A Reader Writes…
I read Make Love Like a Prairie Vole and found lots of food for thought in it. However, I still have a problem, which I’m not sure how to address.
My wife and I have been happily married for 36 years. We’ve always been sexually active, though obviously, family life intervened at various points and made this more difficult. Overall, though, I doubt we’ve gone much longer than a week or two without making love during all the time we’ve been together.
The trouble is, what we do – or don’t do. We both prefer to keep lovemaking simple – no toys, no fantasy, no stimulants; and we both enjoy intercourse enormously. The problem is, that’s all my wife wants to do; and she’s usually impatient for it to happen, at the expense of anything else. Our sexual repertoire was never that extensive, but now it’s shrunk even more. Although it’s not my preference, I’m perfectly content to forego foreplay and put the emphasis on intercourse; but I draw the line at no more oral sex!
Mutual oral sex was a part of our lovemaking from a few weeks after we met until about five years ago. At my wife’s request, later insistence, fellatio was dropped first, followed by cunnilingus. She claimed she had never enjoyed either practice, finding them both “disgusting”. We’ve communicated on this subject to excess; now, raising the issue seems to provoke major disharmony. We’re probably communicating badly; because each time it seems we’re drawing up battle lines from the start. Although we love each other dearly, and are still massively attracted to each other sexually, my wife has said more than once she would rather split up than restart oral sex. For my part, I have said I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life without it.
We visited a Relate therapist about three years ago and saw her for four sessions. Oral sex was our sole issue. She could suggest nothing; but she agreed the impasse might imperil our marriage.
I should add that I would sooner forego fellatio than cunnilingus, so this is not simply a question of me getting ‘served’. I am a very oral person and it seems somehow hard wired into me to want to kiss and lick my wife’s genitals. My ideal is mutual oral sex, as in soixante-neuf.
The ‘grown up’ response to this would be for me to acknowledge all that is marvellous about our relationship, including frequent and satisfying sex, and accede to my wife’s wishes; but I find I can’t. Instead, I quietly simmer with frustration and occasional, barely contained rage, simply unable to comprehend how two people who have so much in common and share so many tastes should have fallen so badly out of sync on this one issue.
And I’d like to throw another question into the mix: How can two people who obviously love each other so much end up torturing each other so much?
It’s something, I often ask myself after a counselling session where things seem as intractable as in your letter.
We think love, similar interests and looking out for each other will solve everything but we need good communication and eternal vigilance too. I have a picture of the two of you setting off in a rowing boat from Land’s End heading off to America. It only takes a few degrees in the wrong direction and year by year you’re completely drive off course. Instead of arriving in New York, you land in Novia Scotia.
So what’s been happening? As we get older and settle more into our sexuality and become more confident, we learn what we like and what we don’t like. It doesn’t matter that we did it for years as a twenty-something it’s just not us. Unfortunately, you’ve not been able to talk properly about this issue—and possibly others too—because the hurly-burly of everyday life and getting on so well means that you don’t really stop and sort something out.
After all, the next day, everything seems OK or there’s another distraction—perhaps friends come round—and the moment to talk is lost and it seems counter-productive to bring it up. So month by month, year by year, you get out of sync with each other and it’s not because you don’t love each other enough but because you don’t want to rock the boat (and therefore it goes off course).
So what do we do about your frustration and rage because it goes without saying this is not going to make for a fellatio filled marriage? I also wonder if one of the reasons why your wife is seemingly against cunnilingus is that she’s frightened that—apologies for the weird metaphor—if you have earned enough green shield stamps that you will cash them in with a blow job. So basically, she would prefer to receive no oral sex—particularly given grudgingly or with string attached—than feel ‘obliged’ to reciprocate.
So if I was seeing you, I would ask to take fellatio off the menu—probably for the next six months—and for you to apologise for making her so miserable over this subject. (The Relate sessions sound horrible. I can’t imagine why anyone let you talk for four sessions about just oral sex and not investigate the rest of your marriage and ‘she agreed the impasse might imperil our marriage’ sounds like you issued a threat at the end of the sessions: ‘If you don’t give me oral sex, I’ll find someone who will’ and got the therapist to agree with you. Maybe I’m exaggerating but I bet that’s how your wife saw it.)
Next, I would want to sympathise with you—it must be horrible to keep feeling rejected—and help you understand your disappointment better? Why has this become so important? How come your self-esteem has become tied up with it? Why does the fantasy of soixante-neuf sex become so powerful and why will you risk everything to make it come true?
I suppose what I’m saying is that I wonder if a whole lot of unconnected stuff has got bundled into this area too. Perhaps if these areas were attended to, oral sex would be less contentious and therefore easier to give. It would also be easier to accept that your wife will most probably only give it on high days and holidays – but my guess is that will be enough.
So I would work on your communication—rather than your sex life—and read Resolve Your Differences and Help Your Partner Say Yes and meanwhile look at yourself by reading Learn to Love Yourself Enough. With oral sex off the menu and being able to work as a team, you would be also be ready to do some of the exercises in ‘Make Love Like a prairie Vole and improve the rest of your love-making.