Ask Dr. Justin Lehmiller

Coral contributor, Kinsey Institute Research Fellow and internationally-recognized sex educator answers your sex questions

How do I deal with a sexless marriage? I don’t think I can take it much longer and things aren’t changing despite my partner seeking help. I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sexless marriages are more common than you might think. In fact, nationally representative U.S. surveys tell us that about one in seven adults are in marriages where little to no sexual activity is taking place. 

There are a lot of different reasons why sex can disappear in a relationship, which means that finding a potential solution starts with identifying the cause. For example, sometimes it’s due to one partner losing desire for sex, while other times it’s the result of a sexual difficulty (such as erectile problems or painful sex), chronic illness, relationship conflict or psychological issues (such as body image concerns or depression).

So the place to start is by seeking help in pinpointing the cause and it sounds like your partner has at least started down that path. However, it’s important that you take this journey together. Dealing with a sexual desire discrepancy isn’t just one partner’s problem to solve, it’s a relationship problem that will require both of you putting in some effort. 

A thorough medical examination and consultation with a couple’s therapist may reveal the underlying issue and give you some ideas on how to solve it. Depending on what the issue is, it might necessitate medication, psychotherapy, couple’s counseling, and/or sexual compromise (such as scheduling sex for a certain frequency). It might also involve putting more effort into building arousal and trying new and different things in the bedroom.

If you’ve both worked together to identify the cause and come up with a solution and the problem persists, then it’s time to have an important discussion about what comes next. 

Some people stay in sexless marriages because, despite the lack of sex, everything else is great, so they find a way to cope, such as by increasing masturbation, channeling their energy into other hobbies or interests, or opening up their relationship.

However, others call it quits because sex is very important to them, so they move on and look for a more compatible partner. And recognize that if you decide to end things, it doesn’t make you a failure or a bad person. There’s nothing wrong with wanting an active sex life.

In short, if you want to make this relationship work, exhaust your options and try to find a mutually agreeable solution. If you can’t seem to fix the problem, however, then you’ll need to figure out whether you can find a way to adapt or if it’s time to move on.

I am 24 years old and have NEVER had a “G-spot” orgasm. I’ve tried to get there by myself and with a partner plenty of times and have never been successful. I’m starting to think I’m incapable of it and am only able to have clitoral orgasms. Please help! I feel like my vagina is broken…any tips?!

It’s important to understand something about the G-spot, which is that it isn’t exactly what most people think it is. After many years of medical research, scientists now think of the G-spot as the area where the internal portion of the clitoris intersects with the vagina and urethra. For this reason, some have taken to calling it the “clitourethrovaginal complex.”

What this means is that when you’re stimulating the G-spot, you’re actually stimulating a portion of the clitoris. In other words, a G-spot orgasm is really another type of “clitoral orgasm," it just comes from internal rather than external stimulation.

If you want to try stimulating this area, it can be done with fingers, sex toys, and certain sexual positions (like doggystyle) that give more attention to the front wall of the vagina. If you’ve experimented with all of these things and they’re not doing it for you, don’t fret.

Different women (and men and people of other genders) reach orgasm in different ways, and that’s totally normal. We’re all a little different in how we’re built and how our nerve endings are laid out. This is why, for example, some people derive great pleasure from nipple stimulation (sometimes even orgasming from this!), whereas others feel next to nothing. 

So just because you can’t seem to orgasm in the same way as someone else, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with you. The key thing is to understand your body and what brings you pleasure, and to embrace that. 

Repeat after me: your vagina is not broken!

I am a 31 year old male that works out every day. I grew up playing sports and can say I am by far in the best shape of my life. I love my wife. She turns me on. I have no problem getting an erection even just talking about sex with her. But I have lost my erection in the past during sex and that thought always seems to pop into my head when engaging in sex. We are now trying to have a baby and the pressure is on to ejaculate and I can’t seem to get out of my head. This leads to embarrassment for myself and my wife and it leads to self doubt and more performance anxiety. I’m at an all-time low and am looking for something to help me get out of my head and focus on just making love to my wife. Any suggestions?

Performance anxiety is quite common in men, and it often results from a previous experience in which a man wanted to perform sexually, but his penis didn’t do what he thought it should be doing. This then creates erection anxiety in future sexual situations that increases the odds of erection loss—it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The first thing you should know is that penises don’t always do what you want them to. Sometimes you get an erection when you don’t want one, and sometimes you don’t get an erection when you do want one. 

Sexual arousal is complex and is impacted by multiple factors. For example, you might really want to have sex, but find it difficult to become and stay aroused because you’re really stressed about work, you had one too many drinks, you’re tired, or there’s something really distracting going on outside. 

So if your penis doesn’t always do what you want, relax. This is perfectly normal and it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong. 

If you can’t seem to get out of your head during sex, however, there are several things you can try. For example, you might consider mindfulness exercises, which have been scientifically shown to improve erectile function. Mindfulness is all about teaching yourself to be in the present moment and to focus on your body sensations rather than those distracting thoughts that pop into your head. So consider getting a book or an app that can help guide you through this. 

You might also consider talking to your doctor about sildenafil or another erectile dysfunction medication to take temporarily. These medications can help men to restore confidence because they make it easier to get and keep erections. After a few experiences taking the medication, some men find that they no longer need the med because their anxiety has gone away.

Yet another option is to consider working with a certified sex therapist who can help you to unpack these issues and get your sex life back on track. You and your partner might also consider seeing the therapist together because you’re dealing with erection anxiety and pressure to orgasm at the same time, which is a double whammy. Trying to conceive can be very stressful on men, and many experience sexual difficulties during this time.

The good news is that there’s a solution out there. The key is to find ways to reduce the performance pressure, relax, and make sex fun and pleasurable at the same time. 

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