Hello all you petrochemical meerkats of the Noosphere, and welcome to Ask Dr NerdLove, the only dating advice column that helps you get the perfect Loot Box for your love life.
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Before we get started, a quick self-serving plug: I was a guest on this week's Kotaku Splitscreen podcast! If you haven't yet, go give it a listen. Host Kirk Hamilton and I talked movies, pick-up artists, cam girls and the friend-zone. You can listen to that below; my segment starts at 35:43:
This week's column is all about handling the road bumps and humps that come in a relationship, whether at the end or even after many years of happiness. Let's talk sexual anxiety, post-break-up etiquette and orgasm-inducing apps.
So my wife of just over five years freaked me out last night and I can recognise I am wrong for feeling freaked out but can't help it. First a bit of the back story, in the most honest self appraisal I can do. We are in our mid-30s. We both love each other very much, and outside of the usual relationship issues, things are good. I treat her very well, I give her preference in nearly everything, and am chivalrous (not just an act) every single day. She makes me very happy, and is very sweet, beautiful, smart and lovable. We don't have any financial issues, or fidelity issues or family issues, in my honest opinion a much better than average relationship, with its modest flaws.
The issue is sex. We have it two to three times a week. I am very satisfied, my wife seemed to be... She orgasms 80+ per cent of the time, and more often than not more than once. But she can only do so one way, and I am mostly not more than a prop. Not that I am lazy, I have and would be happy to help more, but I don't have the talent. She has stated in the past that she has problems even with just herself, but I suspect that is her lying for my feelings mixed in with the truth. As well when have tried other things she becomes uncomfortable, either due to my failings or her inability, can't say for sure.
In the past I felt confident and successful sexually by just using the stats, and knowing that "We've got to be better than average" and "she gets off more than I do". I am comfortable with my body and don't have any inadequacy issues. But then last night happened. She asked me if I would be willing to do something called OMGyes. It's a site that helps women and partners learn about female sexuality, explicitly about having more or better orgasms.
While I can walk my brain through the concept, that "of course I would be happy to do something if it makes you happy". However inside I'm in a panic, I don't panic, never have, and now I am. I'm trying to act cool, but she can tell something is off. I cannot collect my thoughts fast enough, I'd never heard of this OMGyes, and here I am blindsided and unprepared. Despite my shock and discomfort I agree and act as cool as I can. And count the minutes until GOT comes on.
Now I have feelings of inadequacy. Like I've missed the mark and she was so unhappy that she tried to find a solution and I was so fucking dumb and oblivious to her dissatisfaction, I'm embarrassed. I honestly want to do whatever I can to please her, but I am afraid. If it doesn't work? If my already minimal influence is negated even more? I'm kind of a prude, and just watching the preview video that was all blurred made me queasy. The thought of watching what I imagine is graphic tutorials and practicing is daunting. The only info on the internet about this OMGyes are shills, and feminist-leaning man hater types. The lack of real internet chatter about it feels odd.
How the hell do I get over myself that I can feel comfortable enough to do this? Is this OMGyes healthy or detrimental?
Looking for answers,
Dude. Dude. Calm down. Everything is OK, your wife isn't trying to tell you you're doing a shitty job at pleasing her. You're panicking about things that aren't actually a problem, starting with how your wife gets off.
In fact, let's start there. One of the things that is never covered in sex-ed are the mechanics of sexual pleasure. The structure of penises and vaginas mean that both require very different forms of stimulation to achieve orgasm.
Because the structure of the penis is primarily external, it's easier to stimulate to orgasm. You can apply friction and pressure to the length relatively easily. This is why it's easier for folks with dicks to get off from penetration; that's more conducive to the stimulation that brings 'em to orgasm.
The structure of the clitoris, however, is primarily internal, and spread around with clitoral wings to the sides of the vaginal canal and the clitoral head above it. As a result, penetration isn't the best way for people with vaginas to get off. In fact, studies of women have found that 65 per cent can't orgasm from penetration alone; they almost all need direct clitoral stimulation of one sort or another.
And for many people, the level of intensity and stimulation they need can vary. There will be people who are easier to get off than a pair of old shoes and then there are people who can't orgasm without something that vibrates harder and faster than Barry Allen after 12 double-espressos. That doesn't mean that their partners aren't good in bed; it's literally just how their bodies are wired and there's no lover in the world who could change that.
So it is with your wife. She requires a specific form of stimulation to orgasm, that's all. That doesn't mean that she doesn't enjoy sex with you. Hell, it doesn't even mean that she can't enjoy sex with you if she doesn't orgasm. It just means that, if she wants to get off, she needs to be stimulated in a specific way.
We live in a culture that says sex happens in a specific way and de-legitimises any form of sexual pleasure that doesn't follow that script. Oral's nice but it ain't dicking. If you don't get her off by pounding away, then by God that's not good sex. If you use a vibrator, then you've failed as a man and must contemplate this upon the cross of woe.
The fact that she needs that stimulation doesn't mean that you're just a prop. Her orgasms aren't happening spontaneously and it's just a wacky coincidence that you're in the room (or vagina) at the time.
What you are doing is what is letting her get off. If you weren't there, it wouldn't be happening. Whether you're doing it with your hand; your cock; a vibrator; or a bottle of honey, figs and seven white mice, you are the one giving her those orgasms.
Think of it this way: If you use a hammer while building a house, did the hammer build it or did you? So it is with sex. That stimulation you're giving her is the tool. You are the one wielding the tool. Once you accept that, the rest of your dilemma becomes much easier to resolve. Take her interest in OMGYes.
For the rest of my readers, OMGYes is an interactive app that focuses on teaching about anatomy and sexual pleasure with a focus on vaginas. The app includes interviews with women about what gets them off and features interactive lessons in sexual stimulation via touchscreen. Lessons, CDH, that your wife would like to practise. With you.
That doesn't mean that she's unsatisfied with you, it means she wants to see if the two of you can change things up a bit and try new techniques. Just as a cook learning how to sous vide doesn't mean they think their previous food is garbage, learning more about sex and orgasms and ways to achieve them doesn't mean that your previous method was bullshit, nor does it mean that she's dissatisfied with you. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Learning new ways to make sex pleasurable is a great thing, in general and also for the strength of your marriage. Changing things up in the bedroom keeps the spark alive and vital in a relationship. This isn't something to be feared, it's something for the two of you to enjoy together. You aren't being told "you suck in bed, learn this before I kick you out for Brick HardMeat". She's saying, "I'd like to learn some new things with you and try them out together."
So take a deep breath, my dude. Everything is fine. The worst case scenario here is that you're going to try some new ways of playing with orgasms that may not work 100 per cent of the time, then you keep going with the known and reliable methods.
And the best-case outcome? You and your wife will be taking your sex life together to new and awesome places and you'll be wondering why you didn't try it sooner.
It's going to be great. You've got this.
Hey Dr NerdLove,
For a bit of context I'm a university student and I ended up in a relationship with an exchange student.
When she first came on exchange she was in a relationship but she broke up with him a week before we got together. At the time I was concerned about being a rebound but she convinced me that she hadn't intended for us to happen and that her feelings were genuine. We ended up dating for two months before she went home.
When things first started we both went into it with the understanding that our romantic relationship would be over when she left as the distance and uncertainty around when (if ever) we see each other again. I also knew that there was a good chance that she would end up in a relationship again fairly quickly based on the kind of person she is.
The first week after she returned home, she still messaged and was seemingly eager to talk. Over the next couple of weeks she started to take longer to reply and would blame the time difference or say she missed my message because she was busy doing something at the time. Three weeks after she left I found out she was no longer single when she posted a photo on social media of her back with her ex.
Since then she has snapchatted me a couple of times but hasn't made any attempt to discuss it with me and I haven't replied to any of her messages. I was hurt that she went back to him but can't hold it against her as I had expected it to happen when I chose to be in a relationship. What's bothering me is that she chose to let me find out publicly rather than telling me herself. Given that what I liked about her was how much she cared about others, it seems weirdly callous to me.
It's also brought about a lot of uncertainty about whether our relationship was actually meaningful to her. I can't help thinking that she just wanted to have an experience with a local while she was on exchange or even that she was filling in time until she could go straight back to him. I have a lot of questions that only she can answer but I don't know whether I want to hear the answers or if I would even trust what she told me. I was planning to go travelling and visit all the friends I had made but since several of them live in the same city that she does, things are a bit more complicated if I'm trying to avoid her.
Is it fair of me to be upset with her or should I still be trying to stay friends like we had intended?
At this point I have no idea how I should act towards her.
Thousands of Miles Away
There're a number of reasons why she didn't tell you, ToMA. The most charitable explanation is that she knew you would probably be stung no matter who it was she started dating afterwards. I imagine that she thought it would be kinder to just let it be instead of going out of her way to stab your feelings with a tiny knife. It may not have worked out that way, but the things we do in kindness sometimes don't work the way we hope.
But the most likely reason she didn't tell you that she was going back to her ex was because, to be perfectly honest, ToMA, it's not really any of your business. You guys dated briefly; that doesn't mean that you're supposed to get an update on who she's hooking up with afterwards. You knew that she was going to likely be dating someone after she returned home; were you expecting an alert when she did?
(Hell, even if you'd been dating for a year or more, your ex isn't really obligated to give you a heads up. It's nice, depending on your relationship post-breakup, but it's a bonus, not a requirement.)
But let's put that aside, because that's not the real issue. The real issue that seems to be weighing on you is, "What does this say about you?" More to the point: Were you a fling, or was it something real?
My question to you is: Can't it be both? The fact that you were a fling doesn't mean that it wasn't "real". This wasn't random chance. She didn't draw your name out of a hat. She didn't spin a bottle and hook up with you because the bottle happened to be pointing your way. You met, you hung out, she clearly was into you. That was real.
It wasn't going to last, but you knew that. You went into the relationship knowing that it was for a very limited time. And that's fine. Not every relationship is meant to be forever. Not every love story is meant to be an epic. Some are meant to be a short story. Some are meant to be a dirty limerick. That's fine too.
The problem is when you invest more, emotionally, than a relationship merits. And to be perfectly honest, a two month relationship ain't that long. You weren't even out of the "getting to know you" phase, never mind into the "we have forged a bond that will last forever" phase. Making more of it than what it was -- a fun two months with a good guy in a foreign country -- is just an invitation to heartbreak because you're building your expectations up to something unreasonable.
Don't get me wrong: Your pain is real. A relationship ended and that's gonna sting, no matter how amicably it ended. It's the holding on to these questions and doubts that's making it worse for you, and the longer you treat this as a love for the ages in miniature, the harder it's going to be for you to let go.
And that's what you really need to do, man. You need to just let go. Your wound can't heal as long as you're picking at the scab. You may have questions, but in all likelihood you'll be better off to let those questions go unanswered, especially if you aren't inclined to trust her answers.
Should you stay friends with her? Only if you want to. And if you're holding on to bitterness about who she's dating after you? Then you're going to have a motherfucker of a time actually being friends. Right now, you need distance and perspective and that takes time.
Go see your friends. If you see your ex, be polite. Let her go and make your own closure. Forgive her for being less than perfect in handling the post-breakup interval and forgive yourself for loving if not too wisely then well.
Have you and your partner attended sex workshops or lessons? Do you have a break-up etiquette story? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. And meanwhile, we'll be back with more of your questions in two weeks.
Ask Dr Nerdlove is Kotaku's fortnightly advice column for matters of the heart, hosted by the one and only Harris O'Malley, AKA Dr Nerdlove.
Harris O'Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr NerdLove and the Dr NerdLove podcast. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove. Dr Nerdlove is not really a doctor.