Why You’re Not Getting Spaghetti

This post has some history behind it. It started with my XY Code post entitled Understandable, But A Bad Idea in which I told women it was a bad plan to refuse some sex act just because their husband enjoyed it with a former girlfriend. Then my wife wrote Make Spaghetti for Your Husband which expanded on the idea, She suggested that if a man loves spaghetti and his mother made fantastic spaghetti refusing to make spaghetti for him was putting her self-doubt ahead of loving her husband.

Why You're Not Getting Spaghetti

The comments on my XY code post, and comments on the same issue on other blogs, tells me this is a major issue for some women, especially in the bedroom. As best as I can tell it’s not just the fact he engaged in the sex act with some other woman. The issue seems to be that he really enjoyed it, which suggests the other woman did it particularly well. This creates the fear of not living up to the high bar the man must have for the sex act.

As Lori and I discussed this (you wouldn’t believe some of the things we say over dinner!) I realised there was a male/female difference at work here. If a sports team has no chance of winning a game, but shows up and plays their best, we all respect them. If they just don’t show up we don’t respect them. The truth is most of us would respect our wife doing a “poor” job at some sex act if she was really trying. However, when she refuses to even try we don’t respect her. Perhaps in her mind, if she can’t win, she shouldn’t compete. She thinks forfeiting a game you can’t win is better than showing up and losing.

So the reason you’re not getting oral sex, or her on top, or sex in the shower, may well be that you’ve told her how much you enjoyed doing that with Betty-Sue all those years ago. Your wife fears she can’t do half as well as Betty-Sue, and she thinks not trying is her best option.

If you’ve mentioned some sex act you did with another woman several thousand times, there probably isn’t much you can do to fix that at this point. Your wife is wounded and afraid, and anything you say about it now will just make her feel worse. If you’ve not made a big deal about it over and over there is some hope. 

The bottom line is she needs to feel you want to have sex with her and would like to try whatever. Unfortunately, what we often communicate, even though it’s not what we feel, is that we want to do whatever sex act and she’s the only choice we have for doing it. That may be far more about her wounding than you, but if you understand it you can speak more carefully.

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105 Comments on “Why You’re Not Getting Spaghetti

  1. Paul,

    Can you please explain why any man would be stupid enough to say ‘I did xyz with Betty-Sue 1000 times and it was really great’. Honestly!

    You have admitted – wonderfully Godly I must say – you have little experience ‘outside’ your marriage. Don’t bother covering topics you aren’t conversant in.

    That is two posts in a row you have missed the mark.


    • @Neilethere – It’s not how I suggest sharing it, but I would say a man would do this because he and his wife want to know each other fully.
      If I had past experience, I know Lori would be more than willing to try something I enjoyed before. And I think she would feel a bit betrayed if I just brought it up out of the blue like I had just thought of it.
      My experience before Lori was limited and of poor quality, but she knows about it. I also know the good, bad, and ugly (she was molested and raped) of her sex life before me. We didn’t’ spend hours doing blow by blow, but we’ve talked about what happened, and more importantly how those things made us feel.

    • @Neilethere – I freely admit that I don’t know your intent in this reply, but I find it to be unnecessarily harsh. If this ministry is going to be comprehensive, then at times Paul and Lori will need to bring up issues and experiences that were not a major part of their story. Clearly, this issue is important to wives based on the feedback it generated on the XY code post.

      • Bil,

        ‘ if you mentioned some sex act you did with another woman several thousand times’ isn’t ‘fully knowing each other’. As Andrew below said ‘you’re an idiot’.

        Actually, I agree with pretty much everything Andrew said. If you have a problem with marrying someone with a past, don’t marry them.

          • Paul, why do we approach this like it is black and white, either you are hiding things from her or rubbing her nose in it? There is a spectrum. You can tell your wife you’ve done “xyz” with another woman in the past if she asks, but that isn’t the same as throwing your experience in her face “Mary sue gave great bjs, why won’t you”? The second is the telling your wife 1000 times she didn’t ask for that makes you an idiot

          • Paul,

            I hope you understood I was referring to someone who tells his wife ‘1000 times ‘ about a particular sex act (and can’t work out why he isn’t getting it) as the ‘idiot’. That was a poorly constructed sentence.

        • @Neilethere.
          “If you are recounting your experience with Betty Sue to your wife 1000 times, you’re an idiot. ”
          Agree, 100%.
          “If you have a problem with marrying someone with a past, don’t marry them.”
          Agree, 100%.

          My remark was simply to ask you to respectfully consider the critical tone of your reply. This post and the previous post may not have been helpful to you but that doesn’t mean they weren’t to others.

  2. I think it’s entirely predictable:
    Guys tend to run their mouths, particularly about sex.
    Women tend to be less competitive/combative than men.
    Sure, I’ve always considered it to be ungentlemany to refer to any romantic activity from the past, but I’ll bet in many cases the guy “knows what he wants” and asks for it. Little head thinking.

  3. If you are recounting your experience with Betty Sue to your wife 1000 times, you’re an idiot.

    On the other hand, “he did this with ex gf xyz” is just a cop out enabling you to not venture out of your comfort zone. I had plenty of experience before I met my wife, she had her own experience. But at this point we’ve had 12 years of opportunity to get really good at what the other likes, so who cares what some girl I met at a bar in college could do with a month of practice or drunk in the back of a car. With that much opportunity time, anyone could become Olympic caliber at whatever sex act their partner likes…….why would you choose to use that time to allow your partner to focus on the thing you won’t do that their ex did really well? If you won’t do something they like that someone else did, that’s the best way to ensure they keep thinking about that other person.

    • My husband has refused to do any sex act with me that I know he has done with dozens of other women. He just refuses everything and tightly controls sex (and, again, this is at least somewhat different than other relationships). I’m not the one “forcing” him to focus on other women. He is the one choosing that.

        • I honestly don’t know. My guess is apathy / disinterest, but that’s just a guess. He hasn’t ever expressed any guilt or regret over his sexual history, usually the opposite (with the exception of cheating on his longtime girlfriend — he has a lot of remorse over what he did to that relationship).

  4. While lack of confidence could certainly play into it, I think a bigger problem for many wives is the sense that that he’s defined the act by what the other woman did. He’s actively thinking about sexual enjoyment with another woman. It’s not the skills part that feels so hard to live up to; it’s the feeling that he doesn’t really want your “spaghetti” if it’s not like hers. And the “just give it a shot anyway” idea doesn’t really affect her legitimate feelings that her husband is valuing what another woman offers above what she herself offers.

    Of course I don’t think all sexual acts ever done with another person (or seen on porn) should be off the table. But referencing another woman seems a surefire way to kill the mood.

    • Hi J,

      Paul and I have been struggling on the other post. If I were to avoid an act based on it being one of his favorites with an ex, it wouldn’t be because of his expectations for the act It would be because it would feel like he was reliving something he did with someone else. It would feel like we had a third person in the bedroom with us.

      I might wonder if he’s thinking of her instead of me (which would probably be an ungrounded insecurity I could learn to overcome.) But I also might have trouble myself doing it without ME thinking about her and how he enjoyed this so much with her. Still like inviting her into our bedroom with us. I don’t want to be thinking about his past experiences while I’m enjoying sex with him. I’d rather find new favorites that belong to just the two of us.

      Then I feel very sad when I see comments like Andrews. If I felt like I describe above, and then some guy told me it was just a copout, or I was stonewalling or needed God to change my heart, I would be devastated.

      And it hugely bothers me to define the issue in such narrow parameters. Even if it’s often true, it’s not universally true. I say, let the woman speak her own truth, and don’t go jumping to conclusions and defining her existence for her. It’s a pet peeve for me when one person tells another person what a third person thinks or feels. Only God knows anything that person thinks or feels unless the person has chosen to share.

      J, does any of this make sense to you?

      • Cool, so what all can I tell my wife I’m not doing because an old boyfriend might have done a good job of it? I’m really hoping she has an obsessively clean guy in her past, that would be super convenient. You marry someone with a history you have to decide to get over it and not let it be an anchor to your relationship forever. Life goes on, don’t spend more time thinking about your husband’s previous relationships than he does, nothing good comes from that.

        The comments in this and the xy consistently confirm how poorly Christianity deals with sex. The absurd amount of focus on abstinence before marriage enables people to create road blocks to intimacy after. I had sex with people before I met her, she had sex with other people before she met me….we decided to get married, the five years we were single before we met should not define our relationship that is now more than double that length, with decades to go

        • Dear Andrew,

          Is this personal for you? Does your wife avoid an act because of your single years?

          • No, I wouldn’t have married her if there was something I was into she wouldn’t do. Why I don’t believe in waiting til marriage. My kids are a far bigger impediment to me getting laid than some girl I hooked up with in college, my wife doesn’t ask specifics because she doesn’t care.

            The church is personal for me yes. I want to put a bullet in cultural Christian dogma that enables poor decision making. I do not want my kids taught to get married at 19 to “avoid sin”, I’d much rather they have sex and make an adult decision about who to marry not related to raging teenage hormones. The consequences of a bad marriage choice are far worse than just having sex. The absolutist position on sex is impractical, more than 80% of Christians don’t actually wait til marriage, yet like to pretend they do, and it diverts attention from things that matter; namely ensuring that people have fulfilling sex lives after marriage, which is exactly what you are talking about. Getting hung up on moralistic nonsense that has nothing to do with your present relationship, the church answer should stop enabling women to do this. You are married, you are free to do whatever you want, stop finding things to get int the way. A wife that won’t meet her husbands sex needs is a far bigger problem than two teenagers having sex

          • @T – I find it interesting you think this must be personal for Andrew. This is how men feel about this. All men? No. Almost all men? Yes.
            That doesn’t make it right, but it makes it male reality.

      • Hey, T — I finally went and read the exchange you had with Paul on the XY Code. You expressed some of the same concerns I had.

        It’s particular interesting to me that y’all talked about Dr. Gottman and stonewalling. Because the first two “horseman” are criticism and defensiveness, which could be what’s happening in a marriage that’s experiencing the scenario pointed out here and in Paul’s other post:

        Criticism: “A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, while a criticism attacks the character of the person.” So instead of him saying, “I want to understand why you’re refusing this act, because my longing to do this with you has nothing to do with my past. It’s because I want to express intimacy and experience pleasure with you,” criticism says, “You won’t do this because you’re selfish and don’t think you can live up to my past girlfriend.”

        Defensiveness: “Defensiveness is defined as self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood in attempt to ward off a perceived attack.” So instead of her responding, “I feel hurt that you are thinking about a sexual act you did with someone else, because I want you to only desire and think about me,” defensiveness says, “How could you even suggest doing something you did with her! You don’t care about me, and I’m not discussing it further.”

        Hmmm. Maybe there’s a lesson on both sides here.

        • @J.Parker “I feel hurt that you are thinking about a sexual act you did with someone else, because I want you to only desire and think about me,”

          Yes, say this! It shows her heart and it makes an opening for more discussion. He can explain he wants to add to the sex life he enjoys with her something he knows he enjoys. He can apologise for his sin and ask her to forgive him (or forgive him again). She can further explain how she feels.

          “You won’t do this because you’re selfish and don’t think you can live up to my past girlfriend.”

          That is what he’s hearing if she says what the women on the XY Code said. I’m not saying that is what is happening, but it’s how he hears it. It’s about her behaviour, but it certainly does play into how he sees her character. You’ve heard about the kid who “takes his ball and goes home?” That’s a behaviour, but it shows his character. And no man or boy likes or respects the guy who does that.

    • @J. Parker “He’s actively thinking about sexual enjoyment with another woman.”
      If she gives him nothing to replace those thoughts, he may be. If she makes a real effort, he’s going to be thinking about her.
      Seems like men have a bad rep. on this with women, but most men don’t deserve that rep.

      • I remember hearing a guy say that he doesn’t have enough brain cell capacity to think about anyone or anything else when he is having sex with his wife. All he can think about is having sex with his wife.

        • @Libl – That’s pretty good! Sex does have a way of causing us to focus on the women we are with. Is it that this is not the case for women and they paint us with their reality?
          If my wife told me some past partner did something and I felt good, I would be all about trying it because I WANT TO MAKE HER FEEL GOOD. I would not be thinking about her ex, I’d be all about what she was feeling with me and how to make it better.

      • So the problem is entirely her level of effort in performing the act? For an already fearful wife, that seems to put even more pressure on her.

        Paul, I don’t think what you want to say is coming across well here to wives who are struggling to deal this issue. Yes, I also want married couples to feel free to experience various kinds of physical intimacy without regard to the past. And of course, a spouse shouldn’t stubbornly refuse to even entertain the idea of a sexual that happened before they came around (the past is past indeed). But I think what wives mentally struggling with this spaghetti analogy need to hear is he’s not comparing that past event with his wife.

        I understand, realistically speaking, that past lovers can pop into one’s mind without provocation, but that’s where a spouse must work on training their mind (those thoughts eventually go away) and also to reassure their mate that the only lover who really matters is the one they married.

        • @J. Parker – Effort in the sense of being there and trying. It’s not if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. I don’t see the pressure in “Show up and do your best”.
          This post was not meant for wives, it was meant for husbands. It was an attempt to explain what might be going on and how to try and deal with it.
          Granted my experience is limited, but I have never had a past lover pop into my head during sex with Lori. It would be interesting to poll men and women on this.

    • Exactly J! It’s that he may be thinking about the other woman during it with us. In my head is that he doesn’t want my spaghetti

      • So what’s the natural conclusion to this? That you can’t kiss because they kissed? That you can’t have missionary position sex because they had missionary sex? I doubt many women would say no to everything he did with another woman, just those things she doesn’t want to do – and she might be using the fact that he did it with someone else as the excuse.

        • @K – That is exactly why men call this bogus. It’s only a few of the things he has done with other women that she won’t do. That makes “because you did it with someone else” seem like a less than truthful answer.
          I know there’s a lot more to it than that for the woman, but if all she says is she won’t do it because he did it with some other women she has failed to give him all the information.

          • Well, except I think a guy is not going to say “I loved it when Ex kissed me goodbye in the morning,” or “Ex did the BEST missionary position ever.” I would almost guarantee those are things that a guy wouldn’t even think to mention. Saying, “Ex was always up for sex, why aren’t you?” however, would be counter productive.

            The stuff that guys mention are the special things or the things they particularly enjoyed. They’ll talk about oral, not missionary. So it’s not the same thing.

            I think someone on XY compared it to someone trying to slow dance to whatever was the husband and ex’s song. Or going on a date to the ex’s favorite restaurant. It feels weird, like you’re trying to transplant intimacy.

          • @sunny-dee – Thanks for the light bulb moment! What I’m seeing is very relational thinking. That’s how women think, which is fine. But men don’t think nearly as much that way, and putting it on them isn’t fair.
            He wants to go to the restaurant WITH YOU because he likes it and he likes you; it has nothing to do with his EX. He wants to dance to that song WITH YOU because he likes it and he likes you; it has nothing to do with his EX. Same for whatever sex act he likes.

            He’s not thinking about her when he eats at that restaurant, or when he dances to that song, or when he does whatever sex act. He can do those things without thinking of her.

    • But the reality for most couples is she’s had sex with other guys too. Does the same not apply to her past?

      • Just to answer you, Andrew…yep, I had sex with other guys too. And I’m not thinking about someone else from my past, ever. I have told my husband that (not that he asked me or wondered, but I did). Moreover, I would never ask for a sexual act with information about having done it with someone before. In fact, I don’t think it’s a good idea to share specifics about sexual activities you’ve done with others, because the information that you had sex with others is the relevant part, not some play-by-play of your now-history past.

        It’s my husband who is The Standard, and I make that incredibly clear in my words and actions. That’s the goal that makes sense to me in marriage.

        • Where did I say it was a good idea to share specifics about your past? I agree with your current relationship being what’s important, that is my whole point.

          I’m not sure what separate point you are making as it seems to agree with mine….

        • @J. Parker – Probably a male/female difference here – although I know some women (including the one I married) who fall on the more male side of this.

          If Lori had done something with another guy that she really enjoyed, I would very much want to know about it. I wouldn’t care that she knows this because of past experience, sinful or not. She knows something she likes, and since her enjoyment is my goal, I’d find that information useful. She’s not with the guy who taught her she enjoys it, she’s with me. She has no desire to be with him, she wants to be with me. And honestly, I don’t even need to do it better than he did. I’m not competing against him, I’m trying to be the best I can be. If I keep working at it I have no doubt my ability will eventually surpass his. That’s nice, but not a big deal. And it’s not the point at which I stop trying to do better.

          • I wonder how many husbands actually feel the way you do. Because I think most spouses, male and female, don’t want to hear particulars about their mate’s past.

          • @J. Parker – Totally going to have to do some surveys on all this.
            For me it’s not that I “want to” know, it’s that I think not knowing is an obstacle to intimacy. And I shared about my past for the same reason.
            Beyond that, I think there is the issue of secrets having power over us. Share it and it loses its power. This can also apply to the issue of temptation.
            For the record, we both felt this way

          • I don’t think marriages are entitled to know the details of past sexual relationships. The only thing I asked my husband was do you have kids or STDs. Otherwise, I don’t want to know, I don’t need to know, and I don’t need to disrespect or intrude upon the intimacies shared with past lovers. If I had been with other men I wouldn’t want them blabbing about our relationship with their new partner.

          • The Bible has many verses about restraining our speech and making sure what we say builds up others. How would specific details about my sexual past build my husband up?

            Moreover, why must I dredge up all my past sins and show each one to my hubby? They’re done! If God can move on, then I think hubs and I can too. If something’s relevant to us, I’ll absolutely share. No hiding! But I’m not volunteering everything, and I don’t want or need to know everything either. That approach doesn’t negatively impact our intimacy in the least, because our intimacy is just based on us.

            Maybe it just works differently for you and Lori than it does for me and Spock.

          • @Libl “I don’t think marriages are entitled to know the details of past sexual relationships.”

            Thanks for being so clear on that.

            I don’t think we have the right to withhold anything about our past from our spouse.

            Two rather different takes on it.

          • @J. Parker – When did it become specific details?

            I guess my bottom line is I’m not comfortable with someone knowing something about a man or woman that their spouse doesn’t know. Probably several someones’s since guys have a habit of talking/bragging. Then there is the unfortunate reality that someone might share the information, intentionally or accidentally, with the clueless spouse.

            In Hebrew having sex is often called “knowing” each other. Closing off parts of your past just seems at odds with that.

          • I am a husband and I would definitely want to know if there was something my wife got from another husband and she really enjoyed it. Why wouldn’t I want to give her what she really wants?

  5. Dear Andrew,

    1) Do you think I would be wrong for having those feelings that I talked about?

    2) Do you see my explanation of how I would feel as moralistic?

    3) If you and I were a married couple discussing this issue, would you approach me any differently?

    4) I am sensing a vibe of hostility from your responses, is that what you’re feeling toward me as you write these?

    • 1. I think you would be wrong for feeding those feelings, they do not lead to anything productive, and probably inhibit intimacy with your husband. Everyone has insecurities, lots of men will about their wife being much more experienced, but it just doesn’t matter….don’t pursue roads that lead to nowhere

      2. Kind of, but I could be projecting the people I have gone to church with onto you. I think that if the issue were not sex, you wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. If your husband liked it when his ex girlfriend wore dresses, it wouldn’t keep you from wearing dresses

      3. It would depend on the issue, they aren’t all equal, and are unique to each person. If you refused to do something that I considered a deal breaker, I’d draw a line in the sand over the matter. If it was something I saw as less important I’d tell you that you are being ridiculous and need to deal with your insecurities, but would let it go. If you were my buddy saying he felt insecure because his wife had more partners than he did (happened) I’d tell you that you married her, deal with it what’s done is done, it doesn’t matter now, spend your time worrying about ways to improve your marriage.

      4. I’m not being hostile, I’m being blunt and direct. I do not typically make gentle round about points I do have a passionate opinion about what I see as impracticality in how evangelicals deal with sex. Way too much emphasis on purity, and not nearly enough on making it work after marriage. I want you and your husband to have a fulfilling marriage and a robust sex life, limiting that because of jealousy over women before you is shortsighted and unproductive and someone should be straightforward about that with you

      • Dear Andrew,

        Thanks for clarifying. Just for the record, this was a hypothetical for me. I have never refused any particular sex act. I have done oral, I have swallowed, had sex in the car, on the kitchen counter…I’ve even given rim jobs. But DH and I do not have a fulfilling marriage or a robust sex life.

        The way to a man’s heart is through his penis. But the way to a woman’s honey pot is through her heart. When I feel my husband doesn’t feel my heart, that is more destructive to our sex life than anything else ever could be.

        On ANY issue, if my husband tells me I am wrong for feeling my feelings, if he told me I was being ridiculous, short-sighted, unproductive, copping out, or tells me what I ought to be doing, it’s so very much harder to feel sexual with him at all, much less be motivated to address the particular issue.

        When my husband acts like he understands my motivations better than I do, that creates a huge gulf between us.

        If my husband told me I was “making a big deal” over something, instead of trying to understand why it felt like a big deal to me, I would feel very unloved.

        When my husband takes the time to understand me first, and allow me the dignity of having a different way of seeing things than he does, then I feel loved and respected, and motivated to cooperate with him.

        • @T “The way to a man’s heart is through his penis.”

          Well, that explains a lot! And it seems like a bit of thinking you understand men’s motivation better than they do too. (Not trying to be snarky, it just does.)

          Sex is important to me. Sex says “I love you” and a lack of sex says “I don’t care about you.” But sex is not the way to my heart. Sex alone won’t do it. I’d call it a necessary catalyst.

        • @T I am sorry you do not have a fulfilling marriage or robust sex life, that is sad. I hope you find your way back to that. There is a line between seeing things differently and enabling petty insecurities to dictate your life, I’m addressing the latter

          @ Paul, were you expecting a female answer?

          The way to a mans heart isn’t through his penis, but if he’s too hard up for sex he won’t pay attention to anything else. Like trying to memorize poetry when you are ravenously hungry.

          @alchemist if you were competitive you’d out do the previous girl, instead you are saying that you’d back down and let your husband have her memory instead of yours.

      • @Andrew “If you were my buddy saying he felt insecure because his wife had more partners than he did (happened) I’d tell you that you married her, deal with it what’s done is done, it doesn’t matter now, spend your time worrying about ways to improve your marriage.”

        How very male of you!

      • You are dead wrong about nr 2. Being told how much he liked his ex (or his mother) doing anything will absolutely evoke the same response. My first impulse on being told that he likes his ex wearing dresses would be to never wear a dress in front of him again.

        Women are insanely competitive with each in an entirely different way than men. It’s not exactly jealousy either. It absolutely feels like it’s better to not show up at all if there is any danger of comparison.

        The best thing a man could do to avoid this issue is to keep his big mouth shut about the ex (or exes). Why couldn’t he just say, I’d really like (x, y, z) without dragging the ex into it?

        • @alchemist “It absolutely feels like it’s better to not show up at all if there is any danger of comparison.”

          That would be a massive, fundamental difference in men and women if it’s true for the majority of women. The problem for her is he is going to judge that by his reality, not hers, which means she looks bad in his eyes.

          To me bringing it up like I just thought of it would be dishonest. Apparently, this is not how some women feel.

          Then the next question is what from my past does she want to know, and what is not allowed? If it’s not clear, then the best thing is to just shut up and say nothing – at which point she complains he never talks to her.

          • If a woman says that she doesn’t want to hear about her husband’s past sex life, and his response is to stop talking to her about anything ever because he doesn’t know “what’s allowed,” he’s either a passive-aggressive jerk, an idiot, or looking for an excuse to not talk to his wife.

          • Well, to me, it’s like saying, “I don’t like that Mexican restaurant” and then the guy saying, “well, fine, I’ll never take you out anywhere or sit at a table for another meal with you again, because how do I know what you want?”

  6. There seems to be a rather significant gender difference here.
    It would be like a woman saying “Wearing pink socks makes me stronger.” Men hear that and scratch their heads.
    Neither men nor women are wrong about this, they are just different. The challenge is understanding and accepting the difference even if we never feel it’s valid.

    • I agree, Paul. Except that you actually told men what wives are feeling in your post with this statement: “So the reason you’re not getting oral sex, or her on top, or sex in the shower, may well be that you’ve told her how much you enjoyed doing that with Betty-Sue all those years ago. Your wife fears she can’t do half as well as Betty-Sue, and she thinks not trying is her best option.” And then some women here are saying that’s not really the reason. Fear of not doing ‘half as well’ may be part of it, but not the whole.

      So while wives need to understand the male side, if a husband wants to successfully address the issue — and let’s face it, get laid — then maybe he should respond to what’s actually going on with her. The same is 100% true for wives to men, who can misconstrue what’s happening and need to understand their man better to be successful in communicating and getting on the same page.

      • @J. Parker – I agree, but honestly I don’t know what is actually going on. Some of what I’ve been told just doesn’t add up. There are inconsistencies that no one has been able (or willing)?) to address.

        • What do you see as the inconsistencies that no one has been able or willing to address? Because I’m not seeing that like you are.

          • @J. Parker – Kissing has been mentioned a couple of times. For example: I enjoyed kissing my girlfriend, and I enjoyed it when she did oral. My wife wants to kiss me, but won’t do oral because my girlfriend did it to me.

          • Seriously, Paul? You don’t see a difference between “I kissed a woman before you” and “she gave me a blow-job”? Not to mention the word “enjoying”? Who in their right mind says, “Hey, I really liked it when my ex-girlfriend went down on me” and expects his wife to say, “Oh sure, great. Let’s do that tonight!”

            The degree of sexuality or intimacy of an act matters. We know this intuitively, because we don’t talk about virginity as “I never kissed anyone before.” Sexual acts are in a somewhat different category.

          • @J. Parker – I mentioned kissing because it was mentioned a couple of times. Someone else put out sex in the missionary position.

            I’m not going to suggest doing something I did in the past that I didn’t enjoy, so that I have suggested it means I enjoyed it. I’m not talking about making a big deal about it, just being honest and real about how I share it.

            Personally, I’m glad there are not parts of my life that are walled off and hidden from Lori. I’m sure no one who is for this thinks of it that way, but it’s how I see it.

          • Do you really tell your wife, though, “I enjoyed kissing my girlfriend”? I would be absolutely stunned if that was something that any guy actually said.

            In fact, you’re missing the inconsistency of your own argument. I would guarantee that 99% of guys *don’t* mention kissing or missionary with their wives because those things are so normal and unremarkable that no one remarks on them. They do mention the specialty items that they want from their wives — oral, role playing, bondage, doggie style, whatever. And when they mention those things *in relation to another woman*, the wife becomes uninterested or resistant to them.

            If anyone wants to experiment, just try mentioning kissing or missionary and how awesome Ex Girlfriend was about it and then see how eager your wife is to do it. I would guarantee that suddenly Wife isn’t interested in missionary any more because you’ve just compared her to your ex girlfriend.

  7. You suggest to husbands that the two issues women have with doing something sexual that a husband enjoyed with a previous girlfriend are 1) the fact that it was with someone else, and 2) a fear of not being good enough.

    I agree that these are significant factors. I’d like to suggest a third one for your readers to consider: the emphasis on the act rather than on connection and unity.

    If my husband asks me for spaghetti and it isn’t something I’ve made before, then yes, of course it is something I should look into. If he says, “My girlfriend before you used to make me spaghetti for me all the time,” then my feelings are going to be hurt because he is bringing another person into his thoughts about dinner with me. Doesn’t he appreciate all the other meals I’ve made for him? I make meatloaf and chili and cornbread and fried chicken. I’ve learned to make all these things, and I don’t even have to look at the recipes anymore. I’m so happy with all that I’ve learned to cook. I thought he was happy, too, but it turns out that instead of feeling full and content with what I do, all he is thinking about is the one dish I don’t make. I’m going to start to think he cares more about spaghetti than about me. I’m going to wonder if he’d rather go eat spaghetti with his ex-girlfriend than stay and have meatloaf with me.

    I want to know that I am more important than any particular act. I want to know that he cares more about being with me and having whatever I prepare and less about a particular food that he is missing.

    • @Chris Taylor “I’d like to suggest a third one for your readers to consider: the emphasis on the act rather than on connection and unity.”

      I’m with you 100% – that’s exactly what I was trying to express when I said, “The bottom line is she needs to feel you want to have sex with her and would like to try whatever.” Did I not communicate that clearly?

  8. I am with Paul and Andrew here. Even as a woman, a wife when has been hurt and still sometimes hurts because of her husband’s choices and actions past and present, I have gotten to a point of saying, “come on, ladies. We cannot keep pushing our husbands into helpless, hopeless corners over every little hurt, perceived or real.” This is getting ridiculous.

    I am glad women have a place and a voice in these matters now and we can speak up and help men understand where we are coming from, but in this case, to hold onto hurts and deny our husbands, and then justify it all simply because we hurt is nonsense.

    What do you want the men to do? Seriously! We want them to acknowledge that we are hurt. Ok. But, then what!? We are cutting off our noses to spite our faces. We are fulfilling confirmation bias. We have husbands with open arms and yet we are the ones with backs turned and arms crossed because we are allowing Satan to feed that hurt monster with fears and self-image issues, and target-focus on the sins long since committed (and forgiven by God).

    Our husbands may have sinned by doing x with his ex. But, we are doing the enemy’s work if we let it drive a wedge in our marriage bed.

    Stop it!

    I’m fed up with it here. I’m fed up with it in my own marriage.

    The past isn’t going to change, but we can change the future.

    Dare I say it? Put your big girl britches on! Don’t go to the cross with your boohoos. Drop-kick ’em into the pits of hell and get on with the blessed life God gave you!

    • I think it’s the comparison aspect that’s the problem. It’s one thing to say “I like oral,” and it’s kind of implied that was something that was done with someone else but it’s not out there. That’s different than saying, “I loved it when Jenny went down on me,” because it’s not about oral anymore — it’s about Jenny doing oral.

      If a woman has a problem with the first statement, I’m with you — grow up and get over it. But I completely understand having a problem with the second statement.

        • Hmmm, I don’t know, honestly. I can accept that most men would say it was about oral and not Jenny, but I don’t know that I believe it.

          I mean specifically in the case of a man explicitly stating that he had done X with Y. If you like oral and that’s the message you’re trying to convey, why are you bringing Jenny into it? I can perform whatever sex act you want, but no matter how many times I do it, I’m not ever going to be Jenny doing it. So why mention Jenny at all?

          I can only think of two reasons to bring another woman into it. 1) Comparing me to Jenny or 2) trying to leverage Jenny against me (like, “Jenny was cool with it, lots of women are cool with it, why can’t you be cool like Jenny?”).

          Now, maybe the guy is just really, really bad at communicating and was just saying “I did this with Jenny and I loved it, now you do this, too!” and didn’t mean to compare his wife to his ex, or didn’t mean to compare his wife negatively to his ex, and he was just trying to convince his wife that this is normal / fun / good / not icky.

          But, as a woman, I am still at a loss on how mentioning all of the sexual variety you had with another woman isn’t about the other woman more than the act. Like … what were you having sex with? What are you having sex with now? It seems weird for sex to be that dehumanizing.

          • @sunny-dee – Jenny is an incidental issue. She’s how he knows he likes it, and that’s it. He might mention it because to him it’s nothing, it’s just a bit of harmless information.

          • @sunny-dee – As I was making my last comment, Flight ’76 (https://youtu.be/WDRZfnOsGvQ ) by Walter Murphy came up on my playlist. It occurred to me I have this on my computer because my first girlfriend gave me the A Fifth of Beethoven record (yes, I’m old).
            I hear that music several times a week, and I’ve not thought of that girlfriend in years. I suspect it crossed my mind now because of all our discussion about this kind of thing.
            When I got the digital version of A Fifth of Beethoven several years ago I told Lori that Cathy M had given me the record and I really liked it. But that was just a bit of context, it had nothing to do with why I wanted to hear it again, and hearing it doesn’t make me think of her.
            For me, sex is the same thing. (Of course, the closest to sex I got with Cathy was an awkward kiss initiated by her as her family was moving out town.)

  9. Wife has an issue performing a specific act that her husband found he liked with a previous girlfriend. Perhaps he expounded just a little too much. For whatever illogical female reason, doing this act causes her emotional pain. She’s uncomfortable and won’t enjoy it due to confabulated images in her brain.
    She refuses: she’s setting boundaries for herself.
    Husband gets upset because he enjoys said act and feels wife is denying him a sexual pleasure just because of some mental hang up she has about a previous girlfriend.
    He gets mad: she’s gatekeeping!

    Is a plate of spaghetti worth all the heartache?
    Shouldn’t you “spend your time worrying about ways to improve your marriage” rather than who wants spaghetti and who doesn’t?

    Isn’t sexual intimacy a smorgasbord of fun exciting options to choose from? My guess is there’s something better than spaghetti.

    • Not necessarily, not all options are equally fun and exciting. Some things are absolutely worth fighting over, some are worth ending a relationship over. For some people spaghetti, or lack thereof, is a deal breaker. Some people are fine having lasagna instead, others will obsess over spaghetti. Ideally you figure this out before you get married

      • I don’t see how any specific act (outside of complete sexual refusal, or refusing intercourse without a medical reason) should be a deal breaker.

        We had oral sex for 8 years of our marriage and then my husband said no more and refuses to budge. OS was the only way I could orgasm. (Manual sex, too, but he nixed that as well.) For 3 years I did not orgasm during sex because he wouldn’t do what it takes to get me there.

        Yes, that is deceptive, selfish, wrong, and sexual deprivation. BUT, I did not find it to be a deal breaker. I could not tear our marriage and family apart over it, no matter how much I hurt.

        We were able to develop a different way to have sex so that I can orgasm. It isn’t ideal, but over the years, we have honed it so that it works for me and he is slowly becoming more and more generous towards me. Very slowly, but moving forward nonetheless.

        It isn’t pasta. It is more like salad, but I am learning to like salad and not really miss pasta.

        I get it.

        I get the men who face sexual deprivation.

        I get the ladies who feel that he past is hard to overcome and it hurts.

        Fact is we can’t let our hurts overrule the marriage as a whole. I not only had to get over hurts of his past, of our past, but I had to get over being sexually deprived!!

        The resentment, anger, anxiety, hurt, and fear are at me until I was facing a serious medical/mental diagnosis and psych drugs. A friend of mine who suffered real, serious trauma and come out the other sice basically gave me some tough love and told me to chill out, get over myself, take care of myself, get up, and get on with life. Stop wallowing!

        I still fall in the sty of resentment, sometimes and wallow, but I am better equipped to get out now.

        • @Libl It might not be a deal breaker for you, it does not mean that it isn’t a deal breaker for someone else. Each person can decide on their own what their ‘must haves’ are, and because they differ from anothers, doesn’t mean that person is wrong. I am not willing to go without some things, others I am. These were on the table before marriage, no oral and I wouldn’t have continued dating someone, I broke up with at least two women over this that I remember, and if I found myself single again, I’d probably draw an even harder line about it than when I was in my 20s. The same could be said about having children, I absolutely wanted to have kids, if my wife had decided two years into the relationship she didn’t, we would have had a problem. However, if I were single now, I absolutely do not want any more kids, so I would not bother pursuing a relationship where the other person felt differently.

          Before you are married is the time to figure most of this out, either by experience or through pretty detailed pre-marriage counseling. After marriage I kind of agree with you, at least in my own relationship, but sometimes telling your spouse that they are reneging on a deal breaker of an issue for you is the wakeup that they need.

          • Except, the whole issue is that sex is more important than a person to you. That’s a problem for a lot of women. (And, just to say, a lot of the things that low libido people complain about on other forums — that their spouse only cares about them as a means to sexual acts.)

        • Your husband was wrong….dead wrong for not giving you every single sex act you ever wanted.

      • Thank you for reminding me, that for some, sex is much more important than love and mutual human respect.

        And yes, it would be advantageous to figure that out before marriage.

    • @Jolie – I’ve never been there, but I’m pretty sure for me the issue wouldn’t be the refused act. I see a much deeper issue that has far-reaching implications for the marriage. So for me, it is about improving the marriage. Wheather or not we ever do the act, or she tries it and says she doesn’t like it is not the issue. I see not being willing to deal with it as a roadblock to intimacy. Not sexual intimacy, intimacy as a whole.

      • I appreciate your comment.

        I see not being willing to accept and acknowledge my feelings as legitimate (no matter how petty and stupid they seem) as a roadblock to intimacy as a whole.
        I would have no motivation to “deal” with my issues/feelings as long as they were considered invalid, petty, or insecure.
        It boils down to feeling accepted as a person of worth, a child of God First.

        I think there is something more stewing deep below the surface of this issue that none of us are admitting. It’s an underlying power struggle with who’s needs are more important and the catalyst is spaghetti.

        • @Jolie – I’m with you.

          Legitimate is an interesting word. I have no problem accepting something I don’t understand or see as illogical. It’s when I think it’s a lie that I have a problem. I suspect in many cases that is where the husband is – to him it must be a lie. That doesn’t make it a lie, but his life experience tells him it can’t be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

  10. Hey, Paul! You clarified in the comments that fact a husband suggests he wants a particular sexual activity means that, when he tried it in the past with someone else, he did enjoy it; yet his wanting it now isn’t about that old girlfriend, but about experiencing this pleasurable thing with his wife. Consequently, the wife shouldn’t take that act off the table just because he did with someone else. I entirely agree with that!

    Where I think this conversation keeps snagging is this point: “So the reason you’re not getting oral sex, or her on top, or sex in the shower, may well be that you’ve told her how much you enjoyed doing that with Betty-Sue all those years ago.” And what several wives seem to be hearing, at least me, is that even if your husband says, “Hey, I loved doing [blank] with Betty-Sue, so let’s do that too,” his wife shouldn’t feel bad. And we’re saying, “But I would feel bad, not because I can’t measure up but because he’s talking — which means he’s thinking — about doing that thing with that woman from his past.” Moreover, that seems like a normal reaction to your spouse bringing up a past lover and the things they used to do, like it’s no big deal.

    If he shuts up about his Betty-Sue, and just talks about what he wants to do, and then the wife asks, “Did you do that with Betty-Sue?” and he honestly answers, “Yes,” followed by her question, “Did you like it?” and then his “Yes,” well, yeah — that’s unfair on her part! But if he’s talking about specifics with past lovers, most wives would be hurt. Then they would feel emotionally safe, and it’s hard to be vulnerable from that place. That’s all I’m saying.


    • So the snag is how much information you give about past experiences? Or certainly the way you give it. Libl said it well ‘I don’t need to disrespect or intrude upon the intimacies shared with past lovers.’ And the thought that I have to ask my wifes forgiveness for sex in a previous marriage? Really.

      Very interesting conversation, by the way, wouldn’t it be an interesting dinner if we all got together!

      • It’s the difference between saying: “Yes, I had oral sex with another woman before you.” VS. “I had great oral sex with Betty-Sue, and I want you to do that with me.” Can you see the difference? It’s the reference both to the specific person from the past and the statement not merely that you did it but you enjoyed it. Of course, a savvy wife figures out you enjoyed it then if you want it now, but you don’t have to be a jerk and say that directly. Which would only communicate that you’re thinking about sex with another woman, and that message would be a turn-off to many wives. As Chris so wisely said above, a wife wants to know that her husband longs to connect exclusively to her.

        • True,

          I may be off the mark here but I think Paul is more in the ‘and she used to do this great swirly thing with her tongue that really sent me over the edge you should try it some time’ as a ‘fully know your spouse’ thing that I don’t get.

          • @Neilethere – The previous marriage issue is interesting. I hinted at this when I said, “because of past experience, sinful or not.”

            But I’m guessing it being a past spouse makes no difference to most.

        • @J. Parker “I had great oral sex with Betty-Sue, and I want you to do that with me.”
          I never said great. It keeps getting pushed into something far more than I have ever indicated and I really don’t know why.
          It does seem that women take this as a man thinking about sex with another woman. That’s a good thing to know. But I thought I covered that in the final paragraph of the post.

          • I’m really not trying to take liberties, Paul. Yes, I used the word “great” when you didn’t. But your words were, “you’ve told her how much you enjoyed doing that with Betty-Sue all those years ago.” I think “how much you enjoyed” is an indication of “great.”

            And I’m perplexed by this: “It does seem that women take this as a man thinking about sex with another woman.” How else can you take it, if he says, “I enjoyed doing that with Betty-Sue“? He just brought up the other woman in conversation.

            I’ve said repeatedly that I think your main point is a great one: that a specific sex act should not be off the table just because it was done before with someone else. Amen! It’s just that your scenario comes across poorly to wives who reasonably react with hurt to the idea of their husbands thinking and telling them about a sex act they did with someone else…and particularly adding that they enjoyed it.

          • @J. Parker – I’m seeing the gender difference now. For him the other woman is just how he knows he likes it. He’s looking for that sex act with the wife he loves. He’s not thinking about the other women, he’s thinking about his wife and that act.
            Clearly, his words communicate something very different to women. Something I never even considered. And that’s why I reacted to the word great, because it takes it to a whole other place.

    • @J. Parker – I wonder if women find it more difficult to divorce the act from the person they did it with. It’s not about the other person, not at all. It’s about the act.
      Beyond that’s it’s the honesty of indicating I did the act before. To me not saying that is lying by omission. I have a problem with that.

      • Look, I can absolutely divorce a lot of the sexual acts I did before marriage from the person I did it with. I won’t speak for other women on that one, but I personally can. I did it at the time (sadly), so yeah, I can do it now.

        But once I’m married, once I’m in this unique covenant relationship, it’s very much about the other person, not just the act. And that message has to come across for most wives to feel emotionally secure in the marriage bed.

        • I just can’t wrap my head around why we need to divulge specifics and gossip about the intimacy we had with other people. Like I said before, if I was intimate with a man before hubby, I wouldn’t want him telling his new partner about all the shenanigans we did together. I don’t think just because I am his wife that I am entitled to knowing what he did with other girls.

          “I had oral sex before marriage,” ok. But not, “Samantha would give me head in the backseat of her car.”

          Especially if I ended up married to a widower, I would feel like I was disrespecting the intimacy and privacy he shared with his late wife by being told all that he did with her.

  11. This may very well be a female issue but one that men should be aware of. It is very hard for females to separate emotions from sexual acts. Men? Obviously not so much. Entirely another story by itself.

    I received unsolicited descriptive details regarding a specific act my husband and a certain girl did quite often, in a special place, and he expounded (slightly puffy chested) on how wonderful the whole experience was.

    We have since tried that act a few times, but physically it is too painful for me. We had to give up spaghetti. So, now I’m left with these graphic detailed pictures in my head of my husband, with his cute blond girlfriend, enjoying a supposedly wonderful experience I Can’t provide for him.

    These images pop in my mind, even 30 years later, whenever said act is mentioned (TV, blogs, etc.). Do his memories continue to haunt him also? I don’t know. He won’t say. I’m probably better off not knowing.

    Moral of the story:
    Disclosure is fine on a “need to know” basis only.

  12. I married a widow. He will tell me what he likes but never mentions his past wife’s name in regards to their sex life. Not sure why anyone male or female would verbally state what sex acts they did with their past lovers to their current wife or husband to get them to do that sex act. Does not seem wise. BTW, he does the same thing with food. He’ll state he likes and wants me to make seafood marinara with a creamy sauce but I have no idea if his former wife made him seafood marinara with a creamy sauce and I don’t care to know if she did or didn’t. So why can’t men or woman just say, I want to do such and such sex act without naming past lovers

    • @W – It sounds like he is doing it right. For me mentioning the other woman is about sharing my life with my wife. She does the same with me, and we are both fine with it. Apparently, we are not the norm.

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