Great Relationship but Sucky Sex?

No matter how much you love your guy, you should never settle for action that's less than amazing — especially since improving it is totally within your power.

By Jennifer Benjamin

girl in her underwear


When he makes you happy in a zillion other ways, it can be tempting to convince yourself that being unsatisfied in bed really isn't that big a deal.

But we're here to tell you that hell yes, it is.

"In a relationship, you need to have that sexual component to maintain intimacy and a connection and keep the romantic chemistry going," says psychiatrist Gail Saltz, author of The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead to a Better Life. "If your sex life is lacking, it can lead to problems outside the bedroom and create resentment, frustration, and emotional distance."

No need to panic. With a little creative problem solving, you can sync up sexually and have the kind of physical connection that's as good as the rest of the relationship.


PROBLEM 1: He Doesn't Focus on Your Orgasm

If you and your guy get along like gangbusters with your clothes on, chances are, he isn't selfish or inconsiderate. So why doesn't he seem to care about your climax? The likely explanation, according to experts, is that he's embarrassed. "Every woman is different, so it can be hard for a man to figure out exactly what works for you," explains Yvonne K. Fulbright, PhD, author of Pleasuring: The Secrets of Sexual Satisfaction. "Rather than set himself up for failure, a guy might just do nothing."

What he needs is a wake-up call that (1) makes it clear that you want to get off as much as he does and (2) gives him the info he needs. The perfect solution: "Show him what you do when you're alone," Saltz says.

Most men would kill to watch their girlfriend masturbate, so there's no reason to be shy. Start by making a V with your fingers on either side of your clitoris and slowly rub them up and down — that way, he'll know not to overstimulate you immediately.

When you feel yourself becoming aroused, bring your digits together and rub your clitoris in a circular motion, using the exact combo of speed and pressure that's most likely to trigger your orgasm. (Be sure to work in any other go-to moves that help push you over the edge.) For extra credit, let him put his hand over yours.

PROBLEM 2: The Two of You Don't "Fit"

Sad news from the science world: The quality of a guy's personality does not correlate to the size of his penis. So if your honey isn't hung the way you'd like, it's time to strategize positionally.

If his equipment lacks length, lie on your back in missionary, and bring one or both of your legs up toward your chest to allow for deeper penetration. Too skinny? Lie on your back or stomach with your legs together — his legs will be outside yours — to create a tighter fit. Too big? Get on top so that you control the depth of penetration.

And no matter what, always make sure you're turned on. "If you're fully aroused before intercourse, your genitals will be more engorged, giving you a sense of fullness," Fulbright says. The fact that you're lubricated will also make sex with a sizable guy more comfortable.

Major height differences can make getting it on a little awkward as well. If he's a foot or more taller than you are, try a spooning position to allow for more physical closeness or straddle him in a seated position so you can make eye contact during the act. Obviously, you shouldn't limit your repertoire to just a few moves, but keeping these in mind will help you add extra oomph when you need it.

PROBLEM 3: You're Both Bored

If the only times you've had adventurous sex were during fast-and-furious hookups, you may be reluctant to bring that naughty energy into a long-term relationship. "Many women feel that when they get together with someone special, they don't want to taint it by being risqué," explains relationship expert Terri Orbuch, PhD, researcher at the University of Michigan. "They feel like raunchy sex can't happen in a stable relationship and worry what a nice guy will think of them if they get more provocative."

Banish that worry from your brain. You can totally have both a healthy relationship and wild sex. It just requires some communication. "Suggest that it might be fun to start trying new things in the bedroom," Orbuch says. "This is an opportunity to talk about some fantasies you might have, things you like that you maybe haven't tried together, like role-playing, sex toys, or more aggressive sex."

Since springing head-to-toe leather on him will probably send him into shock, try a more subtle approach: Find a movie or TV show that touches on what you'd like to explore, then tell your guy that you're getting turned on by what's on the screen. (For example, if you want to try spanking, watch Secretary.)

PROBLEM 4: You Hardly Ever Hit the Sheets

Sex is like Chinese food. If either you or your guy wants it, there's usually a way to convince the other person to put down the pizza menu. So the fact that neither of you is making an effort shows a serious lack of interest.

First, consider that different people have different arousal patterns. According to Michele Weiner-Davis, author of The Sex-Starved Marriage, about half of all men and women get turned on mentally and then feel a desire for physical intimacy. The other half need to be physically stimulated in order to feel aroused. If both people in a relationship are in the second group, sex can fall by the wayside because neither person gets the burning urge to make the first move. "Rather than wait to get in the mood, you may need to begin the process of getting intimate so that desire can follow," Weiner-Davis says. So kiss, cuddle, lick, grind...and then decide if you want sex or not.

Still no dice? Low libido may be the issue. "Libido is controlled by hormones," says Helen Fisher, PhD, author of Why Him? Why Her? "And if you change your levels of those hormones, you can often increase desire." One way you might be able to boost them, says Fisher, is to do novel things together. So hit the rock-climbing wall instead of the couch or plan a road trip to a place you've never been before.

PROBLEM 5: Actually, Sex Isn't the Problem...

"In many instances, bad sex is a symptom of other issues in the relationship or within yourself," Saltz says. For example, you may be holding back in bed because you're secretly scared of commitment. Instead of facing up to that truth, you allow yourself to use bad sex as an excuse — because otherwise, the relationship would be perfect, Orbuch explains. She also points out that if you've always had unsatisfying sex, you may have had negative experiences in your distant past that have created sexual hang-ups.

Sex also can be a reflection of what's going on emotionally in a relationship, and couples use it to express resentment, jealousy, or neglect. So put sex aside for the time being and think about what some of your frustrations might be — he works too much, he belittles your feelings, he doesn't get along with your friends. If you're not admitting to yourself that these are problems so both of you can deal, you very well may be allowing them to transfer to the bedroom and sabotage what could be a great sex life.


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