How To Tell A Partner You Don’t Like What They’re Doing In Bed While You’re Still In Bed
No matter how long you've been with your partner, sometimes they can try a move or technique in bed that, while well-intentioned, just is not a fit for you. While our instinct might be to keep it to ourselves so as to protect our partner's feelings, the fact is if your partner is doing something in bed that you don't like, telling them about it can help improve your sex life in both directions.
"In a sexual situation, we tend to be at our most vulnerable, so tact is important," sex educator Lola Jean tells Bustle. "While you may think it could help to simply direct them to what you like better, [for] example, 'Oh could you nibble right here,' sometimes we either don’t know what we want [or] have trouble articulating it in a way which our partner absorbs."
While it would be nice if our partners could read our minds so we wouldn't have to say things out loud, that's just not how life works. Even the most intuitive of couples can't always read each other clearly. So, as much as it might seem daunting at first, you need to use your words. Here's how to let your partner know you're not enjoying what they're doing in bed — while you're actually in bed.
1. Pose A Question
"If your lover has a bit more sensitive of an ego and isn’t as hell-bent on pleasing, try posing it as a question that still gives them their own autonomy," Jean says.
She suggests questions like, "You know what's super hot?" Then immediately following up that question by telling your partner how much you love that "hot" thing. You're not just leading the horse to water, but showing them how to drink it, too.
"If you communicate it this way, they’ll get the picture you would like that," Jean says. "If they don’t, they may be focused on their own agenda rather than yours, which warrants another discussion in a non-sexual setting."
2. Be Respectful
There's no place where vulnerability runs high quite like being naked in bed with someone. Because of this, you want to be as respectful in your approach as possible, but also be honest and open.
"Don’t be shy," Dr. Holly Richmond, certified sex therapist and head of the advisory board for sex toy brand Ella Paradis, tells Bustle. "Trust, respect, and openness should be at the foundation of your relationship, so telling your partner what you want sexually can be an honest process without fear of judgement."
If your partner does appear a bit uncomfortable, reaffirm that what you're saying is being said with the utmost respect, and that you want to create a safe space.
3. Communicate Your Desired Feeling
Although there may sometimes seem like there's a fine line between "what" and "how," depending on the situation, they can be worlds apart.
"Instead of communicating just 'what' you want to try, communicate your desired feeling or result along with it," Jean says. Choosing these words will put the focus on how you want to feel and how you'd like your partner to do it, as opposed to what.
Jean suggests really emphasizing that desire to feel with these two examples: “I want you to go down on me like you’re desperately hungry and trying to devour every inch." Or, “I want you to tease me until I can no longer find it bearable. Start really, really slow and when I start to squirm — speed up.” (Yes, Lola Jean has mastered the art of dirty talk!)
4. Make It Feel Like A Journey
Because sex does involve two (or more) people, it is ultimately a journey. If you find that your partner is doing something in bed that you're just not into, reframing it so it feels like a journey you're both on is likely to get a more positive response.
"Your lover may feel pressured that they’re getting new instruction, meaning the thing they were doing before never worked for you," Jean says. "That may not be the case. Our bodies can change every day and we respond differently due to a variety of factors."
This is so true. Whether we're stressed, feeling physically unwell, or have a lot on our mind, our sex life can be affected by many things. Because of this, what works for us sexually can change. Also, as Jean points out, it's a great idea to spice things up.
"It’s nice to not be tied to a particular 'routine,' so try phrasing it in a way that isn’t as finite," Jean says. "Like, 'I want to try something new, are you OK with that?' That way it’s less of a critique and more of a journey you’re both taking together."
5. Bring Up Something Relatable
If you find yourself in bed and your partner is doing something that's either not your thing or doesn't feel so great, turning to media can redirect the entire scenario.
“Discussing films and books can be a less intimidating way to communicate what you are into,” Dr. Stefani Threadgill Briggs, sex therapist and sexologist, tells Bustle. “That scene in Fifty Shades? The Notebook? Commenting on a favorite scene can be less intimidating to those who are shy in expressing their pleasures.”
It's not as though you're looking to perfectly recreate a sex scene, necessarily, but picking pieces from movies and books, and using them as examples can help lead your partner in a direction that works for you.
6. Maintain A Tone Of Curiosity
Sometimes even the most open and loving partner can get defensive in bed, because it's hard not to take certain things personally. And, as Jean points out, naked in bed with someone is a really vulnerable place to be, so go into your explanation by being curious.
"Coming from a place of curiosity will help them to be forthright rather than defensive," Dr. Richmond says. "If they say something that rings true with you, that’s an opportunity to connect and share your own preferences and desires."
As Richmond adds, it's conversations like this that can really add to a couple's sex life. Ultimately, only good can come from being honest in bed.
7. Never Forget The Power Of Positive Reinforcement
Whether you're in bed or not, when you're about to tell someone that you don't like something, the compliment sandwich is always the best way to go about it. The compliment sandwich is just that: what you don't like sandwiched between two compliments.
"A basic rule to try is to use a compliment sandwich whenever you are discussing a potentially delicate subject," Sunny Rodgers, clinical sexologist and certified sexual health educator, tells Bustle. "Try to offer solutions and always keep things positive. This is your intimate partner after all and beneficial sharing can make your relationship even better."
8. Make It Into A Game
Not only can sexual games be really fun, but they can help you skip any awkwardness, embarrassment, and making anyone feel self-conscious or bad. It may seem like you're feeding your partner a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down à la Mary Poppins, but sometimes this is a necessary technique.
"Another method that eliminates the 'let your partner know you’re not enjoying something' altogether... is the 'choose your own adventure' game," Jean says. "Ask your lover to do two or three different things and have you choose between them. Rinse. Repeat."
As Jean points out, this is a fantastic way to not bruise your partner's ego — especially if they have an ego that's bruised easily.
9. Choose The Right Moment
Although the whole point is to tell your partner in the moment that you don't like what they're doing, there are still better moments than others to do it.
"Choose your moments carefully, be delicate and sensitive, but definitely bring it up," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "It can take a lot of time for things to come out otherwise, and some people spend a great amount of time in a sexually-repressed state, while their partner is totally oblivious."
So be sure to pick a time that's right — that feels right for you — so it comes out in the best, most sensitive and respectful way possible.
At the end of the day, it comes back to communication, communication, communication. If you broach the subject with kindness, understanding, and clarity, then there's nothing wrong with telling your partner you don't like what they're doing in bed. It's the not saying anything at all, and hoping for the best, that's the problem.
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