexual energy, but I'm not sure how to unlock it. What can I do to make her feel open to communicating her fantasies and turn-ons to me?

I appreciate your time and thanks for all that you do.

-- H

Hi H,

Thanks for your letter. I'd love to help you make sense of this. Sex can bring out odd emotions in all of us that we may not recognize or even know we're feeling.

First things first, we've got to figure out if your partner's sexual plateau is due to something going on emotionally, or the natural taper of a long-term relationship. A reduced sex drive is fairly normal for someone who's been in a serious relationship for a while. That doesn't mean sex will end altogether, or that a couple's sex life will become unsatisfying. It just means you may not always tear each other’s clothes off like you did at the beginning of the relationship.

You spend a little more time enjoying each other's company, and a little less time screwing.

There's nothing wrong with this. You just get more comfortable with the other person; and comfort often plays a happy first to passion. You spend more time enjoying each other's company, and a little less time screwing.

All that said, sexuality and self-esteem are inextricably linked. And because sex puts a person in a vulnerable position physically and emotionally, you're right to pay attention to changes in your partner's sexual behavior that could be a sign of other, larger emotional issues.

If she's truly closed off sexually, and not simply experiencing a natural waning of sexual appetite, you're not going to make great inroads by pushing her to be more adventurous. Instead, you should try to figure out what the emotional blockage is that's causing her to recede into herself.

You have to be sure that you're communicating in a way that makes the other person feel safe and not overwhelmed.

If you think her lowered sex drive is due to a lack of self-esteem, that's something to consider seriously. It would mean something recently happened that caused a serious decline in her self-worth. This can't go unaddressed. As her partner, it's your job to make her feel comfortable with you to a point of being able to share her insecurities without fear of judgment. If nothing definable went down, it's possible that her anxieties have been building for some time and are manifesting as a lack of sex drive.

It sounds to me like you're putting a lot of pressure on her to try new things for your benefit. Pressing your girlfriend for information on top of that is only going to contribute to her discomfort, further compromise her self-esteem, and cause her to close off even more. You have to be sure that you're communicating with this person in a way that makes her feel safe -- not overwhelmed.

Watching porn might be something she really enjoys doing on her own. It could also be something she's ashamed of and doesn't want you to know about. Porn is sexy to people for a lot of different reasons. It also has a lot of stigma attached to it, and makes some people feel weird when they watch it.

Either way, you have got to let her do her thing. If porn is something she wants to do alone, that’s just the way it is. You've tried to watch porn with her. It didn't work. Let that one go and try something else. If you're so sure she has this sexual energy inside of her, then actually talk to her and make her feel comfortable about opening up to you.

Dude, you have got to let her do her thing. If porn is something she wants to do alone and not with you, that's just the way it is.

It's possible that this "sexual energy" you're trying to unlock just isn't there, or isn't the kind of energy you're perceiving it to be. I'm not saying she isn't a sexual person; I'm just saying that all of this fantasy exploration might not be something she's into and she's not flat-out saying it to you because she doesn't want to disappoint you.

My advice would be to sit down and have an open and honest conversation about her perceived insecurities and your hopes for your sex life. Tell her that you truly want her to be honest with you and to tell you how she's feeling because you love her and want to make her happy.

Let her know that her comfort in your sex life is of the utmost importance to you. Coming from a place of understanding, rather than one where you're making her feel like she's not living up to her full potential, will definitely make a difference.

Love your favorite internet auntie,
XOXO Gigi

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

For questions on relationships, sex, or anything else, email Auntie Gigi at AskGigi@thrillist.com. Follow her on Twitter, iTunesFacebook, and Instagram. For more In Bed with Gigi Engle, click here.