Miss Information

I've had so little luck in love I'm about ready to give up entirely. How can I change things?

By Cait Robinson

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 missinfo@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.

Commentarium (29 Comments)

Oct 08 11 - 3:15pm

Mr. Fish Pie, finding a partner isn't like putting one on your shopping list and picking one up while you're running errands. I know, a lot of people think of it like this. They buy self-help books and plan their days around meeting someone by going to dog parks and stuff. Don't wonder why you haven't met someone. Don't bother feeling inadequate for not feeling a spark. Just embrace your life. Do the things you like and the things you think you might like. Live. You might just meet someone and you won't feel like you're beating your head on a brick wall.

Oct 10 11 - 8:24pm

Or follow Joel Barish's example. Just go out and write nonsense into a little book or doodle on scratch pieces of paper. Do something. Staying at home constantly guarantees 0% probability of meeting ANYONE!

Oct 08 11 - 10:10pm
D Prest

S I S has Depression. The sooner he gets treatment for it, the better.

Oct 09 11 - 1:41am

Agreed. That letter sounded like a cry for help.

Oct 09 11 - 2:19am

I can identify a lot with OS's situation, and I've been with my husband a lot longer than 4 years...

Oct 10 11 - 2:15am
some guy

how long has it been that way? Please tell me that it wasn't like this before marriage...

Oct 09 11 - 2:24pm

Sexless should give up on trying to get laid. When he does that and just starts enjoying the rest of his life, someone will appear. And it only takes one.

At the moment, though, women are shying away because they sense his distress, so he's not going to get anywhere with them.

Oct 09 11 - 8:31pm

He could also be one of the 15% of men who spend their lives alone. Someone's gotta do it. Live your life as you want to live it, be content, whether or not something comes along at least you'll have had no regrets.

Oct 10 11 - 9:50am

Some of you guys seem to have read SIS's letter differently than I did. It didn't sound like he was saying "I'm single and don't want to be, so how do I meet a girl?" It's more like "I'm single and uninterested in changing that, and it seems kinda abnormal, so should I be doing something about that?" I totally grok that because I think that's where I am right now; and what Miss Info said makes a lot of sense to me. There's nothing wrong or abnormal with not wanting to partner up. On the OTHER hand, there may be something going on that would be better dealt with, on a professional level. Not to "cure" his lack of wanting to partner up, but just to maybe have a better shot at living as good a life as he can.

(And please, for dog's sake, keep your "it's when you're not looking that you'll find your soulmate!" nonsense to yourselves.)

Oct 10 11 - 1:28pm

Yeah, that "it's when you're not looking" line is a classic case of selective memory. People spend years and years of their lives not looking, and indeed, most of them don't find someone just walking around waiting to meet cute. But of course three of your friends staying single for years and years doesn't stick out in the mind as much as the one meeting their husband on a Starbucks line.

Oct 11 11 - 3:19pm

Yep. Looking hasn't worked for me, but not looking hasn't worked for me either. It just gets to the point where you get used to being alone. I'm still trying dating sites, but I find that a positive outlook is really tough to sustain when I've tried over and over again and had no success. I see the same women's faces on that site (OKC) week after week and it appears that many of them aren't having much luck on there either. Why do so many of us keep trying an approach that doesn't work?

Dec 12 11 - 4:50pm

@anonymousdoofus: I could have written that paragraph word for word.

Oct 12 11 - 12:39am

I'm a 25 year old woman and I can REALLY relate to SIS. I've just never had luck with men. I've never been in a relationship, just one or two brief flings. In my case, it's not that I don't want a boyfriend -- I've been interested in getting myself one of those since I was 13 -- it's just that I don't meet many people I really feel really drawn to. Part of that is because I instantly shy away from people I believe to be unattainable/out of my league, and never give myself a chance to establish a connection. (Most people wouldn't describe me as shy overall, though) This is especially problematic since I always believe that anyone I'm attracted to can obviously do much better than me. So I have developed the habit of automatically admiring from a far and just talking to friends.

However, even though I deeply wish I were in a relationship, I've never understood the people who jump from one to another and are "never single." Maybe I don't need a partner AS MUCH as other people, but I certainly want one. I'm just accustomed to my own privacy and never sharing intimate details of my life with a partner that the idea of it is scary. I don't know any other way.

(And yes, the "you'll find love when you least expect it/stop looking" is bullshit. Trust me. I am pretty much never "expecting" it and that's part of the problem.)

Oct 12 11 - 12:43am

Oh and to add to what I said above, I am seeing a therapist. I agree with Miss Info about the "fuck it" periods. The insecurities and low self-esteem I'm learning about affect many parts of my life, and when my life feels shitty, it turns into "fuck it" mode.

Oct 12 11 - 7:14am

The guy in the picture is SO cute!

Oct 12 11 - 5:58pm

Great rhetorical tool, but suggesting that someone can't orgasm with a person because they don't really love them is pretty BS, biologically speaking. Orgasms aren't emotionally dependent: sometiems they happen, often they don't. Try not to belittle things acknowledged as medical conditions, Miss Info, even if it's clear your letter-writer is in a shitty situation.

Oct 15 11 - 2:15am
Uh, actually...

While I can't speak for men, as a woman I can say that for women it sometimes is absolutely NOT BS that a person can't orgasm if they aren't in love. For years I thought something was wrong with me because I could only bring myself to climax during masturbation, but could never experience an orgasm during partner sex. It wasn't until I went to therapy, worked through some shit, and started dating people I actually loved and wanted to be with that I was able to achieve an orgasm. So yeah, sometimes orgasms absofuckinglutely are emotionally dependent. Try not to belittle things that could be emotion-based, HB, and jump to the conclusion that every sexual dysfunction is a medically-based one.

Oct 15 11 - 6:31pm

@ HB: Actually, I never said you have to be in love to have an orgasm: I said most of the time, people need to trust and/or feel secure with who they are with in order to get there. Though "Security" might overlap "love" in a Venn diagram, they are not one and the same. Bodies have a way of mutinying if the mind isn't on board.

Totally unrelated note: Did you know "Snark" is a contraction for "snide remark"? Again, toooootally unrelated.

Oct 13 11 - 3:55pm

I can certainly relate to SIS, although fish pie would send me scooting towards the door. The hypothermia analogy is right; there's only so much emotional energy you can devote to things, especially if you're concerned with getting your life in order.

Oct 13 11 - 5:20pm

I had the exact same problem as OP with my first serious boyfriend, and we dated for nearly 5 years. It was only in retrospect that I could really see what the problem was. We weren't communicating.

Communication is the single most important tool you can have in the bedroom. But any time I tried to talk about what I wanted from sex, all he could hear was that I thought he was doing it wrong. He had this idea that if he wasn't already doing it right (by instinct, I guess?), then it was because he was bad in bed and nothing could fix it. So he would get angry and defensive, and I would go into damage-control mode and focus more on trying to satisfy him that I was happy than actually enjoying myself. No one can have a satisfying orgasm under that sort of pressure. I even found myself faking them just so I wouldn't have to deal with him being angry afterwards. But we couldn't talk about it without fighting, so nothing ever got resolved.

Good sex doesn't just happen on its own. It's better at six years than six months than six weeks than six days. But only if you're both willing both to talk about what you need, and listen to what the other needs. If you're willing to talk, but he isn't, then he's being a selfish lover and you should seriously consider moving on.

Oct 15 11 - 2:11am

Like, like, like this comment!

Oct 13 11 - 5:20pm

Dear Sexless in Scotland,
Re your self esteem issues & the lack on National Health coverage for talk therapy, try ordering an Innertalk CD called "Soaring Self-Esteem" from http://www.vitalia-health.co.uk You listen once a day for a month. This helped me a LOT when I lived in the UK and didn't have access to therapy! Good luck!

Oct 14 11 - 1:47pm

Due to retirement, Vitalia Health Limited has ceased distribution. Where's a current source for this material?

Oct 13 11 - 8:02pm

The links to urban dictionary made me smile, as well as the last two sentences:

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.

Oct 15 11 - 6:34pm

@cyber I am not too proud to admit that I spent awhile googling "Scottish cuisine." Ever since a Scottish friend described a Scotch Egg to me in excruciating detail, I've been riveted. Keep the fryers hot, Scotland.

Oct 15 11 - 8:39pm

For what it's worth, names like "Sexual Hypothermias" can be trademarked but not copyrighted. Copyrights are for content (i.e. a song by your new band) rather than proper names.

Oct 20 11 - 1:54am

^^^ Epic. ^^^

Nov 12 11 - 6:03pm

This guy is in the fuck it mode. I am in the fuck it mode. I totally agree with Miss Info. I'll meet a guy, I will hang out with him and get to know him. I will start to really like him and in the beginning he seems really great. But in the end he's just an ass and was nothing like I thought he was. There's a string of these guys, one after the other, just all the same. So now I have gone into this ultimate "fuck every guy, I am never going to date again, this is bullshit, I give up" mode. I mean, I am rather young, 19 years old and I have my whole life to find love. Don't get me wrong, I still believe dating is a part of life and experiencing it, no matter what your age. But especially now that I'm young, I can do whatever I want. I can focus on MYSELF and get my life back in order (go back to school, get a job, other bullshit.) So yeah, I can definitely say fuck it modes can good for people.

Dec 20 11 - 1:14am

it's happening a lot, Mr. fish pie, life gets like that, once you get older, you lose all the sparkles and highs that you got when you were young, now it's just mashed potatoes, no gravy. just enjoy your own company and feel the cold, you'll like it, and realize how short and fleeting this life is, you'll value everything you have: relationships are distractions