'I Love You, but It Hurts'

Q: I have a genetic condition that makes my bones and joints stiff and painful, giving me absolutely NO interest in sex. In fact I couldn’t care less if the next man who touches me is the coroner!

As you might imagine, my husband is not thrilled about this state of affairs; he could have sex two or three times a day. I offer to please him, but now he wants me to “get into it,” too, and I just don’t have the interest or energy. I hate to keep telling him, I’m just in too much pain,” but it’s true. Any ideas?

Dr. Pepper Schwartz: If you have a genetic condition that causes pain, you may also be taking medicines that curb sexual desire. Have you asked your doctor if loss of libido might be a consequence of any pain medications you are taking? If not, please investigate the possibility. If your lack of desire has a chemical cause, it may be possible to use a different drug or to calibrate the drug at a lower dose.

Pain is a desire killer, so I hope yours can be better controlled. Think about getting a second opinion on your medication or input from a chronic-pain clinic. I hate to think of you being in so much pain all the time, and it’s always worth finding out if someone else has different answers that might help you.

Assuming the pain can be mitigated, you might think about what kind of sex would help you “get into it.” For example, if part of his enjoyment is watching you get turned on, you might think about letting him give you oral sex. You could lie on your back, making for minimal movement (and therefore less pain) but maximum enjoyment — and, perhaps, satisfying your husband’s desire to watch you experience pleasure.

We sometimes lose sight of the fact that sexual satisfaction is not always restricted to our own arousal and orgasm. Equally pleasurable, for many people, is to observe how their partner responds to their kisses, touch and penetration. By experimenting, you may be able to discover positions that will not cause you pain. Perhaps if you know you will be comfortable and your husband knows what not to do to cause you discomfort, you can relax and let your body respond to his touch.

Studies conducted by psychologists at the University of British Columbia have shown that even in the absence of any initial sexual desire, women can get excited if they begin to make love and allow their desire to grow as events unfold. If that approach works for you, it doesn’t mean you have to have sex around the clock; instead, it means there may be times when you can show your husband you are enjoying his sexual attentions. Make noise — tell him how much he is pleasing you. Partners need to feel sexually effective and desired. See what steps you can take to achieve at least a little progress in this arena.

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Q: My wife of 54 years died a year ago. Now I have a wonderful girlfriend (she’s 11 years younger), but it takes me much too long to orgasm. Is there a cream or gel available that greatly increases penis sensitivity?

Dr. Pepper Schwartz: I am delighted that you have found love again, but please don’t turn to gels and creams to increase sensitivity. The increased time to orgasm that you are experiencing is simply part of aging; it is quite common for most men after age 50 or 60. But despite what the product packaging says, none of the commercial products to increase sensitivity really works; this means that no mere cream is going to decrease the time it takes to reach orgasm.

Personally, I would encourage you to think of delayed ejaculation as a talent, not a trouble. You can last longer for your partner — infinitely preferable to not lasting long enough, right? If, however, the time it takes you to climax is just too upsetting for either you or your girlfriend, a couple of “shortcuts” have proven effective. One is to start before she does. Either touch yourself so that the two of you are further down the road once you start making love — this will help you climax sooner — or have your girlfriend stimulate you a lot, either manually or orally, before you start intercourse.

Another expedient is simply to take the pressure off yourself: Stop trying so hard to have a climax the first time you make love. After that initial session, though, enjoy a “return engagement” — by which time you should be plenty primed!

Do you have a sex-related question you’d like to ask Dr. Pepper Schwartz? The AARP Love, Sex & Relationships Ambassador, who is also a judge on the FYI channel's Married at First Sight, answers selected reader queries submitted via email to TheNakedTruth@aarp.org.

 Photo: Shutterstock

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