Dear Dr. Jane,
Valentine's Day is coming up and I have to admit that I'm not looking forward to it. I love my boyfriend. He's a great guy and we're best friends. I think he even has a ring for me. He's thoughtful and romantic — gives me a dozen red roses every year on Valentine's Day. Of course I love the roses. But I know they come with the expectation of sex, and I really don't want to have sex with him.
If the sex were better, I'd be happy to do it. I actually have a pretty high drive. But our sex life is terrible. He always reaches orgasm in less than 30 seconds. I know he's embarrassed about it. I never climax with penetration. And he doesn't go down on me. I have no idea how to tell him how I feel.
What can we do to make this Valentine's Day less of a nightmare?
Not Feeling Rosy in 2024
Dear Not Rosy,
A man came into a flower shop holding a beautiful bouquet of long-stemmed red roses. He told the florist that he wanted a refund.
The man: "I'm here to return these roses."
The florist: "What's wrong with them? They're beautiful."
The man: "I get my wife a dozen roses on Valentine's Day every year. Every year I get lucky. I took these roses home to my wife last night and she said she had a headache. I want my money back."
Roses and romance seem to go together. But not when the romance isn't satisfying or welcome. In your case, it sounds like sex has been a problem for quite a long time. Many couples deal with these issues for years — even decades before getting help. Here are a couple of thoughts on these common but difficult problems.
1. Most women don't have orgasm with penetration alone.
We were all told a lie that penetrative sex is the key to orgasm for most women. One of the wonderful things about being a woman is that there are multiple avenues to pleasure — including sexual intercourse for some. However, for most women, direct clitoral stimulation is the key to pleasure and orgasm. That might mean oral sex for you, playing with a vibrating toy or dildo, touching yourself or having your partner touch you on the outside or on the inside. You mentioned that he doesn't go down on you. I suggest that you talk with him about how you feel about that. He may be insecure about his oral sex technique. You can help him feel comfortable by opening the conversation without shaming him.
2. Your boyfriend has early ejaculation.
As I mentioned above, clitoral stimulation is the key to orgasm for most women. But even if you are a person who would climax with penetration, you're not going to get there when penetration is brief. Premature ejaculation, or early ejaculation, is a common sexual concern that affects many men. It occurs when ejaculation happens sooner than desired during sexual activity and can lead to feelings of frustration. Fortunately, there are things he can do to make sex a whole lot better. Look into techniques that would allow him to last longer using the stop-start method and the squeeze technique. Other things that can help are mindfulness, managing anxiety, relaxation exercises and even hypnosis. I suggest you also consider seeking guidance from a sex-positive health care provider, therapist or coach.
3. This is a communication problem — and a sex problem.
I know that talking about sex with your boyfriend is probably difficult. Maybe you've tried and gotten nowhere. But, if you're in love with him and are seriously contemplating marriage, it's time to get some solutions to these problems. I know it's difficult to communicate. But I encourage you to talk, talk, talk. You're always welcome to reach out to me here at the paper. Or find another helping professional who can get you on the right track. There's no time like Valentine's Day to start to make it better in the bedroom — for both of you.
You got this!
—Dr. Jane Guyn (she/her) is a well-known relationship coach who received her Ph.D. in Human Sexuality and is trained as a Professional Sex Coach and Core Energy Coach. Send her your questions at [email protected].