Mermaid

Friday, December 08, 2006

Question

For some unknown reason, my boyfriend will not go in the shower with me. I really want to experiment with having sex n the shower, or even just a little foreplay. but he refuses. Any ideas as to why he might be this way and how I might be able to get him to hop in with me?

Answer

I'm surprised by the number of letters that I get asking this question. There must be a lot of frustrated mermaids out there who can't get their men to understand that if wetness between the thighs is sexy, a flood of warm water coursing along your whole body is even more so!

Without talking to your boyfriend, I can't tell you exactly why he refuses to join you in a steamy paradise of naked bliss. I can only offer some theories. Let's also remember that if he doesn't see this as a problem, he has zero motivation to explain the details to you or look for a solution. I can't fix that either, but showing him this column might be a way to get him to see how important this is to you. I wish that he valued your initiative more. A lover who has new ideas about how to make sex better is such a gem.

Number one on my list of possible suspects is claustrophobia. Most shower stalls are pretty small for just one person. You add two people, and it can get snug. Men often find it hard to tell the women in their life that anything scares them. Their training in masculinity usually tells them that admitting they are afraid makes them less manly. Your boyfriend might prefer to bluster and look like a rude and irrational asshole than take even the slightest chance of being seen as wimpy.

Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder that responds very well to cognitive-behavioral techniques. It is a common, treatable issue, not a sign of weakness or emasculation. Phobias do not discriminate, and affect both men and women. You could find out for sure if he has claustrophobia or not by shutting him in the closet, but I don't recommend it. If he loses it in front of you, the relationship might be permanently damaged. Look for other clues. How does he act in elevators? Is he uncomfortable flying? Does he hate it if you get on top of him and wrap your arms around him and share his oxygen?

If this is the problem, once again, he may not be willing to admit it or get help. But phobias that are not treated can get worse and gradually interfere with a person's daily life. Before you confront him about your suspicions, assemble some resources. Get the name of a therapist who is experienced in treating disabling anxieties, and find him some reading material. There are some excellent workbooks on anxiety and phobias. Even if he denies he has the problem, put the information back on your book shelf in a place where he can find it later. Eventually, your empathy might break through his resistance.

Another possibility is a traumatic memory. If your boyfriend was ever sexually abused in the shower, he won't want to have sex there again. Many people (including men) don't realize how often little boys or teenagers are sexually abused. Women as well as men can be perpetrators of this crime. Pedophiles can use bathing as an opportunity to force nudity, close contact, fondling, or voyeurism. Males are supposed to view any sexual opportunity as "getting lucky." But as a therapist, I am suspicious of any sexual activity that involves a person significantly older than the child or teenager. I am also sensitive to the possibility that washing a child or teenager can be a cover-up for activity the adult finds titillating.

Here, too, therapy can be very helpful.

There are other bad experiences that can reach out from the past and influence the sexual choices we make in the present. Maybe he had a bad experience in the shower with another woman. Perhaps she slipped and fell, or he was unable to perform to his own satisfaction (or hers) in this unfamiliar environment. Perhaps he feels uncomfortable being nude with you. Some men are just rigid and want to control exactly how sex happens. They don't want their partner to initiate any changes.

The other factor to consider is the amount of time you spend together outside of the bathroom. If you are constantly in his personal space, demanding a lot of his time and attention, he may just need a little time to be alone. The bathroom could be the break that he depends on to focus on himself, regroup, and prepare to be intimate with you once more. This could be true even if you are not crowding him. Togetherness depends on having time alone to balance it out. It can be so hard to figure out when you should be close and when you should be apart. Just knowing it's a problem is a big step forward, however. Address it with a sense of humor and some flexibility, and you'll find the right mix.

That said, is there anything you want other than a sensuous shower experience? Since he said no to this invitation, he may feel an obligation to be more receptive to your next request. So line one up!