How to Do It

I Consider Myself Very Skilled in Bed. But My Wife Isn’t Responding in the Way I’m Used To.

Have I lost “my mojo”?

A man looking exasperated and pulsing concentric circles behind him.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Khosrork/iStock/Getty Image Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!

Dear How to Do It, 

I am a 38-year-old man who has had a varied and extensive sexual history. I have enjoyed multiple types of sexual relationships with women of all shapes and sizes, and even had a brief stint working in porn over 12 years ago. I was also a stripper in college and often went home with women. All this is to say, sex has been very central to who I am and how I define myself.

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I am currently married to an amazing woman, who I have been with for five years. We have an active sex life, but there is one problem that I just can’t get over: Of all the women I have been with, she is the only one who is not multi-orgasmic. Before her, every single woman I was with was able to achieve several orgasms. I suppose I just assumed that all women were this way, and that multiple orgasms were a rule, as opposed to the exception. My wife has a very limited sexual history prior to me, and she states that she never reached orgasm from a partner in the past, so she claims that she is happy with the fact that I helped her achieve that and continue to do so. By my estimation, she reaches climax about 50 percent of the time that we have sex. She refuses to let me give cunnilingus (my specialty) due to a history of sexual trauma as a child.

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It may seem foolish, but I feel like I am failing. It feels to me that I have lost “my mojo” and that I may be getting worse at sex or something. It felt great and was a huge ego boost when I was with women who had multiple Os, but now I just feel like she feels like sex is a chore, and she just does it more for me than because she wants it.

I have discussed this with her, and she tries to reassure me. Our relationship is great, but I just suppose I feel like we have never had the sexual chemistry I have had with all my previous relationships.

— O Man

Dear O Man,

Watching a woman writhe in pleasure because you have found the right spot and manipulated it correctly can be just as ego-boosting as it is awe-inspiring. But that can make orgasm start to feel like a goal—an achievement, as you put it, to be aimed for.

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I’m also noticing the word “claims” when you’re talking about your wife’s appreciation for having any orgasm at all. Can you believe her when she tells you this? Can you believe her when she says she wants to have sex with you? That she enjoys it whether she orgasms or not? If you can’t, is it because of something she has done or said, or can you extend her some trust on this subject? It may be that you can’t right now, and that’s something you can work on. You might ask yourself why you feel this way.

A sex-positive therapist seems like your best bet for untangling your self-worth from your sexual performance and your curb appeal. You bring so much more to the table than your cunnilingus skills, or even your whole sexuality. Spending some time digging into what else you value about yourself. Bolstering those skills and attributes will serve you well, and someone working with you weekly can reflect themes and trajectories back to you in a way that’s difficult to do for ourselves. Good luck. I think you’ve got this.

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Dear How to Do It,

I’m a 37-year-old single man and I have a knack for what my friends have called “coaching from the bench”: I always seem to fall for women who keep me at a distance after I’ve made my feelings known, but who keep coming back to me when they need to be built back up after being hurt.

That’s not to say that I blame all these women; all of that is totally a “me” problem, and I’m working on getting better in that regard. But I bring it up for context: One of these women, whom I’ve known since high school, is currently getting divorced. Before she even separated from her husband, she confessed to having serious feelings for me—feelings that she says she’s harbored for almost eight years, since before she was even married, and feelings that she said scared her but she now wants to explore.

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I can’t say that the thought of getting together doesn’t appeal to me, but I worry that she may just be in a rebound phase despite her many assurances that that isn’t the case. There’s also the matter of trust—back when we were more involved, we did and said so many things to hurt each other. And yet even with all that, I still can’t help but think about it. Am I crazy to even consider giving this a chance?

— Benchwarmer

Dear Benchwarmer,

You’re an adult who is capable of choosing a high-risk, high-reward path if that’s what you desire. Deciding that the potential for intense hurt is worth a slim chance of extreme happiness is beautifully human and hopeful. You don’t specify when the two of you were more involved, or how involved you were, but high school to 37 is a long time and people do mature and change. I think it’s reasonable to assume that Benchmistress is much more of an adult in her mid-30s than she was when you first knew each other, just as you presumably are.

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I also think it’s reasonable to tell her you want to wait for several months after her divorce is final. Since you don’t want to be the rebound, don’t be the rebound. Sure, there’s another risk in that she might fairly permanently match up with someone else in the meantime. But that would say something about how interested she is in you specifically, and it’d be easier to find out now. Maybe you don’t need several months. Maybe the day of the divorce is enough time for you. Maybe you don’t want to wait at all, and you’re ready to throw caution to the wind. All of the above, and everything in between, are options.

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Spend some time thinking through what you want out of a relationship. Make a list. Do you want to be monogamous, some kind of open, fully poly, or in relationship anarchy? Do you want sleepovers? Do you want to go on dates, make dinner together, or engage in other shared activities? What do you need from a partner when you’re feeling low? Write down what you’d like your future relationships to involve, and keep that list. You probably won’t find someone that checks all the boxes in exactly the ways you imagine, but it can be useful to refer back to for evaluating whether you’re on a track you want to be on.

Whatever your decision is, I think you’ll do OK. Keep your friends close, remember that relationship agreements are a mutual negotiation.

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Dear How to Do It,

My wife and I have been together for eight years and our sex life has dulled. For years I knew that she gets off watching gangbang porn, and we spoke a few times about the prospect of introducing another man as an experiment. She seems very aroused by the thought, but whenever I make any arrangements, like going to a swingers club where we could choose someone we like, she backs out at the last minute. We’ve had this situation twice and I feel very confused, because she later comes back to the subject as if nothing happened at all. One day she’s telling me how aroused she is by the thought of being penetrated by two men, and the other she abruptly cancels any plans to make it happen in reality.

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This is clearly not just a fantasy she wants to keep locked safely away in her head; I made sure to discuss that with her. I feel as if there is something seriously blocking her, as she grew up in a rural area and was taught to be ashamed of her sexuality (they literally called the vagina “shame”). I know for sure my wife has huge sexual energy and it’s waiting to be released, but there is something blocking it. I’m worried because with every cycle of planning and canceling, I feel more confused and less inclined to enrich our sexual life.

—Canceled

Dear Canceled,

You say “this is clearly not just a fantasy she wants to keep locked safely away in her head” but I’m not sure that’s the case. OK, so you verbally confirmed with your wife that she wants to enact this. Is it possible, though, that she feels pressure to make this gangbang a reality because she knows you feel your sex life has dulled and want to enrich it? Is it possible that she feels conflict but isn’t able to articulate her emotions? Is it possible that she’s ambivalent—yearning to follow through and also afraid to? I think all of these are on the table.

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For now, stop pushing. Canceling gangbang plans repeatedly sends a pretty clear signal: She either doesn’t actually want to enact her gangbang fantasies, or she isn’t ready to do so yet. Give her space. This will also give you a break from the cycle of plan and cancel, which you indicate is demoralizing.

Look for other ways of bringing variety into your sexuality. Does your wife have other interests? Do you? Those are worth experimenting with or at least broaching the subject of. Maybe Barbara Carrellas’ Urban Tantra can give you some ideas, or Annie Sprinkle’s Explorer’s Guide to Planet Orgasm. Maybe Ian Kerner’s So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex can help the two of you deepen the connection you have together while you work through whether opening up is actually the path the two of you want to take.

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Exercise patience, and support your wife as she goes through her sexual journey at her own pace.

Did you write this or another letter we answered? Tell us what happened at howtodoit@slate.com.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a queer person who has started dating again after a breakup. My ex wasn’t a fan of strap-on sex, so it hadn’t been in my regular rotation for years, despite the fact that I really like to be on the receptive end.

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As I’ve started dating, I’ve noticed that I’ve had issues taking a strap-on in the way I used to. In one particularly bad instance, I went too fast with a new partner and tore so badly I bled all over their bed. It hasn’t mattered my comfort level with the other person—I just can’t get the object into my body. Not fun!

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After some research, I’ve discovered that this is likely due to the fact that I’ve started powerlifting. My understanding is that the kind of regular, full-body tension required for progressing on compound lifts can lead to pelvic floor and vaginal tightness that’s hard to relax when you’d want to. On powerlifting forums, it seems like there’s a lot of women in hetero relationships who are enjoying their newfound tightness, but they’re also regularly receiving PIV intercourse, so their bodies are still OK with getting dicked down.

I’m at a loss. I’ve tried going slow with lots of lube, I’ve tried smaller strap-ons, I’ve tried by myself; nothing is working, and I feel as though I am losing my mind. I have started sleeping with someone who, based on our limited attempts, is clearly skilled with a strap, and all I want is to actually be able to enjoy it. They are very patient and I’m comfortable with them, so it doesn’t feel like a mental block or clenching under pressure. Googling various permutations of “vaginal tightness problems weightlifting” just gives me something about weights you put into your vagina to get tighter. I want the opposite of that. Is this going to be forever?

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— Too Tight

Dear Too Tight,

I reached out to Chloe Hallyburton, a physical therapist at Whole Body Health Physical Therapy in Portland, Oregon, and she suggested getting evaluated by a doctor and/or a pelvic floor therapist to determine if there’s some medical or skin issue, or anything going on with your pelvic floor. Try asking your coach or peers if they have a pelvic floor specialist they like. You can also Google the same search I did—”pelvic floor specialist weightlifting”—with your location added on. Whoever you see, you’ll want to mention that you do weightlifting, and that you’re currently unable to receive vaginal penetration.

If all checks out there, Hallyburton recommended a technique for relaxing your pelvic floor: “First find a comfortable supported position and start taking slow, easy belly breaths. It can take some imagination or visualization, but with each inhale, try to gently release the pelvic floor. This can feel like the area between the sit bones (ischial tuberosities) are spreading apart, or the tailbone releasing away from the pubic bone. If you’re not sure if the muscles are tight or relaxed, you can also do a contraction/kegel and then feel what it’s like when the contraction is released. This should be done after every exercise session to help bring the pelvic floor tension back to normal.”

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Hallyburton also suggests stretching your inner thigh muscles through butterfly stretches, frog pose, happy baby pose, and lateral lunges stretches, and stretching your glutes through a figure-4 stretch or pigeon pose.

Finally, she says that if the pelvic floor has chronically tight, it might be worth using a progressive floor dilator, but to make sure “to start with a size that is small enough to be tolerated WITHOUT PAIN. Having pain in the pelvic floor will make the muscles clench and it will be hard to comfortably stretch.” She recommends Intimate Rose dilators, but notes that some people start even just using a finger.

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This therapy and stretching will likely take some work, but I think you’re prepared to push through discomfort and are able to recognize when you’re approaching the line of bad-pain. You can do it, and the resources you need are within reach.

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— Stoya

More How to Do It

My girlfriend and I had our first threesome a few nights ago, and it was great. We talked about it, and she felt most comfortable trying it out with a guy first (with a woman possibly in the future), and I was fine with that. We found a guy on an app designed for couples looking. I’ve never been naked with another guy outside a locker room, much less seen one hard in person, so I was nervous, but it was actually just comfortable and fun from the get-go. Maybe too comfortable.

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