Married Sex: Unzipped!

Should you be tested for STDs? Tell him his new beer belly's a turn-off? We address these and other wed-to-bed questions.


Q: My fiancé and I have been dating for a year. I've had fantastic orgasms with him—but never during intercourse. Is there something wrong with me?

A: Absolutely not. Hollywood may have you believing otherwise, but the fact is that very few women orgasm during intercourse, says Carole Altman, Ph.D., a psychologist in Las Vegas, Nevada , and the author of Electrify Your Sex Life (Sourcebooks). The reason is purely anatomical: There are few nerve endings up inside the vaginal cavity, she explains. (It's the same reason that you can't feel a tampon once it's inside you.) On the other hand, the rim of the vagina, the labia and the clitoris are all full of nerve endings, which is why oral or manual stimulation to these areas is so effective. However, you and your fiancé can position yourselves so that his thrusts stimulate these extra-sensitive parts, says Altman. The woman-on-top position—especially when he's seated upright on a couch or chair—is great for this. She also suggests that you ask your partner to bring you to orgasm once or twice orally or manually before engaging in intercourse. "If you've already climaxed, you're more likely to do so again, since your body is ‘primed,' so to speak," she explains.

Q: My fiancé and I have been using condoms since we started dating, but once we're married I'd like to go on the Pill. Is it important for us to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) before we stop using condoms?

A: If either one of you has ever had sex without a condom, and you haven't been tested for STDs since that time, you must be screened before you switch to oral contraceptives, says Sandor Gardos, Ph.D., a sex therapist in San Francisco and a former research scientist at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University . "Even if you've been in your current relationship for 10 years, you still may be carrying an STD from a past sexual encounter," he states. A common condition like herpes or HPV (human papillomavirus) can lie dormant for many years, so even if you've never had any symptoms of the disease, you still may be contagious. "Couples think that marriage will somehow protect them from STDs, but there's not one STD I'm aware of that cares whether you are married or not," says Gardos.

Q: I'm a virgin, and am both excited and nervous about my wedding night. What can I expect? Will it hurt?

A: Relax! You're about to begin a delightful journey of discovery with your partner for life, says Frank Schultz, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Lakeland, Florida , who specializes in relationship issues. "When you make love with your husband you are connecting not only with your body, but with your head and heart," he says. "You are literally opening up and taking your lover into your life, both physically and metaphorically." Since your first time will occur only once, savor the experience consciously. Take your time, be curious, say what feels good and what doesn't. And follow your instincts: Ask for what you think you might want, suggests Schultz. Also, participate in plenty of foreplay—rubbing, kissing, caressing—so that you are well lubricated before your husband enters you: Vaginal dryness can cause discomfort, and lubrication is a sign that your body is relaxed and ready to "go."

At the same time, however, it's important your expectations for wedding-night sex are not too high. The truth is, many couples feel disappointed that they don't experience the "crashing waves" of ecstasy they've seen on television and in movies. Know, though, that your sex life will improve over time, with plenty of practice and a deepening intimacy between you. Also, note that some women experience a little pain and bleeding their first time, when the hymen, a thin layer of skin just outside the vaginal canal, is torn during penetration. But if you're athletic, it's likely that your hymen is already broken, which means you probably won't bleed or feel any discomfort. (To be safe, however, you may want to place a towel beneath you on the bed, so you don't stain the sheets.)

Q: We both feel embarrassed about telling each other what we want and need in bed. How can we overcome this problem and open up more?

A: Altman proposes this exercise: "Write out a ‘wish list' of all the things you're eager to try, and have your fiancé do the same," she says. "Then agree to try those items on your lists that appeal to both of you." (You can even do this by pointing!) You might find that you are already in agreement about certain changes you want to make, and this will serve to bring you closer—and make you feel more comfortable when communicating your needs and desires. Still feel funny? Try some nonverbal cues. "Place his hands where you want to be touched, or twist your body in an angle that feels good," says Altman. Be sure to reward the other with a "yes" or a moan when one of you does something right—guys, especially, love this. "It will also guarantee that the behavior is repeated," says Altman.

Q: I adore my fiancé, and he's a great lover, but he recently developed a beer belly, and it's kind of a turn-off. Is it okay for me to tell him to do something about it, or should I keep quiet?

A: Suffering in silence is definitely not the answer! By holding your feelings inside, you'll only develop resentments toward your fiancé, which will inevitably affect your sex life even more, says Debra Mandel, Ph.D., a psychologist in Los Angeles and the author of Healing the Sensitive Heart (Adams Media). You have two choices as to how to broach the subject: directly and indirectly.

If you go the direct route, tread carefully: He may be as sensitive about his stomach as you are turned off by it, and you don't want to hurt his feelings. A gentle way to tell him: During a quiet moment outside the bedroom (and preferably when he's clothed), let him know that it's important that you and he have a lusty sex life, and that you would feel more passionate if he would take better care of his body. "Then ask him if there is something—excluding plastic surgery!—that you could change about yourself that might make him find you sexier," says Mandel.

If you think his ego would be too bruised by such a conversation, you can approach the matter indirectly: Inspire better eating habits in him by changing your own, suggests Mandel. If you're the cook in the family, prepare healthful food—lean meats, fish and plenty of vegetables. Say "no" to fat-laden takeout meals eaten in front of the TV. Better yet, sign up for a couples' cooking class, where you can learn how to make low-cal fare. Join a gym or take tennis lessons together. Show him that you're willing to help him do whatever it takes to get back in shape.

Q: My fiancé and I are not going to live together until we're married. Right now, we usually make love about once a week, when we see each other on the weekends. That's plenty for me, but he says he's going to want sex every day once we're married. Is this going to cause problems between us?

A: "Desire discrepancy" is the single most common complaint heard by sex therapists, says Gardos. But it doesn't mean that anything is wrong with either of you. The keys to avoiding problems here, as with most other issues in maintaining that "happily ever after" vibe, are to compromise and negotiate. When your partner proposes sex and you're not in the mood, you might decide to go ahead and give in. "We do a lot of things that we're not in the mood for, and it's nice to do this for your partner once in a while," says Gardos. (Besides, as the kissing progresses, you might find yourself getting into the groove, in spite of yourself.) Just make sure you don't feel resentful; these feelings will build over time, and can undermine your relationship in the long run. "Or, you can give him an alternative, like, ‘How about I give you a really great hand job tonight, and then I promise, if I can get a good night's sleep, tomorrow we can make love?' " says Gardos. Just remember to reassure him that even though you may not be in the mood for intercourse as often as he is, you still find him sexy and enjoy being intimate with him.

Q: We aren't usually very adventurous in bed, but on our wedding night I'd love to surprise my husband. Got any ideas?

A: First, set a romantic mood with candles, satin sheets, his favorite music and whatever else you like—it'll put you both in the same frame of mind. Men are turned on by visuals, so slip into some sexy lingerie (no doubt you received some pretty pieces at your bridal shower). Or, do a striptease, slowly taking off your clothing to reveal a hot number underneath—or your bare bod. Then, give him a sensual massage using oil in his favorite scent, suggests Altman. Or, blindfold your partner with a silk scarf and tickle and tease him with a feather, adds Gardos. Let him take you only when he's ready to explode! Feeling naughtier? Altman recommends this maneuver: Cover your man's entire body with sheets or towels, leaving only his penis exposed. Then have your way with it, without touching any other part of him. "Really, though, almost anything you haven't done before will add a little something special to that night," says Gardos.

Q: Is it true that a couple can get bored with each other, sexually speaking, after they've been married a while? I'm so afraid of this happening.

A: Yes, unfortunately, it's fairly common, says Gardos. "After all, novelty is one of the greatest aphrodisiacs," he says. "That's why it's important to continue wooing your partner even after you're married, doing creative and generous things for and to each other to fan the flame." Come to bed wearing something irresistible once in a while. Suggest a new position to try. Buy sex toys. Plan a date night or a weekend away. Make it a priority to understand what turns your partner on, then make those things happen on a regular basis.

Altman adds that sexual boredom can sometimes be a symptom of bigger problems within the relationship. "It is often an issue for couples who do not continue to respect each other," she says. So, try never to get so comfortable that you forget to treat your partner with common courtesy. "Always say ‘please' and ‘thank you,' " she suggests. "Do not denigrate or ridicule. Compliment each other, and always hold your partner in high regard." And both of you should use this strategy once in a while: Before you leave for work in the morning, tell him what you plan to do to him sexually later that night. "He'll be panting for you all day long," says Altman. The point of all this? Great sex is as much a part of what happens outside the bedroom as inside.