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Your Call: How Can a Relationship Work When the Sex Is Compromised?

Wed, Feb 22, 2012

Advice, Dear Em & Lo, Your Call

We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. This week, we had two very similar inquiries from both a straight woman and a straight man. Make your call by leaving your advice in the comments section below.

My boyfriend has been on antidepressants for almost a year.  He can no longer come through vaginal intercourse – only intense BJs or HJs.  I am minorly managing to avoid insecurity in this situation (he says he thinks my vagina is too soft – but he reassures me that it’s him, not me), but I am definitely suffering from this lack of intimacy.  How can I continue to support him, pad my frustration and sense of sadness, and not give him (or myself) a complex?  I worry that any input will change the mental part of the situation once the meds are done, so I just kinda do my thing and then we stop.  I also worry that all this intense play for ejaculate will mean my man will never get off from old-fashioned sex again – that he’ll wind up desensitized.  What do I do?

– Ms. Frustrated

and…

I’ve been dating my girlfriend for over four years and I’ve never met anyone like her.  I am thrilled with my catch, but the one problem area is in the bedroom.  She has had a host of medical conditions that have made our sex life erratic at best.  When we are able to get down, it’s great, but very often she experiences pain, discomfort, etc.  She has seen multiple doctors and attempted many solutions, but it seems to be a never ending rollercoaster.  The latest recommendation has been to cut out intercourse for an indefinite period.  I feel I’ve been very sympathetic and understanding throughout the relationship about this situation and I know she appreciates it.  But this is maddeningly frustrating for both of us and I understand that she feels embarrassed/ashamed/guilty etc. for the whole problem.  I continue to try to be supportive, but obviously the issues are wearing on me as well.  I do feel like we’ve improved on communicating about it, but that hasn’t necessarily assuaged my frustration with the issue and I feel like my needs aren’t being met.  How would you suggest a couple handle a problem like this?

– Mr. Frustrated

What should Ms. and Mr. Frustrated do? Let them know in the comments below. 

 

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13 Responses to “Your Call: How Can a Relationship Work When the Sex Is Compromised?”

  1. Neeva Says:

    First thing at all: Find some kind of physical intimacy thats not sexual.
    Little or no sex in a partnership gets a problem, when sex is the only way to get (physically) close to each other.

    A shared bath or a platonic cuddle on the couch can work wonders for getting close. Of course both partners have to be very clear that nothing sexual will follow, else they might get stressed out in the expectation to ‘follow through’ afterwards.
    I think the worst problem is not daring to touch your partner because you’re afraid the touch will be seen as beginning of foreplay.

  2. Jenna Says:

    Neeva,
    I’m really glad to hear someone else saying this. The “follow through stress,” as you so aptly put it, has caused so many arguments in my relationships. It’s really hard for me to work on intimacy when there seems to be unspoken pressure for it to end in sex. I don’t have any real advice for this situation but it’s a relief to hear that I’m not the only one who has felt this.

  3. misspiggy Says:

    Re Problem 1, try Googling “Death Grip Savage”. But speaking as someone with rubbish health, I think you have to decide to prioritise sex, and work out how you’re going to give both people what they need. (For example, why is the lady in Problem 1 missing out on vaginal intercourse just because her boyfriend doesn’t come from it?)

    As for Problem 2, my condition means that I sex gives me injuries and worsens my pain. But I do it anyway because it’s so important to me. As long as you’re not going to do major damage to yourself, you might have to accept that sex is going to hurt. You could even try making a virtue of it – kinky pain play is so much easier when one party gets hurt by just about anything…

    Not up for that? Try to find ways of being sexual and intimate that are less painful and really satisfy both people. Different bits of one’s body can become more sensitised and more sexual with a bit of practice and retraining.

    Sex also needs to be fun, even if that means a bit of acting. Make like you’re doing things differently because it’s so kinky, not because you have no choice. My husband gets upset when he knows that sex is hurting me. So if I need to change position or technique, mostly I pretend it’s more fun that way. He deserves some time out from looking after me and I am determined not to let being ill ruin our sex life.

  4. Jed Says:

    Dear Ms Frustrated,

    You are indeed headed down a slippery slope; and i have some thoughts as I have also been on meds that made intimacy with my wife challenging. Meds can make intimacy difficult but I am concerned that your partner seems very focused on himself rather than satisfying you. On your current path, vaginal intercourse will indeed become a thing of the past. It will be difficult, but your partner needs to cut back on the frequency of his orgasms. “Intense” BJs and HJs will no longer be needed because he will be locked and loaded so to speak. Satisfying Vaginal intercourse will likely result and your sense of intimacy will greatly improve. I myself was down this path of seeking constant gratification; and I lost sight of making my wife happy. It became of vicious cycle of orgasms but my wife was not happy because it became less and less about satisfying her. There is always a place for BJs in a relationship, but love making focused on satisfying your partner is the best. If your man loves you, he will dial back and refocus on you. Good luck.

  5. Tomio Black Says:

    My boyfriend has been on antidepressants for almost a year. He can no longer come through vaginal intercourse – only intense BJs or HJs. I am minorly managing to avoid insecurity in this situation (he says he thinks my vagina is too soft – but he reassures me that it’s him, not me), but I am definitely suffering from this lack of intimacy. How can I continue to support him, pad my frustration and sense of sadness, and not give him (or myself) a complex? I worry that any input will change the mental part of the situation once the meds are done, so I just kinda do my thing and then we stop. I also worry that all this intense play for ejaculate will mean my man will never get off from old-fashioned sex again – that he’ll wind up desensitized. What do I do?

    – Ms. Frustrated

    The first thing I suggest is having him talk to his prescribing physician about this problem. If he is willing, and you are able, go with him to the appointment. My psychiatrist spends all of five minutes with me, if no one raises a big stop sign, it won’t rise by itself.

    If he is not in actual counseling-therapy for his depression; then he probably should be. My gut feeling is that the hand-over-vagina issue could be a cover for some other issue (likes perhaps escaping through fantasy during a HJ or BJ). Again, if he is already seeing a therapist, as if you can go along. Sometimes it helps to get additional input.

    Beyond that, it’s time to have a serious talk. Even if he doesn’t have an orgasm, he can still enjoy vaginal intercourse, and you should be able to enjoy it, as well. Pursuing other avenues of intimacy (as some others have suggested) may help take some performance pressure off of him, as well. What’s important is the he understand how important it is to you, and that you are willing to work with him, if he is willing to work with you.

    I’ve been dating my girlfriend for over four years and I’ve never met anyone like her. I am thrilled with my catch, but the one problem area is in the bedroom. She has had a host of medical conditions that have made our sex life erratic at best. When we are able to get down, it’s great, but very often she experiences pain, discomfort, etc. She has seen multiple doctors and attempted many solutions, but it seems to be a never ending rollercoaster. The latest recommendation has been to cut out intercourse for an indefinite period. I feel I’ve been very sympathetic and understanding throughout the relationship about this situation and I know she appreciates it. But this is maddeningly frustrating for both of us and I understand that she feels embarrassed/ashamed/guilty etc. for the whole problem. I continue to try to be supportive, but obviously the issues are wearing on me as well. I do feel like we’ve improved on communicating about it, but that hasn’t necessarily assuaged my frustration with the issue and I feel like my needs aren’t being met. How would you suggest a couple handle a problem like this?

    – Mr. Frustrated

    Without knowing the exact nature of the medical issues, I don’t know specifically how to respond. As someone else pointed out, there is a need for direct and intimate communication.

    It may be time to talk to a medical professional together, or even to consider counseling to improve communication. If the talking can’t happen without a professional, then having one help is a good idea. I’d also suggest looking for support groups that are built around whatever particular medical issues she has.

  6. hannah Says:

    well, as to the second question, this sounds like a legitimate medical disorder, and definitely it’s going to take a lot of time to get it worked out, if that’s even possible. From your perspective, you need to just decide if you can live without penetrative sex, since this might not be possible for her ever. There are plenty of couples who do just fine that way for years and years. I’ve known both devout christians and gay guys who just don’t like anal, and lesbians as well, manage to find happiness without ever putting a penis in a vagina. Give this a try, and if this doesn’t work for you, just be honest with yourself and her. Maybe you can love her with all your heart, but her medical condition, which is totally NOT her fault, just prevents you from having a future together. If that’s really how you feel, you’re doing her a favor by just being honest and leaving now, as opposed to cheating on her 10 years down the road, when the lack of sex begins to truly drive you crazy. You can BOTH find people you are happier with, if it is really important for you.

    As to the first question, I have known many people who had to adjust their meds because of sexual issues. I really love my antidepressant (remeron), since it tends to have fewer sexual side effects, but each person is different and it takes some trial and error. Definitely there is something that will work for him. Also, he can look into other treatments for depression which might allow him to reduce or eliminate the meds; including therapy, exercise, maybe a lightbox, if it is related to winter… Check out the book, “The Depression Cure”, which has many suggestions for treating depression without meds.

    But actually, another thing his problem sounds like to me is a symptom of bad masturbation habits and overuse of porn. If he is used to such a high level of stimulation, then of course your vagina is going to feel kind of soft to him (I would be so mad if my BF said that!). He needs to take a break from any rough stimulation, including his hands, and he might find that his sensitivity increases.

  7. Ljones Says:

    I can tell you from my own nightmare of a relationship – girlfriend, find another lover! Bad masturbation habits and overuse of porn indeed! Have you ever discussed that with him at all? Why he feels the need to have such rough play with his member in order to achieve orgasm. Perhaps there is another mental block issue here he is not sharing with you or his therapist. And if he is in therapy already, for his sex habits, then take it from me. It will NOT get any better. It will result an a even greater level of stimulation and if he’s too selfish to help you along to feel good – then you have to ask yourself, are you with the right person for you!

    Good luck!

  8. Kev Says:

    Ms. Frustrated, your bf needs to talk to his doctor. Could it be a side effect of the anti-depressents or is this another aspect to his depression and mental state? Is it a disorder which can lead to imbalance and lots of “highs” and “lows”?

    In terms of intimacy, do things that will not lead to intercourse, hand jobs or blow jobs. Take a bath together, put your favourite music on and hug and cuddle. Or offer to give him a massage. A slow rub after a hard day can help relieve his stress and strains, but make sure you ask him to give you one the following day!

    And keep talking.

    When you are ready to have intercourse, don’t rush to orgasms. Take your time. Focus on kissing, touching and talking. Maybe having a weekend away would help.

  9. Highway Rocker Says:

    Delayed ejaculation, which is what your boyfriend is experiencing, is a real medical condition that is exacerbated by the antidepressants. My boyfriend suffers from this as well. Different positions do make a big difference, but it sometimes takes an hour for him to ejaculate IF it happens at all. It’s not because he doesn’t find me sexually stimulating, doesn’t love me, looks at too much porn, or masturbates too much. We enjoy frequent intercourse and I do mean enjoy, but he rarely ejaculates. This is not his fault, nor is it mine – and thankfully we are each able to emotionally deal with it. I suggest the two of you carefully weigh all the pro and cons in your relationship before you make the decision to end it.

  10. just me Says:

    have you both tried to use sexual toys? me and my bf had the same problem i gave him bj’s and hj’s all the time, but then talked to him about my needs as well. we do have intimacy that is not sexual. Talk with your partners and tell them how you feel, if you can compromise with each other so both can be gratified. Toys have helped in my relationship.

  11. sassy Says:

    Dear ms..
    I can understand completely.. my husband has been on anti-depressents since 1997.. has not been a fun marriage. from 97 to 2006 sex was sometimes good but, long times inbetween.. he took meds for ED sometimes helped sometimes not.. as of 2006 sex of any kind between us has stopped. my husband won’t even talk about it just moved to another room.. I took this very personally and still do.. my advise is keep talking and seek help, toys, explore if he is willing… good luck.. hope things turn out better for you then they have for me.

  12. Deveon Says:

    Why can’t he ride you and work your clitoris till you climax. Then do what it takes to get him off. Why does he HAVE to come inside you? The fact that it’s you he’s getting of with and he’s getting you off should be great.

    And sometimes, I don’t think it’s the A.D.’s, Men just need new and different hormones from a different woman. Where women are said to get off because of the emotional tie they have with a lover, a dude gets off because of the total excitement, almost like it’s a genetic thing or something.

  13. Lisa Says:

    I understand where both letters are coming from. HOWEVER….It’s a well-known fact that anti-depressants are a major libido killer. From his perspective, it’s good to understand that sometimes a person needs medication because of an issue with their biochemistry. That is not an excuse for him to completely give up on her, but it is a reason why he may not be able to “go all the way.” That being said, does he have to come every time he has intercourse? No. Do women, no. Communication is important here. Make sure when you communicate that he is not emasculated because that will hurt the relationship far more than it’s worth.

    As far as the second letter, there are more ways than vaginal intercourse to experience intimacy. Maybe they can try toys or learn other forms of foreplay to enhance their relationship. Pain is definitely an issue, but it is not an excuse to give up because it’s hard. A lasting relationship takes a lot of work and compromise. It sounds like communication is helping in this letter, but there are still a few bumps in the road.

    The moral of the story for both letters is fairly straight forward. Are you willing to overlook the issues in order to keep the relationship going, good or bad? If not, it may be time for some soul searching. However, I don’t think either relationship is doomed beyond repair.


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