It's easy to forget that your sex life contributes to your overall health, and if you're not paying close attention, the sex you're having —or not having —could be putting a damper on your wellbeing. There are a number of signs that your sex life isn't everything it could be, and although you may not be bothered by it, you also might not be realizing what you're missing. Sex not only gives you pleasure, but it can affect your self-esteem, your immune system, and even your mental health.
"A healthy sex life is a fantastic way to feel empowered, present, and connected to both yourself and any partners you may have," says clinical sexologist Rena McDaniel, M.Ed over email. "Great sex feels amazing and gives you an immediate rush of endorphins, as well as provides a built-in release for whatever stress you've been feeling. It can also help you feel powerful in your own skin while reconnecting with a partner and/or your own body."
It can be easy to pinpoint amazing sex, but it's not always clear what constitutes an average or below average sex life. If you suspect you might not be getting all the fun and pleasure you could be, check for these 11 signs that your sex life potentially isn't everything it could be.
1You're Stuck In Your Head
"It's very difficult to have a great sex life if you are constantly stuck in your head during sex," says McDaniel. "Focus your attention back on your five senses and your pleasure in the moment as a natural antidote to overthinking every move during sex."
2You Wait To Feel Horny To Have Sex
It's easiest to think about having sex when you're horny, but there are other types of desire. "Responsive desire is the kind of desire where you put yourself in a sexy context (a picnic in the grass, a long bath, cuddled up on the couch, etc.), and suddenly the idea of sex doesn't seem quite so far as well," says McDaniel. "Figure out what your sexy contexts are and intentionally put yourself in those contexts as often as possible. Great sex doesn't have to be completely spontaneous."
3You Aren't Using Lube
Some people think that something needs to be wrong before you use lube, but it can be an important tool to add lubrication, new sensations, and reduce friction for a much better experience. "Our bodies might not produce enough lubrication for lots of reasons, including things like certain medication and allergies, and often this doesn't mean anything at all about how turned on we are," says McDaniel.
4You Stick To Prescribed Gender Roles
"It's easy to get stuck in roles during sex that you didn't consciously choose — like top or bottom — thanks to gender socialization," says McDaniel. Try getting out of your comfort zone and trying new positions with your partner. Experiment and see what feels good for you.
5You're Faking Orgasms
This is one time where you shouldn't fake it until you make it. "If you're faking an orgasm or pleasure, you're doing it wrong," says McDaniel. "Often, people with vulvas think that they need to fake an orgasm in order to satisfy their partner. This is a sure-fire way to cheat yourself out of pleasure. Instead of faking pleasure, tell your partner what you like, guide them, and watch the magic happen."
6You Focus Only On Orgasm
On the flip side, you don't want to make sex only about the orgasm. "The quickest and best way to not get an orgasm is to have orgasm-focused sex," says pelvic health physical therapist and sex educator Dr. Uchenna “UC” Ossai over email. "Sex is meant to be experienced and explored. Goal-directed sex never does anyone any favors."
7You Have Sex Solely To Maintain The Relationship
Your sex life is definitely not what it should be if your reason for having sex is to maintain your relationship rather than for pleasure. "When we get in the habit of having sex to 'keep the peace' or to 'keep my boo from leaving me,' we totally miss the boat on pleasure," says Oassai. "When pleasure isn’t central to your sex life, then you start to chip away at the sexual experience as a whole."
8You Have A Strict Routine
If you're having sex on the same day, at the same time, in the same position, spice it up and get more playful. "Humans love novelty, and what better way to surprise your partner than something out of the ordinary," says sex and relationship expert Megan Stubbs, EdD, ACS over email. "The internet is ripe with ideas and tips and tricks for you to try with your partner."
9It's Over And Done With Quickly
Sometimes it's fun to fit in a quickie, but not all intercourse should be super fast. "Foreplay is a key part of sex, for many, it can be the most enjoyable bit," says psychosexual therapist Kate Moyle, partner at Pillow App, over email. "It also has an important function for warming up the body, which prepares it for penetrative sex, making everything more pleasurable."
10You're Embarrassed To Be Naked Around Your Partner
Your sex life will suffer if you are embarrassed to be nude around your partner or have other negative body issues. "This can often cause stress, making it very difficult to feel sexually aroused," says Steve McGough, DHS, an associate professor of clinical sexology over email. "Plus, it limits your ability to relax and truly express yourself sexually."
11Sex Is Painful
If your sexual activity is painful, this could indicate that there's an underlying health issue. "For instance vaginismus (painful intercourse) and vulvodynia (generalized pelvic pain) are more common than most people think and tend to be underreported because women are often embarrassed to bring it up with their health care provider," says McGough. If sex doesn't feel good, talk to a gynecologist.