Wife calls all the shots in bed

Q. My wife and I have been married for 33 years and we have three grown children. We are still very much in love and I think we are very good friends as well. I try to find time to massage her feet and legs each night – sometimes for an hour or more. I also give her oral sex, day or night, whenever she requests - I continue until she tells me to stop, which is usually no more than five minutes because that is all she wants.

We have intercourse whenever she wants, which is usually several times a week. Once a week she allows and expects me to cum, always inside of her so as to maximize her pleasure. She likes to tease and deny me orgasm, and occasionally enjoys giving me oral sex. We have agreed that our sex life will be at her discretion and her choosing, and that I will cum only when she chooses.

There is one aspect of our sex life that has confused and frustrated me for many years. She has never has an orgasm while we are having sex. In fact, she has never had an orgasm while we were together. She believes that her orgasms are her business and not mine, and she feels no inclination to share the experience with me.

She has told me that her orgasms are mild. She does not believe in masturbation, but apparently knows how to respond to her own touch. She has told me that occasionally she awakens to an orgasm without any associated erotic dreams. She tells me that she is able to orgasm by pinching her legs together.

To the best of my knowledge, I have never come close to bringing her to orgasm with my hands or my mouth, despite my best efforts. She enjoys massages greatly and tells me that she enjoys the relaxation of a long foot rub much better than orgasm. She enjoys being warm and cozy, as well as going to sleep, more than sex. My sex drive is and always has been much greater than hers, though she tries to accommodate me.

I have suggested that we explore efforts to share our orgasms. I have also brought up counseling, but she does not want any part of it. I cannot help but feel like there is a very important part of our sex life that is missing, but after so many years it seems foolish for me to mention the subject any more. Best to let sleeping dogs lie, I suppose.


A. It sounds like you two have established a practice known as erotic sexual denial, a form of teasing where one person uses sexual stimulation to bring another to the brink of orgasm. Right before they're about to climax, stimulation is removed.

Orgasm denial creates sexual tension and intense excitement, but it can also result in psychological dependence on the partner who's in control. Based on what you've described, this power imbalance has spilled over to other aspects of your relationship.

Since the two of you agreed that sex will be at her discretion, that's exactly what's been happening. But how are your needs being met in this arrangement, other than you being in want all the time? You have abdicated your right to think for yourself, and have handed over your decision making ability to someone who is taking advantage of your co-dependence.

You need to realize that you've been a co-conspirator in this situation. Yes, it's true that she's manipulating your reliance on her, but your acquiescence has brought you to this spot. 'Letting sleeping dogs lie' is a passive way of agreeing to the behaviors that hurt you, and it's led you to this oppressive point in your marriage.

Even though you recognize the tendencies in her that aren't conducive to a healthy, mutually satisfying sex life, you cannot change her behavior; you only have control over your own. Though you'd like her to respect your needs, it all has to start with you. Your co-dependence has rendered you powerless over your need to satisfy your wife's every whim and desire.

Your lady has been 'driving the bus' for a long time. It's time you decide to share the wheel or accept that she'll continue to control you and the direction of the relationship. It sounds like you're already listening to your heart and tuning in to your true feelings. You just have to take the next step and act upon it.

It takes courage and acceptance to recognize what isn't working for you in the relationship. Regardless of past history with your wife, it doesn't mean you can't change. The good news is that you are free to listen to your needs and evolve as you see fit. Others cannot know what's best for you and, equally so, you do not know what's best for them.

If you feel hesitant about addressing your needs with your wife, do some individual work to rebuild your self-awareness and confidence. Among the many excellent titles Melody Beattie has published about co-dependence, ‘The Language of Letting Go’ is an excellent read to start you along this path.