#837: Mismatched efforts in bed.


I am trying to figure out the words for a situation I’m in. I’ve been in a poly relationship for about three months with my husband’s enthusiastic support. Jack, my “boyfriend” for lack of a better word, is married to a lovely woman named Jill and I’ve double dated with her and her lover, so everything is super above-board. I like Jack very much; he’s funny and dear and has enough of a bad boy past to be fun.

Here’s the problem: the relationship is great, but the sex, not so much. Backstory: Jack is depressed and on medication that commonly causes impotence. He and Jill are trying to conceive, and are close to the cap on their fertility benefits, so Jill is understandably very edgy and depressed about the whole thing. Jack has a prescription for little blue pills to help with his medication-induced problems.

Problem 1: Jack does not take his blue pills when he’s going to see me. He says it’s because they are so expensive, but since one pill is the equivalent cost of less than the drinks on a night we go out, this excuse doesn’t ring true to me. It’s starting to make me feel like I’m not worth “wasting” a pill on, which makes me unhappy, as does the lack of sex. In three months we’ve not managed penetrative sex even once. The only reason I can think of that he wouldn’t take the medication is that maybe (and I have no basis for this other than the personalities involved) Jill has told him that he’s to use the pills for procreative sex only?

Problem 2: Jack is somewhat lazy in bed. I don’t have an orgasm from intercourse, and I don’t have one every time from oral, but I do have them reasonably frequently if some effort is put forth. Jill, I’ve been told, can have an orgasm every time there’s a stiff breeze. Although I’ve explained to Jack that I do not have orgasms super easily, and I’ve told him how they can be achieved, he still seems to make a token effort and then quit on me. His idea of making this work was that I should bring my vibrator to help myself out when we see each other. I’m really frustrated by this, and feel dismissed. (If it matters, I tend to be a pretty oral person and, while it’s difficult due to the medication, I have given him orgasms.)

I don’t want to break up with this guy, but honestly, this is a secondary relationship and sex is a primary consideration. I really like him, but it’s driving me nuts to go out with him and come home unfulfilled every time. I want to give this a last-ditch effort before I back off from this relationship or break up with him. What words can I use to help him understand that I’m not happy with our sex life without making him feel terrible? I tend to be fairly blunt about advocating for myself, but I know this is a touchy subject. Blue pill or not, I don’t want to make him anxious in bed, since that’s not a recipe for good sex, either. Are there scripts for this? Thanks!

–But What About Me?

Dear What About Me?

You can’t control whether Jack will feel anxious in bed after you talk to him. You can gently – and specifically –  ask for what you want and then see what happens.

Hey, Jack, I love it when you go down on me – can you keep going with that until I come?

“Could we try something where you get me off first, and then I get you off?”

Do things change after conversations like that? Or does he put in a perfunctory effort and then tell you how much easier it is with Jill? (And, like, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy do you know that about her?)

Howabout “Jack, you mentioned that the pills are expensive – would we be able to skip drinks next time we hang out/let me contribute some $ to take the pressure off?” Awkward follow-up question, if he demurs or things don’t change: “Is there another reason you haven’t told me about that penetrative sex has been off the table so far?” If he’d just prefer to not do that right now, for whatever reason (“I’m really trying to do everything I can to help Jill get pregnant, and I don’t have more than that in me just now”), wouldn’t it be better to know?

You’re only three months into this thing, so the question I gotta ask is, how much work do you want to do on this?

76 thoughts on “#837: Mismatched efforts in bed.

  1. LW, I hear you about laziness in bed. Like many women (around 70%), I can’t have an orgasm from PIV sex. It’s nice, but it’s not going to get me there. At 46, I’ve been sexually active for 30 years, and I know what works for me. Younger me used to be embarrassed to ask for what I wanted in bed and would make all sorts of excuses for selfish sex. Now, I ask for what I want, and if he won’t go down on me I accept it’s not going to work and stop having sex. Sometimes the relationship evolves into a friendship, sometimes not.

    I know you like this guy and want to keep having sex, so the Captain’s advice to use your words is good. Also, Jill’s ability to orgasm easily is great for her, but not relevant to you. We’re all different and have our own needs – regardless of what he does with her, what’s important is that the two of you have satisfying sex. If that makes him anxious, that’s something he needs to address – it might mean that there’s a temporary halt on sexy times until he figures things out. The fact that you feel dismissed and frustrated shows that something has to change or the relationship may not be salvageable.

    Whatever you do, I hope you don’t end up disappointed and unhappy to spare his feelings. I’ve been there (he was the so lazy in bed that ALL forms of foreplay, including kissing, were off the table) and I carried so much unexpressed resentment and anger towards him. After using my words (several times) I should have ended it, but thought he would change and dragged it out for over a year. It was awful, and all but guaranteed that we wouldn’t be friends.

  2. Dear LW, I don’t know how much you want to be with Jack. He seems nice, but if it’s not a strong relationship, it seems okay to leave and find another poly couple to work with, one who is a lot more fun.

    1. ‘He seems nice’

      That’s not something that’s coming through to me from the letter at all. Presumably he has good points too that weren’t mentioned, but all the specifc behaviour mentioned in the letter is really pretty not-nice.

  3. Dear LW,

    If a friend said to you “LW, my boyfriend of three months compares me to his other girlfriend (to my detriment) and also he won’t get me off” what would you advise her to do?

  4. Hi there BWAM,

    You know, telling Jack that you’re not satisfied with your sex life might cause him some anxiety. And if it does, that’s a bummer for him, but it’s his issue to manage, and not yours to anticipate. You’ve mentioned this to him already. He knows how you do and don’t get off. I don’t blame you for being dismissed by his response because wow – it was incredibly dismissive!

    I’ve thought about this a lot lately, due to some of my own sexual experiences, and I’ve decided this – I am tired of partners just kind of fumbling about with my body and giving up when that doesn’t work. I’ve gotten pretty good at communication; I can give harder/faster/just-a-bit-to-the-left feedback, I can demonstrate types of touch and pressure for myself while they watch, and when things DO work I am very appreciative. But boy howdy have I been with some dudes (not always, but…yeah, this has mostly been a cis dude issue) who just don’t seem to care about paying enough attention to get it right. I got used to pushing down my desires a bit to focus on them, because it was easier to not take up space and just enjoy the good stuff I could get.

    And I am fucking sick of it! I am worth more than that from a partner, and I’m trying to really focus on making sure that sexual relationships I have are ones in which I feel that there’s a mutual desire & commitment to get each other off. Orgasms don’t always have to happen! I have a wonderfully expansive view of what counts as sex! But I refuse to accept a half-assed attempt to please me when I am throwing myself into sex whole-heartedly.
    If you do talk about this more and his behavior doesn’t change, I’m not sure how great this relationship can be in the long-term.

    Also – I know folks have a wide range of feelings on what/how much they want to hear about metamours in poly relationships, but I honestly think “my other partner can orgasm just fine” is the sort of comment that’s not likely to do anyone any good. In this situation it sounds like maybe it was hiding a silent “…so WHY CAN’T YOU???!?” at the end. If that’s not the sort of comment you want to hear, I’d say it’s totally fine to say “hey, I don’t need to know the particulars of your sex life with Jill; let’s focus on us for now” or something similar.

    1. “I’ve thought about this a lot lately, due to some of my own sexual experiences, and I’ve decided this – I am tired of partners just kind of fumbling about with my body and giving up when that doesn’t work. I’ve gotten pretty good at communication; I can give harder/faster/just-a-bit-to-the-left feedback, I can demonstrate types of touch and pressure for myself while they watch, and when things DO work I am very appreciative. But boy howdy have I been with some dudes (not always, but…yeah, this has mostly been a cis dude issue) who just don’t seem to care about paying enough attention to get it right. I got used to pushing down my desires a bit to focus on them, because it was easier to not take up space and just enjoy the good stuff I could get.

      And I am fucking sick of it! I am worth more than that from a partner, and I’m trying to really focus on making sure that sexual relationships I have are ones in which I feel that there’s a mutual desire & commitment to get each other off. Orgasms don’t always have to happen! I have a wonderfully expansive view of what counts as sex! But I refuse to accept a half-assed attempt to please me when I am throwing myself into sex whole-heartedly.”

      YES. 1,000 TIMES YES.

      1. It’s like stories people have of partners doing a purposefully shitty job of cleaning or other chores so they will give up, not ask them to scrub out the shower any more, and just do it themselves.

        1. I’m very amused by how the seemingly jolly phrase “His idea was that I should bring my vibrator” has now acquired a clench-jawed, frustrated set of associations.

          1. lol. I’m a vibe fan but, still. I remember getting to this stage with an ex who had gotten off; in his mind, that meant we were done and he was getting out of bed. I pulled out a vibe and asked him to kiss and cuddle me while I got myself off. He lay like a piece of driftwood — if driftwood could be resentful — next to me, barely touching me or doing anything except sulking. DUDE, a) you weren’t doing nothin’ to make me feel good, b) your penis doesn’t vibrate!

          2. Like, God forbid HE should use the vibrator on her! If his penis doesn’t work she’s just Defective and needs to Take Care of Her Own Business.

          3. Dude, if she’s just gonna use a vibrator anyway, WHAT IS HE EVEN THERE FOR? Feh. This doesn’t sound like a guy with the emotional spoons to take on an additional relationship. I know there’s a great cultural narrative that men want it all the time and whatever, but masturbating with a woman’s body does not qualify as “having a sexual relationship” in my mind.

            His culture might tell him he’s getting “lucky” but it sounds as if the poor guy might be relieved be monogamous. Seriously, it sounds like all his resources (pills, money, performance and attention) are pretty tapped out. He’d save a lot of hassle by not troubling anyone and jerking off at home. I think that is the generally accepted way of getting off without actually having to worry about anyone else and their humanity and stuff.

    2. Agreed all around!!!

      In my poly relationships, I let my partners know that the details of their sex life with others is something I don’t want to hear about.

      (I have described it as “Once the safety/boundary discussions have occurred, I feel like this: Yay! You’re having sex! And I’m totally down with that! But everything intimate that you do with other people, about their bodies and their sexual responses, happens in THAT ROSY GLOW OF GOODWILL OVER IN THE DISTANCE, and it needs to stay there for my personal comfort and sanity.”)

    3. My own feelings when it comes (heh) to “this other person likes this / can do this thing” is… they’re not here. I am. We are not interchangeable. I am not going to pretend to be them, and I am worth being catered to on occasion.

      I’m rather short, and people sometimes have difficulty grasping that I can’t reach things that they can, because I am shorter than they are. It is an immutable fact, and either you get me a stool, put the things where I can reach them, put up with me not using the things and being unhappy, or I’m going to be convinced that you care as much about me as the faceless supermarket corporation that does the same thing. And if you don’t care, then I’m nope-ing out of here.

      1. “… they are not here. I am.”

        Yes exactly! And doesn’t that go both ways anyway? Jack is telling you how little effort he has to put in with Jill, maybe it is time to start comparing him unfavourably to your other lovers?

        OK OK, that is not actually advice because that would be cruel and unproductive. Sigh. But imaging it might be satisfying I would think.

      2. Yes! The LW is not an additional Jill-clone so that Jack can have an extra Jill.

    4. Right? Why does Jack feel the need to tell the LW how Jill apparently wanders around having orgasms hither and thither? (And personally – I call bullshit on that, sorry. I’ve had enough dudes tell me similar things and found out later it was the opposite of true to take the “well my OTHER/LAST/EX girlfriend/wife/whatever just LOOKED at me and it was like Mount Vesuvius” to take that with a grain of salt the size of a Buick.) Why is it even relevant?*

      *It’s not, my guess is he’s just trying to convince her that she’s being unreasonable and needy to want an orgasm.

      1. The one time I had a partner say this to me and was able to ask the ex in question about it, her response was to laugh and say that no, he was just as lousy and inattentive with her as he had been with me and that she had in fact not been orgasming left and right.

        1. And this why I am firmly against faking an orgasm. My feelings are either:

          1. They are doing their best and your mind/body just isn’t feeling the orgasm. Tell them this and switch gears: focus on them, switch to other sexy funtimes activities that you both enjoy, etc. [Any passive aggression/sulking/whining/withdrawing/complaining and you now know they are A Shitty Lover.]

          Or (much more common)

          2. They are a selfish jerkwad and all faking does is preserve their (generally WAY over inflated) ego about what a fantabulous lover they are

          1. well, but sometimes pretend orgasms are the only way to get a bad sexxer to to stop doing bad sex at you. ie, somebody who seems totes unable to take direction but is determinedly going to KEEP TRYING grapple grapple thump until they give you some bon plaisir because they know that is the way of the righteous.

          2. What Polychrome said.

            [TW for sexual…stuff]

            For his 21st birthday, my ex wanted to give me an orgasm by going down on me. Now, this was several years before I realized that I’m asexual and that, therefore, all sex is about as useful to me as folding underwear: something that a lot of other people seem to find essential to a well-balanced life, and something I might do every so often to make a partner happy, but neither necessary nor enjoyable for me. I knew even back then, however, that oral sex gave me an extra-special helping of the willies (human tongues. With all their bumps and slime and germs. *Shudder*). Still, in spite of the fact that I already made clear to him that Disney on Ice had a better chance of turning out an award-winning performance in hell than I did of getting off by being eaten out, I went along with it. It was HIS BIRTHDAY and HE WAS JUST TRYING TO GET ME OFF HOW SWEET and all that other bullshit you tell yourself when you are in your early twenties and don’t have Captain Awkward and her commenters to help you see through said bullshit. But I was also forthright enough, even then, not to want to hurt him by faking an orgasm, so after about twenty minutes and me getting about as far as it is possible to go from warm and tingly without the aid of a warp drive, I gently pushed him away, then kneed him away when he wouldn’t take that hint, then finally kicked him when he still didn’t get it. He spent the rest of the night sulking because…uhhh…actually, the more I think about it, the more hazy the possible logic seems. Because he wanted so badly to prove me wrong about my own reasons for loathing oral sex? Because I was too frigid to melt before the power of his godly tongue?

            Whatever. That’s all saliva under the bridge, thankfully, and to finally circle back to the point, I could’ve saved myself a lot of trouble that night if I’d faked an orgasm before my genitals felt like they were being wiped raw.

      2. I love pretty much everything about this comment. Also a good cautionary tale to those of us who have unwittingly glorified past relationships, sexual or otherwise…they probably weren’t all that awesome, and you’ll either lose credibility or make somebody feel like crap by comparison, so let’s hear it for that rosy glow of goodwill Over There Somewhere (to cite yet another awesome comment).

      3. Hey folks, LW here. I just wanted to put one thing to rest (and sorry I wasn’t here for the main discussion, but I have bronchitis and didn’t have the spoons to read all this with the coughing/fever/aches/still going to work thing I’ve been doing).

        The deal with Jill’s orgasms is much less interesting than it’s being made out to be. As I said, I usually advocate for myself pretty well and usually tell people that I’m not going to have an orgasm from PIV sex, because otherwise they keep banging away, trying to make it happen. When I told Jack, he very casually said something like “Jill’s are pretty easy” and left it at that. Jack has in no way tried to make me feel badly about it. It’s just that it seems he’s not used to having to work at it, and to think that I’m close and/or there when it’s pretty far from the truth.

  5. Dear LW,

    My former partner’s doctor informed him that the “blue pill”‘s formula recently became generic.

    The brand name is ungodly expensive and often not covered by insurance, so I can understand reluctance to use it — perhaps finding this alternative would help, since it’s not terribly well-known yet?

    OTOH — Jack has hands, a mouth, and the ability to listen and learn. Your pleasure should be a priority for him — or else, why is this a sexual relationship?

  6. You are a person who can have orgasms. When two women (or other people without penises) have sex, there are often orgasms for the people who can have orgasms. If they can get each other off, Jack could get you off. He’s just choosing not to.

    Given that, what do you want to do about it?

  7. Your consideration for Jack’s feelings is admirable, but if you want a relationship with hot sex and loads of it, and that’s what Jack signed on for, Jack is clearly not able to do that right now. You say he’s fun to be with, though. If you like him that much and he’s not satisfying in bed, why force the relationship into a shape it has not naturally assumed? Can you stop meeting up for sex dates and hang out sometimes without the sex? Order up Netflix, hold the chill.

    Possibly after Jack and Jill sort out some of their other business, like having a baby, the relationship you want will be possible.

  8. I looked at the headline of the post and thought “oh boy, not this again.”

    And yet it’s just every-fucking-where, isn’t it?

    The last guy I hooked up with approached the whole encounter as a collaboration, a fun adventure in search of pleasure for both of us. Not him then me maybe if he felt like it, but both of us.

    I had all kinds of feelings afterward about how absurdly rare that has been in my life.

  9. He has to take blue pills to get hard, won’t use them with you,has fertility issues and starts going on about his wife who can come in a stiff breeze? He’s using you as a sexual binky and you’re not even getting off. I’m so intensely irritated by the implication you’re sexually defective coming from a dude on SSRIs who needs Viagra and won’t use it with you and doesn’t even try to get you off in other ways, I’d end it without trying to massage the situation. You didn’t mention what else you get out of this secondary relationship so I’m not sure this selfishness on his part is worth it for you.

    1. I’m so intensely irritated by the implication you’re sexually defective coming from a dude on SSRIs who needs Viagra

      Why is it relevant that he has fertility issues or is on meds which are possibly SSRIs? “You’re not defective, he’s defective” seems like an unhelpful implication here.

      His failure to put in even a token amount of effort to get the LW off is the issue here, not his medical needs.

      1. Yeah, the blue pills are an issue that could be worked around if everything else was satisfactory. The oral laziness is the real dealbreaker.

        “We never have penetrative sex because he doesn’t want to use the blue pills with me.”
        Hmm, maybe he wants to save his penetrative efforts for trying to conceive. Understandable in the circumstances. As long as he’s doing his bit to satisfy you in non-penetrative ways I don’t see the…

        “And also he’s really lazy about giving me oral.”
        Uh, what exactly did you say was so attractive about this dude?

      2. Fair point. Though it also seems to be that, “It’s NOT MY FAULT (despite my sexual dysfunctional and unwillingness to address that dysfunction to help you achieve orgasm) that you can’t come! I My wife comes all the time! It must be something wrong with you!” smacks of being somewhat emotionally abusive and gaslight-y.

        1. Yeah, or he’s insecure and wants so badly not to be the weak link here that he’s trying to convince everyone involved, including himself, that he’s not the only one with a sex problem. I do not envy this guy, but I also don’t think it’s worth putting up with bullshit like that out of sympathy for his plight.

      3. I do kind of get it, because it’s hypocritical. He has serious challenges of his own yet he is judgemental even of other people’s inevitable individual differences.

        But however you interpret it, he’s being kind of a jerk.

        Mainly I just kind of wonder why the LW is going out with him. He’s kind of a jerk, so it’s not for the friendship, but it’s obviously not because the sex is so amazing, so…? Is it because his partner is dating hers so she feels like she has to date him too for some reason?

        1. Actually reading it again, it sounds like it’s Jill who has another partner, not the LW’s husband. So I guess it’s not that, whatever it is.

      4. The entire sentence is: I’m so intensely irritated by the implication you’re sexually defective coming from a dude on SSRIs who needs Viagra and won’t use it with you and doesn’t even try to get you off in other ways (I was so pissed I wrote a run-on sentence).

        It’s not just his medical needs it’s that he’s so intensely selfish he won’t get her off and in the process projects his own inadequacies onto her.

        Otherwise, what’s the point of his stupid “my wife comes in a stiff breeze” comments? She’s going out of her way to coddle his ego and get him off (and I’m thinking of my own small jaw and overactive gag reflex) and he can’t even appreciate it. He’s the one introducing the “oh you’re defective for not getting off in a way that’s minimal work for me” into the conversation. Is she going around saying “My other partner has the hardness and staying power and refractory period of a 21 year old champion sperm donor? I just have to hold his hand and he’s ready?” No, she isn’t. Yet men think nothing of doing this to their partners. Never ever even hint at anything the guy is not doing or not getting you off otherwise his penis will deflate, but hey, let’s insult women all the livelong day and somehow expect instant fucking lubrication and orgasms galore!
        I wouldn’t put it past him to insult his wife about her egg reserve or something, he’s that schmucky!

  10. I know a good few stories of straight cis dudes who had sex with female partners who could achieve orgasm really easily, and later having partners who needed more to achieve orgasm…and the guys still made an effort to make it happen on a consistent basis. Every woman is different, and a caring partner will do their best to ensure the other person’s needs get met. It sucks that we live in a world where, in heterosexual encounters, a woman’s pleasure often comes second (if at all, hah). Don’t subjugate yourself to that – what you want is a fulfilling sexual relationship, and that (at least to me) means mutually enjoyable sex with a partner who makes a consistent effort to meet your needs, and who won’t compare you to others in the process. Don’t settle for something that’s just causing you more stress!

    1. “I know a good few stories of straight cis dudes who had sex with female partners who could achieve orgasm really easily, and later having partners who needed more to achieve orgasm…and the guys still made an effort to make it happen on a consistent basis. Every woman is different, and a caring partner will do their best to ensure the other person’s needs get met.”

      Hear, hear!
      Sometimes this happens with the same woman (or man) due to age, hormones, health, medication, surgery, or pushing babies out of their vagina.

      Spouse and I could orgasm easily with PIV for most of our relationship, when that changed a few years ago due to age and health issues, we listened to each other, read things, and played around with our technique.
      Orgasms happen for one or both of us most of the time. If not, we give each other massages, which feels good and says “I’m willing to work for your pleasure.”

  11. Honestly, LW, this guy doesn’t sound like he’s good at poly or in bed. Comparing partners, especially y’know to one or both of said partners, is an awful awful idea even if benignly meant, and I’m not sure this was. Adding in the lack of effort? And I think it’s time to end it.

    He may very well have good reasons for what he’s doing – maybe the stress from trying to conceive means he’s not actually up for sex in other circumstances at all and even the little he’s doing is actually a huge stretch for him – but that still doesn’t mean he’s a good match for you, especially given his (lack of) communication skills about this. There will be someone better out there for you. Go find ’em!

  12. At only three months in, and especially given the time and life constraints of the average secondary relationship, I feel like, *for me*, if I wasn’t still googly over dude in that very special drunk-kitten-with-a-new-paper-bag way, I’d know the relationship was not a good fit. No relationship is ever effortless, but in the situation LW describes, and with it being so very new, I think you should look a bit askance if it’s requiring this much emotional effort. Not to mention depleting your battery stores.

  13. LW, it is certainly possible that there is some kind of procreative sex limitation at play, and I can even understand that if they’re on fertility treatments. But I’m not sure that’s even really the issue – PIV sex is nice and all that but there are a million other things this guy could be doing to get you off and it sounds like he can’t be bothered to figure that out. I mean, yay for Jill if a stiff breeze does it for her (assuming that is in fact the case and he’s not lying to make you feel bad for asking for stuff, or she’s not faking to spare his feelings) but that’s actually completely irrelevant to *your* situation. Since you say you’re mostly in this relationship for sex it seems like a pretty straight forward decision. This dude doesn’t do it for you in bed, and seems to be willing to manipulate you with comparisons with his other GF to get you to back off. I’m not sure there’s much more you can do to fix it.

    Also come oooon. Even when he asked you to bring your vibrator he could have phrased it as him wanting to use it on you, not you use it to “take care of yourself”. Like certain other commenters here I am 1000% done with lazy lovers who can’t even be bothered to try. I suggest that there are other poly dudes out there who will be much more pleasing than this guy and you can free up your schedule in order to have time to meet them.

    1. I have been with a woman who needed her own specific vibrator, used on herself, to achieve orgasm (this was something that had been the case for her for many years, with various partners.)

      Did I dismissively tell her that she could “take care of herself,” or not bother to make a sexual effort because I felt like my work would be wasted? HELL NO!!!

      She was a delight in bed, she very much enjoyed all the things we did together, nothing was “wasted” if she didn’t achieve orgasm from it (because it all still FELT GOOD for her), and when she was ready to come, it’s very sexy (I’m told, and I have also experienced, being a ladyperson myself) to have a partner wrapped around you, kissing your shoulders and touching your body and murmuring in your ear, while you get yourself off with a vibrator.

      So — even if he felt like NOTHING he was doing could cause you to have an orgasm (and that’s not true, and you’ve clearly used your words as to the things he CAN do to give you an orgasm), he could still have brought up the vibrator in a collaborative, sexy way . . . rather than making it sound like you could “just take care of yourself” so that he didn’t have to make an effort.

      LW, you *deserve* partners who think you’re worth a sexual effort, whether or not PIV sex is EVER on the table. Period.

      I think this is something you may be able to talk out with Jack — but if he’s resistant, it seems like this might be a better platonic friendship (or a romantic-but-nonsexual relationship), rather than a sexual relationship that continually leaves you frustrated.

  14. Ho boy, been there, done that (albeit without the poly angle). I dated a guy for 18 months because he was lovely & I trusted him absolutely (a really big deal for me) – sex went from ok, considering we were both long-term single & had to adjust to doing it with someone else, to 2 minutes of dry thrusting. (I have my own MH issues which got in the way of speaking up or getting out earlier). The relationship went from being one that made me feel that maybe I *wasn’t* undateable, to one where I felt even more repellent than before. I’ve described feeling like a self-cleaning fleshlight before, and that’s about as accurate as I can get.

    If you’ve already tried to talk and nothing’s come of it, leave. It’s not worth the effect it’ll have on your self-image, otherwise. I’m *so* glad I split up with S when I did, because it was early enough that we still get along with each other, and I still trust him enough to have a spare key to my house; he’s a lovely bloke, just not partner material. If I’d had much more of the hump-and-roll-off sex, that wouldn’t be the case now.

    All the best 🙂

  15. Several thoughts kind of at random about the relationship:

    I know, speaking as a person with chronic depression who’s been on SSRI’s with Tricyclics for 15 years, sometimes sex just isn’t on the radar, and possibly it’s a lot of (mental) work for Jack to get up the enthusiasm as well as an erection. For me, a lot of the time it’s a relief that DH has libido problems of his own (heart meds). If it’s Jack’s depression *and* the SSRI side effects he may not have the reserves to give you the focus you deserve in your shared sexytimes.

    And… along similar lines to Redcat’s post above i.e. how would you advise a friend who asked _ you _ this question, how do you think Jack would react if you reversed the situation and said “husband gives me an orgasm every time we’re together (so why can’t you manage it)”…? Would he be offended? Would he object to the inclusion of an “other” to his and your space? Would he pick up his game? It’s a bit passive aggressive so I’m not actually recommending you do this!

    Or, another thing – is your partnership with Jack pursued purely for the sex? I mean, if you were satisfied with/by another sexual partner would ‘just cuddles’ with Jack be worthwhile because he’s also an interesting/fun guy, or would he be out the door?

    1. This is possibly I might consider trying to make it work anyways. Sometimes, even if we know we’re depressed, we’re not always aware of how it’s affecting us. I think, IF LW wants to, it would be fair to ask him if his depression is causing him to not have the energy to put into sex with LW. It still might be time to end it, depending on how it goes from there, but if he’s up for discussing how to change that and makes a real attempt to do so, especially after taking his depression into account, MAYBE it would be worth trying more. But honestly, even if it IS his depression getting in the way, it sounds like it isn’t working out all that well.

    2. I noticed LW’s emphasis on sexual fulfillment, too. LW, I’m writing from my cloistered one-woman Fortress of Solitude that has remained secure from outside forces for several years now and therefore have only secondhand knowledge of any dating at all, mono or poly, but I can’t help suspecting that “poly guy who is interested in a purely (or at least primarily) sexual relationship” is a search string that’s going to turn up a non-zero number of results. That is to say, if you’re with Jack mainly to get your rocks off (which was the impression I got from your letter; feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), there are doubtlessly other, and better, guys in your area who would be happy to get their rocks off with you. If you and Jack still like each other as cuddle buddies after you’ve met someone more sexually compatible, great! If not…well, sexual compatibility is a priority for you, but it doesn’t sound like it’s one Jack can meet.

    1. Yeah. LW, I don’t think Jack wants to be in a sexual relationship with you. Maybe he fancies you, maybe he likes the idea of having sex with you, but in practice, he doesn’t want to have sec with you enough to put in the effort or expense or something to actually make it fun for you.

      I’m trying to think – if you did, in fact, convince him to properly have sex with you, because, I don’t know, he likes hanging out with you and you persuaded him that the only way he got to hang out with you was if he put the effort into sex, would that be ok? Because three months in, I think
      I’d only want to have sex with someone who didn’t need to be persuaded to have sex with me!

    2. The other thing I noticed was bring the vibe ‘to help myself out’.

      So… he’s not even going to use the vibe on you?

      Like, I love toys. Toys are great. But it’s not even like ‘hey hon, bring along your vibe, lie back and enjoy yourself while I stroke you and drive you to the brink with your toy’.

    3. No kidding. If he can’t be bothered to make sure you are satisfied, then you don’t have any reason to worry about whether or not he’s satisfied, either. He’s just being a jerk at that point. Being solely worried about his own needs is NOT a sign of a good guy. If he wants to just focus on his own needs without worrying about a partner – well, that’s what his own hand is for, isn’t it? He doesn’t need to drag you into what are essentially masturbation sessions. You deserve satisfaction, and if he’s not willing to put an effort into it, then he doesn’t deserve the effort in return.

  16. I am looking really hard for the good side of this relationship.

    I cannot find one.

    Even without the issues that splash over from his marriage/infertility, he would be a shitty boyfriend. He’s lazy. He’s inconsiderate. He doesn’t put you first when he’s with you. He doesn’t seem to care whether you feel loved or enjoy the sex. I thought boyfriends were supposed to like you enough to make you feel good.

    Take this guy off of your boyfriend roster and back on the “guy I used to sleep with and it didn’t work out” list.

  17. It’s totally possible that Jack just doesn’t have the mental energy for another sexual relationship right now. In which case, he shouldn’t have started another sexual relationship. That’s on him, LW, not on you.

    You deserve better, and three months should be happy shiny NRE time. If it isn’t, I suggest you put your energy elsewhere.

    1. “You deserve better, and three months should be happy shiny NRE time.”


  18. My dear LW, I am so sorry. My honest opinion is that (1) Jack is not trying in bed, and (2) he is unwilling to communicate with you.

    I’ve had allllllll the fertility problems and I could write a giant comment (and did! and then deleted it because it’s not relevant! but still!) about all the things that could be going on here but honestly it doesn’t matter because this shouldn’t be your circus to sort out! Whatever is going on with Jack and Jill and Jack’s penis, he should be telling you like an adult, using his adult words. You deserve honesty and open communication about what he wants to do with you, what he can do with you, what he can’t do right now with you but would like to do later, etc. I see how clearly you’ve communicated yourself in your letter and I’m angry for you that he won’t speak to you as openly as you deserve.

    One teeny-tiny fertility thing I will add, and only because I worry for you: I am very very bristling at the fact that he allows you to give him what I presume are ejaculatory orgasms through oral, manual, prostate, etc. stimulation. Not only is that work that you’re doing (and which he is not reciprocating), but IF he’s been asked by Jill to save his blue pills for procreative sex (and AGAIN, that’s something HE needs to be telling YOU, not YOU having to coax out of HIM), then honestly he should be saving his ejaculate as well. (I’m not being sarcastic; there are actual good reasons for this, but I’m restraining myself from wall-o-texting at you about a fertility problem that you shouldn’t be forced to manage. I just bring it up because this guy smells whiffy on my manipulation-o-tron detector.)

    Take care of yourself. You deserve good things and hot orgasms and bad boys who are good in bed.

    1. Poly person here, who’s been involved in a lot of poly relationships, is on SSRIs, and this is sounding hinky to me.

      I carry what I learn from one relationship to another, but I would not mention where I learned something. “One of my partners likes it when I do this… how do you feel about it?” is as close as I get, and without naming the partner. Comparing partners openly is the fastest way to poly dysfunction I know, seriously.

      The SSRIs… yeah, sometimes I am not feeling it. I changed meds a year ago and my sex drive went away completely. About three months ago, another med was added into the mix, and BOOM back it came! During that time, though, I would happily hold my partners and assist as much as I had spoons to assist and then cuddle after, so we still had the intimacy. That happened to be enough to meet their needs. It sounds to me like the snuggles alone aren’t meeting *your* needs, and THAT IS OK. So maybe he needs a different med combo, or maybe he just needs to muster it up to be less lazy. But your needs matter, and the vibrator thing… no. Just no.

      “IF he’s been asked by Jill to save his blue pills for procreative sex (and AGAIN, that’s something HE needs to be telling YOU, not YOU having to coax out of HIM), then honestly he should be saving his ejaculate as well.”

      One of my partners was assisting a trans family with their fertility stuff, and LW, we did not have ejaculative sex the week before her fertile time so he could “save up.” So seconding Anamardoll here – that raised my eyebrows as well, FWIW.

      “Take care of yourself. You deserve good things and hot orgasms and bad boys who are good in bed.”

      YESNESS. All of this. Good luck, LW!

  19. It would be a lot easier once the term “boyfriend” is taken off the table and replaced with “guy I sometimes hook up with when we both feel in the mood.”

    I get it: you like him, you like hanging out with him (and his wife), and you feel like you met someone you connect with. The thing is, he isn’t invested in things with you the way that you are with him. Sex is important, and *how* someone relates to their partner about entire umbrella of sexual experiences says so much about how the relationship is. And Jack, well, it isn’t the performance issues. It’s how he deflects and excuses your needs and desires and concerns.

    Seriously, I do have some sympathy for him. SSRIs are no fun, and they shut down urges. And, my husband and I have gone through fertility issue. It isn’t just a matter of a blue pill: fertility treatments *kill* sex drives. There is no having sex for fun anymore. Everything is about procreating (not sexy), and so much has to be on a hard, no-wiggle room schedule. It isn’t “guys just have to squirt and be done”; there’s it has to be done this way, at this time, in this place, and that’s completely disregarding supporting his partner, who is having all of the scheduling crap + hormones and the emotional rollercoaster.

    The thing is, though, fertility treatments don’t leave room in one’s life for anything other than that. I completely agree with what Solestria, in a comment right above mine right now, says: “Jack doesn’t have the mental energy for another sexual relationship right now…and he shouldn’t have started [one]. That’s on him, LW, not on you.”

    “Boyfriend” is a term that comes laden with a number of hidden interactive traits. There’s at least medium-term expectations of a future in there, with all the shared experiences and “do we care about the same things the same way” and how do we navigate as a couple. Poly adds a whole nother dimension to that, because each person, whether they are romantically entangled or not, still interact, so it becomes a spider web of relationships. It can be a strength and a burden depending on how it goes.

    But Jack isn’t in a place where he can be a boyfriend. You can still have him as a friend. You might be able to negotiate a friend with benefits. But if sex is a problem area 3 months in, it isn’t going to be better later. Lack of communication, lack of consideration, and dismissal of important issues in a relationship? Time doesn’t improve that one. Bad lovers can improve with practice and patience and learning techniques. But people who don’t care enough to try aren’t bad lovers; they are bad partners.

    You and your husband have a whole world out there of people you can date, ones that will be enthusiastic and excited and filled with as much happy sexy appreciation out there as you can handle. It isn’t worth investing in this Jack relationship when you can still have most of what you want (hanging out, doing activities, etc.) if you reimagine this as a more casual relationship than a locked-in traditional one.

  20. I wonder if there IS a possible good solution here.

    In my experience, I’ve had sex partners who got off on the things that got me off as well. So the process of giving my body what it wanted simultaneously gave my partner’s body what it wanted. I’ve also had sex partners where we couldn’t push each other’s buttons simultaneously, but I enjoyed both sides of things. Even if my body wasn’t getting the kind of stimulus that would lead to orgasm, it was an activity that I enjoyed and wanted to do. And their orgasm was something I wanted to help happen.

    It seems to me that if Jack wanted the things that got you off, you wouldn’t be so sadly orgasm-less, right? You’ve already explained what you want, so it’s not ignorance on his part. And if he doesn’t want to do what gets you off, then the best case scenario is that he’s convinced to do what you need for other reasons? That seems…less than ideal to me.

  21. You know what makes someone a good lover in my books? Someone who takes as much pleasure in making their partner feel good as they take from their own actual orgasms. They actively seek to find out and get good at the thing(s) that makes their partner feel amazing because satisfying their partner is a wonderful fulfilling feeling for them. Those people, of all sexes and genders, are out there and sleeping with them is fantastic and sensual and fulfilling.

    Jack, at least right now, is not one of those people. It may not be all because he’s sexually lazy and selfish – maybe he’s embarrassed about his erectile issues and inability to bring you to orgasm, or maybe his previous partners all minimized their needs and faked orgasms to spare his feelings and he honestly has no idea what he’s doing. But the reason doesn’t really matter. The end result is that he’s a bad lover. Not just because lack of skill, but because he’s rejected specific info about how to be better. It’s not a priority for him right now. You’re not a priority. And that’s not sexy!

    It sounds like sex is the primary reason you’re in this relationship, and I doubt you’re going to get good sex anytime soon. If Jack had the right attitude and some sort of temporary problem (e.g. depression making sexytimes anxiety-inducing) that’d be one thing. But since his attitude is the problem, you’re probably out of luck.

    My advice is that Jack will make a better friend than lover. Hang out with him, get all the fun clothes-on time you’re currently enjoying, and find another lover.

  22. Trying to concieve under serious pressure is hellish. It is possible that at this point the mental association of “expensive efforts to conceive -> blue pill -> PIV -> spend 2 weeks trying to pretend you’re not obsessively monitoring for signs of conception” has just made the whole thing Not A Lot Of Fun for Jack right now.

    But honestly, from your perspective, it doesn’t matter whether he’s a temporary jerk in bed or a habitual jerk in bed.

    What matters is that he’s not doing the things you like, having been told what they are, and he doesn’t seem like he wants to.

    He wants some nice low-stress low-effort sex as a break from babymaking, and I sympathise a bit but he needs to find someone who gets off on what he’s got to give for that to work.

    You are not that person.

    So, yes, you can sit him down ONCE and say bluntly that if you’re not going to enjoy sex you don’t want to have it, which is it going to be? But it doesn’t sound promising.

    It’s probably time to say, perhaps not *exactly* in the immortal words of Wayne County and the Electric Chairs, “If You Don’t Want to Fuck Me, Baby, Fuck Off.”

  23. Let me make it clear that I am NOT defending Jack’s selfish and rude behaviour, because that’s what I think it is. But…

    Trying to conceive is stressful and hard, much more so if your partner is visibly stressed and worried about it. Sex becomes this thing you have to do at particular times. It can start feeling like a chore. Doing that with Jill and then going off and having sex with someone else may be…unappealing to him. On top of that, getting an erection because he’s taken a pill that gives him one doesn’t necessarily mean he FEELS horny if his meds have messed up his libido. So if he feels that he only has a certain amount of sexytimes in him, I can sort of understand if he feels he needs to save that for Jill. HOWEVER, I think he is being kind of a jerk about it, especially if he is expecting you to give him orgasms orally but not reciprocating. If he was using his words and telling you that trying to conceive was stressful and sex was something he was finding difficult AND asking you about how else he could meet your needs, that would be different.

    I wonder if this is just not a great time for you and Jack to be together. Perhaps it would be better for Jack to cool things off with you while he’s concentrating on trying to conceive. But I’m just speculating and it might not be great to leave each other hanging, either. So I agree with most other commenters. I don’t think Jack is what you need right now and I’d get out of there if I were you.

  24. Firmly agreeing with everyone saying that you don’t have a “partner is bad at ~particular sex act(s)~ ” problem but a “partner doesn’t seem interested or invested in your pleasure” problem.

    My boyfriend and I are both disabled, I’m trans and he literally physically can’t do many of the things I could tell him I definitely liked – including my absolute favourite. I can’t physically do some of the things he likes. AND we’re both a bit shy and awkward and I have mental health problems which affect my sex life… But we have a great sex life because we both talked about it many times, made time to talk about it *when sex was not imminent* and talk during sex as well. He has learned a lot,thought a lot, asked me questions, tried out things he thinks I might like… basically he’s put the effort in. And my boyfriend did that when faced with my near-complete lack of knowledge of what I want!

    LW, you are being really clear with this guy and telling him what to do and he’s not doing it and he’s not communicating with you about *why* (assuming there is a reason) nor is he suggesting fun things to try instead (suggesting you sort yourself out doesn’t count, esp. if he hasn’t offered to hold you and kiss you while you do). You are making all the effort here LW! He is making what sounds like ZERO effort and that makes me angry on your behalf!

    I went into my relationship with my boyfriend with the idea that my sex life might not be great because of my nonstandard body and traumatised brain and difficulties understanding and stating my own needs. With an attentive, caring partner, these difficulties didn’t impede my sex life *because my boyfriend puts effort into learning what works for us both*.

    *brb dying of blushing cos I’m talking about sex that involves me*

  25. You know, LW, even if this were a primary relationship, it would be perfectly okay for your sex life to be a big deal to how that relationship was going. You don’t have to apologize for caring about it and excuse it with it being a secondary relationship. If having good sex in a relationship is important to you, then it is, the end.

  26. My suggestion as a poly person… it sounds like you’ve done all you can to get this guy to put in his share, and he isn’t. If you don’t want to break up with him and you’re hoping that once the fertility stuff straightens out/med adjustments/whatever he’ll be a better partner (… possibly?) then maybe it’s just time to move him way down your dance card. Spend your own time and energy finding a partner who does give you those tingles. You can tell him it’s a break, you can break up, you can say “I’d like to stay friends but stop having sex,” or you can just have sex way less often… whatever works for you. But you deserve better and I have a feeling once you find it, you’ll know it.

    1. There’s a thing that often happens with poly people where there’s pressure, whether internally or externally, not to ever break up with anyone because “being poly means we can just find what we need elsewhere whilst maintaining this current dreadful black hole of time and energy”, and that is how you end up with the Relationship Broken; Add More People poly bingo square.

      If the goal of your secondary r’ship is sex, LW, and you are not having good sex with this dude, I’d just end it. Don’t fall into the trap of “poly means never breaking up”–in pursuit of an “absence of drama”, you can end up with a backlog of basically over relationships sucking all your energy.

      1. I think it depends on your style of polyamory and the crowd you run with. I’m an allosexual aromantic, and I describe all my relationships as friends with benefits, so a lot of the time for me it’s fine to just… see someone less often, and maybe hook up later if we’re feeling it. I guess I just thought that maybe the slow fade would make things seem less fraught, and if Jack reacts to the fade badly, well, that’s more evidence for breaking up.

        But it’s also true that dating doesn’t necessarily mean having sex with someone, and if there are many good things about Jack which are getting overshadowed by how much of a dick he’s being around sex, maybe taking sex off the table would make the dating go better. If “the relationship is great”, as LW says, and she really likes Jack and Jill, then maybe seeing him once in a blue moon would be a better fit. Maybe he’s a sometimes date, as some people are sometimes friends. I just wanted to raise the possibility of more options, since that’s kind of the point of non-monogamy. Sure, avoiding breakups to the point of having an endless number of “technically not broken up with” partners you have to think about is bad, for so many reasons. But rejiggering your romantic and sexual relationships when situations change is one of the strengths of being poly. I mean, there are a lot of ifs in there–if this is something LW wants to do being the BIG one–but it’s a possibility.

        Also, if the LW goes “Let’s make this a once-a-month date thing” and comes back in a month, it might be time enough and perspective enough to make a bigger decision, like “Let’s break up.” *shrug* Sometimes we need that perspective.

    2. One thing I keep thinking is that “the fertility stuff straightens out” = “new baby for Jack and Jill” and even aside from everything else, won’t that make for at least a year or so of exhaustion and being absorbed in the new-babyness of the new baby? Most of my friends who’ve had kids in the last couple years are just barely coming up for air and starting to low-key socialize again around the one-year mark—I can’t imagine any of the new mothers or fathers in my social circle having the time, energy, or inclination to maintain a whole ‘nother romantic/sexual relationship on top of parenting an infant. (…I guess I should qualify that with an “as far as I know.” Who knows what they get up to when I’m not around?)

      So even if the fertility stuff works out and that particular stressor is relieved, I can’t see how New Dad Jack will suddenly have the time, energy, and resources to be a decent partner to the LW. …at least not for quite a while.

      1. Being in a new-ish (we’d been together about a year) triad while with a newborn was rather nice imo. When Baby woke up in the middle of sexytimes I could go nurse and by the time I got back my gentlemen would be done with each other and thus relaxed and ready to focus on me. 🙂

    1. WordPress can be a real jerk about that. I’d recommend a completely new email address either without any gravatar or with an anonymous picture set up. Using a new name with your normal email address will cause your picture to show up. WordPress might also show a picture if you use an email address that’s attached to another wordpress account, so I recommend a completely new email address you’ve never used anywhere if you want to be anonymous. /Insert rant here about the white cis male monoculture of programmers and designers not understanding that sometimes people want or need to be anonymous.

  27. LW, I’m fairly sure this relationship is not going to work, and it’s not because of anything to do with you.

    Jack has no business being in a secondary relationship right now. He and his wife are going through fertility treatments and they’ve almost hit the end of them, regardless of how that works out. As others have pointed out, fertility treatments take a lot out of people and sex can often stop being fun. If the fertility treatments work, Jack will have a pregnant wife and then a new baby. If they don’t work, he and his wife will need to decide together what to do next, a decision with a lot of emotional weight. And all that before getting into his depression, the SSRI’s, and the Viagra.

    There just isn’t room in the picture for a brand new secondary relationship. While I’m sure he has good qualities, from what you put in your letter he’s not acting like someone who wants to be in a relationship with you. He likes you, and he likes the idea of a secondary relationship but he doesn’t have the energy to maintain one.

    One of the many reasons I avoid the poly scene despite preferring non-monogamy is the idea that you have to be in multiple relationships to “count” as poly. That’s not how it works.

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