I’m a man in a six-month-long heterosexual relationship. My girlfriend has been pushing for sex to last longer and I’m not sure I can handle it. We have sex pretty regularly and we both orgasm around the same time, but she wants to keep going after that and I don’t; after I come I’m spent and would just prefer to cuddle. Is it that our sex drives are mismatched? Do most women need to orgasm multiple times? How can I make sure she’s getting what she wants in a way that matches with my energy?

It is actually pretty rare that couples’ sex drives are 100% in sync for the duration of their relationship. Our individual desire patterns fluctuate over time, based upon changes in our bodies as well as external stimuli (like stress). This means that even if we are a pretty close sex-drive match with a partner for a certain time period, it is normal to occasionally veer in different directions. Regarding having multiple orgasms, some women are able to orgasm more than once in succession, and some of those women like to orgasm more than once in succession. This is also true for people of various genders, irregardless of what their genitals look like. Also, orgasms are not a universal signal that sex is finished, nor should they be the focus of all sexual encounters. Sex is still valid even if an orgasm has not happened. So, maybe she is at a place where multiple orgasms are what she is looking for, or maybe she just wants sex to last longer. Either way, it is going to take a bit of communication and perhaps compromise in order to come to a happy ending for everyone.

I want to start by saying that no one is owed sex or owed orgasms. It is each of our own individual responsibilities to advocate for our own needs and pleasure, as well as a break from sexual encounters if wanted. This might mean that you need to shift ideas about what your relationship encompasses and come to a mutually agreed upon idea of what kind of sex life y’all would like to have. It seems like you are on the same page about what you’re looking for, just that the energy levels available for physical interaction aren’t totally equal and you want to find a way to get you both to a level of post-sex satisfaction. In this case, I would suggest bringing toys, such as a vibrator or dildo into play, especially at the beginning of the sexual encounter. Utilizing toys for warm-up helps by stimulating your girlfriend in ways that could possibly facilitate multiple orgasms for her and also help preserve your energy for a bit later in the session. This can also be a fantastic way to learn more about what turns your girlfriend on because if you are wielding the toys, she will have to verbally communicate to you what she likes and what feels good; and you will need to figure out how to translate her directions with objects that are not innately part of you. If you don’t already own toys (or, specifically toys that can be used together), try making a date to go to the sex shop together and pick out something that strikes both of your fancies. By choosing the toy together, you are collaborating on your sexual playtime and will get a toy that you both feel excited by and connected to. A visit to the sex shop is also a way to be inspired by potential that you never knew existed.

You could also try sex sessions where you only use the toys and your hands and make the entire focus about her pleasure as a way to take pressure off the need for simultaneous orgasm, which although sometimes feels romantic and like proof that we are totally in sync with our partner, instead becomes a fixed goal that can be limiting to exploring our physical desires. “I did you, now you do me” seems “fair” but can end up feeling monotonous and transactional in ways that you didn’t intend for. By having sex together where the entire focus is on one person’s physical pleasure, you can reconnect with emotions that are stirred by receiving attention and giving pleasure.

Another way to address the mismatched energy is to encourage each other in mutual masturbation and be present for each other’s orgasms. This way you are spending sexual time with each other, but you are each focused on your own personal physical pleasure. This will let each of you be responsible for your own orgasms and also get to witness what the other person wants to experience without making it about you. At first, this can maybe be a little bit embarrassing, but having mutually-agreed-upon porn playing in the background or a playlist you both find sexy on the stereo can provide a bit of ambiance and something for you to focus on while you get into your groove.

Either way, have patience with yourself and your partner. The way our bodies intersect with desire is complicated and ever-changing. As soon as we think we’ve figured out the rules, the game changes, and that’s OK! Being open to switching things up and trying something new is going to keep the energy flowing.

Why is the third date the one where you are suppose to have sex?

Having sex on the third date is accepted as a cultural norm in heterosexual culture in the United States. I suppose that the reasoning is that you would need to hang out for a few hours (a coffee date plus a dinner date?) to get to know someone well enough to want to have sex with them. However, this timeline is actually pretty arbitrary. People have all sorts or reasons for wanting to engage in sex and different ways they prefer to build relationships. Sometimes you feel sexual chemistry with a person that you just met on the streetcar, or sometimes you need to be friends with someone for years before you realize that y’all are incredibly sexually attracted to each other. Take judgment out of the equation and own your sexual desires in the present moment. Instead of relying on the subjective cultural standard of “sex on the third date,” figure out what you want out of each particular situation and do what feels right for you. Work on communicating that to the people you want to be having potentially sexy times with, and leave oppressive societal norms in the dust.

Send your sex questions to illustrations Ruth Mascelli