Sex

Here’s What To Do If You Can Only Get Off Solo

It’s time to have a 1:1 chat with yourself.

What do I do? I can only make myself come.
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Additional reporting by Chika Ekemezie

For many people, masturbation is a tried and true friend. Whenever they need to get off, they can always dim the lights, shed the clothes, and get down and dirty solo. The fact that so many people are masturbating — Tenga’s 2021 Self-Pleasure report found that 86% of U.S. adults between 18-54 have masturbated, and 42% have been doing it more often now than before — means that there’s an endless amount of questions about solo sex out there. And sex experts, like Dr. Laura Deitsch, aka Dr. Shameless, Vibrant's Licensed Clinical Counselor & resident sexologist, have heard them all.

One of the most common questions Dr. Deitsch gets is: "I can only make myself come when I masturbate and not with my partner. How can I fix this problem?" For starters, most people with vulvas can't climax from penetrative sex alone, so that's something worth noting. So if you can only climax by yourself, you're definitely not alone. But while that's true, there can also be other factors standing in the way of you getting off during sex with a partner. Here are some tips for trying to orgasm with a partner, according to sex experts.

1

Figure Out If There Are Any Underlying Issues That You're Not Addressing

First, it’s important to look at the situation broadly. “Examine whether there are any underlying issues of attraction, taste, fears, shame, and so on," Dr. Deitsch tells Bustle. "That's a huge bundle of potential issues so let's suppose for simplicity sake, none of those things are going on."

The reasons why someone might not be able to climax with their partner can really run the gamut. So, as Dr. Deitsch suggests, you want to check off what you know for sure isn't the problem. If you're not genuinely attracted to your partner, are nervous about sex, or are stressed out in general, these things can definitely stand in the way of an orgasm.

2

Realize How The Body Works

Having a grasp on how the human body works, especially in regards to arousal and orgasms is important, but understanding how the brain and body are connected is also going to be a huge help if you can only climax by yourself. Human beings are creatures of habit. Because of this, we prefer to stick to our ways as much as possible. "Our bodies and brains create pathways through repetition," says Dr. Deitsch. "If you have orgasmed repeatedly through masturbation, your brain is primed and ready to do so again. If you haven’t typically orgasmed with a partner, your brain will naturally have a harder time getting there."

3

You May Need To Rewire Your Brain

If your body and mind only know how to climax through masturbation then, as Dr. Deitsch says, it’s time to rewire your brain and create a new pathway that will, ideally, result in a different outcome — aka an orgasm with your partner.

"To do that, pay attention when you are masturbating to exactly what is going on that brings you to orgasm," says Dr. Deitsch. "Is it a fantasy or a certain physical stimulation? Is it a lube amount or visual cues? Once you have figured that out, find a way to involve your partner in this method. Perhaps you share the fantasy and ask them to join you in storytelling. Think of it like live sexting."

4

Give Your Partner A Hands-On Lesson

If the issue is the way they’re touching you, it’s time for a lesson. "If it's a certain physical stimulation, teach your partner," says Dr. Deitsch. "Show them, tell them, literally hold their hand (or whatever you need), and have them join in the physical act."

The reason masturbation is a sure thing is because we know exactly what we want and how to get ourselves there. Our partners, no matter how in-tune they might be with our bodies, don't always know what to do. This is where mutual masturbation comes in handy. Through mutual masturbation, you can teach each other exactly how you like to be touched, ask questions, and really clear up any grey areas. And you don’t need to worry that it’s going to be awkward or weird to masturbate in front of your partner.

As Tara Skubella, sexual health expert and tantra coach, previously told Bustle, “Self-pleasuring with a partner, whether in person or virtually, can be one of the most intimate and sexual experiences we can share with a person." It’ll bring you closer to your partner and an orgasm.

5

Do The Majority Of Work Yourself

Another technique for when you can only make yourself come? “Get yourself about 90 percent of the way there and then show your partner how to take you home," says Dr. Deitsch. "It might not work immediately and there could be some frustration, but intense stimulation and excitement are precursors to orgasm, so chances are good it will eventually work."

Because only you really know what you want, doing most of the work yourself is a great idea. Granted, it may not seem much different from masturbation at first, but it is a good way to rewire your brain and allows for creativity. Just because you're doing the work, doesn't mean your partner has to sit idly by, twiddling their thumbs. Things like talking dirty and giving yourself a hand — literally — can spice things up.

Plus, there’s something hot in itself to taking yourself to the edge of an orgasm and backing off a bit when your partner takes the reins. Astroglide's resident sexologist Dr. Jess O'Reilly, previously told Bustle that edging helps “build arousal so that orgasm feels more intense when it finally arrives." This process can be the perfect thing to help you get the Big O while your partner is around.

6

Get Input From Your Partner

As Dr. Deitsch also points out, you need to make sure your partner is really included every step of the way. So whatever additions or ideas they have should be acknowledged and tossed into the mix. This is a group effort, after all.

Being able to communicate with your partner about sex doesn’t have to be difficult or weird at all. Sunny Rodgers, a clinical sexologist and certified sex coach, previously told Bustle that if you want to communicate with your partner about sex or your concerns about failing to reach an orgasm, you can try tricks like a compliment sandwich. "As a basic rule to try is to use a compliment sandwich whenever you are discussing a potentially delicate subject," Rodger says.

"Try to offer solutions and always keep things positive. This is your intimate partner after all and beneficial sharing can make your relationship even better."

7

Have A 1:1 Chat With Yourself

Perhaps you'll find that there's no quick-fix for you, and even a creating a pathway isn't possible. If that's the case, it's time for an honest convo with yourself.

"If nothing seems to work after an honest effort, you should have a frank conversation with yourself," says Dr. Deitsch. "Maybe you're not communicating clearly or with enough detail. Maybe there's something going on in your head that you're having a hard time facing and need to solve first. It can be tough to rewire these pathways but don’t give up too quickly. The payoff is worth it!"

8

Take the Pressure Off of the Orgasm

Being able to orgasm isn’t the end-all, be-all when it comes to sex. And while it can be super frustrating not being able to finish with your partner, putting a ton of pressure on yourself certainly isn’t going to help.

“Too much thinking about how long your orgasm is taking on serves to delay the process and make your climax even harder to come by,” Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, previously told Bustle.

So, while you can (and should!) try all the tips listed above, definitely give yourself some grace and relax. It’ll be much easier to come if you do.

Experts:

Dr. Laura Deitsch, aka Dr. Shameless, Vibrant's Licensed Clinical Counselor & resident sexologist

Tara Skubella, sexual health expert and tantra coach

Dr. Jess O'Reilly, Astroglide's resident sexologist

Sunny Rodgers, a clinical sexologist and certified sex coach

Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist