Dear Dr. Jenni,
I have been married for 10 years. I try to sexually please my wife. But she doesn’t try to please me at all. She tells me that it does nothing for her to please me. She intellectually knows that it makes me happy, but she can’t bring herself to give me pleasure, nor does she derive any pleasure from it. How do I get her to have more pleasure? I feel like I’m doing everything I can.
—Can’t Get No Satisfaction
Dear Can’t Get No,
It sounds like your wife has never received messages that sex can be about her pleasure. Perhaps she grew up learning that sexual pleasure is only for the man, or that sex is dirty and only engaged in by bad girls.
If this is the case, this is not your battle to fight. She will ultimately need to give herself permission that it’s OK to receive sexual pleasure — that having sex does not mean she is slutty or dirty.
You can help give her permission to have sexual pleasure by continuing to be supportive and perhaps also making intimacy dates that are solely about her satisfaction. You can also give her verbal encouragement and even a book about female pleasure.
Regarding your thirst for satisfaction, you may want to ask yourself, “What has kept me in the marriage this far?” Are those traits and conditions enough for you to continue forward in the relationship? In your 10 years together, have you asked for any changes? Ultimately, you may both need to make compromises to be happy and sexually satisfied.
Dear Dr. Jenni,
My marriage of 25 years is dull and lifeless. I’ve recently re-ignited online conversation with an ex-boyfriend from high school. It’s wonderful to get this attention, but I know this opens a can of worms on a slippery slope towards an affair. Do you think I should refrain from seeing him face-to-face? Does this say something negative about my marriage?
You are correct that this can be a slippery slope. Oftentimes, betrayal stems from keeping hurtful secrets. One way to test if this is a red flag for your marriage is to ask yourself, if your husband found out about your Facebook communication, how would he feel? Furthermore, even if you could trust yourself to behave face-to-face, how would your husband feel about the meeting?
Typically, having an affair is a statement about what is missing from a marriage, but not always. Some people initiate affairs because they find themselves irreconcilably starved for either emotional or sexual intimacy. Others have an affair because they are bored of the routine of the relationship and desire variety. Some people have a good relationship, but find themselves without will power in the face of a chance opportunity.
If your marriage is dull and lifeless, can you figure out where you are lacking attention from your husband? Do you need more affection and touch? Do you need more dates out to dinner? Do you need more love notes, sexy text messages, words of affirmation? Most importantly, can you ask this of your husband and work together to make these changes? It is likely that he may need something from you as well.
Remember, it takes work to keep a relationship happy and healthy. Imagine that if you were renewing your vows in one year, how can you both work together to create an environment that makes you excited to renew!
Send questions for Jenni Skyler, PhD, to drjenni@theintimacyinstitute. org. Skyler is a sex therapist and board-certified sexologist who runs The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, www.theintimacyinstitute.org.