Most couples know if their sex life is fantastic or outright bad, but it can be harder to recognize when it's merely satisfactory but not very exciting. It's important to learn the more subtle signs your sex life is suffering, though, because then you can nip it in the bud before it goes completely downhill. Many couples slip into routines without even realizing their sex lives aren't as good as they used to be.
First of all, though, don't worry just because your sex life doesn't match what you see in porn or read in romance novels. "Do you expect sex to be as romantic, sensual and hiccup-free as it is in the movies?" Astroglide's resident sexologist "Dr. Jess" O'Reilly tells Bustle. "If so, you had better hire a set designer, director, a few assistants, lighting staff, and flutters." Most people wouldn't rate their sex lives a 10 out of 10, she says.
Still, there's always room for improvement, as long as you're making these improvements because you genuinely want to see changes in your sex life (as opposed to feeling inadequate). Here are some subtle signs your sex life may be suffering and what you can do about it.
1The Same Person's Always Initiating
Dr. Jess often sees couples that are dissatisfied because one person is always initiating, and they're feeling undesired. "Most people want their partners to share in the experience of initiating sex, as it gives them the opportunity to feel desired and reduces performance pressure," she says. "When one partner is exclusively tasked with initiating sex, it can lead to struggles with rejection and eventually resentment."
If your partner's always initiating, try to take the reigns, and if you are, tell them you'd like to see things balance out.
2You Haven't Talked About What You Want
Nobody can read minds, and since everyone's very different, so there's just no way your partner can know what you want based on their past partners, says Dr. Jess. If you haven't talked about what you want, you're probably not getting it. And if your partner hasn't said what they want, there's no way you can give it to them.
If the thought of potentially criticizing your partner's sexual skills freaks you out, check out these tips for asking for what you want in bed without making them insecure.
3You're Always Doing The Same Thing
Once couples know what works, they may stop trying new things. This might seem like a fail-proof way to have consistently good sex, but the problem is, "repeating the same behaviors in a predictable manner can reduce their associated pleasure," says Dr. Jess. "Research shows that dopamine levels can be twice as high when rewards are unpredictable, so change things up and watch your pleasure soar."
4You're Both Quiet After Sex
Sex should leave couples feeling close, so if you're feeling distant afterward, there's a chance you're not being open with each other, Marissa Nelson, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, tells Bustle.
Bring up any sex-related problems with your partner so that you don't feel like you're hiding anything from each other.
5You Want Different Things From Sex
We often talk about this in the context of one person who wants a casual hookup and another who wants a relationship, but it can also happen between two people in a relationship. Maybe, for example, someone is aiming for stress relief while the other wants to emotionally connect. When this happens, "someone can find themselves dissatisfied and resentful after a while of not getting their sexual and emotional needs met," says Nelson.
Get clear about what you're both looking to get out of sex so that you both can get it.
6You're Blaming Your Issues On One Person
In order for a couple to have a healthy sex life, both people should feel like they're in it together. If you think you're not orgasming, experiencing pain during sex, or having another sexual issue solely because of you, you can feel alone and isolated. On the flip side, if you think it's solely because of your partner, they can feel inadequate. "If one person has an issue, it's a relationship issue," says Nelson.
If you notice any of these signs, you can start to resolve them by having an honest conversation with your partner about sex. Nelson recommends asking "What do you enjoy the most from our intimacy?", "What do you think we could work on together? Individually?," and "What do I need more and less from you during sex?" The closeness you get from having a dialogue alone can help you start having better sex.