Q: I’m about to hit a year with my boyfriend, and I’m so sad to say I think I’m kind of bored of our sex. He loves the same three positions of being on top and any time I try to switch it up, he looks bored! I’ve gently tried to encourage some additional exploration (even asked him to watch Sex, Love & Goop with me) and I feel like I’m hitting a wall! How can I get him to access some other ideas and variations of sex so I can also enjoy myself?
A: OK, I am going to 100% answer you in the spirit of the question, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that there aren’t that many sex positions. Like unless you’re doing some weird wheelbarrow sh*t, there are kind of just a few basic ones and subtle variations on them. I remember feeling the same way that you did one time — outraged that my boyfriend and I were always doing the same positions — and then I was like, “Oh, yeah, that’s probably because I don’t actually enjoy the other two or three positions all that much.”
A lot of times the reason that you fall into patterns with a partner isn’t because things are bad and boring but because those things have been working! And you guys both like (or liked) them! Rare is the couple for whom sex never gets stale or stagnant. It doesn’t always happen after a year in, it doesn’t always last for the same amount of time, but I would be shocked to find a long-term couple where at least one person hasn’t felt a little bleh about their sex life at some point. I am not, however, suggesting that long-term love is doomed to mundane sex! The lull absolutely must be addressed! I’m just saying that arriving at such a place is incredibly common. Imagine it being like a tire needing to be replaced. I can’t tell you precisely when you’re going to need to replace your tire — maybe it blows out in the middle of the highway, maybe you have it for six years and it works great — but I can virtually guarantee that you will run into the problem at some point. And I also firmly believe cars need four tires.
So what do you need to do about it? Stop hinting! You cannot and will not ever hint your way to better or different or hotter sex with your partner. Ever. Not an option. This is not the time for subtlety. This is a time for clear, honest, and vulnerable (aka hard) communication. Is it going to feel uncomfortable? Yes. Are you going to want to peel off your skin with a carrot peeler rather than imply to your partner that he might not be doing it for you in bed? Yes. But guess what will suck way more than having this conversation? Not having it! And actually, it’s not going to be one talk. It’s going to be a series of discussions spread out over the entire time you two are together. So buckle up. The first one will probably be the hardest, and I can’t promise any of them will be fun, but at their best, they will be transformative and affirming and intimate and honest. When people talk about honesty being a huge part of a relationship, it’s not just about, “Did you kiss Rebecca last night at Jake’s party?!!?!” stuff. It’s about this. It’s about opening up to your partner and gutting yourself like a fish and letting them see your ugly innards (and pretty ones, too), and then being like, “OK, now we have to work together to get me stitched back up.” (And they, in turn, will show you their ugly innards, too, don’t worry.)
So you have to sit your partner down for an honest conversation — one that in no way involves Gwyneth Paltrow. You need to say things like, “Hey, I love that you like being on top, but I am not happy with us doing the same few positions every time. I want us to try X, Y, and Z.” And, “I feel like you seem disinterested or bored when we do things in bed that aren’t necessarily what you want, and I want a partner who is into having sex with me. I obviously don’t want to do things you don’t want, but I want our sex life to be dynamic.” And, “I am getting bored and dissatisfied with our sex life, and it’s very, very concerning to me because sex is incredibly important in a relationship. I need us to talk about this more and I need us to talk about it better.”
Because you probably have a lot to say about this topic — I’m sure it has consumed your thoughts for a while, as is often the case with complex and delicate couple issues — you may want to write some things down first before you talk with him. I like to try to separate my thoughts and feelings into a few categories: what I want to say versus what I need the other person to hear. For example, you might want to say to your partner, “I cannot believe you once again forgot to get trash bags when you were at the store!!!” but what you need them to hear is actually more like, “I am feeling like I’m the only one taking care of household tasks and that you aren’t carrying your weight, and it’s making me feel resentful. I need you to pick up trash bags when you’re out shopping without me having to remind you.” Communicate your feelings and how you might like to move forward in the future. Tell your partner what you want and what you need. Ask for specific actions whenever you can! If you don’t have all the answers, that’s OK! It’s not just up to you to do 100% of the problem-solving! This is his issue the same amount as it is your issue! (That’s true for all couple obstacles, by the way.)
So as much as you two created this problem together (accidentally, of course!), you’re going to have to solve it together, too. Good sex is very possible and likely, but not without good communication.
It’s A Pleasure appears here every Thursday. If you have a sex, dating, or relationship question, email Sophia at BustleSexAdvice@gmail.com or fill out this form.