Julian asks: "I have been dating my girlfriend for almost a year now, and since the beginning we have been having sex. All of a sudden though, she tells me that she does not want to "disrespect" her body and that she does not want us having sex anymore. I feel like she should not have made such a big decision that affects both of us without even talking to me about it beforehand. I love her very much and to me the sex was a way of showing that love. It seems to me that if a relationship was sexually active, and that factor is suddenly taken away, the relationship can't be expected to be the same. Any advice?"
I agree that your relationship with your girlfriend needs to change, as what sounds like a big part of the way the two of you share your affection was through sexual intercourse has now been removed from the equation. However, I think that the question is something different than, "Should we continue having sex?"
Yes, it would have been much easier and kinder if your girlfriend to have talked to you about what was going through her mind before she made a decision. When you enter into a relationship with someone, part of that process is agreeing that any major decisions that affect the both of you are discussed, first. Someone gets offered their dream job 400 miles away, an ex invites you to their wedding, or who to spend the holidays with are all conversations better had, together, before any decisions are finalized.
Sex however is a tricky one, because for many people it is very difficult to talk to their partner about their needs and wants. Using the word "disrespect" tells me that your girlfriend has been struggling with this for some time and needs you to understand her dilemma. It wasn't easy for her to tell you about her decision, but I'll hazard a guess that it had very little to do with you. Rather, some outside force is "telling" her that sex is shameful, bad or not to be shared with someone she isn't married to. Problem is, it doesn't sound like you know which category her decision falls into.
Ask her why she feels sex is disrespectful to her body, and try to really listen to what she's saying. I know it's difficult to hear from the person you love that they want to stop an important aspect of your relationship, but if you want to make things work with this woman, you are going to have to bite your tongue (and pride) and find out the reasons why she feels this way. When did this become a problem, and why? What is she hoping to gain from not having sex with you anymore? Is all affection off limits (kissing, touching, hand holding), or just sex itself? Has she talked to a mental health professional, medical expert, sex therapist or someone in her religion and/or family about her decision?
Once you have a better idea as to what the reasoning is behind her decision, you can sit down together and talk about how a sexless relationship will affect the both of you, and whether or not it is something you can go back to. I know of women who have stopped having sex with their partners to prompt a marriage proposal, others who have found a religious calling, and yet others who were feeling depressed and didn't find sex at all satisfying anymore. Whatever her reason, you'll have to weigh your feelings on the matter, see if the two of you can come to a compromise (or at the very least get some professional help on the matter), and if not, determine whether or not your relationship can evolve into something new or if it is time for the two of you to part ways.