I've had so little luck in love I'm about ready to give up entirely. How can I change things?
Dear Miss Information,
I have been able to masturbate (and very fond of it) since I was a young girl, but I have a difficult time orgasming with my partner. We've been together for over four years, but I have a hard time relaxing enough to have an orgasm with him during sex. I know he really wants me to enjoy it, but that also puts pressure on me to orgasm, which I focus on, illogically. When he is doing something that feels good, I worry he'll notice I'm close, and then that puts more pressure on me to come. As soon as I think this thought, my almost-orgasm vanishes. I can't get out of my head.
While this issue has come up in past relationships, it wasn't as prevalent. I think I used to be more sexually open. In this relationship, though, my partner has a somewhat low sex drive, and that's hurt my sexual confidence. I don't always feel sexy around him. I'm afraid to initiate, because chances are I'll get rejected, and that hurts my ego. I've brought up role-play and lingerie, but it just makes him uncomfortable. He recently entered therapy for other issues, and I imagine his fear of intimacy (which I strongly believe he has) will be brought up soon, but I'd like to know what part of our sex life I have control over.
Basically, I want to walk around in sexy lingerie, bend down, and give him a blowjob without getting rejected. But if he's not in the mood, he won't budge. When we do have sex, it's fun and rough, if a bit predictable now. He makes me feel sexy during sex — but he jumps right into it and has a hard time going slow with me at the beginning and letting me enjoy foreplay. I love him going down on me, but when I'm watching TV and all of a sudden he's in between my legs, I have a hard time catching up and he has a hard time slowing down.
I hate feeling like I lack sexual power in this relationship, and I hate clamming up during sex instead of telling him what I want. We have issues communicating and generally things end up in fights, so I don't know how to approach the subject without him (or myself) getting defensive. We're both really sensitive. Please help!
— Orgasm, Please
Dear Orgasm, Please,
Wow, you really buried the lede in this letter. There is a whole lot going on here. Your lack of orgasm might be the flash point, but let's trace this blue wire back to that suspicious-looking metal box.
It's no wonder you can't relax enough to enjoy having sex, because this sounds like a volatile relationship. He springs oral sex on you; you shut him down with talks about lingerie. You say he moves too fast, he says you move too slow. You try to communicate and end up in fights. He's speaking Esperanto, and you're speaking Latin. A lot of important things are getting lost in translation.
I am most curious about how this relationship has lasted over four years. Has it been like this the whole time? It's fantastic that he's in therapy, but your comment — "intimacy issues, which I strongly believe that he has" — suggests that these are long-running problems and long-running frustrations. If you can't talk without fighting, it's a short leap to imagine that your sex life will suffer, too.
Problems in bed are often manifestations of problems out of bed. An orgasm is one of the most fragile, vulnerable moments you can share with another human. If you find yourself getting nearly there physically, then distracted mentally, that's a big clue that something is going on. Your body here is telling you something isn't right. Listen to those messages.
If you are able to repair trust and communication in the rest of your relationship, your sex life should improve. But that's a tall order, and you might question whether this is the best pairing for you. A relationship doesn't need to be this much of a struggle. You both deserve to have relationships on your own terms, free of the specter of rejection.
Dear Miss Info,
I'm a guy about to hit thirty, and I've never really had any luck with women. I had one relationship that lasted half a year when I was twenty, and I've had a few brief flings and one-night stands since then. But the lack of luck isn't really the issue — the issue is that I just can't get excited about any particular person anymore. It used to be that I'd get excited, I'd think about the person all the time, imagine a life together, all the normal stuff. But these days I'm just, well, cold. Maybe I've been KB'd too often in the past. I don't know. I find it more and more difficult to imagine ever having any life with anyone in any way, shape, or form. I've become so completely accustomed to the company of myself and my dog that I can't emotionally imagine any other way of life.
Intellectually, I know this isn't right, and there's nothing wrong with my sex drive or my pocket treasure, so that's not the issue. One thing is that whenever I do find someone I really like and start building a connection and attraction, there's always a part of me that's saying, "Why would she want to get involved with you? You're chaotic, you're always moving about, your life has no structure, blah blah blah."
Anyway, I flirt, I chat, occasionally I convince a girl to come round for dinner (I make a mean fish pie), but it never goes any further. Logic dictates that I should just keep bashing my head against this wall and sooner or later I'll find a weak brick, but logic is probably useless here.
It's been five years. Time to pull my finger out. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
— Sexless in Scotland
Dear Sexless in Scotland,
Here are a few pick-up lines I wrote for you, based off your letter.
"Hey, girl, I've got a headache from bashing my head against a wall, and you seem like the weakest brick in here."
"Are you Indiana Jones? Because I've got treasure in my pocket."
"It's been five years, girl, so it's time for me to pull my finger out. And — I'm sorry, I respect you too much to finish this sentence."
This column just got you laid like five times! You're welcome.
Periods of total disinterest are not uncommon, but they almost always have a trigger. A friend of mine described her own "fuck this" phase like hypothermia, where the body takes blood away from the extremities to keep the vital organs going. This is to say, when something intense is going on elsewhere in life, you go into a very real "conserve" mode, becoming so focused on muddling through that external pursuits like sex get put on the back burner.
"Fuck it" phases can be triggered by almost anything. In a poll of my romantically chilly friends, chronic health problems, unprocessed trauma, and current family turmoil all came up as triggers for their long-standing sexual hypothermias. (Unrelated: "Sexual Hypothermias" is copyright me and my new band.) Most of these things aren't even directly linked to dating; again, it's just conservation of emotional energy. Give some thought to whether there is anything in your life that could be drawing focus away from dating. If this is the case, addressing the trigger will do worlds more good than banging yourself against any bricks.
It's interesting that you hear voices of inadequacy — "Why would she want me? I'm a mess!" — rather than external nitpicking — "Her hair is weird. Next!" That suggests that the root may be an issue of self-esteem in you. A therapist could certainly help with this, but give extra thought to your self-identified weak points. You're chaotic? Your life has no structure? You're constantly home with your dog? Start there. If your brain is needling you with these "problems," then those are probably the things you should pay the most attention to. What's preventing you from settling down? Or owning it, and finding a girl who loves the adventure? Why don't you join a pub trivia team or book club to give your day a structure? Aren't there nice girls at a dog park?
In short, Sexless, if you're having ladies round for fish pie, you're clearly doing something right. Now just build trust that they'll like you enough to come back for the stovies.
Have a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.