How To Overcome Sexual Hang-ups With Your Partner, According To Sex Therapists
Ashley Batz/Bustle
Share

Everyone has insecurities when it comes to sex, whether it’s their natural body odor or their performance between the sheets. Even if you and your partner are sexually compatible, having sexual hang-ups can make it difficult to have a satisfying sex life. Learning how to overcome sexual hang-ups takes time, patience, and a lot of communication with your partner. If they're not addressed, sexual hang-ups can eventually affect other areas in the relationship like physical well-being and overall happiness, Heather M. Claus, founder of DatingKinky.com, tells Bustle.

Typical sexual hang-ups include body appearance (especially the shape, size, and smell of what's "down there"), coming too quickly or too slowly during sex, fears around sexual fantasies or sexual kinks, and level of sexual experience. Other people have insecurities about dirty talk, discussions about safe sex or sexual health, and their "O-face," aka their facial expressions during orgasm. One of the most common sexual hang-ups is mismatched libido and the shame related to that desire. If one partner has a higher sex drive than the other, it can be difficult to make both parties feel satisfied and cared for.

Why Do We Have Sexual Hangups?

Many sexual hang-ups are a result of societal influences, according to Claus. "(People) are taught to eschew sexual pleasure, and have sex for the purposes of procreation. If they desire, they are not only doing it wrong, but they are bad and wrong people," Claus says. For instance, making too much noise, watching porn, and talking dirty are all indications of improper or inappropriate desire. Other hang-ups can develop from personal insecurities or natural fears — "the things that we make up in our own heads about how we look or perform, often when we are worried about trying something new," she says.

"Most hang-ups are about the perception we have about what everyone is doing, what everyone else wants, and what we believe our bodies should do based on goals and expectations that are usually not our own."

Dawn Serra, a sex coach and sex educator for the Explore More Summit, agrees that sexual hang-ups are most often about the fear of failed expectations, body shame, and stigma around sex. "Most hang-ups are about the perception we have about what everyone is doing, what everyone else wants, and what we believe our bodies should do based on goals and expectations that are usually not our own," Serra tells Bustle. "Once we stumble or experience rejection around something we're already feeling a little embarrassed by or ashamed of, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy because of the way we talk to ourselves about the ways we're broken or failing."

Sounds like something you've experienced? If sexual hang-ups are getting in the way of you and your partner's sex life, here are 13 action steps you can take to quell those fears once and for all:

1Give Yourself Permission To Feel Safe

Anete Lūsiņa / Unsplash

Having sex is one of the most intimate experiences for two people, whether you're in a relationship or just hooking up. Serra says it's important to do whatever you can to create safe space between you and your partner.

"If you need to wear lingerie or keep the lights off or to wear a dress, then you get to ask for that," she says. "The more you can create space for you to relax just a little into the moment, the more you'll find that your body - no matter what it looks like — is actually capable of experiencing delicious sensations, and that's powerful motivation."

2Remember That Your Body Is A Wonderland

John Mayer was onto something. If you're feeling apprehensive about disclosing your sexual experience or showing your body to someone, remember that you're one of a kind (as cheesy as it might sound). Every time you have a new sexual partner, it's a different experience — the fantasies are different, the feelings of human touch, the gasps. The key is to experience one other with excitement and open curiosity, Serra says.

"For folks who don't have a lot of sexual experience, just remember you are totally new to your more experienced partner," she says. "Your body may surprise them. You may enjoy something they've never encountered."

3Focus On Your Partner

Pixabay

"For people who are nervous about sexual performance, a great place to start is to focus on your partner. The more pleasure you can offer them, the more fun you can have teasing them and exploring them, the more time you give your body to get aroused or to slow down orgasm," Serra says.

"Also remember that intercourse is not the only path to ecstatic sexual pleasure. Use porn, use erotica, use your hands, use toys, use your mouth, use massage," she adds. "The more variety you can introduce, the less you have to worry about body performance and achieving certain goals in bed."

4Practice Self-Care

Alisa Anton / Unsplash

Make the time to enjoy your body solo and indulge in a self-care routine. Taking care of yourself shouldn't be an occasional treat, but an essential part of boosting your overall health. You'll feel happier, more confident, and ready to sex it up when the time comes.

"Get a pedicure, try a new skin routine, use that sugar scrub in the shower, get waxed, take a bubble bath, get a massage," Claus says. "Get in touch with your body through non-sexual ways, and show yourself that you are worth it."

5Be Honest About Your Sexual Preferences

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Communicating with your partner about sex shouldn't have to be stressful. Claus suggests using honest "I" statements without killing the mood such as, "I don't have much experience. I'd love it if you tell me what you like" or "I want to please you. Does this feel good?" or "I want to learn your body inside and out. Put my hands where you want them."

Claus says it's important to remember that sex is about discovering each other's pleasure zones together. Serra agrees, adding, "The more we hide or perform what we think we should be doing or saying, the more we distance ourselves from real, honest pleasure and connection."

6Take The Time To Actually Explore One Another (It's Not Just About The O!)

Ashley Batz / Bustle

Here's a random fact to put things in perspective: The average amount of time people spend on foreplay is only about five to nine minutes. Foreplay isn't for everyone, but sometimes kicking those sexual hang-ups to the curb simply means getting more used to each other's bodies. Practice being naked more often — both on your own and with your partner. When you're alone, notice how you move and what you look like without clothes on. Then, when you're together, take the time to actually touch each other's body, talk about the sensations, and connect through your eyes, hands, and mouths (not just your genitals).

"The most important thing about performance is presence. When we are worried or 'in our heads' while having sex, we are not tuned into our lover's experience," Zoë Kors, a sex and intimacy coach, tells Bustle. "Give yourself permission to not climax. By making orgasm the goal of sex, we miss the opportunity for great pleasure and intimacy along the way."

7Go On A Social Media Diet

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Remember what I said about society's expectations affecting our sex lives? A big cause of this is, unfortunately, what we see on social media or in movies and TV.  People are afraid of coming across broken or abnormal if they don't look, act, or feel the way the society tells us we're supposed to, according to Serra. Consider taking a break from social media, movies, and even television.

"The messages we receive about what sexy looks like is terribly narrow and oppressive. So, of course, we have feelings about bodies — either because our bodies have always been outside the mainstream ideal or because they've changed and suddenly feel foreign," she says.  

8Follow Body-Positive Activists Together

Andrew Zaeh / Bustle

If you're not ready to ditch Twitter and TV altogether, I hear ya. (It's hard!) Instead, familiarize yourself with influencers and activists in the body positivity community like Melissa Toler, Jessamyn Stanley, and Virgie Tovar. "Surround yourself with images of bodies of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, and abilities," Serra says. "Even 10 minutes of body diversity a day can actually shift the way we feel in huge ways."

9Talk About Sex Regularly

Ashley Batz/Bustle

"Talk about sex in the same way you'd talk about your profession, your kids and your bank balance — that is, regularly," Claus says. "Make it a topic of conversation over text, over dinner, when getting dressed in the morning for work." It might seem weird at first, but you may find that talking about your sexcapades both in and outside of the bedroom will make it a lot easier to tackle your hang-ups.

For instance, you can talk about what you like, what you loved, how much you enjoyed certain positions, and what you wished had gone differently. Think of ideas for experimenting or having even more fun next time. Buy a book of erotica and read stories to each other right before bed (a-hem, before sex begins). Trust me, this is definitely a sex talk you'll want to have.

10Allow Yourself To Please And Be Pleased

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Having great sex requires active participation from both parties. That means offering to teach and guide one another, giving feedback, and asking for help whenever necessary.

If you're concerned about differences in skill set, know that the best skills you can offer are desire and enthusiasm for your partner, Claus adds. Show that you're eager to please the other person and pay attention to how they react to your touch. At the same time, set your own inhibitions free and let yourself enjoy what's happening to your body.

11Use Words Of Affirmation

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Nearly all couples will encounter roadblocks in their sex lives, and chances are, you and your partner probably both have insecurities when it comes to sex. Giving and receiving compliments is a great way to make each other feel more comfortable and up the confidence levels for both of you. And combining words of affirmation with gentle physical touch is especially effective if your partner is feeling insecure about X, Y, or Z.

"While expressing how desirable they are to you, don’t try to convince them to see themselves the way you see them," Kors says. "Instead, have them experience what it feel like to be touched — to have the parts of their body that they are insecure about held and lovingly touched."

12Get Professional Help

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

"Sexual hang-ups by definition are places we are not free — places we are stuck, where we get 'hung-up' in the expression of ourselves sexually," Kors says. "Some hang-ups can be addressed and healed through loving collaboration with a partner. Some are more debilitating and deeply rooted and require the help of a professional sex therapist or coach."

There is absolutely nothing shameful about reaching out for help. Just because you decide to see a sex therapist doesn't mean you've failed your relationship or sex life. On the contrary, it means you're able to recognize when an outsider's perspective may be necessary to better understand your sexual and relationship dynamics. And when you're able to deal with your sexual hang-ups in a healthy manner, they eventually turn into sexual preferences. It's all about remaining in control of your sexual quirks, not the other way around, Kors says. And that's exactly what a sexpert can help you with.

13Know That You're Not Alone

Pexels

Tons of couples have grappled with their own sexual hang-ups and have worked through them. Having insecurities about sex can often feel like a lonely, embarrassing experience, but you are far from being the only one who has felt this exact same way. (That is one of the reasons why it's so important to be open with your partner!) The key is to recognize your fears, accept them, and find a way to move past them instead of letting them paralyze you.

"The main thing people need to remember is their sexual shame is not their own," Serra says. "As scary as it might be, the more people can stay curious and treat their bodies like an adventurous place deserving of continuous exploration, the less it feels like something is wrong or broken. And that's how you begin to play."

At the end of the day, it's about what makes you both feel sexy and confident. You never want to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, but you also don't want to let your hang-ups dictate your entire sex life.