Sunday, November 28, 2010

Q. My husband and I are in a rut and I feel like I'm the one doing all the work to try to get us out of it. I'm constantly trying to talk to him but he just shuts me out. What can I do to get him to listen?

A. When something isn't working, we try to fix it. If that doesn't work, we try again - but often use exactly the same method. And we keep on trying, doing more of the same but thinking, "This time it will work - I just need to try harder." Women nearly always attempt to solve problems by talking. And talking some more. Often, however, talk doesn't work for men. Instead, think about how he would solve the problem if the situation was reversed. He'd probably do something - take action - rather than talk. So, follow his lead. Start doing new things rather than just suggesting them and you might get somewhere!

Q. I quite like giving blow jobs and usually swallow. Is it bad for you health-wise to swallow semen?

A. It's not 'bad' for you: semen is mostly water and mucus, though there are traces of acids, salt, chloride, ammonia, calcium, carbon dioxide and cholesterol (sperm makes up a mere one per cent of ejaculate). But the only problem is a large one: if he carries an STI, you may get it. Take your pick from a long list of diseases that can be passed on this way. In fact, just wrapping your mouth around his penis puts you at risk of contracting herpes, syphilis or genital warts if they're present. If you want to be truly safe, make sure you use a condom during oral sex.

Q. My boyfriend bought a penis ring, which the sex shop guy said would make him harder and last longer. Are they safe?

A. Penis rings constrict blood flow by keeping blood in the shaft of the penis. They also supposedly make his orgasms more intense because it takes longer to climax and the penis has more blood in it. Slip it over the head of the penis, pushing it down until it's fitting snugly at the bottom of the shaft. It should feel quite tight but not excessively so. The ring is perfectly safe as long as you make sure you remove it if there's too much swelling - and never, ever leave it on for a long period.

Q. My boyfriend bought a penis ring, which the sex shop guy said would make him harder and last longer. Are they safe?

A. Penis rings constrict blood flow by keeping blood in the shaft of the penis. They also supposedly make his orgasms more intense because it takes longer to climax and the penis has more blood in it. Slip it over the head of the penis, pushing it down until it's fitting snugly at the bottom of the shaft. It should feel quite tight but not excessively so. The ring is perfectly safe as long as you make sure you remove it if there's too much swelling - and never, ever leave it on for a long period.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Q. My boyfriend and I are really shy, so sex is always the same - in the dark and in bed. I want to experiment but I don't know where to start.

A. Relationships, like ponds, get stagnant if left to stand still too long. All things must adapt if they are to survive. Before you install a pole and a mirror ball in your living room, change only has to be small to make a big difference. Turn the TV off one night and produce an eye-mask. Ask him to trust you, then blindfold him (this will protect you from self-consciousness and heighten his other senses). Fill the room with sexy tunes, turn the lights low and get naked while leaving him clothed (or the other way round). Go slowly to build up the tension and remember, giggling is allowed - sex is supposed to be fun, if you're lucky, it will be your turn next!

Q. I don't enjoy giving oral sex (I feel like I'm suffocating) and I'm not very good at it, but my new girlfriend's made it pretty clear she's expecting it anyway. I don't want to make a fool of myself. Can you give me some help with going down there?

A. Quick tips won't make up for hard-earnt experience, but in the name of cunnilingus I'll try to set you on the right track. Firstly, unless her clitoris is near her anus, you can't possibly suffocate. Look at what you're dealing with. If you gently push her outer lips back her clitoris will stand out a little. Some women want you to keep your tongue on the button, others want you to move around it. She might want you to move up and down, side to side, or in circles, hard or soft, fast or slow. Listen for her clues. When she's making the right noises, commit to not stopping until she comes. Oral sex is only hard work if its a chore - bringing someone to orgasm with your tongue is an honour. You could also buy a bikini trimmer for better access, and offer to shave her as part of your foreplay.

Q. My boyfriend can't be bothered to have sex. He likes getting blow jobs but says that intercourse is too much effort and that maybe if I dressed in sexy outfits, he might want it more. I don't mind dressing up but why does sex have to be such a circus for him?

A. Make it clear that regular sex is important to you and if you're willing to dress up like a performing seal to get some, you expect him to make the effort to please you without the 'dress up' sometimes. He probably doesn't have a very high libido and needs higher levels of stimulation to get revved up. On the whole, men are more visually stimulated and less imaginative than women, so they need to actually see things rather than just picture them in their minds. His suggestion might seem clumsy but at least he's trying to offer a solution - even if it is one that means you still do all the work. Your libidos may be mismatched, but the responsibility for resolving the problem is 50/50.
Q. My new girlfriend is permanently horny. It's been three months since we met and she's still not slowing down. Whenever I try talking to her, she just starts kissing me or trying to unzip my trousers. I really want to get to know her a bit better, but I'm starting to think that she just wants me for the sex.

A. That's possible, but it's more likely she's using sex to avoid developing the relationship with you. We assume that sex is intimate because we have to take our clothes off to do it (or at least for some of it) but actually talking to each other - sharing details of our lives, opening our hearts and minds to another person's scrutiny - is far more intimate, and much more risky. Assume that she's far less confident with her clothes on than she is naked and you might start getting somewhere. Why not arrange to spend more time with her in public? Take her out for a romantic dinner and chat about light-hearted things to build up her confidence. Of course, she'll probably try to talk about sex, but hey, its a start.....!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Q. My parents divorced when I was a child, and my partner's dad keeps cheating on his mum, who says it's something all women have to go through. I can't sleep for worrying. I trust my partner totally but worry he'll go through the same mid-life crisis our dads did. If I talk to him he'll think I don't trust him, won't he?

A. History doesn't repeat itself. We do. Start thinking like his mum and you're halfway to trouble - men and women tend to do what's expected of them. What his mother believes, along with her acceptance of her husband's infidelity, is their marital history. And your parents made their own unhappy history. You two are making your own unique relationship history. Talk to him - but about ambitions for your future, happy memories of your past together; about love. And keep talking. Mid-life crisis? Even the words sound out of date. Have I mentioned that history doesn't repeat itself? We do.

Q. I am a FAT person. There are many words that sound nicer but, at the end of the day, I'm 19, size 24 and FAT. I'm desperate to look fashionable when I'm out with my friends, but I just look silly when I try. I was size 16 when I met my fiance - he can't even get his arms around me any more. I've now told him I can no longer have sex with him because I'm too embarrassed in bed. Help!

A. You're a bright, healthy, young person, with friends and a man who loves you. You also happen to be fat. So what? Who cares? You do. Of all the amazing things you are, you choose to define yourself as fat. Take a good look at yourself - the one who lives inside the body you see as a prison. What are you so scared of that it makes you use your body as an excuse to avoid facing down fears and facing real desires? Are you so afraid of failing that you've fixed it so you can't even try? Are you so scared of rejection that you've decided to reject yourself first? Are you afraid of love? Of sex? Counselling will help you lose weight but, more importantly, it will help you find yourself. Being overweight brings health risks, so your doctor is an ally, not a judge. Weight Watchers or Slimming World also offer support. You can do it. You just have to believe in yourself first, and want it.

Q. I've just started seeing a bloke and things are going well, but I know that he was with his ex for years and I'm scared I won't be up to scratch in bed. I've built it up to be a massive deal. How can I keep calm about it?

A. It's normal to worry like this, but just because he was with his ex for years doesn't guarantee that their sex life was great. And even if it was good, he's with you now! Every partner we are with allows us to learn what excites us and explore what is pleasurable, so rather than comparing yourself with his ex, focus on what feels good together. Remember, relationships are built on a lot more than just sex and he'll be looking forward to getting to know you and building a relationship with you - not thinking about his ex. Rather than worrying about the past, focus on the future and plan enjoyable activities in and outside the bedroom, so you can get on with having fun together.

Q. I've become really good friends with my best mate's boyfriend, but last month she cheated on him. She's not going to tell him, and I can't as I've been friends with her for so much longer, but I feel guilty each time I see him. What should I do?

A. It's not fair of your friend to put you in this situation, but she probably figures that your loyalties are strongest to her. No one outside a relationship can know quite what's going on between a couple, and telling her bloke what happened might cost you both of their friendships. Tell her how awkward things are and that you hope she doesn't make a habit of it. If it's a one-off, you should let it go for the sake of friendship, but if it keeps happening maybe it's time to broaden your social circle and focus on other friends. Or alternatively ask her not to tell you any part of her behaviour. What you don't know can't torment you, and being unable to brag about her conquests to you will drive her potty.

Q. When my boyfriend was really drunk, he proposed to me. We laughed it off the next day, but now he keeps doing it and then blaming it on the drink the next morning. Does he want to marry me or not?

A. Do you want to marry him? If you don't, just ignore these drunken antics, he'll soon get bored of the game. But if you do want to marry him in the future and this is leaving you feeling uncertain, I'd ask him where you stand when he's sober. Tell him his drunken proposals are confusing you and that if he does want to get married, he needs to propose when he's sober. You don't say how long you've been together, but finding out where you stand doesn't mean you have to get engaged or married immediately. However, it will give you a sense of where you're headed as a couple. If he continues to give mixed messages, you may need to decide how long you can live with uncertainty in your relationship.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Q. Recently my boyfriend of two years said that although he's always loved me, he's never fancied me. I feel so hurt and my confidence is shattered. Should I just accept this, or is it wrong to stay in a relationship that feels one-sided?

A. We're used to the idea that relationships are the complete package, so it must have been a shock to hear this confession. People are together for all different sorts of reasons and there's more than one type of love. What you have to decide is whether this has permanently changed your view of the relationship and if what you have is good enough. Then have a serious chat about where you see the relationship going. Resist the temptation to try and change your looks for him though. Ultimately you have to be true to yourself.

Q. I've never had a boyfriend and all of my friends are in long-term relationships. I don't want to sound childish, but I can't help think, 'What's wrong with me?' I usually get to three dates with a man, then he stops calling. What am I doing that's putting them off?

A. If you don't tick all the boxes for someone it doesn't mean there's something wrong with you - it just means that you've both got different checklists. I know it sounds cliched, but try and get out as much as you can and focus on what makes you happy and relaxed. That way, when you meet someone you'll be at your best, and the real you can shine through. Three dates is pretty good, so you're obviously doing something right to get a second and third date. It could be that you're raising the stakes for a third date and expecting too much. On each date, focus on the present moment and don't think about the next one. It shouldn't be long before you break the three-date barrier.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Q. I've been with my boyfriend for a few months. We have the most fantastic sex life and he regularly makes me orgasm. The problem is he wants it all the time and I can't handle it! How do I go about telling him this without sounding ungrateful?

A. I'd tell him pretty much what you've told me. That he really turns you on and how much you enjoy sex with him. Then explain it feels so intense it's good to have time to recover, and that you enjoy your orgasms more if you have space to cool down in between. You might want to try sharing things with him too, so if you've had an orgasm, then you may want to masturbate him or give him a blow job and then return to what excites you. He sounds aware of your desires so will hopefully appreciate the feedback.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Q. My girlfriend has lost all interest in sex since receiving treatment for cervical cancer. I don't know if it's because of her appearance - she's lost her hair, eyelashes and eyebrows and put on weight - or if it's something else? She's only 25. What can I do to help her?

A. Treatment for cancer changes people emotionally and physically. Talk to her about how she feels, how you feel and the changes she's experiencing, and discuss what non-sexual things you enjoy as a couple. She may be avoiding intimacy because it's uncomfortable or because she fears it will lead to sex, which isn't what she wants right now. Make it clear you can still kiss and cuddle if that's what she wants, but if she doesn't want this either, be patient. Reassure her that you're there for her and love her. When she's ready for sex again she'll let you know, but in the meantime confidence issues may affect her, or she may be worried about sex being painful. Cancer charity Macmillan ( has resources on sex after cancer and can offer you both advice on how to manage your relationship at this time.

Q. My boyfriend never gets jealous. I was out recently and another bloke asked for my number, but my boyfriend just laughed when I told him. Does he not care?

A. Jealousy is not a normal part of relationships and can be incredibly destructive, so why go looking for it? It's not a sign that someone cares, rather that they have unresolved self-esteem issues. Your man seems relaxed, secure and comfortable in his own skin. However, you seem to think there's something missing. Is he giving you what you need or do you have to play games by trying to make him jealous? Have a chat and tell him what attention and reassurance you need, and focus on increasing the good stuff.

Q. I've started seeing a man and when I'm with him he's really attentive. But he works away a lot and does shifts, so sometimes days go by and I don't hear from him at all. Is he just not that bothered about me or are his reasons for not getting in touch genuine?

A. Does he work in the secret service? Is he running the country? Are his thumbs broken every time he leaves your side? If not - and your relationship is serious or getting that way - you have every right to ask him for more regular contact. If you're smelling a rat over his behaviour, and think he could be seeing someone else then bide your time as it will show itself in some way fairly soon. But if this is purely about more contact, remember that men aren't as big on communication as women are, they speak to make arrangements or find out the facts on something, they don't tend to spend hours on the phone like women do. However that is no excuse for the unforgivable behaviour, with all the methods of communication, he could easily send a text or email. Simply not good enough. Rather than turning it into a confrontation, let him know how much you miss him while he's away, and how you'd love to chat to him every day if possible. Also consider suggesting some sexy chats, that's sure to keep him calling. Don't tell him off but do be firm if he starts making dodgy excuses. If he wants you enough he'll start making more effort, if he doesn't - you have your answer.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Q. The bloke I've been seeing for a few months refuses to officially be my boyfriend, saying he doesn't want a serious relationship right now. We get on great, have been on holiday together and he's even said he loves me. Will he ever commit to me or should I finish things now, before I get hurt?

A. It sounds like he wants to keep his options open. As much as he loves to spend time with you, he still loves the single life, too. Ultimately, you have to decide whether what you have is enough for you right now, rather than waiting around for this bloke to recognise what a good thing he's got. But make sure you consider whether you're too eager to rush things without taking time to enjoy the moment. There's a fine line between being too patient and too pushy. Go with your gut feeling and decide where that reasonable middle ground is for you.

Q. Recently my bloke has started to get pain in his penis while we're having sex and has to pull out early. What could be causing it?

A. Firstly, and I always stress this, I am not a doctor, not medically trained at all. Secondly, it is really important that sexual pain in men is always checked out by a doctor. Some men suffer from a condition called phimosis where the foreskin becomes tight. The action of sex will tug at the foreskin and this can cause pain, particularly if the head of the penis is inflamed. It could also be an infection. Inflammation of the foreskin can be caused by thrush, but STIs such as herpes, gonorrhoea and chlamydia can cause pain too. If your boyfriend ignores the pain it will only get worse.

Q. I've just gone on the Pill and I've completely gone off sex. Are the two related?

A. They could be. Some brands of pill (particularly the progestogen-only Pill) can cause women's sex drive to decrease. The problem is often that when we go on the Pill we are likely to already be in an established relationship, which could also explain the dip in desire. It's always worth ensuring there aren't any other life factors that might explain how you feel. If you feel sure the decline in desire is due to the Pill, speak to your GP and ask them if there may be other methods that suit you better. Don't stop taking the Pill before you've sorted out alternative contraception though.

Q. I've been single for ages and it doesn't usually bother me, but recently all of my friends have got into serious relationships and I feel really left out. How can I make them stop inviting their boyfriends everywhere we go without sounding like a bitter singleton?

A. It's a sad fact of life that your friends will probably be seeing themselves as half of one whole rather than as an independent until right now. This is a phase of being 'in love' and, even if you can get them out alone, you might find that all they want to do is talk about their blokes or be busy texting them. A more strategic way to get them to yourself would be to invite the blokes along every time, until they get fed up with your company and start to turn the invites down themselves. A couple of evenings discussing Corrie or Gavin's man-tan on Strictly should do it. Or, plan a girls' night out once a week so you can all catch up properly without the men in tow.

Q. I had a date with a guy I've fancied for ages last week, and it was going well until I got drunk, cried for no reason then begged him to stay over. He did, but I haven't heard from him since. I really like him and think he liked me too before that - how can I convince him to give me another chance?

A. You can never get a second chance to make a first impression, but you can send him one text apologising for your behaviour and explaining that the booze got the better of you. Keep it brief, and if you don't hear from him then don't bother following it up. On this occasion you may just have to face up to the fact that booze cost you the bloke. If you need to get drunk to have a good time and always end up getting over-emotional, maybe it's time to take a closer look at what's going on with your life at the moment and try to tackle that.

Q. Last month my boyfriend of two years broke up with me, saying his feelings had changed. A week later he said it was a mistake and he wants to try again - at first I was ecstatic but now I feel like I'm waiting for him to dump me again. I was so secure before - how can I be again?

A. It'll take time to get that feeling back, but tell him how you feel and ask him to reassure you. He has the right to change his mind and has been honest with you, but he also needs to understand that this will make you feel anxious and unsettled. Make it clear you want the relationship to work but also remind him that if he repeats the behaviour then you won't give him another chance. You need to believe that he wants to be with you unless he indicates otherwise.