Q. How do you tell a man that sex lasting less than two minutes — and sometimes less than one minute — is not satisfying in any way, shape, or form? I love him and I don’t want to hurt his ego. We are in our early 40s. I honestly don’t know if he realizes this is an issue, or if he thinks that this is normal and that sex in the movies, which takes longer, is just make-believe.
A. It sounds as though your man has premature ejaculation. This is, in part a medical problem — and the good news is that it can be treated. As many as a third of men experience this at some time in their lives. Typically, women take longer to have an orgasm anyway, with only about 20 percent able to have an orgasm from intercourse alone. So there is a biological mismatch built into the system.
There seems to be a biological component to premature ejaculation, with some men predisposed to it. Psychological factors — anxiety, worries, and depression — also play a big part. Generally, as men get older, it takes them longer to ejaculate, so this problem sometimes rectifies itself. But there’s no reason to wait.
Like you, many women do not discuss their sexual needs or desires; they worry they will hurt their partners’ egos. But, in fact, their dissatisfaction with the sexual relationship and their discomfort communicating directly with their partners are far more likely to lead to problems over the long haul.
I suggest you approach the problem in a diplomatic way, bringing it up at a non-sexual moment, like when you are driving in the car or eating breakfast. You can say, “I enjoy sex with you so much I would like it to go on longer.”
You also can suggest ways that you and your partner can extend your lovemaking. He could wear condoms that decrease his sensation or he could apply numbing creams. (These are available over the counter.)
Some techniques in bed can also help control premature ejaculation. The most common ones — the stop-start method and the squeeze method — are basically self explanatory. The idea is for your partner to stop before he reaches the point of inevitability. Some sexual positions, like the man lying on his back, can also delay his climax. If you need more details, you can read about these techniques on the Web, or get guidance from a certified sex therapist.
You should not ignore this problem. If you do, you will end up highly unhappy in this relationship. And, despite your fear discussing this with him, it’s likely he will be relieved that you are acknowledging this situation and are discussing it with him. In the meantime, he also can stimulate you in other ways — manually, orally or with a vibrator.
Dr. Gail’s bottom line: Premature ejaculation is very common, but you need to broach the subject in order to deal with it.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book, "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts" (Penguin), helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .