Having good sex doesn't always happen immediately. It can take time, practice, and a lot of communication. According to The Gottman Institute, couples that talk about sex typically have better sex. If your partner isn't quite giving you what you want in bed, experts say you may need to give them some directions.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that people would rather let it go and have unsatisfying sex than talk to their partner about ways to improve. According to researchers, it's their way of avoiding a potential conflict. Even couples who are usually good at working through non-sex related issues, will avoid discussing an unsatisfying sex life as well.
Sex is so personal. Nobody wants to make their partner feel bad in bed. But as sex therapist Candice Cooper-Lovett, PhD, LMFT, tells Bustle, giving your partner directions in bed can take your sex life and your relationship to the next level.
"Giving your partner feedback as it relates to sex can be an opportunity for intimacy on an emotional level," Cooper-Lovett says. "Everyone is different and each partner can continue to learn from one another about what pleasures them."
There are ways to give your partner directions in bed without making them feeling inadequate. Here are some things you can do, according to experts.
1. Use Positive Reinforcement
When it comes to giving your partner directions, you want to be gentle and ease into it. "I often tell couples that the best feedback is to start off with what their partner is doing well and include why," Cooper-Lovett says. It's even more effective when you validate them in the moment like, "I love the way you're kissing my neck."
Your positive feedback is more likely to stick with them when they can actually see the effect it's having on you. According to Cooper-Lovett, it also leaves space for them to receive feedback that may challenge them to be better sexually. "This will help to create a stronger bond and will teach you how to be transparent with one another, not just sexually, but in other areas of your relationship as well," she says.
2. Demonstrate What You Like
If verbally giving directions makes you a little uncomfortable, you can also use non-verbal cues. In fact, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that nonverbal communication was also closely linked to sexual satisfaction. So if it makes you more comfortable, you can always demonstrate to your partner what you want in bed.
"Try showing them how and where you liked to be touched by doing it yourself first and letting them watch," Dr. Heather Stevenson, licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in helping couples, tells Bustle. "Seeing you get excited will be a huge turn on, and your partner will want to replicate that themselves." If they don't get it right, you can also help them out by guiding their hand over the places you want to be touched.
3. Suggest Alternatives To What They're Already Doing
When your partner is doing something you don't like, the natural thing to do is to tell them to stop. You shouldn't endure anything you don't like just to make your partner feel good. But there is a gentle way to let your partner know that they're doing something you don't like.
"It can be hard for us to hear someone say, 'Don't do that,'" Elise Schuster, sexuality educator and founder of sex and relationship app, okayso, tells Bustle. "It can make us shut down and be defensive." Instead, try offering an alternative. For example, "Instead of doing it like this, why don't we try going a little slower?" According to Schuster, offering a suggestion in a kind way can put you two back on the right track.
4. Develop Quick Ways To Check In During Sex
When you're in the heat of the moment, it can be hard to think of the right thing to say. So as Schuster suggests, find little ways to quickly check in with each other so you can make adjustments as you go. "For example, during a hand job, the amount of squeeze might be a 'one' for really light and a '10' for really tight," Schuster says. "If the person receiving needs a change, they can just say 'two' or 'eight. It's easy to adjust without anyone feeling like something is wrong." You can also do this using non-verbal cues. For instance, you can both agree that a tap on the shoulder means something isn't pleasurable or too painful. These are all things that should be discussed beforehand.
5. Talk About Sex Outside Of The Bedroom
"Sexual communication is something that's a vital part of every relationship and needs to happen outside of the act of sex as well," Stevenson says. When you're not in the heat of the moment, you'll have more of an opportunity to talk and really listen to each other. It's also easier for you to make note of it for the future. When you do have these conversations, be sure that it's a safe space for both of you. According to Stevenson, you want to be as open minded as possible. "Having these conversations often feels uncomfortable and vulnerable," she says. "But being able to practice them in a safe non-judgmental environment is the only way either one of you will get better and more comfortable with it."
6. Work Together As A Team
Even if you're the one leading the conversation or giving your partner directions in the moment, it's important to remember that you're still on the same team. So stay kind, loving, and give your partner as much praise as you can. According to Stevenson, it's important to let your partner know that it's not a problem with them and that you're willing to work it out together. "This goes a long way in building the trust and safety needed to be open with one another," she says.
It's not always easy to talk about sex with your partner. But you don't need to keep having unsatisfying sex just so you partner doesn't feel bad. Learning how to communicate and give directions in a way that makes you both feel safe can make your sex life so much better. If you have trouble openly communicating, seeing a therapist or a coach can be helpful.