My wife prefers her vibrator to sex with me | Life and style

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My wife and I are in our early 50s – both divorcees who married three years ago. Our sex life has been drifting away for the last couple of years. Regularly, my wife indicates that she is too tired or stressed for sex – but I know that she uses her vibrator when I’m not around, despite telling me she doesn’t. When she has an orgasm, I know that she will then be even less interested in sex for another couple of days, and the cycle goes on.

Your wife’s self-pleasuring is not necessarily having a detrimental effect on your joint sex life. It is very common for people in a relationship to engage in secret masturbation, and for tired, stressed people to prefer this to partner love-making as an easy and comforting alternative.

First, to address the underlying problems, support your wife in an effort to reduce her stress-load generally. You might also take steps to simplify your lovemaking style, especially the demands made on her. Perhaps she has not been sufficiently communicative regarding what she needs. Could you find a way to bring all of this up in a non-confrontational way? For example: “Please help me to understand what would make our love-making soothing and comforting for you, rather than something that adds to your stress.”

Do also find moments during lovemaking to use the vibrator she enjoys so much; this will help to bridge the gap between her auto-eroticism and her passion for you.

Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders

If you would like advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to private.lives@theguardian.com (please don’t send attachments).

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