How I became an accidental sex therapist

Like many of us, I am often better at giving advice than following it and this week I’ve once again found myself in the position of dirty Dr Phil. I received a message on Plenty of Fish from a married man looking to chat. I politely declined his request at first, citing that fact that he is married and not needing the extra drama in my own life. He insisted he just wanted to chat, wasn’t into sending dick pics, and had never actually cheated on his wife. What on earth was he doing on a dating app then?

The story was not new. He and his wife had married young and were each other’s first. More than a decade later and a couple of kids, their sex life wasn’t what he wanted and he couldn’t understand it. Turns out he had some theories, some of which I was quickly able to prove wrong, but all related to his wife not being interested in sex. But as I pointed out to him, there’s a difference between not being interested in sex and not being interested in sex with you.

His frustration poured out in text after text as he told me all the things he had tried over the years to stimulate his wife’s libido. Counselling, books, porn, sex toys – they had apparently tried it all. She doesn’t like to talk about. She pretends everything is fine. She’s just not interested. She’s not sexual. She, she, she.

What’s her fantasy, I asked him. He didn’t know. She had never shared it with him. Well have you shared your fantasies with her, I asked. Turns out no.

Does she masturbate, I asked.

No, he answered.

How do you know, I pushed.

I just know, he said.

Is she ever home alone when you’re not there, I asked.

All the time.

So how do you know?

I hid the sex toys, he said.

Why would you do that?

So, she would have to ask me for it if she wanted it. *Face palm*

We had already discussed that it sounded like his wife lacked self confidence in the bedroom and yet here he was withholding a sex toy thinking she would ask him for it when she wanted to get herself off. Um no.

First of all, I told him, don’t hide her sex toys. If she’s going to masturbate it’s highly unlikely she’s going to do it in front of you or ask your permission.

I suspected that if she was masturbating, she was doing it when he wasn’t home. The fact that they never talked about it meant that for each of them, masturbation was a secret. Just like the fantasies that they hadn’t shared.

Questioning his assumptions about his wife’s sexual behaviour signified a huge shift in perception for him. For years he has supposed something was wrong with her sex drive, and no doubt her desire for sex is probably not the same as his. But in actual fact, the problem with their sex life can be whittled down to nothing more than a massive communication issue. Perhaps that sounds like an oversimplification when you consider it’s going to take more than a couple of conversations to sort it out. They have more than a decade of history where talking directly about their sex life was almost a taboo. That can’t be fixed overnight but it can be fixed.

I gave him some homework, to talk to his wife after a few drinks, when they were alone and her inhibitions were just a little more relaxed. Not drunk, I insisted, but a little more free speaking. I encouraged him to take it slow and open up to her in the first instance, talking about his fantasies and asking if she had any.

The results were remarkable. Not only did it turn out that many of my suspicions were correct, but she had been using the sex toys in secret. It was a revelation to him and was a huge step forward in opening up the lines of communication.

The next day, during our debrief, he told me he was going to swing by the sex shop on the way home and buy her a new toy.

Don’t, I suggested. Give your wife the money to buy her own toys. You’ll get a much better idea about what she likes.

She’ll never go to a sex shop, he said.

For fuck’s sake, I thought. Online, I told him. It’s discreet, easy, cheaper and she won’t feel uncomfortable.

He took my advice and left her a swag of money and instructions to spend it however she wanted on a particular site I recommended before he headed out.

When he got home, the money was spent, her order likely already being discreetly packaged up. And the purchases were telling about what she liked. Huge progress in just a few days and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of pride that I had helped make this happen.

Now some of you may be questioning the ethics of him talking to me, a stranger, about some really intimate things between he and his wife, and then me sharing them with you. But the reality is, this could be any couple. I know so many men who have complained to me about similar issues in their relationships. And often when I drill down, many of them just want to feel sexy, to feel desired or to know that who they are and what they do turns their partner on.

I have another married man who sends me dick pics just so I will tell him what fine specimen it is because he feels his wife isn’t interested. He doesn’t want sex from me. He wants attention. He wants to feel attractive and special to someone. I suspect many of the men in relationships who use dating apps do so for this reason. It also explains why so few of them want to actually meet in real life. They just need a little external validation from a stranger.

It’s the prostitution of the new millennium.

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