When you're about to have sex, it's easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and dive right into bed without a second thought. But whether it's a one-night-stand or a regular old Tuesday morning romp with your long-term partner, it's worthwhile to press pause on the passion — even if only for a moment — to check in with yourself and reflect before having sex. While any and all decisions about your body and sex life are totally up to you, there's no harm in making a habit of mentally checking in with yourself each time you have sex to help ensure you have the best sexual experience possible.
"Sex is a pretty big deal in the sense that you’re opening up your most intimate self to another person," Jonathan Bennett, dating and relationship coach and owner of The Popular Man, tells Bustle. "Not only that, but the brain releases bonding and pleasure chemicals when you do it. Consequently, when you make the choice to have sex with someone, it can have a serious mental and emotional impact on your life, even if you logically tell yourself otherwise. So, it never hurts to think about your sexual relationships, even ones you've been in for a while. Reflecting on why you have sex and what it means to you can be a very positive activity. It can strengthen existing sexual relationships or help you abandon unhealthy and toxic ones."
Part of being a mature sexual partner is being in tune with your sexual and emotional needs, and taking a moment for some honest self-reflection pre-hookup can actually help you have a better time once you get down to business. Here are seven questions to ask yourself the next time you find yourself about to get swept up in a moment of passion:
1Am I Up-To-Date About My Sexual Health?
And equally importantly, am I up-to-date about my partner's sexual health? Talking about sexual health with a partner might not be the easiest thing to tackle (especially if it's someone new), but it's also a convo that's crucial to have. Before having sex, ask yourself whether you're confident that both you and your partner are STI-free. If you're unsure, pause to have a discussion with your partner so you're on the same page before continuing. (And if one of you does have an STI, remember that's nothing to be ashamed of.)
2What Kind Of Intimacy Am I Looking For?
When you're craving intimacy, sometimes sex is just what the figurative doctor ordered. Other times, all we need is a hug and a back rub — and both of those scenarios are totally OK.
"Just as it's good to check in with yourself before you eat so you aren't eating emotionally or out of boredom, it's a good idea to check in with yourself on whether you want to have sex be it with a long-term partner or someone new," Victoria Reuveni, DHS, CSB, tells Bustle. "Maybe you're looking for intimacy that can be had in other ways — a cuddle, for example. Perhaps you can connect to yourself erotically via self-pleasuring. Being mindful about where we're coming from (pun maybe intended) can lead to more authentic yeses and nos."
3Do I Feel Pressured?
When it comes to sex, it's never OK for a partner to manipulate, guilt, or coerce you into doing something you aren't comfortable with. Even if you feel into it in the moment, it's always worthwhile to pause and ask yourself if you're having sex because you genuinely want to, or if you're being influenced by something else.
"If you're feeling pressured, coerced, uncomfortable, insecure or uneasy in anticipation of the sexual experience, stop and talk to your partner first before moving ahead," Rosalind Sedacca, dating and relationship coach, tells Bustle. "We should never participate in sexual intimacy when our motive is not feeling good about ourselves."
4Are My Mind And Body On The Same Page?
Trust me, I know how easy it is to let your body take the wheel when you're mid-hookup with someone — but you should take a second to actually think about what you want, as well as check in with your partner about what they want.
"Before you engage in any kind of sex, you've got to make sure that all parts of your body and your partner's mind and body are enthusiastically saying HELL YES!" Kenna Cook, sexual health educator and pleasure professional at O.School, tells Bustle. "Maybe you only want to make out and have oral but your partner is really enthusiastic about more — check in with them about how you're feeling. Your mind, body and partner should all be on the same page before you get intimate."
5Do I Feel Safe?
Without exception, you should always feel 100 percent safe, secure, and comfortable when having sex with someone. If anything about the situation is giving you a bad feeling, it's OK to pause (or stop altogether).
"Ask yourself if you feel comfortable and safe, and if you're considering sex because it's what you want, or because you think it's expected of you or because you're trying to make someone else happy," Stella Harris, sex educator and coach, tells Bustle.
6Am I Comfortable Communicating My Desires?
The best way to ensure you'll have good sex? Know what you want (or don't want) in bed, and don't be afraid to communicate that to your partner. If you feel like you can't talk openly with your partner about your desires, it might be a good idea to pause things until you can have a conversation and get on the same page. (Pro tip: Talking to your partner about your turn-ons and fantasies can actually be a fun method of foreplay.)
7Do I Feel Fully Present?
Sometimes we use sex as a much-needed distraction from other, less fun parts of our lives. While everyone needs an outlet for their frustration and stress, it might be worth reflecting before sex to make sure you're really engaging in sex as a way to connect with your partner, or if your mind is elsewhere.
"Ask yourself if you're feeling fully present and if you're feeling able to enjoy yourself," Harris says. "If you're distracted because of issues with your partner — or even unrelated things, like stress with work or family — you might not be able to enjoy yourself. This doesn't mean sex is out of the question, but it's something to consider. It could also mean that extra foreplay, massage, or sweetness could be a good way to start."
Pausing to reflect before sex is a simple way to make sure that your mind and body are both equally excited by what's (or who's) to come. Ultimately, as long as you and your partner are both respectful to each other and open to communicating, there's nothing stopping you from having a fulfilling sexual experience.