Dear Audrey, my long-time girlfriend and I had a great sex life, until about a year ago. She has always had migraines but suddenly she started getting them linked to orgasms. Not every time but like maybe 7 out of 10 times we have sex she gets a migraine. She’s gone to her doctor and they’ve tried a bunch of different things, but so far nothing has worked. I feel like a complete asshole initiating sex, knowing the pain it causes her, but then a few months ago she said me not wanting to have sex with her makes her feel sad and unloved. Obviously, it’s not that I don’t want to. She has told me that she absolutely will tell me if she doesn’t feel up for it, and that even though she can’t have sex as much as we used to or as much as she wants to, she doesn’t want not to do it ever. She’s also said she’s more than happy to just not orgasm sometimes (it takes a fairly specific series of moves) so that I can get off, and that pleasuring me is pleasurable for her, even if she doesn’t actually orgasm. So now I don’t know what to do—I can’t get over how bad the headaches make her feel, and it’s hard for me to enjoy myself knowing what I’m setting her up for. I don’t want her to feel unattractive or unsexed either, though! What should I do?
I dunno, listen to your girlfriend? She’s telling you what she wants, and since she’s the one in charge of her body, I guess she gets to decide. I’m not trying to dismiss your concerns, but if sex is important enough to her that she’s willing to get a migraine for it, then you should make sure to give her the best sex ever.
If you don’t feel comfortable taking her up on her offer to just get you off, that’s your choice. I think I, too, would be hesitant to satisfy myself with someone who has kind of explicitly said they’re not planning to enjoy the sex we’re about to have. But it was very nice of her to make the offer.
I mean look, it’s hard! What choice would you make in her position? It sounds to me like she’s hoping that she and her doctor figure out how to stop the headaches, and in the meantime, she doesn’t want to stop boning the person she loves. Makes sense, right? I think one thing you could for sure do is to be super supportive when she’s not feeling well, and make sure to provide whatever kind of help she wants from you during her search for a cure.
Plus also: TALK TO HER. If being asked to always initiate sex makes you uncomfortable, tell her that. Ask if she would be willing to take the lead more, so that you’re not always the one deciding when sex happens. Let her know how hard it is for you to see her in pain—not like, “Oh I know you feel bad but you should see how your pain affects my life,” but in the “I hate to watch you suffer” kind of way. In any situation where physical limitations are at play, communication is key. All of us inhabit bodies that fail us in various ways, so all we can really do is be kind to each other until we can become cyborgs.
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