I love pleasuring my partner. But why do I never get anything in return?

<span>Composite: Getty</span>
Composite: Getty

My partner and I have been together for four years. We love each other, share interests and take pride in one another’s achievements, but we have a mismatch when it comes to sex. I give oral sex to my partner regularly: it is enjoyable to give pleasure, and I love to do it. I never receive it in return, though. I don’t see it as a quid pro quo, but while my partner claims to enjoy giving it as well, it never happens. I have asked why, tried to be understanding and would never push the matter, but I feel it is a need that isn’t being met, as though my enjoyment is secondary. Lately, I find myself flirting more, the thought at the back of my mind being that a fling might end up with a greater symmetry of pleasure. It feels unfair to ask for something my partner may secretly dislike, but I’m led to believe they do enjoy it, and am left wondering if I am in a relationship where I’ll always be the giver.

You certainly are in a relationship where you will always be the giver … that is, unless you do something to change the status quo. After all, why would your partner start reciprocating when it is clear you never really expect it? People tend not to change their behaviour unless they have to, so, in not setting boundaries, you are encouraging selfishness. Ask yourself why you have not insisted on better parity before this. Perhaps a part of you does not believe you deserve to receive pleasure? Perhaps you enjoy the control and power associated with giving and not receiving? If we give another person too much – sexually or in any other way – we can begin to resent them. And receiving too much can cause just as much resentment, as well as an increased level of expectation. It’s never easy to create and maintain mutuality in a relationship, but it is essential for you to work at it without delay.

  • Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

  • If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to private.lives@theguardian.com (please don’t send attachments). Each week, Pamela chooses one problem to answer, which will be published online. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions.

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