Don’t assume you’ve got all the right moves
It’s impossible to know your partner’s desires right off the bat. “Everyone has personal preferences," says sexologist Gloria Brame, PhD. Communication is critical to all aspects of the relationship, and by working to understand what your partner prefers, you’ll be building a more fulfilling physical and emotional relationship. (Check out these unexpected health benefits of regular sex.)
Don’t make it a negative space
Many couples air their grievances before bed, says Brame, possibly because it’s the first opportunity they have to talk in private. But when you bring your anger and resentments to into the bedroom, you turn a space for pleasure into a battleground. And if it escalates, it could lead to one partner withholding sex as punishment. If you’re upset with your partner, work it out in another room or put it off until tomorrow. “Going to sleep angry once won’t end your relationship,” Brame says. “What can change your sex life and the glue within a relationship is when you associate the bedroom with negative experiences.” Protect your health and your relationship by learning the best ways to deal with anger.
Don’t be shy about sharing your fantasies
“So many women and men are focused on the sex or foreplay they’re not getting instead of talking about what they want,” says psychotherapist and sexuality counselor Ian Kerner, PhD, author of She Comes First. But it won’t be taken as criticism if you express your desires in a way that’s constructive. As in, “Here’s something that would drive me wild…” As a bonus, the language you use can be as arousing as the act itself, Kerner says. And if you’re itching to go a little 50 Shades of Gray, say so. “The woman or man who really loves you is going to listen,” says Brame. That said, neither partner should press for anything that’s outside his or her comfort zone. Trying something new should be exciting, not unsafe or uncomfortable. (Steal the habits of couples with steamy sex lives.)
Don’t fake it
Opt for honesty instead of flattery—or just as a way to end something you’re not enjoying. Instead, use the anti-climax as an opportunity to discover how your partner can better satisfy you in bed. “Allow your differences to prompt conversations about what’s working and what’s not,” advises Kerner. If you’re concerned that your partner might be putting on a show for your benefit, talk about it, rather than being embarrassed. “If you genuinely think they faked it, make it clear that you don’t expect that they will have an orgasm every single time and that’s totally okay,” says sex and relationship expert Tracey Cox, author of Hot Sex: How to Do It. Try out these 7 ways to make sex great again.
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Don’t feel pressured to hop in the sack
A popular myth is that couples who have sex several times a week are generally happier than their less-sexually active counterparts. However, while having sex once a week will likely strengthen your bond, any more than that will probably not improve your well-being. If you start to feel pressure to have sex but you’re not into it, Kerner advises getting physical in other ways. “Take 15 minutes to make out, give massages, take a shower together. Appreciate being physical without the pressure of sex.” (This is how much your brain needs you to have sex.)
Don’t get hung up on the big O
Focusing on having an orgasm as the goal of intercourse can detract from the overall experience, especially with new partners. “Many women who are having casual sex or are having sex for the first time don’t necessarily orgasm,” says Kerner. “That doesn’t mean anything’s wrong.” And there’s nothing more likely to delay someone having an orgasm than continually asking if they’ve had one. “Hurrying someone toward orgasm accomplishes completely the opposite psychologically as well,” Cox says. (Don’t let these enduring sex myths derail your bedroom fun.)
Don’t bring your workday stresses to bed
Maybe your boss yelled at you, maybe you got into a fight with your best friend—whatever the stressor, leave it outside the bedroom. Studies have shown that people, particularly women, need to be able to shut down their brains in order to experience arousal. That doesn’t mean that if you’re preoccupied with work sex is completely off the table. “Arousal tends to be louder than anxiety,” says Kerner. “If you give arousal a chance, that can be helpful.” For women, fantasy could be a helpful way to detach from the events of the day and tune in instead to time with your partner. (Watch out for these telltale signs you’re more stressed than you realize.)
Don’t be a critic
Think her breasts might be fake? Think he’s getting a paunch? A steamy moment is not the time to bring it up. “Body confidence issues affect both sexes and never are we more vulnerable than when we’re naked in bed,” Cox says. Since low self-esteem is a cause of sexual dysfunction for women, according to Brame, and more than 90 percent of men worry about their penis size, according to Cox, you’re going to have a better time in bed if you make each other feel sexy and comfortable with your bodies. Feeling judgy? Check out these ways to replace criticism with compassion.
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Don’t bring up your ex
No one wants to hear about your prior sexcapades while on a date, especially when things are heating up—even if it might seem like a good way to boast about your skills. Besides, everyone’s sexual tastes are different, so what worked with an old partner is not guaranteed to work with a new partner. And even if it does, no one’s going to enjoy imagining your doing it with someone else. “We all like to think that our partners were delivered to us in zip-top plastic bags, untouched by others,” Cox says. “Positive sexual talk of exes destroys all of this.” Try these easy ways to improve your sex life in just one day.
Don’t let it hurt
“Some people assume sex is a little or a lot painful,” says Kerner. “That’s not true.” Pain during sex signals an issue with arousal, lubrication, perimenopausal or menopausal hormonal shifts, an improper position, or a lack of communication. Tell your partner, and don’t be afraid to integrate more lube or foreplay into your time together. Talk to your doctor if the problem persists, as it could be a symptom of infection.
Don’t feel guilty about imagining someone else
“Having a fantasy playing in your head is a normal and quite effective way to perk up sex with someone you’ve slept with many, many times before,” Cox says. Fantasy can be a helpful tool in improving arousal or spicing things up, and there’s no reason to feel ashamed of picturing a celebrity, the hottie in the mail room or a stranger you’ve seen on the bus. Sexual fantasies are normal and perfectly acceptable—as long as you don’t judge yourself for it or feel guilty, because that can cause relationship problems and less sexual satisfaction overall, research shows. This is what happens to your body when you stop having sex.
…But don’t call out the wrong name
This may seem obvious, but be careful not to let fantasy intrude on reality. “Blurting out the wrong name in the heat of the moment will guarantee a big row rather than a big O,” Cox says. It could just be a slip of the tongue or a symptom of a deeper desire but either way, it’s not going to make your partner feel comfortable or special. (These natural libido boosters will help you have more fun in bed tonight.)
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Don’t fret over any mechanical problems
“Every adult male is going to experience episodic impotence at some point,” says Brame. “It’s meaningless.” It could be due to circulation problems, having had too much to drink, exhaustion, or just having had a tough day at work, having no bearing on how he feels about his partner. It’s also not generally a reflection on his manhood. Blowing it out of proportion will only make the situation worse. “If you start insulting your man, what might be a one-time thing can start developing into a chronic problem because he’s being criticized when he’s at his most vulnerable.” Don’t miss the reasons men say no to sex.
Don’t heed the pings and dings
It seems like an obvious mood-breaker, but some people still grab their cell during sex. Not only does pausing to answer a call or text disrupt the rhythm and momentum, but it also conveys to your partner that even during sex, he or she isn’t your highest priority. “Interrupting sex to get on your smart phone effectively says, ‘This is far more interesting to me than having sex with you,’” Cox says.