Dear Dr. Jennifer,
My problem is that I find sex with my husband…. lacking. We both have great sex drives: he could probably have sex daily, and sometimes I think I could enjoy sex even more frequently than that. But I find my drive dropping due to the fact that, well….. it’s just bad sex. Nearly all of our sexual encounters last less than five minutes, and on the rare occasion that there is foreplay, it just doesn’t do anything for me. I bought and read most of A Celebration of Sex, hoping that he would steal it from me and take a greater interest in the topic, but no such luck.
So my question is, how do I help my husband become a better lover, without irreparably damaging his self-esteem? I’m afraid that there’s no way to broach the topic without implying that he is somehow lacking, and he might never recover from that.
Dr. Jennifer’s response:
Great question! As you’ve already figured out, men rarely steal books and read them. Even sex books.
You could try buying him this book written specifically to men: What Wives Wish their Husbands Knew about Sex: A Guide for Christian Men by Ryan Howes, Richard Rupp, and Stephen W. Simpson. The authors are younger guys, and it’s an easy read. If he’s not much of a reader, then read the book out loud to him in bed. I know that sounds silly, but it really works. Just tell him you want to make your sex life even more exciting, and you’ve found a great book that you thought he might like because it’s written by men for men. Offer to next find and read a book out loud that is written by women for women. That way he won’t feel as singled out.
Steve Simpson, one of the authors of What Wives Wish their Husbands Knew About Sex, is a friend—we grew up at the same church—so I contacted him regarding your question. He’s under a deadline right now so he couldn’t respond fully, but he did say “90% of the time when a couple comes to me for sexual problems, relationship and/or emotional problems are actually the culprit. The fact that she’s worried about hurting his self-esteem by bringing it up is telling.”
So, you might want to ask yourself, “Why am I hesitant to directly address our lovemaking?” Maybe you’ve observed over the years that he gets angry or pouts when constructive criticism is offered, and you’ve reacted by withholding important feedback (this type of emotional immaturity will also make him less attractive to you). Perhaps his ego could survive the feedback without permanent damage, but you are uncomfortable with owning your own need for more eroticism and excitement in the bedroom. Sometimes couples rush through foreplay because the lower desire partner rarely speaks up and says, “Let’s slow down. I need more physical touch/kissing/a backrub/etc. before we move on to the main event.”
Perhaps your husband is just a bit of a “bumbler” in the bedroom. This is what I call men who aren’t naturally skilled at paying attention to how other people feel. They aren’t good at noticing the subtle signals that indicate whether a woman is becoming more sexually aroused. It’s like they are so “into” their own experience that they stop paying attention to her experience. Husbands like this need to be taken in hand and trained. You cannot hint or nudge a bumbler into being a good lover. You cannot telepathically send him messages like “slow down” or “use a lighter touch.” You have to be lovingly direct. (But don’t ever tell him directly “You are a bumbler!” That would be unloving and counterproductive.)
This type of direct communication can be challenging for women, in and out of the bedroom, but if you want to turn “bad sex” into “good sex,” you must be specific about what you want and prefer. Men like a clear job description. If you would like for him to nibble on your neck for several minutes, tell him. If his nibbling on your neck turns you off, tell him. If he does something that pleases you, tell him.
- Men tend to touch in straight-line motions when most women prefer circular motions. You need to show him what kind of touch you like.
- Men’s hands are often heavier so they have a heavier touch which many women don’t enjoy in the early stages of foreplay. You need to show him what kind of pressure you like. Explain if you prefer a lighter touch at first and a heavier touch later.
- Husbands don’t usually understand how uncomfortable and even painful clitoral stimulation can be without adequate lubrication. They need to be taught to reach for the lubricant before they reach for your genitals.
- A typical husband will assume that if he’s getting sexually aroused, you must be getting more aroused as well. Tell him what signs indicate whether you are or are not getting more aroused. Yes, he probably needs to be reminded that breathing faster, moving your hips, etc. indicates you are getting aroused while regular breathing, no body movement, and discussing home renovation projects indicates you aren’t aroused yet (so he should slow down and help you both focus on your pleasure).