Dear Patrick: Sex with my new husband was pretty exciting at first. But now we have gotten into a bit of a routine, and I am a little bored. I don't want to think that this is all that I'm going to experience for the rest of my life. I want to stay faithful to him, but it would be easier to keep my thoughts away from other men if we could experiment. But he had a pretty rigid upbringing, and I am a little afraid of shocking him. I asked him if he would consider having anal sex with me, for example, and he got a really strange look on his face. “Why would you want to do something like that?” he said. Then he went into the bathroom and I believe he actually threw up. How do you get through to somebody with those kind of reactions? I really want to believe in—Post-Honeymoon Passion
Wow. It's been a while since I heard of someone having that extreme a reaction to the thought of engaging in anal sex. That must have frightened you and generated some hurt and anger as well. These emotions don't do much to help you to feel safe when you want to initiate sex or propose an exciting new variation! I hope monogamy is a genuinely high priority for you, because there are no quick and easy fixes in this situation.
I'm scratching my head to come up with a way to loosen up your husband so you can continue to enjoy having sex with him. If monogamy is going to work, it usually needs to include a lot of good communication, flexibility, and acceptance of your own and your partner's fantasies. When one man is a woman's only option, he may need to become all men to her, and vice versa. Monogamy at its best offers people ongoing intimacy that allows for both partners evolving new sexual interests.
You may have to take a large step backwards. Instead of looking for a way to propose new techniques, you may need to work on your partner's basic attitude toward sex and his communication skills. Try to find out why he is so frightened or disgusted by your proposal. In the best case scenario, he is simply phobic about one body part, and would be open to trying just about anything else. In the worst case, he is oblivious to the fact that sex is a wonderful buffet with a lot more items than five minutes of vaginal penetration with a hard penis (in the missionary position, of course). People shut down their libidos in response to being shamed, hurt, or frightened. Well-meaning parents who pass on strict religious teachings are one common source of negativity toward erotic exploration. Another common cause is the trauma of sex abuse. Men can have a very hard time identifying inappropriate behavior that took place when they were children. The larger culture views any sexual experience as positive, even lucky, for a young man. And any man who has been abused is bound to have his masculinity questioned even if he was a small child being hurt by a much larger adult.
In addition to gently probing, so to speak, for your husband's history, you can begin to talk just a bit more to him about the sex that the two of you are having right now. Be more responsive. Initiate activities you already know he likes. Rather than asking him to try certain things, you might just want to bring them into the experience. Dressing up in sexy lingerie, for example, probably doesn't require his prior consent. If it does, his hang-ups may be too big for a civilian to solve, and it might be time for some counseling.
Performance anxiety is a burden to almost every guy. Because of the differences in male and female anatomy, men are often uncertain about how to really please a woman, and they are almost never sure they have done enough for her. When a woman asks us for something new or different, we immediately tend to assume this means she doesn't like what we already did. If a spiral of self-doubt ensues, it creates a lot of static that makes it hard to hear what she is really saying or how she really feels. It can be helpful to have a partner say something like, “You are such a great lover. I experience so much pleasure with you, and I feel so safe. That's why I want to ask you to try something with me that I'm really curious about. I don't think I could trust just anybody with this request. It had to be somebody special.” You get the picture. Don't lay it on too thick, or you'll start to feel weird and manipulative, and you won't come across as sincere.
I have no way of knowing if your partner is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, negative religious conditioning, or a rigid personality combined with a selfish attitude. He may be a conservative person who actually did think that sex in this marriage would be a predictable, repetitive behavior that wouldn't require too much effort or imagination on his part. You will be able to tell if he is controlling in other areas of the relationship. If he demeans you for wanting to discuss lovemaking, that's a big warning sign. If he is critical of you in bed or in other areas of your life together, that isn't healthy for you to endure.
Once he has gotten used to you communicating more in the bedroom, ask him if he has any fantasies. See how he reacts to that question. If he says he doesn't have any fantasies, or if he gets angry and behaves as if the question is offensive, it's going to be quite difficult to change him. If he has a few scenarios or new ideas to share, you can be more confident that the two of you will eventually start having erotic adventures together.
It's too early to tell exactly which way the wind blows. See what happens when you try the approaches above. For heaven's sake, you're proposing an activity that has mutual benefit. If he doesn't want to have wild sex with his beautiful wife, sex beyond his wildest dreams, sex that will make his toes curl and his chest hair catch on fire, well, that's pretty hard to understand. You are trying to make sure your marriage lasts, so I hope he can do the hokey pokey, turn himself about, and understand that you are trying to do something nice for him (and yourself, of course).