“I recently got together with a new boyfriend—and he’s by far the best match I’ve ever been with. We’re already like best friends. We seem to think the same thoughts, and we’re totally aligned on values; we laugh constantly. I’m so happy I found him. But we recently started having sex, and…Well, this is the worst start to a sexual relationship I’ve ever had. He doesn’t seem to pick up on my signs in bed. He’s not great at oral, which is really important to me. And I’m feeling like my desire to be intimate is taking a nosedive. Although this is someone I can see being with forever, I feel sort of doomed sexually. How can we get on the same page here? Or is this going to fail, because we are not sexually compatible?”
One of my favorite pieces of relationship science over the past few years draws on this very subject. According to this study, Toronto researchers determined people fell into two camps. One group had “sexual destiny beliefs,” meaning that having great between-the-sheets chemistry instantly was a sign of fantastic relationship compatibility. The other faction had “sexual growth beliefs,” in that they believed good sex was a developed language between partners. Aka, it takes some work.
Those with sexual growth beliefs, who believed that good chemistry was earned through communication and practice, tended to have better relationships and hotter sex lives.
The lesson is this: Hot sex is not about instantly knowing exactly what gets your partner off. Great sex is about having an open mind, listening to feedback and wanting to get more and more in tune with your partner’s sexual desires.
My bet is that your amazing boyfriend would love to grow with you and make you happier and happier with your sex life. Here’s what you can do to guide him toward that...gently.
Advice for inside the bedroom.
Most people, women especially (who are taught to be demure about sex), are not very obvious about what they want in bed—even if you think you’re being forthright. Be very, very vocal about what you like, and do not reinforce what you don’t—that means never, EVER faking your orgasm. It might seem like the right thing to do in the moment, but I’ve met women who’ve gotten into a long-term cycle of faking, lying and sexual frustration. Be honest when he’s hitting all the right notes.
When he’s not, don’t freak out. Instead, relax—close your eyes, even—and take charge of this choo choo train. Move his hands where you’d like them to be. During oral, make suggestions about speed, pressure, touch. You know what’s worked for you in the past, right? Suggest a stroke. “I love when you go slow and the pressure is firm.” Be direct. If he takes your guidance personally, it’s probably time to move this discussion outside the bedroom.
Advice for outside the bedroom.
It’s crucial that partners discuss their sex life outside the bedroom. Everyone does better when they have clear, direct feedback—but during or right after sex is a vulnerable time. It’s just best not to say anything that might be misconstrued as “I’m not into it,” while you’re still naked. So, save the straightforward feedback for a quiet moment over dinner at home (or something like that).
When the timing’s right, go for it. Just say, “Honey, I’d love to add more oral the next time we have sex. Can we try more/less tongue pressure and shorter strokes next time? Whenever you do that, it drives me nuts.” Or if you think you really need more foreplay, say, “The next time we have sex, I bet I’ll get off so much quicker if we amp up the foreplay. Let’s play around; surprise me.” Also, don’t forget to ask, “What do you want me to do more of? I want to do exactly that.” Then wink, or smile cheekily. This should be fun.
Sex talk can be a fun prelude to the real deal. Try not to stress about the fact that you haven’t perfected your techniques just yet; what you’re going through is completely normal. A good sex life is simply about motivation to put work into it. So…commit to putting that work into it.
Jenna Birch is author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, a dating and relationship-building guide for modern women. To ask her a question, which she may answer in a forthcoming PureWow column, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.