My girlfriend always makes a big deal about doing something sexy for me

Sex advice from Suzi Godson.

Question: My girlfriend of four years makes it really clear when she’s doing something that’s “just for me”. She does it when it’s something sexual, even if it’s just putting on sexy underwear. I’ve tried to discuss it but she didn’t seem to get it. Should I just be grateful, even when she’s making a song and dance about her ‘generosity’?

Answer: You are clearly not pleased about it, so I don’t really think you can ignore it. When you were in the first flush of romance, her announcements probably seemed like an adorable quirk, but now that has passed, behaviours that you previously interpreted as cute or idiosyncratic become downright irritating.

This may apply to all sorts of small, but nonetheless aversive behaviours: the way he eats with his mouth open; the way she talks too loudly on the phone; the way he never fills the car with petrol; how she always has a more extreme version of whatever ailment you complain about . . . I could keep that one going for the entire column.

Some of these behaviours can be overlooked, but when you start to feel irritated about issues relating to sex, you are in serious trouble. If this is happening, it is a clear indication that the rose-coloured glasses have come off. It presents a significant challenge because your partner hasn’t changed, but your opinion of her has. When the glass was half-full, you were titillated when she dressed up in sexy underwear and told you that it was “just for you”.

Now that the glass is half-empty, it feels like the sexual equivalent of virtue signalling. She broadcasts the effort she makes to please you to put herself on a pedestal.

It’s an odd mix of neediness and attention-seeking, but you might be a little less cynical about her motivations if you understood them a bit more. Why does she feel the need to make it really clear when she is doing something just for you? Is it a form of control? Does she like the sense that you are indebted to her? Is it narcissism or insecurity? Is she an exhibitionist? Did a previous partner get off on it? I don’t know the right answer, and surprisingly, after a four-year relationship with her, nor do you, which suggests to me that the two of you don’t really know each other very well.

Good communication is the lifeblood of any romantic relationship. I know you have tried to talk to her about this issue, but how did you approach it and are you sure you were explicit enough? When you have a difficult or sensitive message to convey, excessive politeness can often end up masking the direct message and causing more misunderstanding.

For example, if you said, “You really don’t have to dress up in sexy underwear for me,” it could easily be read as a form of inverted gratitude. When this sentiment is rephrased as, “I don’t like the way you say that you dress up in sexy underwear for me. It puts pressure on me and turns me off sex,” it is much more difficult to misinterpret.

Although speaking plainly often pushes us out of our comfort zone, in situations like this it is best to be as straightforward as possible. After all, if after four years you cannot have a straightforward conversation, it may be time to question whether this is the right relationship for you both.

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