We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your sex and relationship inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, onto today’s topic: why is it so easy to get distracted during sex?
Q: "My partner and I have been together for 4 years, and I find that I have a very hard time focusing and being ‘in the moment’ when we're having sex. Whenever I tell people, they assume that I don't love him or don't find him attractive, but neither of those things are true — I'm not spacing out because I don't want to be with him. The sex isn't even bad; we always make sure we both orgasm. I just… find that my mind wanders.
Sometimes, it wanders to errands that I'm putting off; other times, I just start thinking about things in my life, like a conversation I have to have with my boss. I have a few ideas about why my mind wanders — I think my partner and I have different sex drives, which means I'm not always horny when he's horny, and thus, not always wildly horny when he initiates sex (which I know is still less often than he'd like).
But I'm not 100 percent sure that that's it, either. My partner has been really understanding of every sexual request I've ever asked of him, but I don't even know what to ask him to deal with this problem."
A: Thanks for the question! This is an issue that so many people struggle with, without fully understanding why. If you love your partner, if you’re attracted to them, if you enjoy having sex with them, then why would your mind wander? On the surface, it seems totally perplexing.
But there’s actually a pretty simple explanation. Let’s get right into why you distracted during sex — and what you can do about it.
You Get Distracted During Sex Because You’re Just Plain Distracted...
The big reason we all get so distracted during sex is that we’re distracted all. The. Time! Aside from everything going on in our day-to- day lives, we also have access to an entirely separate world right at our fingertips via our phones. We’re so used to doing multiple things at the same time, but when we get into the bedroom, there’s only one thing to focus on — being intimate with your partner. Your brain is so used to multitasking that it naturally starts seeking out more stimuli, and wandering off to different thoughts.
...Not Because You're Not Attracted To Your Partner...
In case it’s not clear already, your brain's wandering doesn’t have much to do with your level of attraction to your partner. I know it’s tempting to think of a wandering mind as an ominous sign, but it’s just not the case — your mind is going to drift, even with partners you’re really attracted to.
...And Not Because You're Not Feeling Pleasure
Getting distracted during sex doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not having good sex, either. It’s frustratingly easy to get distracted during even the most pleasurable physical activities, like eating a delicious meal or getting a massage. You might have been looking forward to a massage all week, only to realize halfway through that you’ve been thinking about something else and not paying any attention whatsoever to how good the massage actually feels. This doesn't mean that the massage wasn't good.
So now that we've established that being distracted isn't a referendum on your relationship with your partner, let's answer the big question: how you can become more focused during sex.
Crack Down On Multitasking Outside The Bedroom
If you want to get more focused inside the bedroom, the best place to start is outside the bedroom. It can be easier to start there, since you don’t have the other anxieties that usually go along with sex. It’s also necessary to start there, since there’s no way to have more focus in one area of your life while neglecting the others.
I could write an entire book about being more mindful in daily life, but one of the best things you can do to get started is to stop multitasking so much. When you’re doing something, try to focus on just that one thing. When you’re eating, you’re just eating. When you’re watching TV, you’re just watching TV. When you’re walking, you’re just walking. Learn how to focus your attention on just the task at hand.
Spend More Time On Foreplay
I want to address one of the dynamics that you brought up in your question — that you and your partner have different sex drives, and that you’re not always in the mood when things get started. First of all, it’s totally normal to have different sex drives. It’s also normal to have different levels of arousal in the moment.
But you can help yourself be a bit more present by allowing yourself — or asking your partner for — more time for foreplay. Foreplay is just as much about getting into the mood mentally as it is about getting into the mood physically — and if you take the time to unwind and get turned on, your focus will naturally fall in line.
Adjust Your Expectations
Having the expectation that your mind will never wander will only sabotage your efforts to learn how to be more present. Even with the utmost dedication to mindfulness, you’re never going to be able to be 100 percent present, 100 percent of the time.
Instead, make it your goal to try to be more purposeful about staying in the moment, while recognizing that you’re never going to be perfect.
Don’t Fight Distractions; Acknowledge Them
So if distractions are unavoidable, how do you manage them in the moment? The answer is to acknowledge them. Ever notice that the more you try to fight a certain thought, the more you wind up thinking about it? Our brains just can’t be bullied out of thinking. Instead, we can take a moment to acknowledge that we’ve gotten distracted, then gently try to redirect our attention back to what’s important. In your head, you can say something like, “OK, I’m thinking that distracting thought again. But I really want to focus on enjoying this time with my partner.”
Check In With Your Body
Maintaining your connection with your body is one of the best ways to stay present. Try paying attention to the different sensations you’re feeling in different parts of your body. If you find yourself getting distracted, you can also gently redirect your attention to your body. After acknowledging a distracting thought, take a few deep breaths, and imagine sending that breath to specific parts of your body. The more in tune you feel with your body, the easier you’ll find it to keep staying present.