My husband goes at lovemaking like a bull at a gate – enthusiastic and noisy, but not subtle. How can I get him to use a bit more finesse?
Recommend? Making love, like learning to sing, requires a modicum of inherent ability. TV pundits claim that no one is so bad at singing that they cannot be taught to be moderately tuneful, even if not up to the standards of a church choir. As with singing, so with foreplay.
We often receive readers’ letters complaining about their partner’s lack of talent in lovemaking. Perhaps, initially, you were pleased and thought that you were lucky to have a man who behaved like a “bull at a gate”. Some women prefer this to long, drawn-out foreplay. But judging from patients’ accounts, men’s approach to lovemaking is more often like that of an over- excited puppy than of a determined, aggressive, goal-orientated bull.
A survey financed by a bed manufacturer a few years ago found that there were more men like your husband than like Casanova.
Can you alter your husband’s lovemaking style? A quick check will reveal that most women have discovered that just as it is difficult to change most other aspects of a man’s character, their lovemaking style and ability is just as deeply embedded in their psyche, both for reasons of nature (their genes) and nurture (early upbringing and experiences). Without wishing to sound negative, you will have to be lucky and skilful to transform a raging bull into a cosy labrador, snuggling up to you on a sofa as he attentively licks your hand and face.
As a start, I would suggest that you leave appropriate magazines and sexual manuals around, including some of the books by the anthropologist Desmond Morris. Morris explains, amusingly but perceptively, the differences and similarities between human behaviour and that of farmyard animals. The possibility is that your husband won’t know that his performance is not the answer to every woman’s prayer,even after a few hints and the scattering of improving literature. It may not have struck him that he suffers from a lack of subtlety, creativity and the ability to communicate, in a tactile manner as well as verbally. The danger is that if you are too outspoken he may feel rejected, and you will be left with a former husband rather than an existing lousy lover.
Possibly you belong to a generation in which women played a passive role, even during foreplay. They handled a penis between their finger and thumb as if it was a rather disgusting dead mouse, or a nasty rag that had been dropped on their doorstep. They made no physical approaches but considered 90 per cent of their partner’s body forbidden territory, even while they expected them to massage and caress their every nook and cranny.
One couple who consulted me had similar problems to yours. The husband freely admitted his inadequacies but suggested that his wife was an entirely passive partner. I suggested massage, pleasant surroundings and dim lights. I told him that I knew women patients who liked to have poetry read to them. The husband looked as appalled at the idea of Shakespeare in bed as the wife was at my talk of no longer handling her husband’s penis like a dirty handkerchief.
She said: “Oh doctor, I don’t think I could do that sort of thing.” A month later they returned in good spirits. The husband was no longer behaving like a desert traveller making for the oasis. His wife had overcome the inhibitions of her youth, and both were happy.
This is an issue that you ought to have addressed before he took the ring from his nose and slipped it on to your finger. But we all make mistakes and, if this is the only downside to an otherwise loving and functional relationship, you should count your blessings. But waiting 20 years to tell your husband that you want him to change the way he makes love could negate the whole of your sexual relationship, or even the whole of your marriage.
Reverse this situation and consider how you would feel if he, however gently, undermined your sexual confidence. See what I mean? Unless you are a psychosexual therapist with a PhD in ego massage, there is no such thing as constructive criticism between the sheets and, no matter how diplomatically you put this to your husband, he will almost certainly see red.
If you accept that you can’t change him without hurting his feelings and, consequently, your relationship, you have two choices. You can either glue a poster of Ralph Fiennes to the ceiling and play Classic FM, or you can change yourself. Which is, of course, the right thing to do because it is your silence on the subject that has led your husband to believe that you enjoy the way he makes love. So, instead of crushing his sexual confidence, assert your own.
If you take control during sex, he will take a more passive role and this shifts the dynamic between you. Effecting change can be simple. If you get on top, he can’t thrust as he normally does. If you keep your tongue in his mouth, he can’t grunt. If you use a blindfold and put your finger to his lips, anticipation will make him silent and subservient. And if you tie him up and gently kiss his every crevice, when it is his turn he will mimic that softness, as best he can.
If this doesn’t work, you could consider relearning your sexual connection. A tantric sex workshop would provide you both with objective third-party instruction about an aspect of your relationship that you clearly haven’t discussed much, let alone tried to develop. Though the public perception of tantric sex is a scary cross between hippies, swingers and Sting’s private life, Leora Lightfoot, the founder of Diamond Light Tantra (www.diamondlighttantra.com; 0845 388 2231), the UK’s most established tantric teaching centre, assures me that it is for ordinary couples who “stay firmly attached to each other during the workshops”. In other words, there is no cross-pollination whatsoever.
Diamond Light runs regular introductory evenings in London (£25 for 3 hours) where you can find out more about tantra. Alternatively, there are weekend workshops in Kent, Glastonbury or Cumbria. The tuition costs £210 per person, while food and accommodation costs another £130 to £195. Lightfoot claims to have helped couples of all ages to “transform long-term non-sexual marriages, create intimate partnerships, make love rather than bonk, gain self-esteem, poise and confidence, stop having affairs, get pregnant after not being able to conceive, release sexual trauma, learn to play and have fun, find tools to exercise more choice and to communicate better in lovemaking, feel bliss within their own bodies, learn techniques to enable whole-body orgasm”.
She says that people learn tantra because they want more intimacy, openness and connectedness, and to “live more joyfully and ecstatically, in bed and beyond”. That sounds like something from which we could all benefit.