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Everything is amazing...except the sex

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SENRobinson asks:

I have been seeing this "perfect" guy for the past month or so. We are incredibly compatible, it's unreal. Recently though we had sex, prior to doing so we had some explicit conversations and I thought everything was, well...just talking about being with him was a real turn on. Naturally I was extremely comfortable talking about sex with him because he makes me feel extremely comfortable. Anyways, we had sex a few times and for some reason I don't feel at all compatible with him in the bedroom. Is this even possible?! It just seems as if it doesn't go over smoothly at all, something ALWAYS goes wrong! Should I give up or work at it--since he is so amazing in every other category! The issue has nothing to do with his size or performance, because he is great in those areas. It's just frustrating because there is always a bump in the road, and I've never been in a situation like this.

CJ replies:

The excitement of everything early in a relationship can be one of the most amazing feelings ever. Everything is perfect! Your partner is adorable! Everything about this person is endearing! You always get along! Everything feels so easy and natural! You both have permanent goofy grins pasted on your face! Exclamation points are used liberally! Ah yes, it’s intoxicating, but sometimes there’s more than meets the eye. Most often, something comes up in the relationship that challenges this pure and blissful feeling you’ve been carrying around and then, crap, it’s a real bummer. Things can turn relatively quickly from sunshine, unicorns and rainbows to doom, gloom and despair.

That happens, but the good news is that reality usually lies somewhere between the unicorns and despair. In other worse, things can end up being completely manageable and probably not as tragic as they feel right now. But I know lots of people out there reading have felt exactly the same what you’re feeling right now…and I’ll include myself among them.

The fact that you started out with some conversations leads me to believe that the two of you can easily develop some more skills that might help things feel a little more comfortable or pleasurable for both of you. Talking is a really good place to start. As much as the media can romanticize sex, particularly having sex with a partner for the first time, it’s rarely something that just magically falls together in perfect synchronization. People don’t all like the same things, feel comfortable with the same things, or have the same ideas about what they’d like to try together. And since we haven’t yet developed amazing mind-reading capacity, the best way to approach sex with a partner—whether it’s the first time or not—is with an open mind, open ears, and an open heart.

I’m curious about what you mean when you say that you don’t feel the two of you are compatible. You mention that it’s not his size or his skill—but are you able to identify for yourself what it is that feels like it’s missing? Is there something that you know you want or need that isn’t happening? If you’re able to identify something tangible, like, say, wanting more kissing or for him to touch you a little harder and more to the left, then it’d be a great idea to let him know those things, so he has the opportunity to try to do those things.

Lots of times, our partners would love to do whatever it is that we’d like…if only they knew we liked them. Speaking up can be very sexy, and it’s never a bad thing to know what you want,or to be able to voice something if you think it might feel better for you. There are other times, though, when our partners might feel really uncomfortable with something we ask of them. Any partner in a relationship—regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of the partners—always has the right to say no, or to set limits with what they want. If you don’t feel like you can say no to something, then the “yes” answers that you give don’t hold as much meaning. In the cases where one partner might want something that another partner is uncomfortable with, it’s important to respect that boundary and then you can decide for yourself how important it is that you get exactly what you want. Sometimes it can be really hard to feel disappointed or let down—and, hey, we all like to get what we want—but, at the same time, it’s really important in every relationship to be able to set boundaries and have them respected. The disappointment will pass, but feeling unsafe with or unheard by your partner is something that can linger in a relationship.

But back to this idea of being “compatible” sexually with someone. People probably can mean lots of different things when they talk about being “compatible” with a partner. What we experience sexually and how we feel about any given interaction can sometimes have a lot to do around what our expectations are about what’s going to happen. One big one that I see a lot is that lots of women believe that they will absolutely, positively have an orgasm simply having a penis or toy inside their vagina. While that is true for some people, it’s definitely not true for everyone…but if you expected that would happen, it might be pretty disappointing if it didn’t. You might feel like someone did something wrong, or there’s something wrong with your body, or that you’re not compatible with your partner.

I think that it can be really helpful to try viewing all sexual activity as a process, not this set thing that has a start, finish and absolute outcome. It takes time to get to know a person, to get to know their body, and to learn their cues and what they’re into. Even partners who have been together for a long time are constantly learning new things about each other and lots of time end up changing around what they do together, or developing different tastes in what they like. It’s a constant process of learning and changing and trying out new things--some of which might be spectacular, some of which might be kinda meh, and some of which you may realize you don’t really want to do again at all.

The constant need to learn and change might seem overwhelming, but I think it feels less so when you realize that the important thing is that you feel close to your partner, that you’re able to communicate well (and not just before sex…during and after is just as important!) and that you’re able to let that person know what’s on your mind. As long as both of you are present in that process, and willing to work with each other and take the time to listen and get to know each other, then you’re well on the way to having sex that feels good for both of you.

Lots of times people believe that sex needs to end with each person having an orgasm, so if that doesn’t happen then you’ve failed. That belief can be something that, without realizing it, can put a lot of pressure on people and result in you not feeling very good if things don’t turn out just the way you’d hoped. If orgasm, or lack of orgasm, is one of the reasons you may not feel completely compatible with your partner, remember that there are lots of ways to have an orgasm and they don’t necessarily have to mean relying on another person to “give” one to you. You can always show your partner what you like, or take matters into your own hands…and that doesn’t have to mean anything negative about you, about your partner or about the experiences you’re having together.

I’m really of the belief that good communication can do wonders in helping partners feel satisfied and excited about their sexual activities together. That said, of course it’s possible that two people just don’t jive together in bed. For whatever reason, maybe you just don’t want the same things, or aren’t comfortable with the same things, or just have different goals and ideas about what it means to be sexual with another person. If you find that you believe you and your partner are landing in that space, even after you’ve talked more, maybe experimented more without expectations of how things will be, and practiced really voicing your needs, then that’s a different story. It seems like you’re really into this guy and there are a lot of great things about him, so I can’t tell you (nor can anyone tell you) whether you should stick around with him or not. We each have to decide for ourselves how important sex (or any single factor) is to us and whether it’s make or break for our relationships. Different people may prioritize differently, so it’s up to you to reflect on it a bit and decide what is the most important thing to you right now, and whether that translates into staying with this guy who is otherwise awesome, or trying to find someone you feel better with sexually.

However, if he is as awesome as you make him out to be then I bet he’s willing to really give things a try and work with you to make the sexual aspect of your relationship feel more positive. Just keep in mind that things don’t often start out perfectly, and it takes work to allow yourself to be vulnerable and sexual with someone, and to give and take feedback from them. It probably won’t be an overnight change, but the process can be a whole lot of fun if you remember not to stress yourself out too much or to hold yourself or your partner to unrealistic expectations.

Here are some other articles and links that can help give you the tools to start these conversations:

written 23 Oct 2010 . updated 21 Jan 2014

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