The kind of sex you have can be a really good indicator of whether or not you're in a healthy relationship. Not that all bad or uncomfortable sex means the relationship is in trouble, but there are sexual signs of an unhealthy relationship.
For starters, sex should always be something you want. It should also be a kind of sex you're comfortable having. And you should definitely have a voice to express what you like and don't like. If those things aren't true, you might have problem with trust, control, and respect. And sometimes the problem isn't your partner, it's actually you. People pleasing, low self-esteem, an instability to commit, and trust issues on your part can influence how and when you have sex.
If you're having bad sex, you could just be having bad sex. Or an off day. But if bad sex is a regular part of your life, it's worth it to take some time and figure out the reasons why. Oh, and bad sex isn't the only problem. You could be having really good sex — like world-rocking sex — that is still problematic. Great sex on the regular with unequal emotional attachment or unequal give and take might also point to a problem.
In my time working with couples as both a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and a Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Advocate, I've heard about a myriad of ways in which unrest in the couple leads to unrest in the sack.
1. All Give & No Take
It's nice to be a giver, but if you're always a giver and never a taker, you should really ask yourself why. It could be that you're a people pleaser. People pleasers go the extra mile and don't demand anything in return because they don't have healthy coping skills when it comes to dealing with conflict. People pleasers can sometimes also lack the self-esteem required to embrace their own needs and wants. On the flip side, if your partner always demands you please him or her while offering very little in return, your partner could have issues with control and respect. Good lovin' means both partners get what they want.
2. Fake City
If one of you is faking it on the regular, it can mean there's a breakdown in trust and communication. In a healthy relationship, all partners have free reign to say what works and what doesn't. They care about each other's pleasure. Faking it might seem like a nice way to give your partner a confidence boost, but your partner might see it as a form of lying. The issue with faking could just be that you're over it, or that your partner isn't getting it done this time around, but it could also be that you lack the sense of trust and safety to express your needs.
3. Degrading In A Bad Way
I'm not talking about any kind of kinky sex that you're both into. I'm talking about one partner making the other partner feel like an object without their consent. I'm talking about humiliation, name-calling, violence, and any other behavior that makes you feel like rotten meat on the inside. If this happens to you, and you feel you can speak up, you need to do so. Your partner could just be playing out a fantasy that you've never objected to. On the other hand, if your partner can't tell that you're clearly not enjoying yourself, there's probably something awry. If you don't feel like you can talk to your partner about this kind of sexual behavior, than you definitely have a problem.
4. Not What You Like
Anyone you're having sex with should care about what you like. If you've told your partner time and time again that you're not into something and they keep trying it, that's crossing a boundary and that's not healthy. If your partner crosses this line in the bedroom, it's likely they don't have much respect for your boundaries in other aspects of your relationship. Plus, I feel the need to point out that there's a very fine line between not respecting your boundaries and straight up sexual assault. Legit.
One of the classic signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship is when one partner puts another partner at risk, sexually. Your partner may be forcing or coercing you into having unprotected sex, sex in public against your will, or sex in which you're injured in some way. If this is the case, you need to seek help right away. Not only could your partner be exposing you to sexually transmitted diseases, but you could also become seriously injured. You could also have a pregnancy that you have very little control over. This is a huge red flag.
6. Assumed Not Chosen
At the very core of the idea of consent is desire. You consent because you want to have sex. If sex is never your choice or idea, but something that happens to you whenever your partner wants it, then I am going to hand you this giant box of red flags. Sex when you don't want to have sex isn't your duty. It's rape. You have no responsibility to meet anyone's sexual needs when you don't want to. This behavior not only stems from control, but it can easily transition into violence. Your body is yours.
7. Never Intimate
Withholding love, intimacy, and affection is one of the ways abusers control and manipulate their partners. Sex, at least sometimes, is about connection. Sure, sometimes you just slam each other around in a raw, animal way, but if you're really in an actual relationship, sometimes you're also going to have an intimate experience. If you partner just sort of uses you and throws you away, or never wants to connect, make love, be sweet and gentle, or show he or she cares, it's probably indicative of a bigger problem.
8. The Old Hit It & Quit It
If you're in love with someone, and under the pretense that you're building a relationship together, and he or she only plays into that to get sex, that's not healthy. You're not in a relationship, you're being used for sex and the person who is using you is toying with your emotions at the same time. Trust me when I say that you deserve so much better. And while we're on the subject, if this seems to be a regular problem for you, maybe we should chat about your self-esteem.
9. Coping Mechanism
Make-up sex is good, but that's because the fighting has happened, as has the making up. If you just throw yourselves into bed every time conflict arises, you're likely using sex as a coping mechanism for uncomfortable feelings or as an avoidance tactic. Even if you feel better after your tumble, your problems are still going to be there.
Sex is supposed to be awesome, and anyone who takes that awesomeness away from you doesn't deserve a seat at your table. Or a side of your bed.