Ask Anne-Marie: I'm Dating A Great Man, But He Doesn't Meet Me Sexually. Help?
This article is in response to a question posted to the Ask Anne-Marie global forum. A place where we co-explore burning questions across multiple topics of leadership, erotic nature, power dynamics and relationships.
Welcome back to Ask Anne-Marie and this week’s question.
I am dating a man I really like. He is kind, makes me laugh, is generous, has his adult life in order, and we have many shared interests. And, I’m attracted to him. When we see each other, I just want to be close to his body. However, the big problem is that he is the worst kisser I have ever experienced. As well, the sex is terrible with him ejaculating within less than a minute.
Good sex is one of my most important values in a relationship.
I have been very patient and kind despite my growing frustration and attempted to bring up the subject about both of these things with him in the most skillful of ways and nothing has changed. Perhaps I have not been direct enough? I am having a hard time finding the fine line between speaking my truth which includes the fact that I feel sooo disappointed and even angry at him, while also not wanting to shame him or his sexuality.
I am unclear if premature ejaculation is something a man can control or is actually physiological. I tend to believe it is the former. So, between the bad kissing which has not gotten better after me bringing it up and telling him “I want to teach you how I like to be kissed” and the totally unsatisfying sex, I’m ready to let this great guy go. Help!?
Thank you for this vulnerable question for both you and your lover. If we don’t pay attention to our needs and disappointments, we miss opportunities to deepen intimacy with ourselves and our partners. It sounds like there are qualities in the relationship that work well, and you appreciate many things about this man. Of course, it can feel disappointing and frustrating to courageously initiate the conversation, and for it to not create traction for you two to learn and grow together.
I’ve experienced being in partnership with men who ejaculate almost instantly upon entry, and I remember feeling conflicted because I felt frustrated. Followed by guilt for feeling this way. I get turned on and drop into deep connected intimacy when there is time to feel the energy build. I enjoy the sensual feast of co-exploring with my partner. And just like you, while I didn’t want to shame my partners, it was a very unsatisfying aspect of our sexual connection. It didn’t seem like something these men could control, just as I couldn’t control feeling frustrated and guilty.
I notice my interest in hearing more about this anger you feel. What is getting triggered in you?
Relationships are often our greatest teachers. When I’m triggered, by someone or their behavior, I use it as an indicator to look inside and evaluate what’s stirred in me. Maybe it’s a fear, a resistance to a difference in our values (which can be deeply disappointing), or a lack of resonance.
I like to assess:
What are my expectations, and have they been spoken?
Have I been clear communicating my needs and boundaries?
Is my early attachment or core wounding being stirred by the relational dynamic?
What is my contribution to this challenge?
In this article, we’ll cover a multidimensional approach, including practical exercises. However, beyond technique and practices, the most fundamental element is that the man is interested in looking inside and taking responsibility for how and why his body is responding the way it is. This conversation can be an invitation for you, and your lover, to come deeper into his body, not because he’s broken, but because he craves more integration and connection with himself and you. Some men will be interested in this, and others won’t be. You can’t control how he receives and responds to your invitations.
You’re already on the right track by speaking up and opening the dialogue. You’ll never know his level of investment in his growth, and whether you can close this gap between the two of you, unless you bring him into the vulnerable conversation. So, well-done so far!
Creating Shared Reality: The View and Approach of Relationship
The courage to approach these delicate situations with compassion and care requires dedication, humility and vulnerability for each person involved. The traction needed for transformation and healing is based on many variables.
Two important components are our View and Approach.
Our view is the belief and framework we hold related to connection and the purpose of relationship. The spectrum of views is wide. For example, if we expect our partner to meet all of our needs, then we may view that when they don’t, it’s their fault and they are to blame. This view suggests that they are the source of our happiness and they are responsible for our feelings.
Or, we may hold a view that relationship is a path of transformation and evolution. A view that partnership is about helping one another heal and grow. We are responsible for staying in connection when there is impact and rupture, without needing to fix or control each other. From this view, we practice taking responsibility for our triggers, asking for what we desire, and meeting our disappointments internally when our needs aren’t met. When triggers or challenges arise, they become fuel for deeper intimacy with ourselves and our partner, and we’re committed to finding a loving way to bring our challenges into the relationship to grow, instead of collapsing into shame, blame, and resentment.
Most often, our relationship views are unspoken and unconsciously expressed through behaviors and actions. It’s helpful in relationship to understand the core values each partner holds around the purpose of relationship. Sometimes the views match, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes there is shared reality, and sometimes there isn’t. It’s important that we’re honest with ourselves and each other as to whether we share the same partnership view and values.
Our approach is expressed through the ways in which we communicate our feelings, and our capacity to share vulnerably and open-heartedly. How do we set a context for difficult conversations? How do we honor each other’s needs for emotional safety, right timing and shared consent? How do we listen without defending? How do we crawl into each other’s world despite our differences? How do we interrupt the impulse to take another person’s pain personally while also addressing the contribution we may have played without anyone needing to be wrong?
In addition to consent, I often clarify my own intentions about why I want to initiate a potentially challenging dialogue. Knowing where our feedback is coming from is helpful in terms of how it will be received and what is ours to work through inside, and what is interpersonal to work through with our lover or partner.
I may ask, “Is this a gift I want to offer someone I love because I want to be closer, or is this a grievance I have towards someone whom I want to be different so I get my needs met?”
I inventory my sense of “What is this person available for? Do they want feedback? Do they want to explore the patterns that connect and disconnect us?”
It’s not likely that any relationship will be a plug and play without glitches, differences, disappointments and frustrations. Co-exploring these moments with love and space is one way intimacy, trust and safety can deepen. Sharing and exploring the core values we desire in partnership is an essential component to this process. Do you have shared reality about what you want, and do you want enough of the same core values to ride out the storms and stay in the game when the heat burns and activates trauma and disconnection? Not everyone is ready to look under the hood at the behaviors that cause disconnection and suffering.
When it comes to sexuality, it’s important we understand that much of our patterned sexual behavior is based on our first, and most early, sexual experiences. For example, if a young man learns that masturbation is shameful, or frowned upon at home, he may learn to rush his pleasure in the bathroom to ensure no one in the house becomes suspicious. And, this sense of rushing can become embedded in a mind-body pattern. In other words, an arc of firing to seek pleasure, coupled with the impulse to rush to completion, can become a wired pattern that happens subconsciously without thought or control. How we relate to, and express, our sexuality is conditioned. To learn more read the article, Understanding Our Primal Wiring Can Deepen Intimacy with Our Sexual Self.
Insecurities of doing it wrong, being wrong or looking wrong can loom like a storm swirling within us. Receiving feedback in the realm of sexuality is best done with heaping doses of compassion, vulnerability and curiosity.
Our conditioning can be transformed with self-awareness, compassion, and a safe and loving environment of experimentation.
Seeking Expert Practical Advice: Chris Muse, Somatic Sex Educator
For this question I decided to team up with my colleague and friend, Chris Muse, a somatic sex educator located in Denver, Colorado. Learn more about her work and how to get in touch at the end of the article.
The following exercises and insights are a direct transcription from a 30-minute conversation between us. We have broken your question into two parts, kissing and premature ejaculation.
The structure we’ve set up to answer your question is through: Consent, Context, and Suggested Exercises.
Part 1: Kissing
In your natural and authentic way, how can you let your partner know that you have something you want to share, and inquire as to whether they’re open to engage in the conversation? If they are, determine a good time and setting when you both feel able to be fully present.
Example: “I want to share something vulnerable that I hope will create an opportunity for us to deepen our connection and intimacy. Are you available for this and if so, when is a good time?”
2. Setting Context:
It’s always helpful to begin by expressing our own vulnerability and desire to be in connection. Begin with expressing what is working well, and sharing your invitation of what you want to co-create more of together.
Begin with what is working well: “The great things in our relationship are (fill in).” Or “The ways I feel supported and met in our connection are (fill in).”
Move to your invitation to play or experiment: “I’ve been wondering what else is possible and I’d like to experiment with trying some new things to make it even better. Are you interested in playing with me here?”
Be mindful of common blame or shame traps: “I used to like kissing and now I don’t…” or any statement that feels shaming (which can be very hard to do if you’re triggered in the moment. So stay aware: track yourself and your reactivity.
3. Suggested Exercises:
The point of these games is to build connection and to learn more about both sides of the experience. Ultimately, it’s about teaching and refining your attunement to each other, as well as helping each other be in your bodies and feel, rather than think or try to perform.
Kissing Lab: Set a timer and take turns kissing each other, for about 3 minutes each. The idea is this: you let me kiss you for 3 minutes. I want you to respond to my kiss by attuning to the way I’m doing it, as if you’re a mirror to my mouth. Then we’ll switch and you can show me the same.
Share a breath: Linger in a shared breath with your lips touching. Draw out the time before your lips even touch. Stay with just touching lips for a while, while eventually going into kisses with no tongue, and then introduce the tongue. Talk about what you both like. Play and be experimental together.
Part 2: Premature Ejaculation
Sometimes the reason we don’t enjoy kissing someone is due to a lack of chemistry. Sometimes they kiss so differently than we do, that our what turns us on individually is too far apart. Another reason why poor kissing or premature ejaculation occurs is an absence of presence in one’s body. This can happen when someone lacks presence and attunement when it comes to their physical and/or sexual expression.
In our culture, as we come into our sexual expression, we are often saddled with an unspoken expectation of being an “expert.” Most of us haven’t been taught to savor the moment, to go slow and ask questions, to co-explore and learn with our partner. With little guidance and celebration, we’re expected to be the expert while simultaneously learning something for the first time. This is a lot of performance pressure.
It’s incredibly vulnerable to be in one’s body, feeling sensations and emotions that arise spontaneously with senses being heightened. For some, it’s been safer to orient to ideas instead of sensations. Knowing where we are orienting from is essential to being fully present in our body.
Some ways to attune are explored through sensing what’s present and alive in the moment:
Are you in your body feeling your sensations? Or are you lost in thinking?
Are you feeling your partner? Does your partner seem distracted?
What is their breath doing? What is your breath doing? Are you holding it?
Are they seeming to enjoy this? Are you?
Is there contraction or relaxation in your body? What about your partner’s?
Premature ejaculation (PE) can be caused by over-stimulation of sensations, causing a quick release. But it’s likely also linked to a neurological patterning learned early in life as mentioned above with the masturbation example of rushing in the bathroom as a teenager to avoid being caught. It’s a subconscious patterning in the neuropathways of the brain and body that says some version of, “let’s get this over and get out.” It’s not conscious and if a man could change this with his mind, he would, but it’s a mind-body pattern that needs loving attention and retraining the mind to stay in the body and sensations. Oftentimes, this means there is a need to find emotional safety and comfort being in the wide range of sensations and emotions that live in the body.
Similar to the kissing discussion, it’s helpful to seek consent for the conversation in a way that is authentic and with the intent to seek genuine connection and intimacy.
Set the context by sharing what you appreciate and love about your partner and relationship first. Then, open into your vulnerable desire.
Example: “I would love to be able to feel you inside of me longer, and create space to build my pleasure sensations. I have an idea of how to bring more pleasure to us both.” You offer him the following erotic massage exercise, or talk about receiving support from a somatic trained bodyworker and sex educator. See Chris’s website for more information.
3. Common Traps:
We are conditioned to think things are supposed to be a certain way, and when they’re different, we often suffer. In the situation of PE, if the man had a choice, he probably would have learned what his body needed to stay engaged longer. A doorway of love and intimacy can be built when we invite our partner to look under the hood at what is causing him to release so quickly.
Remember, there is so much shame embedded for both people in this process of bringing sexual desires and disappointments to each other. Anger and resentment can build if her feelings of disappointment are not addressed both internally and then shared with him in a way that creates safety and connection. How our needs and desires are communicated is the key to how they will be received. Building our relational toolbox is essential.
4. Suggested Exercise: Erotic Massage
This is not a straight to the cock massage. It’s very slow, with no expectation of an erection, no agenda towards orgasm, or anything other than receiving sensual touch while exploring the edges of pleasure through going slow. The touch is sensual all over the body (not rushing to the genitals). Take off the pressure and help him to drop into the moment. The intention is to re-sensitize the entire body to feel. PE can be a loss of sensation in the body and not just a penis-related issue. Focus on sensations in the body as a whole. Stamina is built through practicing being in the sensations and the whole body.
Exploring PE presents an opportunity to build presence in the body. If someone is great in conversation or non-sexual play, but once you get to kissing it’s not so great and the sex falls short, it’s worth exploring if this person is actually checking out of their body and sexual feelings.
If you’re inspired, here is an exercise you can do with your partner to increase sensation, intimacy, and sexual potential. It’s especially helpful when PE is a common experience.
Set up: Set a time for 30-45 minutes and set up your partner on a bed or massage table. Touch the whole body for the first 15-20 minutes before any genital contact. When are we ever asked to slow down, pause, breathe, and feel? It’s such a powerful gift to one another.
Play with senses on the whole body: Play with smell, taste, touch, sound, etc.
Smell (essential oils)
Taste (fruit or the juices on their body or in their mouths)
Touch (light touch, squeezing touch, slaps, long strokes, short strokes, vibrations, feathers). Run your hands in these variety of strokes and touches along the whole body.
Attune & Engage: Attune to him and inquire into what you are sensing and seeing. Ask what he likes. Watch his breath. Does he relax and breath deeply, sigh, or exhale with certain touches? Ask if he likes that touch. If his breathing goes shallow, name it and ask what he feels is happening in his body. Provide continual cues to breath and relax.
Genital Contact: Eventually cup his genitals lovingly. Look and share verbally something you appreciate about his genitals. Trace the ridge of the head and give it squeezes in different patterns and places.
Orgasm: Remember you are not intending towards orgasm, but if it happens, that’s fine. Stay with him and keep the timer running. Savor and debrief what was learned. Stay slow and keep him feeling as he’s sharing.
Debrief: Debrief and learn what the exercise revealed about his experience of being with his sensations and receiving no agenda based touch. Did his mind wander? What did he like? What was uncomfortable and so on. If desired, you can change places and he can offer you attuned contact by touching you and paying attention to what you like, where your breath contracts or expands and the quality of being present with you.
A Summary of Tips
Addressing needs and challenges, whether it’s about poor kissing or other sensitive topics, is challenging for everyone!
Here are some reminders you can take with you:
View: What is the relationship view that you orient from? Do you believe your partner is responsible for your feelings? Or do you believe relationship is a path of growth and evolution?
Approach: What conscious communication tools do you draw upon to create consent, safety, connection and respect in your partnership? Can you take responsibility for your feelings of anger, disappointment or fear, without them coming out as blame and judgment? How do you listen? How do you stay in connection during challenging times?
Shared Reality: Do you and your partner share the same view on why you’re in partnership, and what you desire out of that partnership? What are your agreements on conscious communication, and how to have sensitive conversations?
Investment: What is your level of investment in the relationship? What is your partner’s level of investment in the relationship?
In this instance, if your partner receives your feedback and agrees to explore exercises related to kissing and premature ejaculation, would you be willing to be patient and stay the course, even if it takes time?
If your partner isn’t responsive to your feedback, and you recognize you hold fundamentally different views and desires in your partnership, would you be willing to let go?
The Awareness of Your View. The Art of Your Approach.
Exploring shared reality and differences about what you and your partner desire from a relationship is a foundational starting point. How you approach each other with your desire to stay in connection while also expressing authentic needs is an art. It’s a messy, essential, and intimate form of creative expression.
Sometimes our need to stay connected can override our desire to share vulnerably about our disappointments. Depending on the dynamics of your relationship, these heartfelt invitations have the potential to deepen connection and close a gap.
Yet, it can feel risky:
On the one hand, if you share genuinely about your sexual experience with him, you will be honoring your voice and desires for something different.
On the other hand, your sexual dissatisfaction could trigger him, and depending on how you both respond, the conversation may open or snap shut.
A shared desire for growth is a crucial component for these conversations to be successful. If the delivery comes with criticism, shame, and judgment, the message will be hard to receive. And, even the most intentionally loving delivery can still ignite a reactive chain of fight, flight, or freeze in your partner. Which can then ignite reactivity in you, and then ricochet between you two, creating a spiral of disconnection and hurt feelings. There are no guarantees, which is why setting context and agreements for processing together is so essential.
It takes dedication, humility and communication to break through these sexual conversations and conditioned shame patterns the body and mind hold to protect us.
Our process of being present and embodied is a journey of slowing down, suspending habit, learning how we operate, and getting curious about what else is possible.
Thank you, Chris Muse for your contributions to this conversation
I love what you’re doing in the world and the depth in which you witness, love and see.
Chris Muse is devoted to helping people quiet their voices of doubt and get comfortable taking the leap into knowing and trusting themselves more fully. As a Somatic Sex Educator, she recognizes that as people form deeper relationships with their bodies and greater understanding of their sexuality, they get empowered in every other aspect of their lives. Chris uses her 10+ years of experience in authentic relating and sexual studies to provide a compassionate, safe space for exploration, learning, and healing, while skillfully responding to each client’s moment-to-moment needs. Through this, she helps people recognize their truest desires and capacity to feel great about themselves while accessing more freedom in their bodies.
For more on Muse’s work as a somatic sex educator, check out her website or email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.