I Just Had an “Aha” Moment About My Wife’s Behavior in Bed

I’m not sure how to bring it up.

By STOYAAUG 12, 20204:05 PM

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Makidotvn/iStock/Getty Images 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’m a 40-year-old guy who’s been reading a lot about sex in the last year trying to become more sex positive and also improve my sex life. I’ve been married for 13 years to an amazing woman. I saw a phrase in a book this week and I had a huge “aha” moment: She’s a pillow princess. I say this with gentleness and affection, but it so totally describes her. Funny thing is, she has a higher sex drive than me and has no problem initiating sex, but once we start foreplay (which I enjoy), the focus really is on her. Pretty much exclusively. I like long sessions of lovemaking. I like long periods of foreplay and I’m wired to enjoy giving. However, she just … lays there. And then after she’s had an orgasm—or seven—she just lays there for me to finish.

’ve become sort of numb to this and just accept this is how it is. I don’t mind this, and most of the time enjoy it. But as I’ve worked on myself and educating myself, I know that it’s OK and healthy for me to speak up. I just don’t know how. I’ve tried asking in the past for a night focused on me. It doesn’t happen. I’ve asked for a night when I get to come first (with toys handy for her and me to play with after!). Nope. I’ve asked to see what it’s like to have a blow job first and then a recovery period and then a round two. She hates blow jobs, so this is off the table. I’m trying to be confident and vulnerable about what I want. I also know just because I want something doesn’t mean I get it. Welcome to being vulnerable and intimate. So what I’m left with is a pillow princess who I love and enjoy loving on. I just want to have some sex I want to have some of the time. How can I make that happen?

—Pillow Prince

Dear Pillow Prince,

I think you should start with an intelligence-gathering conversation. Inquire into where your wife’s pillow princessdom is coming from. For instance, I hated being on top during sex from about 21 to 33 because I had undiagnosed, and therefore untreated, arthritis. And untreated tooth grinding prevented me from enjoying giving oral sex on men for the amount of time most require to orgasm. What I’m saying is that it’s possible your wife may be navigating a physical issue, and if that’s the case, it might be treatable. If not, well, at least we’ve ruled that out. Come from a place of curiosity when you have that conversation.

Since your wife isn’t into blow jobs, I’m wondering about other options. How are you with digital sex? As in with one’s digits. Can you orgasm from and enjoy a hand job? If so, you might investigate that option. If hand jobs don’t work for you, you might suggest trying a textured sleeve toy. The sleeve can be removed from any casing and squeezed with the hand for added stimulation.

I sense a little uncertainty in your letter. In two paragraphs, you say that you enjoy your wife simply lying there and also that you just want to have some sex you want to have. These statements are at odds with each other. I encourage you to think through what’s going on with your desires and do some introspection about this contradiction. You’ll be better able to communicate what you actually want if you have a better grasp on what that is. Do you crave variety? Do you want to be the center of attention sometimes? Do you want to feel active participation from your wife? Whatever it is, name it, sit with it for a few days, try to understand why, and get ready to communicate all of that.

You’ve been married for 13 years, so I assume you can tell when your wife is in a good place to handle a serious talk. Remember the basics—make sure everyone is calm, hasn’t missed a meal, has had enough sleep the night before, and has time to really dig into the subject.

Decide whether a broadening of the sex you two have is a requirement, and think about whether you’d want to divorce if things don’t change. If divorce is on the table, communicate that as gently as possible. If it isn’t, you may have to figure out a way to be happy with what your wife is willing to do.

Dear How to Do It,

I have been with my wonderful boyfriend for two years now. He is kind, gorgeous, smart, and fun—literally everything I’ve ever looked for, and I can’t imagine life without him. However, he was raised in an extremely conservative religious environment where sexual thoughts were completely off the table, and sexual expression has always felt a little unnatural between us. He has always attributed it to his upbringing and slowly started to open up, but he told me last week that he thinks it runs deeper. He doesn’t feel a sexual drive toward me at all, even though he loves me and wants to be with me forever. He had assumed attraction would grow over time, but he feels basically the same as he did when we started dating. I feel completely at a loss: I can’t imagine breaking up, but I also am not at all sure what a relationship looks like when attraction is one-way. He is still willing to do anything I want for my sake, but I feel so overanalytical now that I know the feelings aren’t reciprocal. Polyamory is not something either of us want. Are we doomed or could this work?

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