What To Do (And Not Do) When Your Partner Can't Finish

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One of the most commonly reported sexual problems is difficulty orgasming. About 21% of women and eight% of men ages 16-21 have trouble having an orgasm, according to a study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UCL, and NatCen Social Research. So, what do you do when your partner can't finish? It can be a sensitive issue, and requires an appropriately sensitive response.

First, remember that while orgasming is pretty fun, it's not necessary in order to have a great sex life. Some people may feel pressure to orgasm for the purpose of turning on their partners or stroking their egos, but our orgasms — or lack thereof — should be about us.

In addition, people can get so worried about whether or not they'll come that they're not attuned to the sensations they're experiencing, which can ultimately hurt their chances of coming. So, it's extra important to make sure your partner feels no pressure coming from you. Let them know you're there to help them if that's what they want, but acknowledge that sometimes, it's just ain't gonna happen, and that's OK, too. Here are some things you should and should not do when your partner has trouble finishing.

1. DON'T Assume It's A Problem

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Like a lot of sexual things, not being able to orgasm isn't a problem unless it bothers you. So, if you're enjoying your foreplay or outright lovemaking regardless of whether or not there's an "end" in sight, don't make your partner feel like something's wrong with them. Not being able to orgasm with a partner is extremely common, and there are a lot of ways to enjoy sex without it.

That said, if your partner does want to change the situation, be supportive, since it does bother them.

2. DON'T Take It Personally

There are a ton of possible reasons someone can't orgasm that have nothing to do with their partner. They may be extremely attracted to you, and you may be doing all the right things (though definitely find out if there's something you can do better), but sometimes, our bodies just don't cooperate.

The causes of inability to orgasm range from anxiety to lack of self-exploration, sex therapist Vanessa Marin, founder of Finishing School, an online course all about orgasms, tells Bustle. And yes, these issues can be due to a partner's technique, but that's OK! There's always a learning curve when we're figuring out how to please our partners. The important thing is just to be receptive to feedback.

3. DON'T Act Upset

If your ego can't help but be wounded, make sure not to take that out on your partner.

"Some women clam up, roll over and ignore their partner, start crying, get out of bed, start interrogating their partner about what went wrong, or even get angry. Unfortunately, those responses are only going to ensure that your partner has a hard time finishing the next time too," says Marin. "It's OK to feel hurt, scared, or worried. Take a second to privately acknowledge your feelings to yourself, and try to gently talk yourself out of it. Remind yourself that bodies aren't always cooperative."

4. DON'T Rush Them

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You might feel like dirty talk, or something close to it, can help your partner feel more in the mood (aka, closer to coming). But it's important to do this in an authentic way, and not in a way that makes it clear you're just waiting for the fireworks. Asking "Are you close?" or "Are you there yet?" will only make your partner feel pressured, Astroglide's resident sexologist Dr. Jess O'Reilly tells Bustle. "It’s annoying, distracting, and will do nothing to enhance your partner’s pleasure." Instead, you can try asking "Do you like that?" or "How does that feel?" to bring your partner's awareness back to their body (and away from their orgasm timeline).

5. DO Put Yourself In Their Position

A good way to figure out what to do if your partner is having trouble orgasming is to understand what your partner's going through, says Marin. Chances are, there's been a time when you couldn't orgasm as easily as you would've liked. Ask yourself what kind of response you would have wanted from your partner then — would you have wanted to have a long conversation about it? Would you have wanted them to ask what they could do differently? Or would it have been nice if they'd just understood that sometimes an orgasm isn't in the cards, and that's OK?

6. DO Suggest A Different Activity

If what you're doing isn't working for your partner, ask if they'd like to try something else. "For example, oral sex or hand jobs might feel a lot less intimidating than intercourse," Marin suggests.

Dr. O'Reilly agrees: "Instead of focusing solely on the penis and/or vagina, look for ways you can engage other body parts like your fingers, tongue, hands, and even toys," she suggests. "Research shows that sexual variety is positively correlated with orgasm, so consider trying two or three positions in each sexual encounter." Remember, there's no right or wrong way to come, so figure out what works for them.

7. DO Tell Them To Let You Know When To Stop

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To take away the pressure to orgasm, let your partner know you're not waiting on them to come, and are cool with stopping whenever. Marin recommends saying, "Just let me know when you're ready for me to stop." This removes focus from orgasm, and brings it back to pleasure. Asking if your partner wants to take a break can also lessen the pressure on the current act of intercourse, and also suggests that you're ready to keep going whenever they are.

8. DO Ask What They Like

Instead of asking what will make them come, ask what'll help them enjoy the moment, says Dr. O'Reilly. "There?" "More?" "Faster?" and "Harder?" are all good questions to ask.

As with anything, it's always a good idea to talk to your partner about what they're experiencing and what they want, rather than make assumptions. Together, you can come up with the best ways to make sure both of your needs are met. You just have to first understand what those needs are.

This post was originally published on February 22, 2017. It was updated on September 10, 2019.

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