Reader No O writes:
Hi. I was wondering if you can help me. I have loads of problems surrounding my marriage and here's one of them. My husband doesn't want to have sex with me anymore because I can't orgasm. He also informed me that eventually if there's no sex between us, he'll seek it elsewhere. Which I don't doubt he wouldn't step out of the marriage. He has done so before for other reasons. I just feel it's ridiculous to not have sex. I enjoyed having sex with him even though there's no orgasm. There's good feelings and also just being physically close is nice. Yes, it would be great to have one if it happens. It's not very enjoyable being pressured to have one, however. Either way, he cares not that I still had enjoy the sex with getting to the big O. I don't know what his real problem is. Why is it important to him? It's not like he can feel what I feel.
I am torn between telling you that your husband sounds like a controlling and self-absorbed narcissist (you can read about them in any of these books) who needs extensive individual therapy, and using this platform to explain why women's orgasms are so important to men. Thankfully, those two options are not mutually exclusive. Let's first turn to your husband, and his relationship-destroying behaviors.
Your husband cheated on you in the past and is telling you that if he doesn't have sex with you, he will look outside the marriage for sex elsewhere. This is called emotional blackmail and you can read about it here: Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You. Also in all those books I linked you to above. The most absurd part of his ultimatum is that it is HIM who is refusing to have sex with you! I really am angry on your behalf and sad that you are putting up with this level of emotional abuse, because that is exactly what this is.
I am sure that your husband is a troubled guy, who probably had a tough childhood in some respect or another, because apparently it turned him into a completely self-absorbed adult who is unable to see how his behavior is killing his relationship. He is blaming you for something your body is unable to do and then threatening to have sex with other women, which is not an empty threat (and an empty threat would be bad enough, mind you) because he has been unfaithful before. When you see it written out like that, does it not help you to see what a toxic situation this is?
Now if you just couldn't orgasm, and you were with a loving and supportive partner, I would suggest the following strategies:
1. Try masturbation, with or without porn or erotic stories, to figure out if there is a way that you can get yourself to reach orgasm.
2. See a therapist with whom you can discuss possible deep seated issues surrounding sex, and, more broadly, how you deal with vulnerability and loss of control, which issues related to orgasm.
However, in the marriage you're in currently, I do not think these strategies will do much. I think it would be foolish to be vulnerable with your husband, because he is so obviously unsupportive and self-centered, and your inability to reach orgasm with him may be your body's way of saying, "Danger! Don't fully trust and open up to this guy!" The mind-body connection is very real and important, particularly in regard to sexuality.
I urge you to get couples counseling and therapy of your own though, to deal with the following questions:
1. Why does your husband think that cutting you off from sex and threatening to seek it elsewhere is an appropriate response to this situation?
2. Why do you put up with this behavior from him?
You allude to other marital problems, and I am certain there are many. Your husband needs to realize that he is acting in an emotionally abusive way, and hopefully a therapist can be of help in this regard.
Next, let's turn to why women's orgasms are so important to men:
1. It makes them feel like they are good in bed.
2. It is exciting to them sexually to watch and feel you orgasm.
3. It assuages any of their own insecurities about their penis size, performance, technique, etc., because obviously they are doing something right if you orgasm.
4. Think about if your husband never orgasmed. Would you want to have sex as much? I see couples with this issue in therapy, often when a man is on antidepressants which increase his time to orgasm dramatically and/or prevent him from ever reaching climax. To many women, when a man can't orgasm, over time, they begin to feel detached and uninterested during sex.
5. I mean, evolutionarily speaking, the point of sex is to climax. The man's orgasm obviously releases sperm but the female's orgasmic contractions help to pull the sperm up where they can be more easily fertilized. So men are wired to go for the gold, both for themselves and their partners.
6. You say it's not like he can feel what you feel, but this isn't strictly true. Ideally, sexual partners are so attuned to one another that they can in fact basically feel what the other feels, which is why an orgasm in one partner may trigger one in the other, during intercourse or mutual masturbation. Additionally, he would be able to physically feel orgasmic contractions in your vagina if you were to orgasm during sex.
7. In a loving relationship, people like to see their partner experience pleasure. It's almost as good as feeling pleasure yourself, and sometimes even better. (However, I see why in this particular marriage you would find it difficult to understand why he would care if you experience orgasmic pleasure, because he doesn't seem to care if you experience pleasure in other ways, such as by being spoken to with respect and kindness.)
8. Also, whenever one partner dismisses the other's perspective and asks what the "real" problem is, this invariably lead to a bad dynamic. By asking this, you are invalidating his perspective that you not having an orgasm IS his real problem. It's like if you told him to stop being a jerk and he said, "What's your REAL problem though? Do you have PMS or something?" Bad scene.
So, in a more loving and supportive marriage, I would expect your husband to be sad that you don't orgasm, and to brainstorm ways that you could try to orgasm, and to want to research ways he could get you to orgasm, and all of that kind of problem-solving stuff that men love to do. I mean, I empathize with a husband whose wife doesn't orgasm, I really do. I would have empathized with both of you in this situation, except that your husband is acting like a tremendous jerk (which I do not say often) by threatening you with infidelity and cutting you off from sex completely. His behavior is NOT acceptable. I hope that with a therapist, he can explore why he acts this way, and who is his early life likely treated him in the cold and mean way that he treats you.
And even if he doesn't seek counseling for himself or agree to the couples counseling that you also need, I urge you to seek your own individual counseling because this type of blackmail and ultimatum-giving is just going to continue in other areas of the relationship, and you don't deserve it. You need to figure out why you've let it go on this long and how you can become someone who asserts herself and refuses to be treated with disrespect.
Good luck and thanks for writing in. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says Get Thee To A Couples Counselor and READ THOSE BOOKS.
This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Pre-order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family.