How Not To Respond When Your Partner Doesn’t Hit The Big O

“You didn’t finish, did you?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

I’ve lied before, but I’m trying to wean myself away from it. Lying only adds a layer of mental unease to any lingering physical dissatisfaction I might be feeling, and assuaging false pride rarely seems like a good deal. The dishonesty (to myself) leaves a bad taste in my mouth; if he bothered to ask, doesn’t he want the truth?“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” he said.

That was that. We turned back to Ted Allen and his basket of freakish goodies on “Chopped.” He left an hour later, after a shower and snack, apparently unconcerned.

After his departure, I pondered conversations we might have had in an alternate universe, one in which I was trained to ask for what I wanted, and he was trained to expect to give as much as he got. He could have offered to address the situation on the spot. He could have asked me what I would have liked, for next time. He could have reached for the Post-its by my bed and written an IOU that he could have offered with a sheepish grin. He could have thanked me for taking one for the team. He could have done something, anything, to indicate that he recognized that I, too, have desires that are worthy of time and energy.

In this alternate universe, I might have made suggestions earlier in the evening to ensure my own good time. I might have shown him, without being prompted, what I liked. Afterward, I might have called his nonchalant response for the lazy cop-out it was. I might have demanded reparations, asked for the Post-it IOU myself. I might have sighed and asked him to leave.

But I did none of these things. We watched “Chopped.”

Sex isn’t a mine, yours, mine, yours kind of game. At least, I would never want it to be. Good sex, in my opinion, is a mine, mine, yours, mine, yours, ours, yours, yours, ours, mine oh-my-god-enough kind of game. It’s not about taking turns; it’s about mutual satisfaction, however one might define and achieve it. I neither defined nor achieved it.

Maybe this is what I get for the casual, non-committal nature of my tryst. In a relationship, the IOU might be unspoken, the implicit “I’ll get you next time” sufficing in such situations because “next time” might be in a few hours, or that night, or the next morning. With this partner of mine, there might be a next time, but who’s to say how soon? We both entered the evening with the same expressed expectations and hopes. His were met; mine were not. Whose fault is that?

I want to say it’s his, or whichever past girlfriend taught him that a “yeah, that’s what I thought” was sufficient. But I am responsible too, for turning back to the show and condoning his selfishness. Maybe he wouldn’t have listened, maybe he would have rolled his eyes and muttered something rude. Maybe he would have ignored me in the moment, but spent the cab ride home mulling my admonitions around in his head until something clicked into place. Maybe his next partner would have thanked me. I don’t know, but at least I could say that I tried.

This piece was originally published at The Good Men Project Magazine.

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