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Pornography: your questions answered
We get lots of posts about pornography and masturbation. Many of you are worried about what it means if your partner uses pornography, or if masturbation might be reason you’re not getting as much sex as you might like. We’ve had a look at the science behind pornography and the effects it can have on your relationship, and we’ve answered some of your questions below. Is pornography bad for my relationship? This depends on your opinion of it. If you have a problem with pornography in general, then it’s unlikely you’re going to be OK with your partner watching it. This can have a negative impact on your relationship [1]. One way pornography can affect your relationship quality is by diminishing your self-esteem. If you aren’t happy about the idea of your partner using pornography, it can make you feel like you don’t matter in the relationship, or that you aren’t good enough. If you don’t mind pornography, or if your self-esteem is very robust, then it’s less likely to have a negative impact on your relationship [2]. Can pornography reduce sexual desire? Watching pornography doesn’t seem to reduce sexual desire. According to one study, pornography doesn’t take away your sexual urges, so it’s unlikely that this would be the reason a partner seems less interested in sex [3]. For more ideas on why sex might be off the table, check out our tips on being in a sexless relationship. Can we watch pornography together? Several studies have shown that couples who watch pornography together can experience improvements in their sex lives [3] [4]. As a shared activity, it can encourage you to talk about sex, creating a more open atmosphere for you to discuss your sexual desires and fantasies. While it’s important to remember that pornography doesn’t always present a realistic picture of sex, it can sometimes be a springboard for talking about what you like and don’t like [5]. How can we use pornography to talk about our relationship? Be open and honest about pornography. If you like using it, talk to your partner about why. If you don’t like it, let your partner know where you stand. These might not be the easiest conversations to start, but they can have a positive effect on your relationship by allowing you to learn more about each other. This can improve your sex life and may help make your general communication easier – couples who find a way to talk about their sexual desires in this way can even strengthen their relationship quality overall [6]. You may find that starting a dialogue around this helps you to be more open to experimentation, with a more varied and satisfying sex life. You can learn about each other’s likes and dislikes and talk about how happy you both are with the level of intimacy in your relationship [6]. Can’t I just use pornography alone? Yes, you can. However, it’s worth being aware that using pornography alone can lead to a decrease in sexual communication between you and your partner [6]. When sexual activity becomes secretive, sexual communication can too. Is there such a thing as ethical pornography? This is a tricky one, and a good question to ask yourself. While looking at pornography can be a healthy activity within your relationship, it’s important to think about where it comes from. You may not have considered whether the performers were paid for their work or even whether they have consented to do everything you’re seeing. It’s not always easy to find ethical material, or to know the background of the things you do find. One place to start might be the Toronto International Porn Festival, which has strict guidelines around its submission policy and encourages a diversity of sexual interests. It’s up to you and your partner to decide what you think is acceptable but, if you’re unsure about the ethics of a particular piece, the best advice is don’t watch it. References [1] Maas, M. K., et al. (2018). A Dyadic Approach to Pornography Use and Relationship Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Couples: The Role of Pornography Acceptance and Anxious Attachment. The Journal of Sex Research, 55(6). 772–782. [2] Stewart, D., & Szymanski, N. (2012). Young Adult Women’s Reports of Their Male Romantic Partner’s Pornography Use as a Correlate of Their Self-Esteem, Relationship Quality, and Sexual Satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67(5), 257-271. [3] Brown, C., Carroll, C., Yorgason, J., Busby, S., Willoughby, J., & Larson, B. (2017). A Common-Fate Analysis of Pornography Acceptance, Use, and Sexual Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Married Couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 575-584. [4] Maddox, A., Rhoades, M., & Markman, G. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. [5] Daneback, K., Træen, B., & Månsson, S. (2009). Use of Pornography in a Random Sample of Norwegian Heterosexual Couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38(5), 746-753. [6] Kohut, T., Balzarini, R., Fisher, W., Campbell, L., Impett, E., & Muise, A. (2018). Pornography’s associations with open sexual communication and relationship closeness vary as a function of dyadic patterns of pornography use within heterosexual relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 35(4), 655-676.
Article | pornography, masturbation
Understanding casual relationships
When it comes to casual sex, different cultures have their own ways of defining things. Dictionary entries may not seem like the most stimulating way to learn about casual relationships but, in changing times with changing rules, you may find it useful to bone up on the terminology: Hook ups. This is an ambiguous term, but it usually refers to any sexual encounter between people who aren’t committed to a relationship. One-night stands. Another name for short-term sexual encounters, these usually involve strangers getting together, rather than friends or previous partners. Friends with benefits. This involves regular sex between two partners, but it usually lacks other features of committed relationships, like emotional support. Booty calls. These are different to hook ups and one-night stands, in that they are usually arranged in advance. Booty calls might happen more than once, but a relationship characterised in this way is unlikely to involve any social activities other than sex [1]. These definitions only touch on the true complexities – the nature of any relationship will depend on the individual people involved, so it’s important to clarify what you want to get out of any relationship you enter into [1]. Communication in casual relationships Communication in casual relationships is a bit of an art form. When you first meet a potential partner, either online or in real life, it can be hard to know how to handle the conversation, and you might find yourself walking a communication tightrope [2]. When you are trying to establish what a new relationship is going to be, it’s not uncommon to take precautions around what you say, and also how much you say – communicate too much and you might be thrust into a committed relationship; communicate too little and the other person might slip out of your grasp entirely. In an effort to maintain a casual relationship, many people avoid communication entirely. But, while this may feel safe, it’s a risky strategy – rather than pulling out of the conversation, you’re better off being honest about what you want. A bit of clarity can help clear up confusion and avoid hurt feelings on both ends [3]. Friends with benefits A ‘friends with benefits’ situation may seem ideal. You get to have sex without having to worry about the other bits of a relationship and – assuming you can keep it up – you’ll still have your friendship to fall back on. But there’s always a risk that things can get complicated when you add sex to an existing friendship [4]. If one of you starts to develop feelings for the other, it can cause friction on the original friendship. Things might work out if you’re both keen to start something up but if only one of you is along for the ride, it can be hard on both of you and it may prove difficult to resurrect the friendship [4]. It may not be the easiest conversation to pull off but being clear and honest about your intentions and expectations can mitigate against potential slipups in a short-term sexual or romantic relationship. If you’re starting something new, talk about what it means before you’re in too deep, so that the other person knows what they’re getting into. Once you’ve established this bedrock of communication, it’ll be easier to talk about any developments, like if one of you starts to fall for the other or if you want to end things [5]. It might help to think of it as a consent issue. In the same way you should always respect sexual boundaries, you shouldn’t enter into any kind of sexual relationship without being clear about the boundaries around it. When everything’s laid out on the table, there’s no reason a casual relationship shouldn’t work. References [1] Claxton, S., & Van Dulmen, M. (2013). Casual Sexual Relationships and Experiences in Emerging Adulthood. Emerging Adulthood, 1(2), 138-150. [2] Sumter, S. R., Vandenbosch, L., & Ligtenberg, L. (2017). Love me Tinder: Untangling emerging adults' motivations for using the dating application Tinder. Telematics and Informatics, 34(1), 67-78. [3] Collins, T., & Horn, T. (2018). “I’ll call you…” Communication frequency as a regulator of satisfaction and commitment across committed and casual sexual relationship types. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407518755554. [4] Bisson, M., & Levine, A. (2009). Negotiating a Friends with Benefits Relationship. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38(1), 66-73. [5] Eisenberg, M., Ackard, D., Resnick, M., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2009). Causal sex and psychological health among young adults: Is having ‘friends with Benefits’ emotionally damaging? Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, https://doi.org/10.1363/4123109.
Article | flirting, fwb, casual sex
In gratitude for kissing
Kissing is something we’ve often taken for granted as a standard part of romance, but scientists have been all over the world and they’ve come back to tell us we were wrong the whole time. Previously, it’s always been believed that romantic kissing happens in most cultures, but the first ever worldwide study has revealed that only 46% of the world’s cultures kiss romantically. In fact, some cultures find the idea of lip-to-lip contact strange, or even repulsive. Researchers from Indiana University studied 168 cultures around the world to see what part kissing played in romantic relationships, publishing their findings in the American Anthropologist journal. If these results seem surprising, it might show that we can tend to view the world through our own perspectives and experiences, sometimes taking things like kissing for granted. Knowing that we kissers are in the minority might be a fun excuse to enjoy it that little bit more. The Middle East seemed to like kissing most, with all of the cultures studied there engaging in kissing. 73% of Asian cultures, 70% of European cultures, and only 55% of North American cultures were fans of kissing. The researchers found no evidence at all of kissing in Central America, or among the foraging cultures of Sub-Saharan Africa, New Guinea, and the Amazon. Interestingly, the results suggest that the more complex a society is, the more likely its inhabitants are to engage in kissing. So the fact that we have varying degrees of social and economic statuses may be connected to why we have evolved into a culture of kissing those we are attracted to. Kissing can be a way of finding out how we feel about a potential partner, testing out whether or not there is chemistry, and whether a person ‘feels right’ to us. Further studies may be done into how a society evolves from being a non-kissing one into a kissing one. In the meantime, let’s be grateful that we live in a society where kissing is part of the adventure of sex and romance. Xx
Article | kissing, intimacy, romance
One simple change to improve your sex life
If you are among the many couples who put so much pressure on themselves to have amazing sex that you are avoiding it all together, one simple change could make all the difference. In a poll of 6,000 people, nearly half said they were happy with their sex lives. But, that leaves more than half of us wanting something more. Just over half said they had not had sex at all in the last month. Researchers involved in the study suggested that simply changing your attitude can make all the difference to how happy you feel about your sex life. Many couples say they want sex to be more spontaneous but, due to the nature of our busy modern lives, it’s sometimes necessary to plan for our intimate moments. This may not be such a bad thing, especially as it can reduce the pressure you’re putting on yourselves, and help you enjoy the sex you are having. Another easy way to change your attitude is to recognise the good things you already have. Rather than trying to live up to sex you see on TV, or what you imagine other people might be doing, just allow yourself to enjoy the reality of your own relationship. Remember also that sex doesn’t always have to mean intercourse – it all counts, and the important thing is that you both have a good time. If you’re very busy or exhausted after a long day, sometimes just an intimate cuddle can be enough to help you feel close and remind each other of the connection you share. Psychosexual therapist Cate Campbell says: “It’s sad that so few people are sexually satisfied and put pressure on themselves to perform. Noticing what is going well, rather than dwelling on problems, is quite difficult when we’re all bombarded with messages about how sex ‘ought’ to be. “Sex definitely doesn’t have to be disappointing – there's plenty that can turn your situation around so you can enjoy a sustained, fulfilling sex life. What constitutes a satisfying sex life can vary wildly from one person to the next, so working out what makes you tick is a great starting point”.
Article | sex, communication
If you don’t feel ready for sex
What am I up against? When ‘the norm’ is to have lots and lots of sex (or at least it just seems to be) by the time you’re ‘legal’, there can be huge pressures from friends and classmates. You might encounter pressure from elsewhere too. You may have a partner that’s pushing, or you may be putting pressure on yourself. The bottom line is, there’s pressure from all directions to have sex at a young age. How can I deal with it? It appears that everyone else is having sex all the time A survey of nearly 3,600 11- to 16-year-olds in the UK found that 86% of respondents had never had sexual intercourse. In the same survey, 78% of people overestimated the sexual activity of their peers, and many people believed their peers to be ‘more experienced’ than they actually were [1]. Remember that everyone wants to portray an image, so there’s a chance that even people close to you will be keen to exaggerate (or even invent) their sexual experiences. A person’s reputation doesn’t rest on what they do, but on what people believe they do. Choose what's right for you In one survey of teenage girls in 2010, one third of young women under the age of 15 said they regretted their decision to have sex as early as they did. As part of the study, they also asked those girls if they felt pressured to have sex early, and 20% of them said yes. But not everyone regrets their first time; some people have sex for the first time quite young and look back on it fondly. Many young women from the study said their regret stemmed from a lack of planning with their partner and a lack of control over the sexual experience. So, considering this, if you don’t want to go down the “it just sort of happened” route, keep your own intentions clear in your mind and, if appropriate, share them with your partner. Once you feel the time is right to have sex, try not to get too worked up about it. Rather, let it be something that you’ll enjoy and hopefully remember fondly.  Feel free to talk to your partner about the experience, plan ahead and don’t be afraid to say what you do and don’t want.  Consider talking with someone, maybe even a parent You might think that any teenager would rather set themselves on fire than talk to their parents about sex but, according to a survey of 1,000 13- to 18-year-olds in the UK, more than half of teens actually want to talk to their parents about sex and would trust their parental guidance if they gave it. So if you have a good relationship with one (or both) of your parents, that might be something to consider. References [1] ‘Young people not having as much sex, drugs or alcohol as they think they are’, 2014
Article | sex, YPc
If you think you’re not having enough sex
What am I up against? Sex can facilitate and intensify intimacy in a relationship, creating a tangible, emotional, psychological, and (for some) spiritual connection. It can also be a lot of fun and burns more calories than 20 minutes on a treadmill. So if you feel like you’re not getting enough sex, it can feel like your relationship isn’t thriving like it could. How can I deal with it? You may have a different sex drive to your partner If you have a higher sex drive than your partner, you may sometimes feel rejected. It might seem unfathomable to you that their partner would not want sex as often, and so you may feel unwanted or undesirable. However, it doesn’t necessarily reflect their levels of desire –people are just wired differently.  It’s possible to compromise, especially if you take the time to find out exactly what your partner likes and what makes them feel comfortable. This can be a tricky conversation to have but it’ll benefit you both in the long run and you may even feel closer for it. If their sex drive has changed Sometimes this can be purely circumstantial – feeling like anxiety, stress, and tiredness can affect someone’s sex drive. If your partner is tackling these conditions, say, during exam time or an emotional rough patch, it can be helpful to read between the lines and simply be supportive rather than applying pressure or guilt. People’s own perception of themselves also plays a part in their sex drive. So if someone doesn’t feel good about their body or their appearance this will often impact libido, as confidence is such a big part of feeling sexy. In The Student Sex Survey 2014, 49% of people said “what I look like” was their greatest worry during sex. 58% of those were women, and 24% were men. You can’t fix your partner’s self-perception, but you can certainly be a positive influence. If your own sex drive has changed Diet and lifestyle can really make a difference to your sex drive and desire for sex. Getting plenty of sleep, regular exercise, and a healthy diet can allow the body to regulate itself and reawaken the desire you once felt. Sharing an intimate moment with your partner can also help you feel sexy. A sensual massage, a relaxing bath, or even a just shared meal with no distractions can help bring you closer together. More sex doesn’t equal a better relationship It may seem like more sex equals a better, happier relationship. But it’s not necessarily true. The old quantity vs quantity rule applies here; shoot for quality every time. How often you have sex really depends on what suits you as a couple. Don’t get caught up on frequency – if once a month works for you both, then great.   Forget normal The good news is that there is no normal. There is only what works for both parties of a relationship. According to the Guardian’s British Sex Survey of 2014, the average Brit has sex four times a month, but trying to keep up with what’s normal can put an unnecessary strain on a relationship. Being open and honest about what you want and encouraging your partner to be honest about what they want can be liberating. Some couples worry that talking about sex will be awkward but talking about your expectations and desires can actually bring you closer and improve both your sex lives. 
Article | sexless, intimacy, YPc
Sex during pregnancy
During your pregnancy, sex can become a complicated issue. Your desire can decrease, your discomfort can increase, and you might just lose interest altogether. Or, you might still be in the mood but find that your partner is backing off! All of this is perfectly normal and very common. Sexual enjoyment tends to decline as pregnancy goes on. Around 22-50% of pregnant women find intercourse painful and many women find it difficult to orgasm. It’s normal for your libido to decline too, largely to the change in hormones, and feeling sick, tired and physically uncomfortable [1]. And, as your body changes, you might just feel less sexy. This is particularly likely during the later stages of pregnancy, when you’re all achy and bloated. About a quarter to a half of pregnant women feel less attractive than before, and only 12% feel more attractive [1]. Giving it a go If you do feel up to having sex, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give it a go. For the majority of healthy pregnant women and their partners, sex is perfectly safe, even in the last few weeks before you give birth [1]. If you’re not sure whether it’s OK, seek advice from your doctor or midwife but, if you do want to have a go, give yourself time to be in the mood, and accept that it might take longer than usual. It’s possible that your partner will be reluctant, which can be frustrating. However, don’t assume that it’s from a lack of desire, or a loss of sexual attraction. One possible reason for hesitancy is a fear of harming the baby, which inhibits at least a quarter of male partners, and a quarter to half of expectant mothers [1]. Talk to your partner. Have an open and honest conversation about how you both feel right now. If your partner admits that they’re feeling funny about sex, try not to get annoyed or take it personally – you won’t be pregnant forever! If you’re feeling a bit insecure, make it clear that you are learning to adjust to your changing body and that, even if sex is off the table, a little TLC would be appreciated. Finding other ways to feel close If you really don’t want to have sex, don’t force yourself. Be honest with your partner, offer reassurance that it’s not a personal rejection, and ask for the support you need. It might be helpful to discuss this article, and reassure yourselves that these are common adjustments that couples face during pregnancy. If you’re feeling icky and your partner tries to reassure you that you look beautiful, accept the compliment and choose to believe them. Lots of people find their partners especially attractive when they’re carrying their child. Finding other ways of being intimate that aren’t sexual – like hugging, kissing, and massage – can help you bond when sex isn’t available. Just spending quality time together can help you maintain a sense of closeness. And remember that you won’t feel like this forever. Though there will be new challenges for your sex life when your baby comes along, the physical changes you’re experiencing during pregnancy should return to normal about three months after the birth. Some women even experience more intense orgasms than they did before [1]. References [1] Von Sydow, K. (2000). Sexuality during pregnancy and after childbirth: A meta-analysis of 59 studies. Reproductive Health Matters, 8 (15), 183. doi:10.1016/s0968-8080(00)90068-5
Article | pregnancy, parenting together
1 4 min read
Sex after giving birth
If you weren’t having much sex during your pregnancy, you may be looking forward to getting things back on track. But, for many couples, it can take a while to get things back to normal after the birth. Your body might take some time to return to a state where sex feels OK. This is a common experience for many women after giving birth: Following birth only 10-15% of new parents don’t experience any problems at all. Mothers and fathers commonly feel worried about resuming having sex [1]. 13 months after the birth, 22% were still having problems sexually [2]. Try to accept that it’s normal to need time. Even when you’ve recovered physically, you might not feel in the mood, or you might be slow to be turned on. Give yourself a chance and don't pressure on yourself to bounce back, even if your partner is keen to be intimate. Remember that there are other ways to be sexual besides penetrative sex and, if those are still off the table, focus on improving the quality of your time together, giving each other lots of cuddles and affection, or just having meaningful conversations. Feeling guilty about not feeling sexy Despite the understanding that your body is still going through a lot, you may still feel guilty for not being in the mood or not feeling able to satisfy your partner. Even if your partner isn’t expressing any disappointment over the lack of sex or changes in your sex life, it’s common to be worried about how things might be perceived from the other end. One study of women who had recently had children showed that: 57%... were worried about the sexual satisfaction of their spouse following the birth of their child [2]. If you’re carrying guilt around with you, it might be a good idea to talk this over with your partner and remind yourselves that you’re not alone – only 14% of women and 12% of men report having no sexual problems after giving birth [2].   If you’re not up for having sex, let your partner know that you still desire him, but that you just need a bit more time. It may be difficult for your partner to understand the effects that such drastic body changes can have on your confidence. Taking the time and effort to explain, can help put your partner in a better position to show sensitivity and help build up your confidence. Be descriptive of your own feelings, and ask him to be mindful of them.  It will probably help to have the conversation with your partner beforehand. Explain why you don’t want sex at the moment, and what you can offer at this time. Sex may not be as high on your partner’s priority list as you think, but asking about it can be a great opener to discussing how you’re feeling and what you’re worried about. The conversation may even help put you at ease. If physical intimacy is your partner’s preferred way to express love, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean sex. People who express love physically while still appreciate a stroke of the hair as you walk past, or a surprise cuddle while they are doing the washing up. Hugs, snuggles on the bed, hand-holding, massages – these will all help a physical person feel loved at a time when you don’t feel up to having sex. References [1] Sagiv-Reiss, D.M., Birnbaum, G.E. & Safir, M.P (2012). Changes in Sexual Experiences and Relationship Quality During Pregnancy. Archives of Sexual Behavior. October 2012, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 1241–1251 [2] Von Sydow, K. (2000). Sexuality during pregnancy and after childbirth: A meta-analysis of 59 studies. Reproductive Health Matters, 8(15), 183. doi:10.1016/s0968-8080(00)90068-5
Article | sex, parenting together
0 4 min read
Sex with a pregnant partner
Since finding out she was pregnant, your partner might have been reacting to you differently during sex, or avoiding intimacy altogether. It might seem like she’s aroused less often or less attracted to you. Aside from simply missing something that you enjoy, sex an important way to feel closer to your partner. Without it, you may worry that you will struggle to stay close. While it might feel like it, a lack of sex during pregnancy is not a personal rejection. A quarter of new dads say they’re worried that their partner may no longer be interested in having sex [1] but it’s important to recognise that a decrease in sex during pregnancy is normal, and not your fault. Less sex during pregnancy is normal Your partner may be experiencing a decline in libido. This is very common during a time of changing hormones and physical discomfort like backache and water retention. Bear in mind that 22-50% of pregnant women experience painful intercourse, and reaching orgasm becomes progressively more difficult as pregnancy goes on [b]. Sex may have become a stressful experience for your partner. On top of this, about a quarter to a half of pregnant women feel less attractive during pregnancy, and only 12% feel more attractive [2], so your partner may just not be feeling as physically confident as she’d like to. Be open and honest with your partner. Talk about your concerns and tell her that you want to be supportive. If she is worried about her changing body, you can reassure her that you still find her desirable, but the most important thing is to respect her needs and desires. If she is experiencing a loss of libido, remember that this has nothing to do with you as a sexual partner. It might be helpful to discuss this article with her – talk about how these are common changes that couples face all the time during pregnancy. Can sex during pregnancy harm your baby? Up to half of women and at least a quarter of men worry that having sex during pregnancy will harm the baby in some way [2]. From a medical point of view, there is no reason to ‘forbid’ sex for the majority of healthy pregnant women and their partners, even in the last weeks before the birth [2]. If you’re not sure whether you fit into this category, seek advice from your doctor or midwife. Remember also that anxiety around sex isn’t always rational, and your partner may find it difficult to shake the fear. If that’s the case, try other ways of being intimate. You may find that other kinds of sexual activity that don’t involve vaginal penetration are a bit easier but, if not, things like hugging, kissing or massage can all help you feel closer to each other. Looking to the future Don’t expect things to pick back up again too soon after the birth. Your partner will need time to recover, and you might soon sense another obstacle to your sex life – fatigue. Irregular sleeping patterns, feeding schedules, nappy changes, and constant attention to the baby will probably continue to get in the way of your sex life. You might want to consider asking a family member or close friend to take care of the child for a while so you and your partner can spend some time together as a couple. If you’re used to having spontaneous sex, this might seem a little too regulated, but it might be a start. Finally, try to remind yourself that it’s not forever. As your child settles into more regular patterns of sleep, you’ll begin to find that there are more chances to be intimate without being interrupted by a crying baby. References [1] Houlston, C., Coleman, L. Milford, L., Platts, N., Mansfield, P. (2013). Sleep, sex and sacrifice: The transition to parenthood, a testing time for relationships? OnePlusOne. Retrieved from: http://www.oneplusone.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Sleep-Sex-and-Sacrifice-OPO-report-FINAL-embargoed-until-29-May-2013.pdf [2] Von Sydow, K. (2000). Sexuality during pregnancy and after childbirth: A meta-analysis of 59 studies. Reproductive Health Matters, 8(15), 183. doi:10.1016/s0968-8080(00)90068-5
Article | pregnancy, parenting together
1 5 min read
Community posts
Feeling betrayed and deflated
This is going to sound trivial to most but with my current mindset it is a big deal to me because I feel like the past 20 years of my life has been a lie, it’s difficult to explain but I’ll try. I’m aware that I’m very insecure, paranoid and jealous but these problems are justified, at least to me. Also, I’m new here and I’ve never told anybody any of this before. It will sound quite simple and trivial but it has affected me in many ways, especially recently. I will try to explain clearly but I know I’m bound to ramble so I’m sorry beforehand. Also, if you’re taking the time to read this then thank you in advance. 20 years ago I met my now Wife. Mainly through nightclubbing and seeing her out a few times. She invited me out for the week of her 18th Birthday and by the second night I asked her out, she said yes. I was 19. She was a virgin, I was not, but I wasn’t greatly experienced in comparison, I had just had a couple of drunken, meaningless one night stands. Fast forward 2 weeks and we have already told each other we loved each other. The chemistry felt amazing, it was like we had known each other for years, we made each other laugh hysterically and there was never an awkward silence during conversations, it just felt very natural and unforced. So, at the 2 week mark we have sex together for the first time. She says she loves me and I’m gorgeous and the best thing that ever happened to her, all that stuff. Obviously I’m over the moon because I’m not at all gorgeous but feel really happy she sees me that way. She, by the way, is genuinely beautiful. Anyway, 2 weeks after our first time we are having sex again and near the end she closes her eyes for about 10-15 seconds and then she says the name Paul. That is not my name. She instantly opened her eyes and just kept saying sorry whilst covering my face in kisses. I went home more or less immediately, feeling sad and confused. She said after she hadn’t said anything and being young and stupid I just never bothered discussing it with her. Fast forward 20 years, we are married with kids. I have never cheated on her in anyway and she has never really cheated on me. So, 4 months ago I ask her a pretty innocent, unrelated question and she says “apart from that one time you know about, never”. (I forget to add earlier that I found out after she said his name that he was a guy she went to school with and basically had fancied him very much on and off from about 13-18. She liked him so much she would become jealous if she saw him in a nightclub talking to another girl, and one time she even told me she was kissing some guy and was pretending she was kissing Paul the entire time. At one point just about a month or 2 before we met they both went to a mutual friends birthday bash in a pub and my girlfriend was told that he liked her and would say yes if she asked him out. She said to me just last week that she would of said yes as well, so even in hindsight she would say yes). Getting back to the present, I was shocked because she had just assumed I knew and that she must of admitted to saying his name at some point, but she never did. This opened up a whole can of worms for me and lots of questions. I found out she had seen him in a nightclub the night before in question. She spent 2 months saying they just spoke as part of a group, but later admitted after that they went to the bar together and he brought her a drink and they chatted for 10 minutes. Just about what they had been up to since school, have you seen so and so, all that stuff. She said she thought he was good looking but didn’t fancy him. Pretty harmless, but the next day she was thinking about what they had been talking about (bear in mind that they had never dated, kissed or anything, and it still feels like she was obsessing over him), and she said some memories of old feelings came back when she was thinking about him the next day. She remembered how much she used to like him. She said she remembered how nice and blue his eyes were and how they would go all bright when he smiled, and that he had a great smile. That’s a bit of a red flag, how could it be that she didn’t still fancy him, just like she always had. I feel like that she fancied him the whole time but hadn’t seen him in 2 months so had simply put him to the back of her mind and forgot, because despite the fact that she claimed to have loved me and I was great, all it took was one little reminder. Everything I googled on the subject says it’s quite common to say an exes name in bed accidentally even if you weren’t thinking about them, it’s just ‘mis-naming’, but like I said earlier they had never even dated or kissed, let alone slept together. I know for a fact she was a virgin when we met and I’m I’m the only person she has ever been with. I know it sounds unlikely in this day and age but I know it’s true. That’s the one part of all this that there’s not a shadow of doubt in my mind. So that evening I went round to her house, we put on a movie, kissed, all that normal teenage stuff. She said she only though about him for a few seconds that morning, his face or whatever, but she spent about 5 minutes thinking about what they had been talking about, old friends, school, etc. That evening we went to bed and that’s the day she said his name. I ask her “what were you thinking about specifically”, she said “just him standing at the bar from the night before smiling and laughing” and I said “so not even a sexual thought? You fancy him that much that even stood at a bar is arousing enough for you?” She then replied, “it wasn’t arousing, what you were doing to me was turning me on, I’ve never thought about him like that”, so I’m pretty confused at this point in the conversation and I said “but the thought is the feeling, if that’s what’s in your head and what you’re thinking about then it’s irrelevant who’s really in bed with you because you’re linking that to the image” she said “no, it wasn’t like that. I didn’t even fancy him. When you went home that day I thought why the hell did I do that because I didn’t even like him” I said “but you said his name. Thinking of him was obviously an upgrade for you. People don’t think about things during sex that they don’t like, especially to the point where they say the persons name, you obviously enjoyed the thought at the time, even if you didn’t after” she said, “I was just seeing his face and smile and eyes”. So the things she had been thinking about that morning. Little side note, she has never said my name during sex in 20 years, she has said all the pet names like baby and all that but to me a name is much more intimate and personal. She said that’s because he was always just Paul to her, but I was baby, etc, etc. I said “you liked him so much that all it took was seeing him for 10 minutes in a club for you to think about him whilst I was having sex with you. He didn’t even have to be in the room, 10 seconds of thinking of his face is enough to turn you on to the point where you say his name, we have been having sex for 20 years, I know her orgasms are genuine (I don’t mean to sound rude) but yet here I am , the real thing, for 20 years, and she doesn’t even say my name once. Am I just grossly overthinking it? How can she say she didn’t fancy him? I don’t know why this is affecting me so much. I’m not sleeping, I’m having dark thoughts, I feel jealous, I feel heartbroken. I’ll tell you what happened that’s probably the biggest cause: I was stupid enough to ask her last month “what would you have said if he had asked you out that night at the bar, when we had already been together for 4 weeks and you said you loved me?” She went all quiet, looked away, then looked me in the eye and whispered “I would have said yes”. That killed me in an instant. So, even after 20 years and in hindsight it’s a yes. So she just traded, in her head, our entire lives together, our marriage, our kids, all of it. This is why I’m so heartbroken. This is why I feel like an imposter. Everything I have is only because he never asked her out, but if he did, she would of left me. She said this even now after 20 years. I can’t even look at photos of us together without feeling like it’s not real, like I know she would have been happier if it was him in the photos. It undermines everything she said she felt about me in the beginning. If it starts as a lie then it’s all a lie, surely? She said the next day that the reason she said it was a yes is because apparently I had been holding her ‘hostage’ with a bombardment of questions and accusations (to be fair to her I have been awful lately, just non stop questions and what if scenarios and constantly badgering her for ‘the truth’) she said she had a migraine from hell, I had been asking her the same question for 2 hours and she was so tired and desperate for a nap that she just said yes in an attempt to get some peace and quiet, I asked her a further 9 times and got 9 more yeses. Who has a migraine that is so severe that you would lie about something so serious and important to me for a nap? I was badgering her but I know that was the real answer and she’s just covering for herself. Everything I have is because he never asked. Just think of that. She says it’s not true. She says she loves me and would never of left me for anybody, but her looking me dead in the eye and saying yes is a very hard image to forget, especially when she said it in such a genuine way. She still says to this day she doesn’t know why she thought about him. I asked her last week “what was better about him?” Another stupid question, I know, setting myself up for more heartbreak, “she said his eyes were bluer and would go really bright when he smiled. His eyes were more attractive than mine”. I thought, oh great just the exact things you were thinking about in bed that time that wasn’t turning you on”, yeah right, maybe I’m blowing it all out of proportion, I hadn’t been bothered by it in almost 20 years, I have been 100% faithful and loyal to her and her to me except for that one time and only if you class that as ‘cheating’, but the biggest thing is I feel like my perception of the beginning of the relationship is completely one sided. I was head over heels and stupid enough to think she felt the same. She says she did and still does, I’m still the best thing that ever happened to her and all that. I can’t even bring up his name without her smirking, even after 20 years the thought of him excites her, she said “no it doesn’t she’s smirking because I’m being ridiculous”. The simple fact she would of left me has destroyed me, proves she didn’t really love me, proves she still prefers him over me despite a 20 year bond. She says I’m wrong about everything and she has never had any interest in him or anyone since the moment she met me. I just can’t stand her denial. She clearly fancied him at least the first 4+ weeks we were together. She still says I don’t even know why I thought about him. Given the way she describes his face, given the fact she was thinking about his face, given the fact that a thought of his face alone just for 10 seconds was such a big turn on for her Vs just opening her eyes and seeing who was really there, who actually loved her and cared about her and adored her, and was having sex with her, was arousing enough to say his name, am I going completely mental or isn’t it blatantly obvious. Sorry for the long rant. I acknowledge that my mental health has been affected by her saying she would of left me, I know I’m overanalysing everything. She would of left someone she loved for someone ‘she didn’t even like or fancy’. Sounds reasonable.
User article | jealousy
My partner doesn’t feel right
My boyfriend and I (both 19 yrs old) have been together for 3 years. At the start of last year, we went through a few bumps in our relationship when another girl came around claiming to not want a sexual relationship in any way with my boyfriend, but then flirted with him and they ended up having a sexual relationship for a week or so. We ended up getting back together when he called it off with her, but ever since then he hasn’t been very intimate with me, e.g. doesn’t really like kissing, calling me pretty or whatever, but the big one is he doesn’t like to have sex very often. We went from having sex nearly every night, to about 3-4 times a month. I questioned him about it and his response was “it doesn’t feel right to be intimate” I asked him to explain a bit more and he said he feels fine hugging me and telling me he loves me, but he said “it doesn’t feel right to have sex” and he “doesn’t see me in that way”. I asked him if it would be better off if we broke up, but he told me he doesn’t want to because he loves me and he still wants me to be his girlfriend. He also said he doesn’t know if it’s just a ‘him’ thing, but he knows he doesn’t want to break up with me. When we do have sex and when he initiates it he feels like it’s right, but when I try initiate sex he feels like it isn’t right. He also said he finds it hard to call me pretty or to kiss me. I literally don’t know what to do because he tells me he loves me and doesn’t want to break up, but he just feels like it isn’t right to be intimate with me because he doesn’t see me in that way. Can someone please try help???
User article | sex, intimacy
Husband has no desire for sex
My husband and I have been married for almost 10 years. We got married at a very young age (20 & 22) in the beginning of our relationship, he used to get frustrated at my lack of sexual activity. As the years have gone on, I built up my desire to want to have sex a lot more. Don’t get me wrong, we would have sex a couple times a week. But now I would like it to be 4x a week. However, the roles have reversed. He only seems to want (lack of better term) head. He never wants to kiss, foreplay or do anything “intimate” he just wants head. We talk about everything and have a solid relationship. However when I bring up these concerns, and express that I would like to have sex more or even have intimate moments more, he tells me “I’m not that guy” I don’t mind giving head but I would like to have sex also. You know, give and take? But he only wants to take. I don’t want sound ridiculous but it would be nice to feel like a teenage couple again and having those passionate kisses or make out sessions. But he has zero interest of kissing me. Even when he gets home from work or before bed, etc. it’s gotten to the point where if I’m kissing him he actually pushes me away or will turn his head. How can I not feel rejected or unwanted? I feel like we are too young to have our sex drive decrease. He tells me sex feels amazing but he does t want to “do the work” and he doesn’t seem impressed when I do the work, unless it’s with my mouth!! Lol. I’m losing interest in being around him, he thinks “I watch too much rom-coms”. Which may be true, but what’s wrong with a little more passion in the bedroom? I don’t need flower pedals but at least hold my hand while I’m going down on you!! It’s getting me to the point that I’m anonymously writing to a bunch of strangers. Am I living in fantasy land or is he losing interest?
User article | sex
I'm ruining sex with my husband
I and my husband used to have sex every day, then it changed to once a week, and now that we are married maybe once or twice a month if I'm lucky. I know this is mostly my fault as I don't put any effort into turning him on, but I can't. My mental health is deteriorating because I'm so insecure about myself. It doesn't matter if I put on makeup, do my hair, or wear a beautiful outfit, I just look like a decorated pig. I didn't gain weight, in fact, I'm fitter than I was before we started dating. I can't initiate sex because I feel disgusting about the way I look and act during sex. I'm not a sexy woman; I don't know how to turn a man on when I feel so horrible about myself. Sometimes he even sends me videos of other girls doing sexy things and asks "When are you going to do that for me?" but all I can think is "ME? No, you wouldn't want a bag of cow manure to do that for you." I hate my body, my face, my personality. I'm only 21, I shouldn't feel this way about myself. He doesn't want to initiate sex with me but masturbates every day sometimes several times. I don't care about him masturbating or watching porn, but I feel hurt because he rather do that than be with me. However, when we do have sex it's only me pleasing him. He doesn't try to do things to turn me on or make me finish. So when that happens I just get more insecure. However AGAIN, I know that's my fault because I don't communicate at all because I feel like absolute shit and I know I can't complain because all of this is my fault. I don't know what to do, I can't seek professional help because of matters I can't discuss. I've tried exercising more to see if it helps build my confidence, but nothing :( I just wish I could be someone else than me. I'm trying to hide how mentally broken I am from my husband because this isn't his fight. He works so hard to put food on the table, I don't need to put this added stress on him. Sometimes I wish I wasn't born, because then I wouldn't be this burden on myself and others. I think he would be happier too if I was gone or he found a more beautiful confident girl.
User article | mental health