We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your sex and relationship inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, onto today’s topic: what should you do if a partner tries to blame you for their performance issues?
Q: “My husband and I are newly married. We’re both 26, we’ve known each other for three years, and were best friends before this. Since we got married a few months ago, my husband has had difficulty ejaculating during sex. It’s not constant, but it’s fairly regular. When it happens, he gets very frustrated with me, saying that it’s my fault. If I try to ask him what I’m doing wrong, he’ll give me reasons that don’t make any sense. He’ll say stuff like that I moved or something, when I haven't. I don’t know what’s going on. Is it really me? Am I doing something wrong? I’ve never had this issue with a partner before. Or is it something with him? And most importantly, what can we do to fix it?”
A: Thanks for the question! Performance issues are always frustrating and stressful, but it certainly doesn’t help to feel like you’re being blamed for something that’s happening in your partner’s body. Here are eight things to know if your partner blames you for their performance issues.
Delayed Orgasm Is Real...
What your husband is experiencing is called delayed orgasm. It’s a broad term used when a man takes a long time to orgasm, or can’t orgasm at all. There aren’t any medical standards for how long is “too long,” but it’s generally categorized as delayed orgasm when a man is bothered by the length of time it takes him, or if he feels like he doesn’t have control over speeding up his orgasm. Most people have heard of other male performance issues like erectile difficulties or early ejaculation, but unfortunately, delayed orgasm doesn’t tend to get nearly the same amount of press. The reality is that delayed orgasm is pretty common, and most men will experience it at some point in their lifetime.
… And Performance Issues Really Suck
I want to give your husband the benefit of the doubt here. Dealing with delayed orgasm — and any other performance issue — is really hard. It’s scary to feel out of control of your own body, and frustrating to see your body failing to respond the way you want it to respond. If you’ve ever struggled with your own orgasm, you know these feelings all too well.
When you’re feeling that freaked out, it’s easy to lash out and put the blame on someone else, because it feels easier than acknowledging your own lack of control. It seems like your husband is grasping at straws here, since he’s giving reasons that don’t make a lot of sense, like you shifting your position. It’s not your fault, and it’s not OK for your husband to blame you (more on this in a minute). But it’s also understandable that he doesn’t want to face the reality of what he’s dealing with.
But Playing The Blame Game Doesn’t Help
Your husband is allowed to feel freaked out or frustrated — but the bottom line is it’s not OK for him to blame you for something happening with his body. (For the record, even if you did move during sex, that wouldn’t be the primary reason he wouldn’t be able to orgasm.) Performance issues aren’t anyone’s “fault;” they’re just something that happens when you have sex. Our bodies aren’t machines, and they don’t always cooperate perfectly.
You’re Not Responsible For Your Partner’s Body
I want to make a note about our responsibilities as sexual partners. As your husband’s partner, you should be committed to creating the circumstances for him to experience pleasure. You should be willing to spend time and effort focusing on his body, getting to know his likes and dislikes, helping him relax, and helping him understand that his pleasure is important to you. But it’s not your responsibility to ensure that his erection and his orgasm are perfect. We can only be responsible for our own bodies.
There Are A Lot Of Reasons People Experience Difficulties Orgasming
There are a number of reasons why your boyfriend may be experiencing difficulties orgasming. If he’s only been experiencing it recently, it’s likely related to some sort of change in his life. Getting married may have thrown him for a loop mentally; maybe he’s already stressing about having kids, or anxious about making sure you don’t get pregnant yet. Or it could have nothing to do with your relationship, and be tied to a new medication, or a change in his medications. It could also just be completely random; as I mentioned above, most men will experience delayed orgasm at some point in their lives. If a man ends up getting overly anxious about the possibility of it happening again, that anxiety can snowball, and actually make it much more likely that he’ll continue having issues.
Talk Outside Of The Bedroom
You said you had asked your husband to explain what you were doing wrong, but I couldn’t tell if you asked him in the moment, or later on. In general, I highly recommend talking about sexual issues outside of the bedroom. When you’re in the moment, and something’s not working the way one of you wants it to work, it can feel way too vulnerable to talk. Approach your husband to discuss at a time when the two of you are calm — you’ll be much more likely to have a successful conversation when you’re relaxed.
Stand Up For Yourself
It’s important for your husband to hear that these issues are not your fault, and that it’s not OK for him to lash out at you. You can let him know that you feel empathy for what he’s going through, but that putting blame on your shoulders doesn’t help and isn't fair.
You can say something like, “I know that every once in awhile you’re not able to orgasm when we have sex. I’m sure that must be really frustrating for you, and probably even scary, too. I want us to work on finding a solution together, and I want you to feel like I’m supporting you. At the same time, I don’t think it’s productive for us to blame what’s going on on each other. It’s not going to help us solve the issue. So can we agree to work together, as a team?”
Frame It As An Issue For The Both Of You
In my experience as a sex therapist, I’ve learned that couples can most successfully address performance issues if they work together as a team. Sometimes I see couples where the man blames the woman, like in your case. Other times I see couples where the woman blames the man (usually because she has unfair expectations of him). Either way you slice it, it’s just not helpful. If you guys can approach it as a team, you’ll have much more success getting back on track. Together, do a bit of research on delayed orgasm. You can check out this article that I wrote about it to start. Read up, and come up with a gameplan together.