Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Your Turn: He Gives Me the Silent Treatment… in Bed

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

My boyfriend of one year is fantastic. We have the same sense of humor, get along famously, and are very happy together. Our sex life is also really great. He never disappoints in the bedroom. However! (There’s always a ‘however,’ isn’t there?) He is not at all comfortable talking about sex, and sometimes even seems nervous about initiating it. I am always the one to ask questions, and, when I do, he will give the vaguest answer he can. He’s uncomfortable naming specific parts of the body, either with technical terms or slang. We’re both in our late twenties, and sex is nothing new to either of us.

On the opposite side of things, I love to talk about sex! I’m very interested in it, and I would like to know exactly what turns him on. I also like to specify my own preferences. However, his obvious discomfort with the subject is causing me to become quiet as well. In the beginning I would tell him what felt good or what I’d like to try, only to be met with uncomfortable silence. It’s not that he’s not open to those things (he definitely takes note of my requests), but the silence makes me feel dumb for talking about it.

I’m not sure what I can do to encourage more communication. We have talked about it a few times and he has said that he tries, but he never has anything to add or ask. He’s also mentioned that he’s uncomfortable talking about it because he’s just not used to talking about it. I have tried asking him what feels best while in the moment, and I have also tried asking him questions casually while we are not in a sexual situation. I get the same types of responses both times. I also compliment him often on his performance, to try and instill more well-deserved self-confidence.

What can I do to put him at ease? Do you think he will ever be comfortable opening up, or should I just get used to it? — Not Enjoying The Silence

85 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Taylor August 1, 2012, 9:05 am

    LW, it sounds like you’re doing all the right things! I think continue doing what you’re doing, maybe it will loosen him up. If he responds to it in actions, then he is listening 🙂

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  • Budj

    Budj August 1, 2012, 9:13 am

    It’s also possible he’s a guy that kind of likes to be directed and told what to do? haha You could try telling him what you want him to do with you, etc.

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    • avatar

      MsMisery August 1, 2012, 1:54 pm

      Heh, maybe instead of the gentle approach, she needs to try the riding-crop approach. DO THIS OR ELSE.

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  • avatar

    bethany August 1, 2012, 9:19 am

    Have a 50 Shades of Grey boook club with him!

    Seriously, I just read that book, and gave my husband a vague idea of what it’s about, and suddenly we’re talking about all kinds of stuff we weren’t before. Half of the time we’re just being silly, but we’re both talking about stuff that we probably wouldn’t have before!

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  • katie

    katie August 1, 2012, 9:30 am

    a guy giving you a blank stare after you tell him stuff? wow. welcome to my world. haha, i kid, but really. my boyfriend does that with everything… and he always just says exactly what yours says- he doesnt have anything to add or to say. that is very difficult for me, because i can really talk about anything for a long period of time… i dont think ive ever had the situation arise where i literally had nothing to say to someone who just said something to me. its weird.

    honestly, i would just keep talking about sex the way you want to. he is obviously listening, if he takes what you say into account… and he isnt uncomfortable about the act of sex, just talking about it, right? i dont see that as a huge issue. i mean, annoying, yes, but so is my boyfriend when i try to tell him about the awesome rebuttal i gave some person on facebook when we were debating about gay marriage.

    personally, i think the only way that he will open up is if you just keep going with it as if it is life in general. dont let his silence on the matter effect you. so if you want to talk about how awesome that latest move was that he did, tell him. and then be met with a blank stare, smile, and leave it at that. and then, have great sex talks with other people so that you can get that need met, if that is indeed a need for you.

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    • avatar

      LW August 1, 2012, 2:08 pm

      Haha, yes, guys aren’t known for being communicative. However, he can talk about his feelings and things like that. It’s just this particular issue that gets the deer-in-the-headlights stare every time.

      Several people have said that this may not be a big issue. I agree to a point. It’s definitely not a deal breaker or anything that’s messing up things right now, but I am in this for the longest of hauls, and I want to make sure that we don’t start down a path where he might have things he wants to say but can’t and I feel censored.

      Thanks for the feedback!

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      • katie

        katie August 1, 2012, 2:18 pm

        him not telling you things just because he is uncomfortable would be the worst case senario for sure.

        i think you just need to create the enviornment for him to be comfortable. so talk about sex, and just let him exist in that enviornment. then, hopefully, if he ever does have an urge or a problem or something that he wants to tell you, that enviornment will still be there for him.

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  • avatar

    kerrycontrary August 1, 2012, 9:31 am

    Hm…I mean he’s listening to your directions in bed, and you have a good sex life. I don’t want to say that your issue is a non-issue, but as long as he doesn’t suck in bed and he is having a good time as well this isn’t a huge deal. Some people just don’t like to talk about sex. Maybe their parents were prudes, maybe they had an embarrassing experience, but for whatever reason your boyfriend just doesn’t like to talk about sex. Maybe as you stay together longer he will get more comfortable, but this may just be who he is.

    Also, during the whole letter you ask how you can get him to change, but maybe you need to be a little more flexible as well? If he talks about sex more maybe you need to bring it up less often? And talk about some things with your friends as an alternative outlet.

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    • avatar

      MMcG August 1, 2012, 10:04 am

      I think you are onto something with the parents are prudes angle… some of us more progressive types (or folks who just happened to attend a school that knew sex/health education was more than just say no) can be very comfortable talking about our bodies and sexuality — but I think that comes from growing up in an environment where that type of communication was honest and encouraged. If you didn’t grow up with parents who could even have “the talk” much less ongoing age-appropriate conversation about reproductive health, or there were other negative messages from religious authorities or the community, then you might think of things as dirty or inappropriate when they really aren’t.

      LW – it sounds like your needs are being fulfilled for the most part, you just aren’t getting the response or feedback you are used to. Just try going slow… maybe asking some related questions about his upbringing or previous experiences (not the # or anything – just what type of communication he is used to in the sack) that may shed some light on the subject. Make sure you always reinforce what you like and if this is the only area where you SO has problems expressing himself I would say there’s lots of hope! He may just need help coming out of his shell or expressing thoughts and desires he’s been previously told are wrong.

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      • avatar

        Tanya August 1, 2012, 11:23 am

        I agree with both of you. The guy does what the LW asks and “never disappoints” in bed. You also get along “famously.” Maybe he’s just not the kind of person to (over)analyze all the details. Maybe he is shy when it comes to explicitly describing and commenting on a sex position, especially when you are actually doing it.

        I would have been worried if something was lakcing and you were trying to communicate with him, but this doesn’t seem to be the case so just let it go and just enjoy. Or like kerrycontrary says, maybe you should try adapting to him a little bit instead of trying to change something that isn’t really causing any issues (sex life issues, I mean).

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      • avatar

        Tanya August 1, 2012, 11:29 am

        Another thing I forgot to mention is that maybe he is perceiving the comments and discussions as if you are suggesting “improvements” to his performace and he might be feeling like you are not satisfied and that’s why you are saying something. This might explain why he responds to you with silence. People are different and you never know how someone perceives what you say.

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      • theattack

        theattack August 2, 2012, 3:07 am

        That’s a good point. It’s always good to start from a place of “oooh I loved when you did ____!! That was amazing, can we PLEASE do that more?”

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    • avatar

      LW August 1, 2012, 2:16 pm

      I never want to be in a relationship where I don’t feel like I can discuss a certain my feelings, emotions and thoughts with someone. He doesn’t want to be in a relationship like that either.

      The parents as prudes thing is absolutely valid. I love his parents to death, but they’re extremely reserved, so, you’re right.. It could be due to his upbringing.

      I have changed a bit. I used to be the first to crack dirty jokes or be suggestive, but I’ve completely toned that down out of respect for him. I don’t want to make him uncomfortable, and do my best not to. I also don’t hound him for information, I definitely try not to bring it up very often.

      To be clear, I don’t want to change him. I just want to gently encourage him to open up. I know that he has thoughts and opinions, and I want to hear them when he wants to share.

      Thanks for the feedback!

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      • LK7889

        LK7889 August 1, 2012, 2:44 pm

        Side story here: One of my very good friends married a guy much like your boyfriend. She was a lot like you describe yourself too- cracking dirty jokes and being suggestive. For the first year or so that they knew each other, every time she used to bring him to my house and alcohol was involved, her, my SO and I would start talking about sex very openly and he always would turn red and sort of stare at his knees. She said that he was like that with her for a long time too. I’m happy to report that he is now laughing along with us even if he doesn’t join in on the conversation. She says it took him about two years to open up with her. It took him about three years to start to open up with us. So there is hope yet!

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      • avatar

        MMcG August 1, 2012, 4:41 pm

        My only additional suggestion, which has worked for me with my fiance (not about sex but other difficult to discuss topics related to his upbringing) would be to consider writing thoughts/feelings/fantasies out and exchanging it (bring back some old school love letter writing) and/or reading from the script. Sometimes saying something out loud – such as body parts or positions which you’ve never even been able to say to your doctor – directly to someone, looking them straight in the eye can be really overwhelming for people. Writing it out and having the time to organize thoughts in advance… while not sexy… can be very helpful in getting past the anxiety and breaking out of the mold!

        Best of luck LW (and I am loving the responsiveness and ability to tailor recommendations with real time info!! :))

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    • avatar

      SiSisodaPop August 1, 2012, 7:19 pm

      The prudish parents were my first thought….because I had a very prudish single mother who NEVER talked to us about sex – other than, “don’t do it”. I had a very unhealthy attitude towards sex for a long time, and it was very difficult for me to learn to open up and be able to talk about it. I still clam up and feel shame/embarrassment sometimes when the subject comes up. When I first realized (with the help of the internet, and Dan Savage) that my sex education had been lacking (understatement) it gave me the push I needed to TRY to get more comfortable with the subject. I’ve learned to recognize that my personal reactions or not always “normal” or “healthy” though, and that helps me to refrain from projecting my issues onto my partner/relationship.

      LW – have you considered reading Savage Love with your boyfirend? That MIGHT help him the way it helped me – regardless of what his hangups are about openly communicating about sex. Just a thought.

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      • avatar

        SiSisodaPop August 1, 2012, 7:21 pm

        Or maybe suggest it to him to read himself, if you think that reading together would make him uncomfortable….

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      • avatar

        LW August 1, 2012, 10:39 pm

        I have never read it myself. I’ve never read much from Dan Savage, but I’ve liked what I know about him. That could be a good idea, though I’m not sure how to bring up the subject!

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  • Chicago-Dude

    Chicago-Dude August 1, 2012, 9:33 am

    Meh, my fiancee is reading 50 Shades of Grey, talks to me about it and we’re both not impressed (it’s nothing new, but simply repackaged for the white-suburban-mom types).
    It’s purely a woman’s fantasy (a rich, good looking guy who’s a good dom and wonderful in the sack – according to a virgin) that will most likely turn him off.
    Good idea to embark on a pseudo-fantasy journey with him, but def not 50SOG.

    My recommendation – read him your letter and let the conversation start there. Try to be patient and embrace the awkward silence moments – it’s after those that often, hidden/unspoken expectations come out.
    You got this, girl!

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    • avatar

      LW August 1, 2012, 2:19 pm

      Not meaning to offend anyone who likes the series, but my literary preference is very different from 50 Shades, So I agree on that front.

      However, the idea of sharing a fantasy is a great one.. and I’ve thought about sharing mine with him, but I get so shy because he’s shy. It’s contagious! I’m scared to open up since I don’t know what he’s thinking, I guess I’m afraid he’ll be weirded out.

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      • avatar

        Caris August 1, 2012, 8:13 pm

        Ask him to write whatever he is thinking down on a paper, maybe he’ll feel less shy that way

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle August 1, 2012, 9:34 am

    My current boyfriend was kind of like this when we first started dating. He’d been in a long-term relationship for most of his early twenties prior to dating me, & the girl was generally narrow-minded about sex, never talked about it, found certain aspects “gross” etc. So he was unaccostumed to being verbally open about sex.

    I’m also extremely open about sex & can relate to a lot of what you said, LW (I love talking about sex as a conversation topic, it’s interesting to me, I like finding out what turns people on, etc.) So anywayyy– this was kind of a shock to my boyfriend & it took him a little while to get comfortable discussing it himself. The first time he ever mentioned a body part (in the context of telling me a dream he had), he sort of lowered his voice & it came out awkwardly. Now he uses that word all the time (although I’m still trying to get him more comfortable with talking IN bed)

    Sorry to inject so much of my experience, but I just want to encourage you! My advice would be to keep doing what you’re doing & try to ignore his discomfort in order to talk as unself-consciously as you can. Like– if he gets the impression you’re only talking about sex because YOU like to, not because you’re prodding him to join, the effect might be that he feels comfortable enough to partake. Good luck 🙂

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    • Budj

      Budj August 1, 2012, 9:53 am

      Good point…past experience with s/o’s that make you feel bad about talking about it or give you a complex about being sexually open are hurdles to get over.

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    • avatar

      LW August 1, 2012, 2:23 pm

      I am so glad you shared your own experience! I was hoping that someone here would have a good outcome from this. You’re right. I guess I didn’t even consider the fact that he could have had a bad experience previously.

      Thanks!

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  • bagge72

    bagge72 August 1, 2012, 9:53 am

    LW, it really does seem like you are doing all of the right things, and this is something you have to keep up with no matter how uncomfortable it may make him feel, but you also need to talk to him, and tell how the silent treatment really makes you feel, and I bet he will open up a little more. The thing is you may have to have this conversation several times, because my experience with this type of person is that if you do have a talk with them, they will try for a little while, and then fall back to the same pattern so don’t get discouraged.
    I also don’t think your sex life is as great as you say it is, because this would be a non-issue if your sex life was really great, and he never dissappoints. What’s the point in writing this really, because to me that would mean he has been taking notes this whole time, and hitting all of the spots. So give him the best BJ ever, and then let him know that it made you super hot, and that you would love it if he…. right now to you

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    • avatar

      LW August 1, 2012, 2:29 pm

      I guess I’m afraid of having the conversation several times because I’ll feel like I’m nagging.

      Also, as far as the sex life not being great.. You’re onto something, but I didn’t lie. It is great, but it feels very reserved. If I knew more about what he liked and did not like, I’d be able to let go more and feel comfortable navigating his body. I’d also feel comfortable suggesting new things. The sex is still good without the new things. But I’d like to expand. Know what I mean?

      Thanks for the encouragement!

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  • avatar

    Leah August 1, 2012, 10:17 am

    It seems like there are two potential issues here. The first is that you’re naturally very verbal about sex and he isn’t. I think that’s a difference in compatibility that you can easily live with since, as you said, the sex itself is very good. If you had trouble having a good time with a non-verbal partner, I’m assuming you would have mentioned it! The larger problem is that he doesn’t respond and acts uncomfortable when you ask him questions. It’s perfectly okay for him to become uncomfortable in those situations and not want to respond, but the problem is that he’s letting that discomfort guide his actions. When he doesn’t answer or answers vaguely it makes you feel as though YOU’VE done something wrong and that isn’t fair.

    I would sit him down in a non-sexual setting and tell him how his lack of feedback makes you feel. He probably has no idea he’s been hurting your feelings because he’s so caught up in his own discomfort! Then, you should tell him that it’s okay for him to be uncomfortable but he needs to suck it up and be able to answer you when you ask him direct questions about sex! Once you get him to agree, start with the questions, and start SLOW! Like, ask him if what you’re doing feels good, yes or no, and DO NOT CONTINUE DOING IT until he gives you a verbal answer. Once he’s capable of consistently saying the word “yes”, follow up with “how much do you like that?” and force him to come up with some sort of original response. If he’s capable of putting together actual phrases like “that feels good” or “I like that a lot”, then you can move up forcing him to tell you what he wants. Like, “I’m going to get you off. Do you want me to use my mouth or my hand?” Hell, you can even try to get him to say the names of his parts by refusing to touch him until he verbally tells you, not pointing or guiding your hand, where he wants it.

    So, to review, tell him that he’s been hurting your feelings, get him to acknowledge his own discomfort and promise to start opening his damn mouth anyway, and then start with the easy questions. It will be a process, but for a fantastic boyfriend who’s good in bed, might be worth it!

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    • Kate B.

      Kate B August 1, 2012, 10:30 am

      This makes me a little uncomfortable. Why keep pushing the guy to talk? For whatever reason, he doesn’t like to. Not everybody is verbal. He should not have to suck anything up that makes him uncomfortable. He is obviously listening to what she tells him, so maybe she should adjust a little bit. Talk to friends about sex if she must, like kerrycontrary suggested.

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      • katie

        katie August 1, 2012, 10:50 am

        i think it depends on if this is relating specifically to talking about sex while doing sexy things (like dirty talk) or talking about sex just as it relates to a couples relationship, well-being, and general sex life.

        i think if he has problems talking about their sex life in general, he should be coaxed out of that. he should be able to be honest about his needs, what he likes, what is working, ect..

        however, if it is just dirty talk, i think that is not something that should be pushed. my boyfriend, for instance, really likes to talk, and i dont. thats not really an issue, and i would agree it would be kind of wrong to try to make him dirty talk if that really isnt something he is into.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle August 1, 2012, 10:58 am

        I think Leah’s suggestions & overall advice are both good, though– it’s turning it into a game. Maybe he wants to try but doesn’t know how to begin without feeling silly, in which case the question-and-answer thing could really work.

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      • avatar

        Leah August 1, 2012, 11:20 am

        I will admit that I think the boyfriend would be better off being able to work past his discomfort, and I based my advice on that. I don’t have such severe hang-ups about sex but I do have an anxiety-problem, and I can’t think of a single situation where holding onto that anxiety actually made me feel better! My advice was kind of like exposure therapy, where stressful things become less stressful after repetition.

        But Kate B is right. I worded my advice as if the LW needs to get him to make playful sex talk, and although I think he would actually feel better if he got to the point that he could, a better compromise might be to make the distinction that katie did and just be able to talk about more general wants and needs. I’m just not sure how you would make that distinction when he’s not comfortable talking about any of it!

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      • Kate B.

        Kate B. August 1, 2012, 11:53 am

        I really hate that word “should”. If he wants to change, then he will. If he doesn’t, who’s to say he’s wrong? He must instigate the change.

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      • avatar

        6napkinburger August 1, 2012, 12:47 pm

        See, I disagree that all changes must be from within. Sure, addicts and other things like that must come from within or they won’t last. But lots of therapies are based on pushing people outside of their comfort zone and realizing that they enjoy it there, or at least are not uncomfortable, which they would not know because they would never do it independently. I guess you could say that the decision to go to therapy was an independent change, but sometimes it isn’t (think anger management classes) and it can still be effective. It’s like Dan Savages GGG- good, giving and GAME. Here, its being willing to try the thing your partner wants, even if you don’t think you’ll like it or it makes you a little uncomfortable. It turns out you hate it, it’s ok if its off the table. It’s ok to “force”/push/tryto entice him to talk about sex more, even though he’s uncomfortable. IF he remains miserable, ok, but I see nothing wrong with pushing him out of his comfort zone.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle August 1, 2012, 2:25 pm

        “… its being willing to try the thing your partner wants, even if you don’t think you’ll like it or it makes you a little uncomfortable”

        This is the perspective I’m coming from, as well– they’re partners, if he’s truly uncomfortable once he is TRYING, or even being made to try, then sure. Off the table. But he might find it fun once he’s engaged in it. A lot of my current sexual proclivities came about because a past partner/partners nudged me out of that comfort zone.

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      • avatar

        MMcG August 1, 2012, 4:51 pm

        LW – may I suggest sharing Dan Savages column as some fairly passive exposure therapy!?! He can learn all about being safely GGG, while at the same time you can both share something “sexual” that doesn’t involve either of you. What better way to start a conversation then, “can you believe what XXX wrote about? I never even heard of such a thing!”

        Also, another aspect of this may be intimidation. Depending on his past experiences and upbringing he may be mistaking your comments for “expertise” which makes him feel inferior and less likely to respond because he doesn’t want to seem dumb or naive in comparison. Men and their egos…

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      • katie

        katie August 1, 2012, 1:01 pm

        well, from a pure talking about sex as it relates to your relationship, well being, and general sex life, yes i think that everyone should do that. i dont think there is a person on this earth who doesnt want to have some sort of opinion or choice or however you want to look at it when it comes to something like sex. its a very personal thing… and if he really wants her to do something, he most definitely should be ok saying it! or if he wishes they had sex less/more or whatever- he should be able to talk about sex with the person he is having sex with. thats normal and healthy. sure, it might take some coaxing to get him to be ok with it, but i cannot imagine a senario in which after the coaxing takes place and he is comfortable talk about it his life would be worse off for it.

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      • avatar

        savannah August 1, 2012, 11:34 am

        But she’s not having sex with her friends, she’s having sex with him. I don’t think she wants to gab with him about her sex adventures or the weird things her last boyfriend did to her. She’s trying to get the person she’s having sex with to be an active participate in *their* sex and for her (and i’d assume most people) part of that is a verbal conversation. Good sex requires good communication and while their sex is great now, if his inability to talk about their sex (not just sex sex) continues, it won’t be because it will affect how she comfortable she is in bed, its probably already affecting her demeanor in bed. If you can have sex you can talk about, at the very least with the person you are sexing it up with.

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      • Kate B.

        Kate B. August 1, 2012, 11:51 am

        But good communication is not necessarily verbal. If she feeling hurt by his lack of verbal communication, then by all means, talk about it. But if he prefers non-verbal cues when it comes to sex, then that’s okay. As long as it gets the point across, it works. To me, this falls under the compatibilty category. If she really wants someone who’s as verbal as she is, then this may not be the guy for her.

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      • Kate B.

        Kate B. August 1, 2012, 11:57 am

        If she feeling hurt by his lack of verbal communication, then by all means, talk about it. *that*. *sigh* Work is getting in the way again.

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    • avatar

      A guy August 1, 2012, 11:57 am

      “I would sit him down .. and tell him how his lack of feedback …. He …has no idea he’s been hurting your feelings because he’s so caught up in his own discomfort! Then, you should tell him … suck it up and … answer you when you ask him direct questions about sex! Once you get him to agree [um, does he get a vote?],… Once he’s capable of consistently saying the word “yes”, follow up with “how much do you like that?” and FORCE HIM [did you just bring non-consent into this?] to come up with some sort of original response. If he’s capable of putting together actual phrases like “that feels good” or “I like that a lot”, then you can move up FORCING HIM to tell you what he wants. Like, “I’m going to get you off. Do you want me to use my mouth or my hand?”

      So, to review, tell him that he’s been hurting your feelings, get him to acknowledge his own discomfort and promise to start opening his damn mouth anyway, and then start with the easy questions.”

      Um, if the boyfriend is not into sex being conducted this way, then this kind of strikes me as really, really bad advice. Flip the gender, gals, and do you want to be “sat down”, lectured about your bad conduct, and then be required to participate in sex acts that are geared toward getting you to comply with your man’s prior requests? With the result of no sex if you do not comply?

      WTF? Seriously, WTF? If you want to alienate a sex partner, this would be a high probability way to do it. Where is the fun? Where is the good stuff? This sounds like fantasy BDSM stuff, and that is fine for people into it, but if boyfriend isn’t, well, he isn’t, so don’t impose it on him without a LOT of prior consent conversations.

      -signed, a guy

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      • FireStar

        FireStar August 1, 2012, 1:45 pm

        I tend to agree. So she tells him not talking hurts her feeling – what if talking hurts his? Must he still speak? Or can we accept that people are not supposed to be exactly the same and just appreciate the whole package instead of trying to micromanage our partners into exactly what we want when we want it?

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      • avatar

        Leah August 1, 2012, 1:52 pm

        The thing is, when a partner is uncommunicative or vague about sex it’s not that they aren’t sending a message. They’re sending a negative message! If my bf told me he wanted to try something new and I refused to respond, or he asked if I liked something and I was non-committal and said something like “yeah… sure….”, I would be sending the implicit message that he’s a) bad in bad, or b) stupid for having asked. If I was making my bf feel that way I would ABSOLUTELY want him to sit me down and let me know!

        Couples can get over being incompatible in bed but what they can’t get over easily is one person making the other one feel like crap, especially about something as sensitive as sex. That’s not easy to get over, and even though the LW asks if she should just “get used to it” the fact that she wrote into DW a whole year into the relationship suggests that she won’t be able to. If I was regularly hurting my partner’s ego his options are to try to get me to voluntarily change (which the LW has already tried without success), apply some thoughtful and well-meaning pressure (like I suggested) or dump me! So, yes! I would absolutely want him to press the issue! Me and my boyfriend push each other all the time because different things are important to us. Not only has it made us both better people (he’s more ambitious at work! now I do my laundry and clean up after myself on a regular basis!), but it’s made our relationship stronger because we’re not constantly getting on each other’s nerves.

        The thing is, this is how things are when the LW’s sex life with this guy is going WELL. What happens when they’re together for a few years and their sex life gets routine? What if he gets bored? What if he realizes he needs to try something new in order to stay interested? It seems HIGHLY unlikely that he’ll be able to bring that up and that unhappiness can lead to resentment that can poison a relationship. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to be able to talk about what’s going on your relationship, whether in the bedroom or elsewhere. That’s an important aspect of having a mature, adult relationship.

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      • avatar

        LW August 1, 2012, 2:45 pm

        Exactly, exactly! This is what I’m scared of. I do want to encourage him in a way that makes it not awkward to talk about (possibly something fun) but I don’t want to turn it into “You’re doing something wrong and now I have to fix it.” Because I don’t want to emasculate him or make him feel more confused or more uncomfortable.

        We’re a team, and I want to communicate that with how I approach this. I want him to feel comfortable opening up in his own way, and to know that anything he says is completely safe with me. I sometimes get the feeling he thinks sex and his body are shameful, and I would like to encourage otherwise. As a guy, I’m curious what you think would help with this.

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      Lindsay August 1, 2012, 2:03 pm

      Yeah, I don’t think pressuring someone who is already uncomfortable or forcing them to talk is going to help. As a person who is fairly shy in this regard also, I’d probably clam up more and reconsider being with someone who thinks it’s OK to bully me during sex.

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    mainer August 1, 2012, 10:29 am

    Eh, I’d let it be. As others have said, it’s not like you’re telling him what you like and he shies away. He just doesn’t like verbalizing his feelings and sensations like you do. You could try to force him, but that will just make him feel awkward. Sure he can get a little better at it with time, but I don’t think he’ll ever be on the same playing field as you when it comes to that stuff. Guys, for the most part, are less “in touch” with their bodies than women. You all have a bunch of shit going on down there and there are like a hundred ways to get you off. Something that works for one will have zero effect on another, so it’s not only important but often necessary for you to verbally guide us into what works and what doesn’t. On top of that, there are like three different types of orgasms you can have, and you can have them back to back to back.

    Guys, less complex. We have one type of orgasm, once. We like sex. It feels good. That’s about it. It’s not hard to get us off – hand jobs, blow jobs, and sex. If it takes more to get a guy off (which of there are plenty) then trust me, he’ll tell you. And the sex wouldn’t be great if it wasn’t doing it for him. Right now it is, which he told you. He really doesn’t feel the need to elaborate on “keep it up, you’re doing all the right things.” I’m sure if he had some secret fantasy or wanted you to stick a finger up his butt or something, he’d let you know in some way.

    I certainly fall into the category of guys who feel stupid talking dirty. It just feels so corny. And if my girlfriend tried to force me to do it, it would distract me from the task at hand and things would just go downhill. I’d inevitably ruin the mood by laughing or rolling my eyes or just flat out sounding silly. Some guys are talkers, others are not. Just like some guys are screamers and others are not. *I’ll edit it add: I know this isn’t about talking dirty during sex, but – and I could be alone on this – talking about what feels good and what doesn’t, whether in the heat of the moment or when we’re sitting on the deck drinking coffee, are the same thing. There are just less “yah baby” and grunting in the sentences.

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      bethany August 1, 2012, 10:44 am

      For some reason I always assumed you were a girl…?? Way off, apparently!

      I think you gave a lot of good insight into the male mind, and I think you’re right.

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    • katie

      katie August 1, 2012, 10:53 am

      wait, wait, wait.

      i am missing an orgasm.

      there are THREE??

      how did i not know this!!

      haha

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        mainer August 1, 2012, 11:00 am

        Yeah – the one you get on the inside, the one on the outside, and the one you make up.

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        MMcG August 1, 2012, 11:15 am

        aka… clitoral, vaginal and fake!

        POINTS FOR MAINER 🙂

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      • katie

        katie August 1, 2012, 11:17 am

        oh you got me!

        lol you guys are terrible!!

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        6napkinburger August 1, 2012, 12:50 pm

        There’s a third real one. Just saying.

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      LW August 1, 2012, 3:52 pm

      Well I guess the question, then, is.. if I’m letting it be should I simply share what I want to share when the moment arises, or should I keep mum on that too for fear of making him more uncomfortable?

      I guess I always figured men wanted women to be more straight forward rather than waiting for them to be psychics about things.

      Thank you very much for your male perspective.

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        mainer August 1, 2012, 7:48 pm

        Yes, continue doing what you do. You’re right, we like when women are straight with us. Anytime a girl can give us direction on how to make their back arch and eyes roll back, we are all ears. His problem – from the sound of it – is not that he is uncomfortable with you expressing your needs, but rather when you ask him to express his. And to my point, some guys just can’t do that (or feel silly doing it). Forcing that will only make things weird. So don’t change anything, from your letter all seems good in the sex department. Just let your man please you in a way he is comfortable with, and as long as that is working you should be fine. That doesn’t mean you can’t coach, I’ll bet my left nut your sex life will go downhill if you stop. But let that be your thing, it’s okay if it’s not shared. In a committed relationship, men can be extremely selfless when it comes to sex. A sexually satisfied girlfriend is…well, a sexually satisfied girlfriend. We’re glad to at least get one thing right.

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    quixoticbeatnik August 1, 2012, 10:39 am

    Maybe you could try shaking things up and sext him during the day to tell him what you want him to do to you or vice versa? Your boyfriend may be one of those types that feels weird saying dirty things out loud. I’m kinda like that – I mean, I have sex and I talk dirty to my boyfriend in text messages or online but when it comes to saying that kind of stuff in person I feel suddenly shy and almost kind of ridiculous – which in itself is ridiculous. It took me a while to be able to say stuff in person, and even now I don’t do it too much, but neither does my boyfriend. Add to the fact that I had like zero experience before I met my boyfriend – and it makes sense. But I think my boyfriend and I are kinda prudish or modest, except for each other.

    You might just have to accept that this is the way your boyfriend is. Has he expressed ANY sort of wanting to be more sexually verbal? Maybe he just likes to listen to you. But you should really talk to him about this, without putting pressure on him, before it turns into a real issue.

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      LW August 1, 2012, 3:31 pm

      There have been a few times that I have brought something up and he will respond with “Oh, ok.. I have been wondering about that.” And say “Why didn’t you ask?” But he’ll just shrug or get obviously uncomfortable, so I’ll quickly move on. I just don’t want him to feel like he’s doing something wrong.

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  • Leroy

    Leroy August 1, 2012, 10:53 am

    I agree with the advice not to press him too much on this issue. Maybe he’ll change in time, maybe he won’t. It doesn’t seem like he lacks ‘confidence’ ( another word that’s lost all meaning ), but simply doesn’t share the LW’s desire to have clinical discussions about their sexual practices.

    Personally I find too much of that off putting, it turns sex into a set of procedures. I’ve met a few women who have LOVED to talk about how I should have sex with them, and eventually I found myself thinking – OK Lady, how ’bout I just buy you a dildo and you can write my name on it?

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      savannah August 1, 2012, 11:42 am

      Theres a difference between a clinical discussion and some verbalization of even what he wants in bed. You comment about being off put by women verbalizing what they want in bed makes me twitchy. Instruction overkill is one thing but women knowing and clearly stating what they want in bed should not be a turn off imho. A mutual conversation (which is what the LW is asking for) will let her bf not feel like a prop in bed. (though again that inclination is kinda side-eye, women should be able to fully participate in what is happening to them sexually without a guy getting annoyed)

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      • Leroy

        Leroy August 1, 2012, 12:13 pm

        Well I’m not categorically opposed to women ‘verbalizing’. What I find distasteful is the hyperclinical sex litigation that some women engage in.

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        LW August 1, 2012, 3:43 pm

        Haha, I know what you’re talking about. I’ve clarified for someone else’s comment below, but let me assure you that this isn’t really the route I’m trying to take. I just want to be comfortable asking broad questions or making comments when they come up. I don’t want to have an Olympics style performance review after each session, or talk about my pelvic floor muscles.

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      • Leroy

        Leroy August 1, 2012, 5:08 pm

        exactly.

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    tbrucemom August 1, 2012, 10:53 am

    Actions speak louder than words! If he’s pleasing you in bed and acts upon things you say, you probably just have to accept the fact that he’s a man of few words. A lot of men aren’t comfortable expressing themselves verbally, no matter what the topic, but are very action-oriented.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie August 1, 2012, 10:43 am

    When you care about the one your sleeping with the very last thing you want to do is offend her or him. For guys it’s akin to talking about sex with our own mother. Even the thought of doing that makes me cringe. Perhaps sexting or a dummy email account would give him enough separation to open up without risking rejection. Read the book Joy of Sex together then critique it or get some soft porn. Somehow you need to make him feel safe with the language as a starting point.

    On the other hand, you get along great, he’s hot in the sack and the ONLY “problem” is his shyness about talking down and dirty. hmmm…

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      LW August 1, 2012, 2:51 pm

      It’s not a “problem”. He’s a fantastic guy. I just want to feel comfortable in my own sexual relationship discussing things. We’ve only been together a year, so things are fairly new. I don’t want there to be any surprises down the line.. that he is wishing I did something more or that he never liked something. I’m afraid of him getting so used to worrying about offending me that he feels trapped, like he can’t say something he needs to.

      Your idea of the separation there is a good one. Maybe text messages or emails would be easier for him because he wouldnt have to respond right away.

      Thank you for your suggestions.

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        MMcG August 1, 2012, 5:02 pm

        ” don’t want there to be any surprises down the line.. that he is wishing I did something more or that he never liked something.”

        FWIW LW: at some point your boyfriend has to be responsible for himself as an adult – maybe not right now as you are just working through this, but at some point if he is regretting something or not liking something and hasn’t expressed it, please don’t take on that guilt. It’s so wonderful that you are so looking out for him, but at the end of the day – once medical concerns or a trauma from his chaste upbringing or whatever has been brought into the open, he’s responsible for his own sexual enjoyment just like you are and if he didn’t get to try out something because he was too afraid to say it – that’s on him, not you!!

        Oh, and there are always surprises… and it seems the more you try to prevent them the more there are!

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      • fast eddie

        fast eddie August 1, 2012, 5:12 pm

        Talking openly about sex is a language in itself. Perhaps going retro with love notes left in the fridge or, if he’ll agree, both of you writing a “fictional” (wink) story about a erotic encounter would break the ice. hmmm, that sounds like fun to me. Now to get my wife to agree… After 24 years together we’re still a bit inhibited about talking about it and we meet at a nudist camp. Go figure.

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    Bossy Italian Wife August 1, 2012, 11:58 am

    My question would be if you have sat him down and said, point-blank to him: “I love to talk about sex and your uncomfortability with the subject is upsetting to me.” Does he know it UPSETS you that you can’t talk about these things, and that it is important to you? If he knew that straight out, he might make a greater effort to overcome his shyness.

    I would have that conversation with him and try to get him to vocalize what exactly is the problem in talking about it. If you knew that then you can go from there. But just trying to get him to talk about it when clearly he is uncomfortable obviously isn’t working.

    Maybe he was sexually abused. Maybe he had some weird or bad experience in life trying to talk about sex. There could be any number of things going on that make him shy to talk about it, but you need to find out what it is and then use that as your touchstone to continue on in the process of communication.

    It’s highly important that couples have open communication in and out of the bedroom. So don’t change your ways because he isn’t opening up. It’s only been a year—you’ve only begun the journey to get to know one another and each other’s bodies. Dig deeper.

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  • landygirl

    landygirl August 1, 2012, 1:41 pm

    LW, what if he never changes and never becomes as verbal as you’d like him to be? Maybe instead of him being more verbal you could just allow him to be who he is and enjoy it.

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      LW August 1, 2012, 2:57 pm

      If he never opens up I will love him just as much as I always have, and continue to enjoy him for who he is. I don’t want him to change. I want him to be comfortable being himself. There have been times in the past when I have brought something up and he’ll say “Oh.. you know.. I was wondering about that.” But why did he spend all of that time wondering, when he could have asked and gotten a simple answer that yes, you ARE doing that right, or no sex is not off limits just because I have a cold? However, his silence literally makes me feel stupid when I want to say something about sex, and anxious when we have it because I’m not sure what he wants. I would like to be comfortable as well.

      Thanks for your response.

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      • Kate B.

        Kate B. August 1, 2012, 3:58 pm

        “I want him to be comfortable being himself.” Maybe he is. I will share a story from my own life: I am not a talker. I spend a lot of time in my own head and don’t open my mouth unless I have something to say. I had a boyfriend who was the exact opposite. He couldn’t stand silence. He told me that he worried what I was thinking about when I was so quiet. He worried that I was thinking about all the flaws in our relationship. In reality, I was thinking some very mundane things, like what I wanted for dinner, or did I feed the fish this morning, stuff like that. Ironically, all this focus on me thinking about our relationship caused me to think about our relationship and realize what was wrong with it. Turned out he was a very insecure person, and no matter what I did, it wasn’t enough. (He tried to change my in other ways, too. I am afriad of heights. He would purposely put me in situations where I was up high , because, he said, he wanted me to get comfortable being up high. He would tease me and laugh when I refused. Well, I was terrified and ended up screaming and crying.) Now, I am not saying that you are insecure or to trying to bully your bf the way my bf did, but I am saying that a person has to make change at their own pace. And, if he is satisfied with the way he is, then you will have to be, too. Now, he may decide he’s comfortable enough to try to verbalize more, and that would be great. But, don’t try to force him to change. He is who he is. If this is your only problem, I think you’re doing okay.

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    jlyfsh August 1, 2012, 2:15 pm

    It seems like you might just not be the best match sexually. You have to decide if you want to stay in the relationship knowing how he feels. Sure there’s a chance he may one day get more comfortable with it, or he could just continue to feel not entirely comfortable talking about it. But, really you need to take him how he is now, and if that doesn’t make you happy then you owe it to the both of you to break it off before it goes on for any longer.

    Honestly I know for myself I wouldn’t be very happy in a relationship where we couldn’t talk about sex and what felt good or what we enjoyed. I don’t think either of you will be happy if he’s always feeling pressured to do talk about things he doesn’t want to and you’re feeling like you’re not getting to express yourself in ways that you want to.

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      jlyfsh August 1, 2012, 2:54 pm

      not that i think you should break it off before giving things a chance to progress on their own. but, i do think you need to ask yourself if nothing has changed a year from now could i be happy? i think a lot of commenters above have given excellent advice on things to try and ways to communicate with him that may encourage him to be more open.

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    Stanfishing August 1, 2012, 2:15 pm

    I agree with Landy! Gosh how much info do you really need? Most guy dislike questions because 1st) they are afraid they will answer you wrong and look like an inexperienced fool and secondly, who cares. If he’s pleasing you great, run with it. I love reading these posts from all you women’s perspective and at the risk of throwing a gender barb, it’s very simple to men.
    This would translate if the LW boyfriend was a buddy something like this: “I love my girlfriend but man she just won’t shut up in bed. I am all into her and the next thing I know she’s asking me shit!” End of topic expect for my response which would be…”been there brother!” Love you all but c’mon.

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      jlyfsh August 1, 2012, 2:21 pm

      i don’t think this is all men because my husband is very vocal about what he does and doesn’t like. not that we have conversations the entire time we’re having sex but we do talk about what feels good, what he might want me to try, what we both find hot, etc. it’s not just in bed that we talk about it either.

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      LW August 1, 2012, 3:04 pm

      To clear some things up.. I’m not trying to interrogate him or ask for an obscene amount of information. I’ve been in long term relationships before, and never really run into this problem. The first few months of learning about someones sexual preferences has always come kind of easy. We are struggling with that. “Do you like doing it in the shower? Do you want me to do this harder, or is this too hard for you?” Or, maybe I just want to talk about my own preferences. “I love when you nibble my neck, please do that.” It’s not like I’m like “Tell me, old chap, do you prefer my left or right index finger to massage your frenulum?”

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        MMcG August 1, 2012, 5:13 pm

        Quick note: I’m 5 1/2 years into a relationship and I still don’t know all the sexual preferences… because if I figured everything out at the beginning what else fun is there to have 😉 And I’ve never known them in a relationship as soon as 3-6 months in, and it’s never been something that I’ve found “easy” to discuss.

        Maybe the issue is that your previous relationships were very quickly moving and sexytimes were easy, and since that is what you are used to you associate it with normal… so this relationship seems abnormal by comparison and that’s what is really bothering you!?! It’s really not abnormal to still be finding your way in a relationship and determining likes and dislikes about restaurants and movies after a year – much less your sex life!

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        LW August 1, 2012, 10:48 pm

        This is a wonderful thought! Hopefully, we’ll have a very long time to explore our likes and dislikes as they evolve. And you’re right, perhaps this relationship is going the way it should, and I’m simply worried because it isn’t moving as fast as my previous ones.

        FastEddie said something earlier about it being harder for men to talk about sex with someone they truly care for. Maybe that’s the only real difference.

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    Lindsay August 1, 2012, 2:18 pm

    I am just like the LW’s boyfriend, and I’m glad to see that most people are encouraging her to be patient and accept him for who he is.

    For me, my shyness is a combination of things. I’m a fairly quiet and shy person in other aspects of life. My parents were never very open about sex. On top of that, I also didn’t get much experience with dating or sex until after college. So, talking about sex is completely foreign to me. For guys, women tend to know what to do and do it well, so I think a lot of them have never really had to communicate that much to get what they want.

    Anyway, if you stop talking about sex, too, then I can pretty much promise that he will clam up for good. Silence will not encourage him to speak up, especially when he has a hard enough time doing when you are actually talking. For me, it helps to hear what sort of things the other person expects to hear from me. Also, the pressure of knowing someone is waiting for me to talk stresses me out. So, I think the best thing you can do is go on about your business normally, which will make him feel much more comfortable.

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      LW August 1, 2012, 3:15 pm

      Thanks for your advice. I liked to hear from someone who felt the same way he probably does. I don’t want to stress him out, and that’s exactly what I’m afraid of. I’ll take your advice, thanks.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle August 1, 2012, 3:34 pm

        Can I just say, I’ve read all your responses to people’s comments (including mine– thanks!) & you sound really awesome?

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle August 1, 2012, 3:40 pm

        And I don’t know about everybody else, but I think it’s nice (…for a change…) to see an LW thoughtfully approaching each peice of advice!

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        LW August 1, 2012, 5:04 pm

        Aw, Thanks! I’ve always liked reading the DW comments. I went into this knowing that I would probably hear some things that might sting or possibly be a bit off base, but I know it’s impossible for everyone to know the entire situation and they’re doing the best they can. I’m getting a lot of good insight.

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        Caris August 1, 2012, 8:28 pm

        agreed

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    sarolabelle August 1, 2012, 2:57 pm

    I’m kind of confused. If you suggest trying something new in bed while y’all are in the moment like “hey, let’s try this” is that when he gets a blank stare? Does he then not do what you want him to try? If so that sounds like an issue.

    I’m not sure how or when you are broaching the subject outside of the bedroom. My fiance and I don’t talk about it at all outside of the bedroom. We don’t have long discussions filled with what we want to do with each other. Do you? Is this what you want from your boyfriend? If so I suggest only having private conversations in private between just the two of you and not while he is trying to do other things like drive, play video games or eat. Definitely don’t broach the subject in public.

    I will say this. Whenever my fiance wants to try something new I laugh out loud in a fit of giggles as I am doing it. Nervous laughter I guess.

    Everyone has their quirks. Maybe he is just shy and it will work itself out.

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    BettyBoop August 1, 2012, 6:22 pm

    Have you actually asked him if he’s uncomfortable listening to you talk about sex? If he’s fine listening, but not yet responding, start talking about things that don’t require a response so that he can continue to get comfortable involving talk and sex. I cannot talk dirty, nor can I listen to dirty talk with a straight face but I love dirty texting. Ask him if he’s more comfortable starting there, it’s a low stress way to work on this. In addition, just because he’s been wondering about something doesn’t mean it’s been building up and he’s been avoiding it or anything. There are lots and lots of things I idly wonder about without taking immediate action. Sometimes I won’t resolve a curiosity until there other person broaches it first. Just a personality thing.

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      Lindsay August 1, 2012, 6:47 pm

      True. There’s a big difference between hearing someone talking and doing the talking yourself. I don’t really care what guys say as long as it’s not too ridiculous or obscene. Personally, I feel like I sound like I’m trying too hard, but for those who it comes naturally to, then I say, go for it.

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