Ask Amy: My long-term partner performed a sexual act with me without my consent. What do I do?

Dear Amy: I am a woman in a long-term relationship with a man.

We have a good relationship, talking through issues and agreeing on most things. When we disagree, we communicate, clear the air, and move on.

The other night, my partner woke up in the middle of the night and performed a sex act with me that I did not enjoy and would never consent to, had I been asked.

I did not, in the moment, stop it or verbalize non-consent.

I took a few days to process the incident. I then tried to discuss it with him.

He said he vaguely remembers this, but claims to remember none of the details.

He told me he feels bad that this happened, and I asked for time to continue to process my feelings.


He wants to jump straight back into our usual, physically affectionate relationship, but I’m not sure that I am ready. I don’t think I want that yet.

I know that he will be disappointed but respectful if I ask him to hold off on having sex, but that can’t last forever.

How can I continue to process my emotions about this, and work toward building emotional and physical intimacy with my partner?

I can’t afford therapy right now, and I’m not sure if I even know how I feel in order to be able to talk about it with someone.

Can you give me some feedback?

– Confused and Concerned

Dear Confused: Because this episode is way out of the norm for you two, I’d wonder why your partner did this – and why he claims not to remember. Does he have a sleep disorder? Is he taking a drug that has affected both his behavior and memory?

If so, he obviously needs to disclose this to you.

If not, his memory is unacceptably vague.

The issue of consent between lovers can seem complicated, but your partner performing a sex act “with” you in the middle of the night is a violation – regardless of whether you verbalized lack of consent at the time.

This is your body. Asleep or half-asleep, you were not in a position to offer or refuse consent.

Because he won’t acknowledge your legitimate concern about his behavior, your partner wants to simply resume your physical relationship, but this would not resolve anything for you.

You seem to frame this as your problem to solve. It’s not. You shouldn’t need to “ask him to hold off on physical intimacy,” as if he would be doing you some kind of favor while you “get over” this episode.

If he wants to resume an emotional and physical relationship with you, he should work very hard to understand your reaction and rebuild trust.

I urge counseling for you. offers a 24-hour chat “helpline,” where you can communicate with a volunteer counselor.

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Dear Amy: This has been an ongoing problem between my husband and me:

If I ask a question like, “Do you mind if I turn this program off, or are you listening to it?” he will answer “yes” or “no,” and these one-word answers do not make his meaning clear to me.


He says it is my fault for asking two questions, but I maintain that even a short two-word answer would make his meaning clear.

He thinks I’m being unreasonable and should limit myself to one question.

I think my way of asking is only polite.

Am I wrong?

– MS

Dear MS: If you want a straightforward answer, ask a simple question.

I agree with your husband that your habit of asking two potentially opposing questions (“Do you mind if I turn this off, or are you listening to it?”) forces him to issue more than a one-word response.

I agree with you that your way of asking is polite.


And I hope that you will both agree with me that spouses should always do their best to be generous in all of their communications.

• • •

Dear Amy: “Looking for Love” is a 72-year-old man who wrote about not having intimacy in his marriage for 20 years.

He’d do well to look at whether he helps his wife with household chores.

If he treats her like staff at an assisted living facility, he shouldn’t complain that she doesn’t want to be intimate with him. That would violate her employment contract.

This suggestion is based on me being the staff at the assisted living facility that has housed my 74-year-old husband for more than three decades.

– Been There

Dear Been There: Ouch.

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(You can email Amy Dickinson at You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

Amy Dickinson

Amy Dickinson writes the syndicated advice column, “Ask Amy,” which is carried in over 150 newspapers and read by an estimated 22 million readers daily. Email