It's one of the million dollar questions in sex therapy world: Why can I orgasm by myself but not with a partner? What does it mean? Does it mean I'm broken? Is it my fault? Will it always be like this?
Let's start off with that this isn't about assigning blame. Blame has no space in sexuality and can be more harmful than useful. Finding it easier to orgasm solo rather than in partnered experiences is actually significantly more common than most people think, and the answers are also significantly more straightforward than you would think.
In hearing this question, I would ask this in return: what's different between the way you masturbate and the way you have partnered sex? I can guess a few things, but as every experience is different, I can't know for sure.
It might be that you're in your head more often and you're not relaxed
It might be a different pace, position or technique than you're used to
It might involve more starting and stopping
It might involve more environmental distractions
It might be a struggle with communication
This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the most common reasons I come up against in session. It can be any of these or none of them, but the answer lies in understanding the gap between how you masturbate and how you have partnered sex. It's also worth pointing out that for many people, the way that they approach masturbation often doesn't evolve from their first few experiences of masturbation, so they're still copying the same script from when they were a teenager and that script is often centred around how to get from point A to B as quickly as possible and then wondering why that doesn't translate neatly over to partnered sexual experiences! So when we get analytical with it and we can understand the factors that support us reaching orgasm solo like feeling relaxed or a certain technique, we can try to replicate it by recreating the environment, doing the preferred technique or stroke yourself or by demonstrating it to your partner.
From here, I decided to crowdsource some tangible, tried and true suggestions because at the end of the day, no matter how much sex education and philosophy I share into this virtual world, we each are the experts of our own bodies and that when we stop and reflect, we often know what we need. We just need to figure out what it looks like in practice and sometimes, we need a little extra hand.
So I posted up a question box on my Instagram story asking followers, "What makes it easier for you to orgasm during partnered experiences?" and boy, did they pull through. I stringed together some common themes and pointers in the responses from my followers.
"Taking time. Getting in the right headspace. Going slow. Feeling comfortable enough to close my eyes and hyperfocus on the sensations. Being present in my body, feeling safe, no conflict with my partner. No pressure, just vibing. Not putting any pressure on myself. Patience. If I've had a nice day and I'm relaxed. Being relaxed, feeling safe and sexy. Having my partner talk me through it. Seeing and hearing that they're feeling pleasure too. Having my clit stimulated. Lots and lots of foreplay. The affection. Being more turned on and my partner has more patience than me. When my partner is horny. When my partner has already experienced some of their own O's."
This again is not the exhaustive list, but you can see the huge theme across the responses was feeling relaxed, taking your time and being present. More to this, there were also themes around receiving positive encouragement from partners and leaning into specific s3xual acts that made you feel good.
Knowing that in order to feel aroused and reach orgasm, you need to first be relaxed, isn't mind-blowing or groundbreaking news. However, you'd be surprised how difficult it can be for the message to really sink in which is part-and-parcel of why I have a job.
From here, where I often guide my clients through is understanding what this looks like in practice. It looks different for everyone and the work is in figuring out what it looks like for you.
Figure out what you need in order to feel relaxed and at ease. This applies to before, during and after sex. It can look like music in the background, breathing exercises, making sure doors are locked etc. Then actually do it.
Go slow. Spend more time in the build-up. Ask yourself and your partner: What's the rush?
Get specific with your requests and feedback. The more specific you get with your communication, the more likely you and your partner can co-create the experience you're after.
Just because you are wet or hard, it doesn't mean you're mentally aroused or receiving sufficient physical stimulation. It doesn't mean you're broken, it just means they are different experiences because they are. Like life, there's very often not just one simple and direct case of cause-and-effect. It's probably a handful of these different factors overlapping each other. It's not inherently a sign that something's wrong and it's not inherently a problem to be fixed. If it something you'd like to change, you'll have to figure out how to mind the gap. Here's hoping this gets you one step closer.
If this is a concern that you would like to speak to a professional about (aka me), feel free to contact me to book in a session through here.