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My Boyfriend Is Putting Pressure on Me to Orgasm

Our sex and relationships pro answers your questions.

My boyfriend and I have been together for two years, and our sex life up until the last month has been great. Our relationship in general has been great, and we are both very much in love. However, over the past month, I have found it very difficult to reach an orgasm during oral or vaginal sex. This has made us both very frustrated. I feel awful because I don’t know why I can’t get there.

We’ve tried different positions and techniques, but nothing is helping. His frustration became very clear to me the other night when he told me I need to focus on concentrating better. I’ve tried concentrating really hard, I’ve tried imagining my celebrity crushes, and I’ve tried completely not concentrating at all, and nothing is working. I usually masturbate regularly, but I haven’t felt the need or want to lately, but when I have, I still can’t reach an orgasm.

This is clearly putting a strain on our otherwise healthy relationship, and I can’t figure out why or how to fix it. I have been very stressed recently from work, and I don’t know if this is making an impact. Any suggestions?

First, I just want you to know this is maybe the most common question I receive. Most women don’t orgasm on demand or in the same way every time, and nobody’s sex drive is the same every day.

Some important context that might help you feel less alone: the Kinsey Institute stat that 20 to 30% of women never orgasm during intercourse.

Also, I always recommend touching base with your doctor about a dramatic change in sex drive, since it never hurts to consult a physician about any physical complaint. Your sex drive can be affected by medications, diet, sleep loss, stress, and other factors that your doctor can explain in detail.

But let’s talk about your boyfriend, because he’s part of the problem. He actually told you to focus on concentrating better? You should almost always tell your partner what you want. But no dude should ever tell you how to come. I mean, where does he get off telling you how to get off? He was literally mansplaining how your orgasms work — to you. Does he really think he understands your body better than you? That you can just will yourself to come, as if you’re some mentalist bending spoons with your super-focused brain waves? That the problem has just been that you’re not trying hard enough? Odds are, focusing too much — worrying more about orgasming than overall pleasure; thinking more about the mechanics of sex than the feeling of being with someone who turns you on — is actually getting in your way. When you’re in bed, you’re not just enjoying yourself; you’re stressed. I suppose your boyfriend means well in his own chauvinist way, but I bet his stressful sex coaching is part of the problem: now, you’re not just worried about feeling good and pleasing yourself. You have to worry about following your boyfriend’s instructions and potentially disappointing him.

The bizarre dynamic he’s creating implies that you’re doing it wrong. Which is crazy for all sorts of reasons, but particularly since most people come more when they’re relaxed, rather than stressed. (He may be blaming you to cover up his own sexual insecurities, as if this is your problem and he has nothing to do with it.) The idea here should be to reduce your stress levels, not increase them. That’s hard to do when your partner is telling you how to feel. So tell your boyfriend that you very much appreciate his concern, but you’d very much appreciate it if he would lay off while you’re getting laid. Tell him that adding more pressure is only going to make your orgasms less likely.

You’ve tried different positions and techniques, and I bet you’re right that the stress from work, compounded by the stress with your boyfriend, is a factor. So ask your boyfriend to offer support and patience, not motivational speeches or pressure-packed instructions. Remember that sex can be plenty fun without an orgasm — and try to enjoy everything else that feels good. This isn’t a crisis and this isn’t your fault. Plenty of us go through sexual slumps and ruts. Relax, be patient with your body, and soon this will pass.

This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com

Read Sex Q&A: My Boyfriend’s Semen Stings Me. Is There Something Wrong?

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