When our partner's are frustrated by their sexual performance and they allow it to bother them and they don't seek support, it can feel sometimes like we're going round in circles. I was asked recently on my page Ask A Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, the following question...
"I am in my 30s and female (cis). Partner is in 40s and male (also cis). He is a giver and his priority is to always make me orgasm. Our issue is that he comes far too quickly for his liking. It doesn’t bother me, as I love him but he gets really frustrated with himself about it. For example, during oral sex he will come within about 2 minutes, penetrative sex much less time maybe 3/4 thrusts. We have tried edging, delay spray etc. but nothing seems to work for as long as he would like. He blames himself a lot which doesn’t help, saying it’s because he is older and overweight (he is a healthy BMI but more of top end). I have quite a high sex drive but due to him working away we only really get to be together a couple of times a month. In the time we are apart we are always sending each other sexual messages etc. He will absolutely not go and seek medical advice for this, I have tried to encourage him to as reading online it says to but he won’t. We have also tried viagara but it seems to just give him a raging hard on and doesn’t make him last longer before coming. Thanks for help in advance."
I have replied regarding specifically premature ejaculation here in the article Cumming Too Soon, which can be for your partner to read. What I'd like to cover in this response is how we as women can support our partners in 'crisis'.
I have had a few occasions where women have come to me because their partner either has a sexual concern, recognises it as such and doesn't want to confront it or look to get support. On the other hand I also have women who come to me because their partner experiences sexual concerns and is 'fine with it as it is' and the woman is not. The types of sexual concerns have been regarding libido, premature ejaculation and erectile disappointment.
The common theme we are seeing here is men who are not wanting to get support. What we need to understand first of all, is what is happening for the man in question. I want to take you back to when your partner was a little boy. The times he fell over and hurt his knee and was told 'be a big boy, don't cry'. These messages were continuous and taught him that his emotions were not safe to be expressed out in the world.
Most boys grew up with a father figure who they could not go to for advice or support. Quite often boys who grew into teenagers had to default to friends for 'advice'. Due to the conditioning surrounding sharing emotions and troubles, this would often result in 'banter' as their friends felt a huge amount of discomfort holding space for another person's problems. If they were emotionally intelligent enough to recognise that their friend needed support, it likely would have come in the form of advice and 'fixing'. And as great as advice and 'fixing' can be, it can also lead us to internalise the feeling of 'failure' that we can't do it or figure it out ourselves. Because when these boys and young men look up at their fathers, they see these strong and stoic men who can handle and deal with anything (which in reality wasn't always true, they too were disconnecting). Wanting to live up to the same expectation they would want to not let their father down and be 'independent' too.
So we have men who are unable to talk about their emotions. And we have men who can't ask for help.
In the situations around sex and sexuality, which are extremely vulnerable topics of conversation, holding huge amounts of shame (social conditioning), we have men who do not feel safe talking about how they feel about what they are experiencing and who feel embarrassed asking for help.
And as women? We grew up with the conditioning about talking about every little thing with our friends and expressing our emotions and supporting our friends who are going through problems themselves. So when our partner is going through a problem and doesn't want to talk to us it can trigger within us feelings of 'not being good enough'. 'maybe he doesn't love or trust me because if he did he would talk to me'. What we do is internalise his difficulty in speaking and asking for support as a failure within ourselves.
So my first invitation to you, as a woman, is to notice the stories that come up for you when your partner is going through a problem. What are you telling yourself about the situation and your part in it? Notice that thought, But here's the trick, you don't need to hang onto it, or listen to it. Just notice it's there, recognise it as the story and let it go.
Once you have been able to understand your own story in the situation you both find yourselves in you will be able to hold space for your partner better. Why? Because you will be listening to him talking about his problem as his problem. And not yours. You won't be (or very little) be attached to his story and needing to solve and fix it.
When we create a container of true listening and curiosity about a person's situation they feel a sense of freedom in being able to express themselves and feel validated and seen in their experience. This creates a container which allows them each time to go a little deeper.
And here's my second invitation - to ask how they feel about the situation.
And wait for the reply.
You know as women when we sit down to chat about things that are happening in our lives the chatter is constant with questions, replies, comments and support? We are asked a question and know immediately the answer to it. Well, if you've been conditioned out of naming an emotion and talking about them (like men have), when someone asks you 'how are you feeling?' it may take a moment or two to actually figure out what the hell you are actually feeling. So this is where, for men, silence is important. Not sure how long to wait? Try counting to 30. The thing to pay attention to here is to resist jumping in immediately with the next question. When they've finished speaking, waiting a moment to see if they have anything else to add (count to 10). Rather than at this point offering help, advice or solutions, you could ask a question around the information that they've given you. One of genuine curiosity about how they feel about a particular part of what they told you.
The next point I want to bring to your attention is relationship balance. What we need to be mindful of in our relationship with our partner is are we creating an imbalance in the relationship? Are you inadvertently putting yourself always in the mother, coach or rescuer/persecutor role and your partner in the son, coachee or victim role? When we step into these roles in various areas of our relationships such as household chores, childcare (if we have children), etc it can influence how we show up in situations of communication. Are we meeting them on an even playing field where they're at or are we in someway taking responsibility and 'fixing'? It takes some really uncomfortable self-inquiry to explore where we may inadvertently actually be contributing to a partner's shut down.
When it comes to the problem at hand, our reaction to it can influence how the other person feels. I know in your message you talk a lot about his frustration and blaming of himself but the smallest comments, body language cues and tone of voice can give so much away to our partners that they can pick up on. Especially when it is a place of insecurity for them.
Now I'd like to move on to your specific situation, however those of you reading will be able to apply this to similar scenarios you find yourself in. You mention that he makes sure that you orgasm first. A lot of people have this idea that after a man has ejaculated sex needs to stop. Psychologically for him at an unconscious level, once you have orgasmed, him knowing that you have done so means that he feels 'free' and 'allowed' to orgasm too. I use inverted commas because this can be happening at a subconscious level. What if, after having penetrative sex he then returns to your pleasure? So once he's ejaculated he makes you his main focus? This mental flip for your partner could help to take the pressure off trying to avoid ejaculating so that your sex isn't measured by his 'performance' but in fact it becomes a place of exploration, pleasure and curiosity rather than a goal of how long it should or shouldn't last. By not focusing on his ejaculation as an 'end' or the stop point, means that he is able to fully relax into and enjoy your time together.
My invitation is to also explore your personal relationship to ejaculation and sex. Oftentimes we can have parts of our subconscious that have particular stories around pleasure, sex and all the various elements to it. If once you have orgasmed and in your head you feel that sex is pretty much over for you, this can, at a very subtle level, be received by your partner. If you are telling yourself that you would like to finish and move on with the rest of your day, this can affect his ejaculation, he can sense when you have 'left the building' so to speak.
I hope you have found this useful not only in understanding how to support your partner in this particular situation but also in how changes to our own behaviour and also bringing self-awareness into our lives can have rippling effects around us.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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