Dear Prudence: My wife said she couldn’t orgasm during sex. She was lying.

Help! It Turns Out My Wife Can Orgasm During Sex—Just Not With Me.

Help! It Turns Out My Wife Can Orgasm During Sex—Just Not With Me.

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Advice on manners and morals.
July 30 2015 7:30 AM

Where Do You Get Off?

My wife always said she couldn’t orgasm during sex. But she can—just not with me.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
I have been in a good marriage for more than a decade, and we have had what I consider to be a normal, loving sexual relationship. With one major exception—my wife has never achieved orgasm with me. She has always told me it is not a big deal to her, although we have certainly tried and it is something we have discussed repeatedly. She is able to achieve orgasm by herself, but never with me, and she’s said never with any other man. A few nights ago, she accidentally let slip that she did achieve orgasm with her ex-husband. Upon further discussion it turns out it happened many times and very easily. I’m devastated. Why did she never tell me before, given the number and intensity of our discussions on the issue? Am I such a wretched lover that I am hopeless? She feels that since her ex cheated on her, her defensive walls went up and she won’t let herself be vulnerable or trusting enough. I am in quite a tailspin, and she recognizes how deeply I am hurt by this admission and she feels terrible about it. But it’s not something that’s going to be easy to push out of either of our minds when we next try. Help!

—Hurt Husband

Dear Hurt,
So your wife associates orgasmic sex with an ex-husband who ended up cheating on her. In her mind, having an orgasm with her devoted, faithful husband of more than a decade is a psychological barrier she doesn’t want to cross, because it will remind her of what a good lover husband No. 1 was. This is taking Pavlovian conditioning to new and self-punishing levels. I guess you’re lucky your wife agrees to intercourse at all, since that was something she did with her ex. Her reasoning could be extended even more: “Jerry and I used to eat out a lot, but I found credit card receipts showing he ate out with Elaine—so I can never eat in a restaurant with you.” If you’d said that no partner of yours had ever reached orgasm, I might have suggested you lacked peak performance skills. But you seem to have worked assiduously to get her off. Now comes the revelation that she can climax at the drop of the pants—just not with you. I agree that your next time in the sack is going to be rather tense. So you need to talk more with your wife about this before getting into bed. Don’t be sorrowful or defensive—instead act as if this has the potential to be wonderful news. Ask your wife if there’s some magic trick that her ex did that you would be more than happy to try to incorporate—maybe you will discover some terra incognito of her erotic life. But if it truly is a psychological barrier, you need to make clear it’s diminishing the pleasure both of you get from your intimacy, and that all these years later you hope she can let go of what was a specious connection to begin with. Even if the most she can do at this point is masturbate in front of you that could be a breakthrough that leads to more mutual satisfaction.



Dear Prudie,
Last spring I attended a work conference and really hit it off with one attendee in particular. We ended up having a romantic night together. I later found out that he was married. I am looking for a new job in my field and recently ran across a job opening where I would be working closely with this man as my boss. It is a great opportunity and I am well suited for the job. I have no intention of continuing the affair or trying to break up this marriage. Is it fair for me to apply to this job? And if I do, should I mention the incident from last spring?

—What Stays at the Conference

Dear Stays,
Talk about an awkward position! It is fair for you to apply. But you also have to understand it’s fair for this future boss to toss your résumé in the “not in a million years” pile. That would be preferable to his tossing your application in the “she’s a twofer: a qualified candidate and great lay!” pile. If you do apply, and you do get called in, act totally professionally, and if he doesn’t bring up your encounter, at some point you should say in the most low-key way possible that you consider what happened to be a lovely but completely isolated event, and that you are here only because you’d be great for the job. But be prepared that your rendezvous may have blown your chance to work with someone you once really hit it off with.



Dear Prudence,
My husband’s sister is a mess. She’s 40 and can’t hold a job for more than a few months. She lives beyond her means, and my in-laws encourage this behavior by subsidizing her entire life. The in-laws have a substantial amount of money, and I’ve never thought it was my business how they spent it. However, as they are nearing the end of their lives, they’ve told us that they have been keeping track of how much money they have given her over the years and will be deducting it from her share of the will! I think this is a terrible idea, one that will cause all sorts of hurt feelings. We don’t need the extra cash, and would be happy if everything is divided 50/50 (or they can give it all to charity, I don’t care)! How do we deal with the inevitable fallout from this? We’ve told the in-laws to make the inheritance equal, but they have decided they want to prove a point.


Dear Confused,
It is generous of you and your husband to want to waive a substantial extra share of your in-laws’ estate. But I agree that if they think the best time to give life lessons to their daughter is after they’re gone, the lesson is guaranteed to backfire. Their will as described will leave horrible feelings of resentment on the part of your sister-in-law. Unfortunately, she won’t express these by stomping away, but by constantly harassing you and your husband. She has been taken care of all her life, and if her parents leave her without the means to continue this, she’s going to turn to you two for bailing out. I wonder if your sister-in-law has ever had a psychological evaluation to find out the source of her troubles. It could be she has a treatable condition that never got diagnosed, then the “treatment” became writing her checks. In any case, you are not the person who should talk to your in-laws about their estate planning. Your husband is. He should tell them that for the sake of his relationship with his sister, and her well-being, he’s urging them to redo their plans. A trust needs to be set up for his sister with administrators to watch over it and make sure she doesn’t run through it. That way she will have to start living within her means, which might motivate her to deal with her issues so that she is able to hold down a job. If she is sufficiently provided for, you and your husband won’t constantly have to turn away her begging bowl.



Dear Prudence,
My smart and confident 5-year-old is set to start kindergarten and we are in a quandary about where to send her. The public schools where we live are overcrowded and not well regarded. My husband and I are both professionals, but we can’t shell out the dough for most private schools’ tuition around here. Except for one. It’s an outstanding private school (K–8) with good, caring teachers and that meets our budget. The problem is that it is a religious-based school (Presbyterian) and we are atheists. We sent her there for her first year of preschool and she loved it, but my husband and I felt it was too “churchy” and insular. At 3 years old she was talking about God’s love, Jesus, and how when you die, you turn to dust, and we felt it was too much, too soon. Is it wrong to “use” the religious school (we don’t have the same beliefs after all) solely for our kids’ educational purposes? If we do send her (and her younger sibling in a few years) how do we reconcile the messages she will receive at school and the lack of faith at home? I also don’t want her going into school saying “the wrong thing” she heard at home. Some friends have told us not to worry because “it’s just kindergarten,” but we want to make sure she gets off on the right foot. Please help!

—We Don’t Believe

Dear Don’t,
This school is apparently open to all comers and does not require affiliation with the Presbyterian church. So if they don’t require it, you aren’t “using” them if you send your child—you will be paying full tuition, after all. It’s true she will have questions about what she hears, which you should answer in an honest, age-appropriate way. You can explain that you and Daddy don’t belong to the church most of her classmates belong to, but that she is learning interesting things about their religion. If you send her, you should also sit down with her teacher at the beginning of the year and explain that you aren’t Presbyterian and ask how the school handles students who are not members of a congregation. But while there will be some learning about Jesus, there will also be ABCs, 123s, and all the other fun, important things that happen in kindergarten. I agree with your friends that it’s just kindergarten. If you send her and it’s great, you will have made the right choice. If it’s not, there’s nothing stopping you from reassessing your options and making a change.



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