Wife craves intercourse, husband has PE

Men with PE often have supportive and understanding partners. But are partners neglecting their own sexual needs?

Jason Dean therapist in the therapy room

Some men (very reluctantly) give up on intercourse

And who can blame them, when the problem of premature ejaculation strikes every single time they have sex?

They try to meet their partner’s needs with oral or manual stimulation. It’s not optimal, but less exhausting and demoralising than constantly failing to last longer.

And of course, this has huge implications for partners.

Advice from a leading sex therapist

I saw a letter in the sex advice column in the Guardian, from a women who’s been with her husband for 24 years. She desires penetrative sex, but they’ve always had to work around his PE.

He’d seen a doctor, tried medication and it didn’t make any difference. That’s quite common. SSRI meds can have a prolonging effect but not for everyone.

“We accepted that it’s just how he’s wired” she said.

But she also feels guilty for craving more, and fantasising about having an affair, and expecting him to accept her needs. Really difficult for her because she loves her husband – hence writing to an advice column.

And the expert, famous therapist Pamela Stephenson Connolly, gives quite a direct reply. It’s a shame you never tried sex therapy, she says, because early ejaculation is treatable.

Your husband can be taught to identify and control his sexual responses as he approaches his orgasmic threshold” she wrote.

And a therapist can help both of you find helpful positions to help with duration.”

So the message is: it’s not too late to sort this, go and see a therapist.

This therapist agrees, but…

To men who’ve struggled with long-term early ejaculation, I know how glib these kind of answers can sound. Anyone who says “oh PE is really easy to fix, you know” hasn’t had persistent PE.

This husband, married 24 years, has probably tried more than just pills. Positions, relaxation, clenching, thinking of his grandmother – of course he has.

So what’s a therapist going to come up with that he hasn’t tried already?

Well a few things, ideally.

A careful assessment. Early ejaculation has different causes: our relationship, our biology and by the time it becomes a problem, definitely psychological aspects too.

So we need to be asking the right questions, and we might not get the treatment right first time. So a therapist brings insight and realistic next steps.

And as a therapist, I’m here to tell you that progress can be slow.

Self-training, maybe using a device. Gradual exposure to the sensations of penetration. Getting used to that balance of arousal and excitement. It’s an iterative project.

Gains might be a few more seconds or strokes at a time.

Progress isn’t linear either. We’re tired, or we’re super-horny, or it’s a full moon and we come quickly and it feels disappointing. It’s happens sometimes and we need to accept that. 

Sexual skills need upkeep too. If we’re wired to come sooner, that’s our default mode and the problem of PE can creep up on us again. But that’s ok – we consciously use our skills again.

Overcoming PE isn’t a one-time fix for most men.

In the meantime, keep enjoying sex

There’s a lot to be said for what this couple did. They found ways to enjoy sex anyway, with less emphasis on intercourse. That’s absolutely the right thing for a couple to do.

But it’s an opportunity too. With the pressure lifted, we can realistically work on our sexual skills.

Did the husband recognise this? Maybe he tried, we don’t know. But I wonder if he lost the motivation, and the couple just resigned themselves to sex in this adapted way.

Do both: keep enjoying sex, but get informed and work on early ejaculation too. With your partner on board as much as possible. You’re still having sex so there’s no rush or panic here.

Discover your partner’s needs

We can all empathise with the wife too. She was loving and supportive and told her husband not to stress over his performance. And for many partners, that’s exactly how they feel.

There’s a really unhelpful narrative that if you have PE, your wife or girlfriend will leave or cheat on you. It’s a scare tactic used to sell courses and stamina products.

Remember that a high proportion of women don’t reach orgasm through penetrative sex, or they prefer a couple of minutes rather than marathon pounding sessions.

But this partner did miss intercourse, increasingly so. So there’s that opportunity for the couple to work together, rather than her secretly wishing things were different.

There’s a balance between protecting a guy’s feelings and feeling resentful and stuck. A supportive conversation is what couples in this situation need.

It’s a common situation so I hope this adds a bit of practicality to the general advice.

Yes PE can be effectively treated, with a therapist or with self-help and the right resources.

Yes a lot of guys ARE wired to come sooner, and plenty of women are wired to enjoy intercourse too.

There’s plenty that couples can do to overcome this. Work around the issue by all means, but don’t avoid working on the issue too.

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2 responses

  1. I read the column/letter at the time, and there were a number of things about it that I found particularly troubling/upsetting.
    1. The wife in question said that – given that her husband had tried everything and nothing had worked – she should be able to find a man who could satisfy her need for longer-lasting penetrative sex, and that – given her husband’s inadequacy – her husband should “allow” her to do so because she had a right to a satisfying sex life. So *nothing* worked. Nothing. To the point where a – presumably – loving wife has been driven to want physical release/relief from elsewhere. Great… that kind of plugs directly into the fears of pretty much any man who feels completely inadequate because of PE.

    2. Pamela Stephenson Connolly, once again (and she has done this on several occasions: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/apr/26/familyandrelationships + https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/may/14/tried-everything-to-cure-premature-ejaculation) dismisses PE as a simple condition/issue that is easy to fix. The way she writes about it, to me at least, seems to demonstrate a total misunderstanding of what a person who suffers from PE experiences. Again.
    This isn’t my experience, nor do I find it helpful (in fact, i find it extremely hurtful) for it to be dismissed by her so glibly, as though I could just masturbate differently or be more aware of certain cues. Tried all of that. It doesn’t work – or maybe, as PCS has implied over the years, that I’m just not trying hard enough to fix a simple problem.

    I find myself feeling convinced that – given the experience of the couple in that letter; the dismissive response of PSC; the millions of snake oil merchants online selling $100 to $1000+ courses; and the years and years of R&D into treatments and medicines, etc into PE – that we’re no closer to getting any kind of effective treatment/solution.
    I believe that, sadly, some of us are just still wired up, sexually, as we were back in the days when we lived in caves; it’s in our DNA, and there’s nothing that we – or anyone – can do about it. And I think that letter in the Guradian pretty much backs up my fears/beliefs, both in terms of the person who wrote in and the response by PCS.

    1. That’s an insightful reply, Simon – thank you.

      Over the years that I’ve worked with PE – training, researching, delivering therapy, collaborating with medical professionals and manufacturers – my take on the feasibility of a PE solution has always been in flux.

      I’ve always had an awareness of the genetic/fixed aspect of lifelong PE. That’s become more inscribed in my work if anything.

      But my optimism has generally increased, at least in terms of our potential to influence the condition.

      I’m aware that any wavering is also a direct result of working in therapy. I witness a guy make real, significant improvements in his confidence and ability to enjoy intercourse for longer and I’m fired up and positive – the solution is out there!

      Then I’ll have a succession of clients who don’t make any significant progress and I can’t help feeling more fatalistic and limited. Any therapist will relate to this shifting experience and the self-doubt that comes with it.

      So I’ve always tried to set realistic expectations in my work and content. It’s not a strong selling point, I know. I’ll never have the income stream of a “secret method you can implement tonight!” product. Of such books and courses, I share the same opinion as you 🙂

      But I do maintain the belief that a ‘solution’ isn’t necessary. We can find ways to counterbalance our deep, complex innate wiring. Breathing, movement, positions, cognitive focus, even paradoxical experiments. And there’s a place for medication and gadgets, though I still advocate more organic approaches first.

      And in our relationships too, of course. Often there’s a real limit to how much the guy can achieve on his own and we need to get his partner into the therapy room with him. Again, this is a hard sell to most men.

      Above all, we’re trying to find the balance between “you can do this, don’t get complacent” and “it matters less if you can’t do this, because you can find sexual satisfaction in many other ways”. Such an integral part of therapy, for pretty much all anxiety, performance and self-esteem-draining conditions is addressing black/white thinking.

      Anyway – I digress 🙂 Completely agree with you about glib therapist advice, from those who have clearly never experienced PE, deliberately mislead to sell products or are just too optimistic!

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