I want to change up my sexual routine with my partner. Where do I start?

My boyfriend are "sexually active" but it's always short, boring, and quiet. If I make a sound he'll think that he's hurting me which makes me have to contain everything. I want to try more positions with him, we've done normal, and doggy, how can I make things more interesting with out making it awkward? And how can I make sex longer?
Jenna replies:

Many of us have been there before: feeling stuck in our sexual relationships and wanting to try new things, while feeling unable to communicate that, or nervous about communicating that, to our partner. Fortunately there are some conversation tips that might help you have the type of sex that you want while respecting your partner's desires, needs, and boundaries.

Assessing Your Sexual Attitudes and Desires

If you have not done so already, it is important to take a step back and really identify what it is that you want from your sexual relationship, and why. Doing this before you approach your boyfriend with some of the conversation tools below can help you have a thoughtful discussion about your desires and needs within your partnership. It's hard to communicate with others when we aren't already clear about what we want to communicate in the first place.

It sounds like you have already figured out what some of the changes you would like to see are, including being more expressive during sex and trying out new positions. Entering a conversation about certain activities you would like to try or changes you would like to make to your sexual routine can be a lot less overwhelming or intimidating for both partners involved if you already know what it is you would like. If you're not sure what you want, just that you want something different from what you have right now, that's totally fine, too. But knowing that you're unsure is also helpful, and can help you wade through your feelings and discuss them with your partner. Additionally, fantasy can possibly help you figure out what you want, as sometimes what we fantasize about can reflect what we would like to explore sexually, or at least guide our exploration. Keep in mind, however, that you might not actually have any desire to act out what you fantasize about, and that is okay too.

This is the toughie, but is also super important. Being able to figure out why you want something can be challenging for many of us, but can also help you explain what you are feeling and separate what you think you want from what you really want. Some people find that they want to do less of X or more of Y because they think that's how sex is "supposed" to be, whether that notion came from media, or friends, or any other external influence. Others might desire certain changes for more personal reasons, such as increasing intimacy or pleasure within a sexual relationship. Additionally, you might not know why you want something in particular, and that is okay as well, but trying to identify the reasoning behind it can be really helpful when assessing your sexual attitudes and wants.

Figuring out your desires and the reasoning behind them might be very easy for you, or might be a continual process that evolves over time. I know that I am always checking in with myself on what I want in my sexual relationship and why I feel a certain way, but everyone is different. What you want and why you want it also might change over time. Your needs and desires are probably different from what they were a few years ago, and might change in the next weeks, months, or years. For help on how to get started on your own sexual attitudes assessment, check out Sorting Maybe from Can't-Be: Reality Checking Partnered Sex Wants & Ideals and Rescripting Sex.

  • Identify What You Want to Change
  • Identify Why

Having A Conversation About Your Sex Life

Starting the conversation with your boyfriend might feel like the hardest step in changing up your sex life, particularly if you are worried that it will be awkward or uncomfortable. Media, stories from friends, and general ideas on talking about sex tend to make it seem like a dreaded conversation to have, or that we should be embarrassed to talk about it. It's hard to push past those messages that we get, but they really aren't helpful. Engaging sexually with someone can create intimacy or vulnerability, and if you are doing certain acts or behaviors, then you should feel comfortable having a conversation about those acts and your feelings around them.

Talking about sex doesn't need to be awkward, and can really open the door to having a more satisfying and fulfilling sexual relationship. You can't expect anyone to be able to read your mind or know what it is that you want. In fact, it's possible that your boyfriend is feeling the same way as you do in wanting to try new positions or other activities, so sitting down and having this conversation is the best way to get on the same page. It sounds like a lack of communication here might be the biggest barrier to the two of you having a sex life you enjoy, probably a much bigger barrier than, say, limited sexual positions. There are some really helpful tips for how to talk with a partner about sex in Be a Blabbermouth! The Whys, Whats and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner. Keeping these suggestions in mind as you bring up some of your desires you mentioned can help you have a meaningful conversation that your partner is hopefully receptive to.

It's also okay if talking about this is awkward. Talking about anything that's a big deal, or about something where people feel vulnerable is often awkward, especially at first. But that's okay. Something being awkward really shouldn't be a big deal. It also sounds like things have already been awkward for quite some time, but in a way that's not positive. While communicating openly about all of this may be awkward at first, it'll usually get more comfortable over time, and having those talks will make it a lot less likely things will keep feeling awkward and uncomfortable. You can read more about that here.

It is common for there to be occasional disconnects when in a sexual relationship with someone. Everyone is different in their preferences and what they feel comfortable with, but part of being with another person is learning about those preferences and deciding together what works best for your relationship. When discussing some of your concerns with your boyfriend, keep in mind that if he does not feel comfortable trying something new, it is not your fault, and you being able to ask for what you want is valid and necessary in a healthy relationship. Part of being sexually active is taking responsibility for your own sexual satisfaction, and not expecting someone to automatically be able to meet your needs without you having to express them. On the flip side, once you have communicated what you want, it is not fair or realistic to expect your partner to comply. Just like you should feel comfortable saying "no" to anything that you do not want to do, your boyfriend is entitled to the same right.

Additionally, it's important to understand that not everyone is sexually compatible. Many folks are willing to explore new things, but others aren't. I am in no way saying that you should break up with your boyfriend because he has sex quietly or prefers certain positions, but you also should not be put in a position of having to ignore your needs and what you feel are important aspects of your sex life. Sexual negotiation can feel confusing, but it really comes down to being respectful and understanding, and deciding for yourself whether your needs are being met. For some helpful tips and messages, read Sexual Negotiation for the Long Haul.

Be Vocal About Being Vocal

First of all, it sounds like you don't feel like you can really vocally express yourself when you're being sexual with your boyfriend. If he tends to be on the quiet side, he might be surprised or alarmed when he hears any noises coming from you. Instead of feeling like you need to keep quiet and have silent sex, you can let your partner know that you want to be able to make noises to express your enjoyment, and also let him know that you will be sure to let him know if he is ever hurting you clearly, with your words, not with noises he has to guess about. It might help to even have a specific code word that you both agree upon, that you or he can use if either of you are hurting or want to stop what you are doing. While it might seem obvious to you, you can never assume that your partner knows what you want or what you mean when it comes to sex or anything else in your relationship.

Additionally, there might be something else going on. Do either of you live with parents or roommates? Not having complete privacy could also affect your boyfriend's desire to have loud (or quiet) sex. Maybe find out what he is comfortable with as well, so that you are respecting his boundaries and come to an understanding together.

Position Exploration

As I mentioned above, being open and honest with your boyfriend is the best way to change up the sexual activities that you two are doing together. There are several possible reasons why you two currently have sex in the same positions. They might work well for him, and he might be under the impression that they work well for you too. He might not have experience having sex in other positions and is nervous to try something new. He might not know that there are a wealth of different ways that people have sex.

Part of being in a sexual relationship with someone is listening to their needs. Just as you would be accommodating to your partner's needs, it's his responsibility to be flexible and adjust to meet yours, or else communicate why he might not want to. The best way to get what you want (whether it be trying a new position or anything else) is to express your interest in it. Simple body language during sex probably won't cut it, so having that discussion outside of a sexual situation, when you are both dressed and comfortable is a better environment to approach the topic. When talking about your desires to explore different positions with your boyfriend, try to focus on the positive ("I think it could be really fun and feel great for both of us.") rather than the negative ("Our sex is boring and just isn't cutting it for me."). Use your own language for what you want to say, but chances are he will be more receptive and not feel embarrassed or shameful if you don't point fingers or assign any blame.

Making Sex Last Longer

First of all, there is no magic length of time that a sexual activity should last for, and there is no magic answer to having prolonged sex. However, there are some things that you can do that might make your sex sessions more satisfying, if you find yourself wishing it had lasted longer. I am addressing this with the assumption that you mean that your boyfriend ejaculates or becomes soft before you are ready for sex to be over.

Before we move on, however, I want to address the fact that sex can mean different things to different people. Sex does not necessarily just mean a penis going into a vagina or anus. It can be oral sex, touching, rubbing, or involve sex toys. When you think about having sex with your boyfriend, any of these actions can apply, here are some suggestions for addressing both.

  • Talk It Out: You might want to check in with your partner to see how he feels about how long your sexual activities last. He might feel like it's the perfect amount of time, or is worried that you aren't interested in longer sessions. Also, keep in mind that realistically, sex -- especially intercourse -- doesn't last for hours in most cases. During intercourse, most men orgasm before women, and usually within the first few minutes. Having a check-in with him in a non-accusatory way is a good start to see if you two can work together to make intercourse (or all of your sexual activities in general) last longer.
  • No End Goal: Having an orgasm does not need to be the end goal of having sex. Sometimes that might make sex less pleasurable if you're worried about being able to orgasm or whether your partner is going to orgasm or not. There are plenty of folks that are not able to orgasm, and have incredibly fulfilling sex. Getting rid of the "sex = orgasm" mindset can help you enjoy the sensations and experience of sex without worrying about the amount of time.
  • Expanding sexual activities: Doing sexual activities that involve something besides vaginal intercourse, or anal intercourse can feel amazing, and can also potentially extend the length of time spent together overall. Having oral or manual sex, massaging, kissing, making out, etc., might be just as pleasurable for you (if not more pleasurable!) than intercourse, and also don't depend on a partner's erection.
  • Condoms: In addition to being great for protection against sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, condoms can be helpful for some people to prolong their erection. You might already be using condoms, but if not, it's worth discussing with your partner and deciding together if that might be a good approach for the both of you.

As you can tell, having open communication is incredibly important and is the best way for you to pursue a sexual relationship that meets your needs. Remember that you are in control of your sexual pleasure and satisfaction, and hopefully you feel empowered to speak your mind and say what you want. Check out some of the links below for additional resources.

More Reading

I'm so unhappy in our sex life, and he just doesn't understand.
Sexual Negotiation for the Long Haul
Be a Blabbermouth! The Whys, Whats and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner
Sorting Maybe from Can't-Be: Reality Checking Partnered Sex Wants & Ideals

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