Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online at Washingtonpost.com to chat with readers each Monday at 1 p.m. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.
My boyfriend and I have been together for two years, and I absolutely adore him. He’s wonderful to me, treats me like a princess, and is the love of my life. The only problem I have is with the sexual aspect of our relationship. When he and I have sex, I don’t feel anything. It’s not good, it’s not bad; it’s just that I get almost no sensation from it. All of the foreplay leading up to sex is wonderful and feels good, but the actual act does nothing for me. We’ve tried different positions and different things, but it’s all the same to me. I know he enjoys it, but I fake it every time. I was a virgin when we started dating, so I don’t know if this is something he and I need to continue to work on, or if something could be wrong with me. It’s increasingly difficult for me to get excited about having sex. What I should do?
Do you know how to bring yourself to orgasm? If you have little experience at becoming fully aroused, then you’re less likely to find intercourse enjoyable. For some lucky women, sex is great from the get-go. But for many it requires a willingness to work; it takes time to get comfortable with their own bodies, let alone their partners’. According to some studies the majority of women never or rarely have orgasms through intercourse alone—which doesn’t mean that an entire sexual encounter has to be an orgasm-free zone. Since you were a virgin and have no basis for comparison, it’s also possible that your boyfriend has some physiological and technical shortcomings. He may have an unusually small penis, which is not necessarily fatal in the bedroom, but does present challenges. Or he could be so quick on the trigger that you don’t have time to respond during intercourse. It’s important to address these issues, because you don’t want sex to be something you go along with just to please him.
Faking orgasm is cheating both of you—it means you’re less likely to have a real one and that he doesn’t know what’s really going on with you. It’s time to be honest. You have to tell him you’ve been so embarrassed about your inexperience that you’ve been pretending to be more aroused than you are. Explain that you love him so much, and are so happy to be intimate with him, that from now on you want to make sex as good as it can be for both of you. Then embark on some joint continuing education. You can start with some books that give you insights into physiology and suggestions about technique: Because It Feels Good by Debby Herbenick, Becoming Orgasmic by Julia Heiman and Joseph LoPiccolo, and She Comes First by Ian Kerner. For an instructive movie night, try the Better Sex Video Series. Just think what it will mean for both of you that when you moan with pleasure, you really mean it.
Dear Prudence: Cartoon Wedding
About a year ago I was dumped by my serious boyfriend. I immediately met a man 15 years my junior (I’m 50) and had what I thought was a one-night stand. The next morning I told him I would like a friends-with-benefits arrangement. He was delighted to oblige, and the sex was incredible for both of us. I dated others, as did he, though we saw each other often and eventually became very good friends. We have so much in common, the conversation is amazing, and we laugh all the time. At one point he had a girlfriend, so we ended the sexual part of our relationship and remained friends without benefits. They broke up and we started sleeping together again, but it’s different because we have fallen in love. He has said he would marry me if not for the age difference. I shrug off the marriage comments, even though I would like nothing more. I look young, he does not want children, and his friends and family like me a lot. Should I wait to see if the relationship evolves into marriage? Or should I listen to what he says about the age difference and get out before I get in any deeper?
He’s crazy about you, but he’s not going to marry you. So if marriage is what you want out of life, then being in love with a younger man who has said your age difference is an insurmountable obstacle is going to keep you from looking for a long-term partner. For women who want to have children, it’s unwise to hang onto relationships that may run out their biological clocks. But since you’re not planning on kids, you have a different timeline. If you can’t stand the idea of giving up something this good to resume what’s generally a frustrating search, then see if you can simultaneously enjoy his company while holding onto the knowledge that forever isn’t in your future. If the sexes were reversed, a 15-year age difference would be significant but likely not a deal-breaker. Unfair as it is, your boyfriend has made it clear he’s not interested in being Ashton to your Demi. But if living in the moment means cascades of orgasms, then it may be worth it to say, “Vive la age différence!”
My boyfriend and I have been together for one year, and like most relationships, the first months were marked by intense and genuine expressions of feeling, both physical and vocal. We were in near-constant contact, and I was in heaven. But now, as is natural, the urgency is dwindling. He is still supportive, communicative, affectionate, and sensitive, and I’m immensely lucky to have him in my life. But I miss the “perfection” that my logical mind knows is not sustainable. I know I’m being high maintenance, but I go into a downward spiral when I don’t get all the attention I “need.” I’ve explained this to my boyfriend and he tries to accommodate me, but I need help banishing my unrealistic expectations, because it’s unfair to him and causes me distress. A few years back, I was in a miserable relationship in which I was ignored and had to fight for every ounce of affection and attention, and my boyfriend knows this.
Your letter made me want to peel you off, and I don’t even know you, so imagine how your boyfriend is going to feel when he realizes your need for attention is endless, your capacity infinite. You already know you are punishing your nice current boyfriend in part for the behavior of your previous lousy one (whom you hung around with despite how badly he treated you) and making both of you miserable with your anxiety. Instead of continuing to explain to your boyfriend that you just have this need to be stroked and praised 24 hours a day, be an adult and take command of your insecurities. Ultimately, you might need the help of a therapist, but for now try looking into the “mindfulness” approach. It is a school of thought that teaches people to accept their thoughts without judgment, which has the liberating effect of disarming their negative power. Try Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living for instruction. It should help you accept that, like everyone, you have irrational thoughts, but that doesn’t mean your boyfriend is responsible for attending to them.
I am engaged to a wonderful man, except for one issue. I am divorced and he is a widower; we are both in our mid-40s. He has no children, and I have two. While we were dating, I was concerned that his home was like a shrine, with many pictures of his former wife. When we got engaged, we decided to start fresh and moved into a new home together. Everything was going great, but then he placed a picture of his late wife and a small container of her ashes on a side table in the living room. The items are not that noticeable in the room, but I’m concerned he did not discuss this with me. Part of me feels it is appropriate to have a picture of someone who was a very important part of his life, but part of me is creeped out and wants us to have a fresh start without his former wife in the next room. What do you think?
—It Is Always Something
I, too, married a young widower who adored his late wife; here’s my story. It would be best if you could appreciate that you have a man who loves deeply and will love you as much as he loved her. If you were a widow, he would be living with pictures and mementos of your late husband because surely you would want your children to remember him and feel his presence in their lives. Sure, your fiance could have asked you whether the side table was a good place for him to put a photo of “Cynthia” along with her ashes, but maybe he didn’t want to confront the possibility of your saying you’d prefer they be packed away in a box in the basement. When my husband and I were first married, he had several photos of his late wife, Robin, on his desk in the home office we shared. We all co-existed happily. A few years later, I noticed Robin’s photos were missing and asked him about it. He said he felt it was time to put them in a drawer where he could still see her, just not every day. Maybe someday your husband will feel the same. Maybe you will always have to make a little place for Cynthia. If so, think of it as a good way for your children to learn about love, loss, and loving again.
More Dear Prudence Columns
“A Cornucopia of Crises: Prudie takes on Thanksgiving quandaries involving uninvited guests, the ghosts of holidays past, and exiled smokers.” Posted Nov. 18, 2010.
”Bob & Carol & Ted & Malice: My parents’ swinger friends are trying to blackmail our family after Mom and Dad’s tragic deaths.” Posted Sept. 30, 2010.
”No Debt of Gratitude: I borrowed cash from Dad to care for my dying mom. Now he’s demanding payback.” Posted Aug. 12, 2010.
”Dirty Pretty Things: My girlfriend has worn the same undergarment for weeks. Isn’t that disgusting?” Posted Aug. 27, 2009.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“The Grinch Who Stole Thanksgiving: Prudie counsels readers on Turkey Day predicaments, such as flying solo for the holiday, hosting irritating in-laws, and attending multiple dinners. Posted Nov. 22, 2010.
”Baby Mama Drama: Prudie counsels a sleuth who uncovered a baby-trap scheme—and other advice-seekers.” Posted Nov. 1, 2010.
”The Family That Bathes Together: Prudie counsels a mother who wonders when the time is right to stop bathing with her little boy.” Posted Oct. 12, 2010.
”Help! I’m Too Hot for My Age: Prudie counsels a woman whose youthful looks bring her nothing but problems—and other advice seekers.” Posted Feb. 8, 2010.