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I Need My Partner to Step It Up a Bit More in Bed 

Dear Athena,

My partner has had a very restrained sexual past with his only other lover. We have come a long way toward loosening up and exploring without inhibition. However, my needs are mounting and I need him to be more confident and pleasure me fully in bed. We have tried books and audiotapes to educate him, but I need him to step it up a bit more. He's thinking about getting a sex therapist. I feel we need to live out our fantasies (e.g., a foursome). What is the most productive approach?

Please help,

More Pleasure Pronto

Dear More Pleasure,

When we hook up with someone, his or her entire past comes along for the ride, for better or worse. Sometimes former experiences prepare us to make new relationships even better and more enjoyable; other times just the opposite happens.

Sounds like your guy is open to becoming the lover you want him to be, and that's awesome. You want to show your appreciation, and that makes telling him about your lingering dissatisfaction even more difficult. It's hard for him, too; you mean for your critique of his performance to be constructive, but he might take the implied inadequacy to heart instead, becoming even more insecure.

But let's focus on what's going well: Despite his "restrained" past, your partner has enough sense of self to want to improve and take guidance. And he clearly cares about you.

One of the golden rules of sexual relationships — and any other, for that matter — is that no one can read your mind. You have to explicitly explain to your partner what you want, where, how and when. Some people respond well to a direct approach, others need to be wooed or coddled. What's your partner like? What's the most effective way to communicate with him? Is he a show-don't-tell kind of guy, or does he need a diagram? Take the time to grasp his learning style and then use it to your advantage.

He says he's willing to see a sex therapist. So maybe he likes to talk things through. What's holding you back from taking him up on that? Does the idea of therapy make you squeamish? Sure, it's not for everyone, but his enthusiasm is encouraging. I say, suck it up and take his lead. And if you think seeing a therapist will force you to reveal things you're not ready to share, well, that's a whole other ball of wax and maybe you should look at it.

Conversely, you might discover things about him that are uncomfortable. But there is no doubt the experience would bring you closer. That's what you want, right? Right?

Bonus: You might find that therapy will ultimately help you achieve not only better sex together but also your fantasies — such as a foursome. Because turning imagined play into the real thing has a whole lot to do with self-confidence.

Another golden rule: You won't know until you try.

Yours,

Athena

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