I live with a younger man who denies our sexual history | Ask Annalisa Barbieri

I met “Jon” (not his real name) eight years ago when I was 59 and he was 22. He actually cruised me on a gay pickup site. Upon meeting it was obvious that I had something that he craved (and I’m not speaking physical/sexual), and of course, as an older man I wasn’t going to turn down the affections of a younger, hot man! He moved in with me three months after meeting. We had some great sex for several years, always initiated by him. The relationship was never romantic, but it became very much about caring for each other.

Fast forward eight years, we are still living together but have not had sex, cuddling nor even quick touching below the belt (his rules) for several years. He now hooks up/dates men his age, which I totally agree is better for him, while obviously I miss the sex/cuddling. He is now much more like a son. And he says he is more likely to care for me in my old age than he will for his own (divorced) parents. (No need to go into it, but this relates back to what he craved in me when we met.)

He hates it when I refer to anything sexual we used to do. There was also a very particular time frame around when we last had sex, which I remember because of circumstances surrounding it. But when I talk about it he absolutely denies it and says there’s something wrong with me because that never happened.

Do you think it’s a problem that not only is he extremely uncomfortable with me briefly making a statement once in a while about anything to do with our sexual history, but that he is also blocking out the last few times we had sex?

It’s one thing to be forgetful about certain details. Some people aren’t as forensic as others, but to be absolutely certain that he’s right and attest that you are misremembering and there must be something wrong with you – with no curiosity that he might have forgotten – is fairly arrogant and controlling.

I went to a COSRT-accredited (College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists) psychotherapist, Silva Neves, who said: “Someone erasing your history is a problem, yes, because it’s denying an important part of your communal experiences. Your partner feeling uncomfortable talking about sex is one thing, but him actively erasing part of your past is wounding.”

I think you’re right to feel unhappy about Jon doing this. There seems a certain amount of denial going on.

It appears your relationship has radically changed, and Neves and I wondered how comfortable you really were about this. Aside from Jon denying (part of) your past, are you happy with the way things are, or do you want more? Because it seems unequivocal that Jon doesn’t, and that the sexual side of your relationship is over. Neves wondered if perhaps Jon was avoiding the whole subject of sex because he thinks talking about it will lead to you wanting it?

“If you’re satisfied with the setup but you’re ‘only’ bothered that the end of the (sexual) relationship is denied, then it might be a good idea to validate that the relationship is now in a completely different place. Jon may need some reassurance that there will be no invitation for sex,” suggested Neves.

This way, when you do talk about sex Jon knows it’s a conversation, not a request. It might take some of the pressure off both of you.

I know it won’t be easy to initiate a conversation given everything you’ve said, but we both felt it was important. Because only then can you really take stock of what’s going on and, from there, work out what you want.

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It sounds like there are elements of you both caring for each other, and Neves wondered if your current setup would work as a loving nonsexual base from which you could have “a wider network of relationships, some of which could be sexual”. This seems to be what Jon is doing.

The cuddling may come back once boundaries are firmly in place and Jon knows it won’t lead to anything else. But without a conversation about where you’re both at there is no emotional intimacy, and when you add that to no physical intimacy it’s hard to see how this is tenable long term.

Every week, Annalisa Barbieri addresses a personal problem sent in by a reader. If you would like advice from Annalisa, please send your problem to ask.annalisa@theguardian.com. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions.

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