New partner appears reluctant to take things further

I’m a 45-year-old woman. I’m dating a man who is taking it really slowly. At first, I thought it was lovely, but when we did make it to the bedroom we just kissed — although it was very apparent that he was aroused. The same has happened twice since. We just roll around and fumble, and when I try to move it farther he stops it.

Although it is usually presented as a male responsibility, consent is a two-way process, so the next time you get to heavy petting, instead of awkwardly trying to “move it farther”, ask your new man whether he would like to have sex.

At 45 you are mature enough that you should be able to do this with a degree of confidence. If your partner is of a similar age he ought to feel nothing but relief. In the early stages of a new relationship you should spend as much time talking about sex as you do having it, because if you lay the foundations for healthy sexual communication at the start you experience fewer difficulties later on.

If, like you, he is middle-aged and has recently emerged from a long-term relationship or even a marriage, he may simply be very nervous. When you have been with one partner for a very long time, the prospect of having sex with someone else can be a bit terrifying. For men, most of the ‘what ifs?’ focus on the penis. Although you can feel that your date’s equipment is in good working order, he may be worried that as soon as there is any pressure on him to perform sexually his penis will let him down.

One issue that might be undermining his confidence is Peyronie’s disease, a condition that causes curvature in the penis and can make sex difficult, uncomfortable or even impossible. It sounds rare because no one ever talks about it, but it’s quite common — the British Association of Urological Surgeons estimates that Peyronie’s affects one in about 16 males. However, many men aren’t comfortable discussing a condition like this with their doctor, so it is an underreported condition.

Although Peyronie’s can occur at any age, it is seen mostly in middle-aged men, and might explain why you can feel your partner’s erection, but he seems reluctant to use it. Having an open, kind conversation with him will hopefully mean that, if this is the case, you will give him the space to feel comfortable talking about it.

Finally, I don’t want to put the cat among the pigeons, but have you considered the possibility that your new man might not be dating you exclusively? Middle-aged men who emerge from committed relationships, whether unintentionally or by design, often exhibit a kind of ‘kid in a candy store’ mentality when they encounter the dizzying array of dating apps that are available.

I have met a number of women who reported a similar sexual reticence in their new partners, only to discover that they were actually one of several women with whom the men were involved. The men thought that they were doing no wrong — it’s a kind of inverted modern morality in which they were reserving full sex for the person with whom they intended to have a relationship, but were keeping a few other options on the backburner just in case.

The only way to find out if this is the case is to be upfront about it. You might not like what you hear, but as I have said, in the early stages of a new relationship you ought to spend as much time talking about sex as you do having it.

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