Newlywed

Friday, March 21, 2008

Question

My fiancée and I agreed to wait until we were married to have sex. We are both devout Catholics, and I felt that if she could wait, so could I. So we were both virgins on our wedding night.

It wasn't exactly the glorious experience we had both been anticipating. I was exhausted, and if it had been up to me, we would have just cuddled each other and gone to sleep. But I felt if I didn't make love to her, she would be disappointed. I wanted the wedding to be perfect for her. So I tried to rally.

But she wanted the lights off. I accidentally whacked her in the face with my elbow. We kept trying to kiss each other and winding up in the wrong places. I wanted to be her ideal lover and instead I wound up feeling like a clown. When we decided our attempts at foreplay were sufficiently awkward to embarrass both of us forever, we moved on to intercourse. Her whole body went rigid. I kept asking if I was hurting her, and she kept saying no, but I didn't believe her, and it turned out I was right. She was in terrible pain. I came way too soon. She assured me everything was wonderful, I passed out like a clod, and the next day I found out she went into the hotel bathroom and cried herself to sleep.

We haven't had sex since then. I'm frankly afraid to try. I have no idea how to reassure her or comfort her since I feel afraid myself. The thought of how quickly I came humiliates me. Am I not enough of a man to satisfy my wife? If intercourse is going to be excruciating for her, I don't want to do it, no matter how much I desire her. I'm not a selfish jerk.

I know you don't share my religious beliefs. But you come across as a person with a lot of compassion. Do you have any advice for someone as mainstream as me and my brand-new, disappointed and upset wife?

Answer

I hope I am even-handed toward everybody who writes in, no matter how mainstream or out on the sexual fringe they might be. The idea of this column is to give people information about sex and let them decide how they want to use (or discard) that information. Everybody has their own value system abut sex. I don't want to require my readers to have any given moral system in order to get a question answered.

So let me see if I can find a way to help you and your wife. The two of you love each other so much, your relationship can survive this period of getting to know one another. That is really all that is happening. You know how to do a lot of other things together—dance, cook, shop, etc. Sex is the only form of human behavior that we are expected to perform—expertly!—even if nobody talks to us about it or shows us how to do it. Instinct is supposed to take over, but human beings are too complex for that. Sadly, our genes don't give us infallible directions about how to do the courtship dance and mating ritual. Weddings are hell on wheels. By the time these complex events take place, the married couple is lucky if they are still speaking to one another. Part of the problem is that a wedding has to meet family expectations and cultural standards. It can't just be about the two of you. And one of those expectations is that you have sex on your wedding night, and that fireworks will go off and roses will fall from the ceiling. Most couples would be better off if they just cuddled up and went to sleep, and saved sex for a time when they are not exhausted and wired.

Let me reassure you, first of all, that about 90% of all men ejaculate pretty quickly during their first experience with intercourse. The next time you have sex, you won't be keyed up from the drama of getting that wedding planned and executed. You won't be bone-tired. So don't beat yourself up. You get more than one chance to prove you are a good lover. In fact, your concern for your wife and your determination to treat her well are the best foundation you could have.

Here are some practical suggestions. Tell your wife that you want to be physically close to her, but you don't want to do anything that will hurt her. Light some candles, sit on the couch with a glass of wine, and make out. Do all the things you used to do before you were married. Achieve satisfaction by touching or tonguing one another. She will be much more relaxed this way. Get up, have a snack, and go to bed, where you can hopefully persuade her to leave some low lights on.

Take a look at her genitalia. How many fingers can you comfortably insert? Don't try to put your penis in her again until she is erotically stimulated by three fingers. The pain she felt the first night was probably due to her hymen breaking, poor thing. A lot of women don't really notice losing their virginity, but some have a hymen that is thick enough to really hurt when it is broken. If she can't enjoy penetration with your fingers, make an appointment for her at a gynecologist. She may need help from a doctor to open her hymen. Get her to promise that she will communicate honestly with you as you explore her body. If you welcome her feedback and move on to something else if she says, "That hurts," she will learn that it really is safe to let you know when she is excited and when she is turned off.

Do you know where her clitoris is? Look at the opening of the vagina. There should be a pair of thin lips, the inner labia, on either side of it. Follow the inner lips up toward her belly button. You'll see a little pink pea-shaped bump with a triangular fold of skin over it. The pea is her clitoral glans, and the fold of skin is the clitoral hood. Touch this organ gently before and during intercourse. Stroking it can make a huge difference in her arousal and orgasms. Some women (if not most) can't come during intercourse unless they get some clitoral stimulation.

Because the clitoris is so different from the penis, many men have trouble intuiting how to make it feel good. I hope your religion doesn't forbid masturbation. A woman who masturbates is much more likely to have orgasms than a woman who does not. If she can show you how she masturbates, you can get a very effective education in what to do and not to do to that little rosy pearl.

Finally, I would suggest that she needs to touch and explore your body to become less intimidated. Lay back and let her touch, lick, and kiss you. (Biting might also be allowed. Let her know.) Just communicate, in words or by movement and sound, how she makes you feel. If she has questions about your parts and how they work, share your experience. This will make sex a more mutual event—not something traumatic that you do to her, which she is required to suffer through.

Let me know if this helps. I'll be happy to give you some follow-up advice. My congratulations on your marriage. May the two of you make each other happy for the rest of your lives.