It's time to have 'the talk' (Image via Brainwave)
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It's time to have 'the talk' (Image via Brainwave)

For all the things you want to tell your partner, but just don’t know how to say.

It seems like you’ve met your perfect match: they’re smart, they’re hilarious, they have brilliant goals and aspirations for life and most importantly, they like the same pizza toppings as you. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, there’s definitely something. Something can very much go wrong.

It’s that time when both of you decide to take your relationship to the next level and hop in between the sheets. You imagine how you’ll take off each other’s clothes and intertwine in magical synchronization, just like you’ve seen in the movies. However, you soon realize that this isn’t Hollywood, and your otherwise wonderful partner is bad in bed. What do you do?

You definitely do not want to end this beautiful romance, but sex can be a major part of having an intimate relationship with someone. How do you fix this without totally destroying your partner’s self-esteem?

Vanessa Marin, sex therapist, says it perfectly: “You can keep your lips zipped, you can stay in autopilot, and you can pretend things are fine when they’re not. But these tactics aren’t sustainable. Your resentment and frustration will eventually leach out whether you like it or not.”

Don’t stress! Here are three ways that you can let your partner know that he or she isn’t quite fulfilling your needs without hurting their feelings.

1. Timing is key

One way to really make this whole situation go downhill fast is to bring up the issue either right before or right after your little rendezvous. Instead, pick a time when you are having dinner together or just chilling on the couch when the vibes are neutral, and you can say something like “I read this one thing in a magazine — we should try it sometime.”

That way, it doesn’t seem like you’re just completely unhappy with how bad in bed your partner is; instead, it comes off as you wanting to be adventurous and try something new. (You don’t even have to read a magazine — he or she won’t know the difference.)

You can even pull out the classic Kama Sutra, (the world’s oldest and most widely read guide to the pleasures and techniques of sex) and read it together one night as a way of planning for some fun exploration. This method will turn the negatives into fun and spicy positives, and your partner will not feel that you are unhappy with the way things are going in the bedroom.

Instead, it seems that you want to strengthen your sexual relationship and be as in-tune with each other as humanly possible. That way there definitely won’t be any hurt feelings.

2. Say “I like…,” not  “I don’t like…”

Instead of straight up saying “You suck,” you can approach the situation in a gentler manner by suggesting things that you do like rather than what you don’t. If you keep the conversation focused on the positives, you can ensure that this talk has a positive influence on your relationship, instead of creating a rift.

It also helps to talk about the things they did right in bed, and suggest other ideas from either your own past experiences or desires. That way you can build up their self-esteem by praising them instead of tearing them down with harsh critiques.

3. Don’t be selfish

Just because you feel that your partner is bad in bed doesn’t mean they think you’re a sex god/goddess. Let the conversation go both ways. Listen to their wants and needs and ask them how you can be better for them.

You can start off the conversation by asking them what they enjoy the most and what they like for you to do. This dynamic keeps him or her from feelings that they are being singled out and blamed. If you accept some responsibility for the way things are going between the sheets and insinuate that you’d be willing to step it up a bit yourself, they’ll be more willing to take your criticism.

4. And finally…

In a recent study of 101 heterosexual monogamous couples with an average age of 22, Jennifer Montesi and her colleagues at Temple University found that open sexual communication was a significant predictor of both sexual and overall relationship satisfaction.

Similarly, Elisabeth Babin of Cleveland State University found in a 2012 study of 207 participants with an average age of 29 that anxiety about communication was linked to decreased communication and less satisfaction with the relationship both in and out of bed.

Finally, Byers’ review (2011) proposed that sexual communication is linked to greater satisfaction through two main paths. There’s the direct, instrumental path, where partners use the disclosure of sexual likes and dislikes to educate each other; and the more indirect, expressive path, in which uses self-disclosure, sexual and otherwise, to increase intimacy.

There’s a clear connection between all of these different studies: communication. Talking and listening to each other’s wants and needs in the bedroom is key to maintaining a healthy sexual and overall relationship. This means that you can Netflix and chill in peace while sharing your pizza with the toppings that both of you like.

Writer Profile

Sarah Marchan

University of Texas at San Antonio

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