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I tried to spice things up and my wife didn't like it

I've been in a relationship with my wife for 20 years and have been married for 10. She has always been very reserved when it comes to sex, she likes it very plain and that was always fine. She would lay back and I would do all the work, I had stamina and enthusiasm. As the years went on stamina and enthusiasm decreased, but my confidence grew that she would be happy that I could add things I like in the bedroom. 

Gradually over the past 5 years, I tried to spice things up a little. I've bought sexy lingerie which she would wear if I asked but would never choose to wear it. I took photos of her in the lingerie thinking it would make her feel sexy and I liked to sketch some of the pictures I'd taken. She was happy enough but wouldn't pose for any photos.

I also bought some sex toys, which I was sure she would like a lot more and the toys did lead to some great sex. Finally, the thing I've always wanted in the bedroom is to watch my wife pleasure herself, manually or with toys but when I asked everything came crashing down. She revealed that she hasn't liked any of the new things at all and in fact, thought I was a bit of a pervert for liking any of it. Turns out she has never touched herself and I should never ask her that.

Now that's all got me a bit depressed, she likes nothing spicy in the bedroom, have I changed into a pervert? I don't feel like I've changed much. I'm now struggling a little with either getting or keeping an erection, we are arguing more. I'm feeling lost.

OK, so I’m starting with a challenge here...

How did you decide your wife would like all these things you decided to introduce? Did you ask her, did you seek out her opinions or what might have made a difference to her because, based entirely on what you’ve written, it seems you made some assumptions that have spectacularly backfired...

It looks like early on in your marriage you worked out a way to manage what sounds like different expectations about sex. Perhaps things were OK for your wife because they didn’t take her out of her comfort zone and as you say, you were happy enough with what went on between you. But as time’s gone on you’ve found your own energy levels waning and decided to replace them with what you thought would be exciting for you both.


It’s clear you were trying to make a positive difference but looked at it only from your own perspective. I can imagine how surprised and upset you were when your wife finally came clean about her experience of the changes you introduced. It seems like you mistook her compliance as enjoyment and carried on experimenting with different ways to up the sexual excitement.  


But here’s the thing. I suspect that your wife simply couldn’t explain to you how much she disliked what you were trying to achieve. Lots of couples find it really difficult to develop any sort of sexual dialogue by which I mean the confidence to talk openly, honestly, and equally about what they like, don’t like, or how things feel and of course any concerns about what goes on sexually. That can be for many reasons but one of the most common is being brought up with ‘scripts’ or ‘rules’ about sex.

In some families, children might feel they can ask questions about sex and start to build their confidence that it’s OK to be open and honest about things. In other families, it could have been one of those situations where the moment there was any mention or reference to sex on the telly, someone got up and turned it off. So, we often take what we’ve learned about sex (and lots of other things too) into our adult relationships. Given the rich variety of experiences, it’s not surprising that sometimes couples get together with very different expectations about how they want their sex life to be. 


So, what to do now? I suggest you start by apologising. This is one of those situations where coming clean that you misjudged and got it wrong may help. I think your wife needs an opportunity to feel that her reaction to what you attempted is perfectly valid simply because firstly, they’re her feelings and secondly, you didn’t include her at all in any decision-making process about what to do to spice things up. 

A final point too, all the things you introduced are all great for those who are interested but as is so often the case, I wonder if the lingerie, photos (about which you should be very careful) and the sex toys replaced any sort of sensual intimacy like holding, cuddling and being really ‘in’ to each other. One of the most frequent complaints in sex therapy clinics is that one partner feels the only time their partner shows them any interest is when they want sex, so perhaps a rewind on that front too, if you think that point has any relevance to your situation. 

So, in conclusion, I don’t think you’re a pervert, just someone who wants an interesting and fulfilling sexual relationship (nothing wrong there). The mistake was treating your wife as someone to do things to. I know you didn’t mean it that way, but now you have to work on rebuilding some trust with your wife to show that you can hear and respect her opinions. You never know, if you can work through that together, you might find things change on all sorts of fronts. 

Do you have a question to ask Ammanda?

Ammanda Major is a sex and relationship therapist and our Head of Service Quality and Clinical Practice

If you have a relationship worry you would like some help with send a message to Ammanda.

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