How to Say "Eh" Without Killing the Mood
Usually the most productive conversations about what goes on in the bedroom happen outside of the bedroom, but sometimes in the moment you need to get your partner on the same page. A lot of times we hesitate to talk about sex during sex for fear of hurting our partner’s feelings or to avoid “killing the mood,” but here’s the truth: When you are not fully present, the sexual experience is just not what it should be!
Even couples that consider communication to be one of their strong suits may find that a tête-à-tête during lovemaking just feels out of place. It can be difficult to know how to talk about sex during sex. Let’s start with some basics: The most important word to have access to during sex is “no”, and that needs to be respected by both people. If you want the interaction to stop at any point, halt the interaction by being direct using “no” or “stop.” One of the next best phrases to get into your sexual vocabulary is “let’s slow down.” This can gently communicate that you are still into what is happening and you want to be in this interaction with your partner, but you want to change how you both go about it together as a team.
Here are a few scenarios where you may want to speak up, and how to do it:
When Something Hurts or You’re Not Into It
Obviously if your partner sees you wince in pain, they should check in with you to see how to help. Perhaps they missed your pained reaction or mistook it for enthusiasm. An expression of pain may look similar to that other, happier kind of expression they expect to see in bed, so you need to speak up. If you need to say “stop”, do so. Otherwise, try: “Can you slow down for a second? That didn’t feel right.” Then, add in what was working for you to reinforce what you liked so your partner knows what to do as well as what not to do, such as: “I really liked what we were doing in that last position, that felt better for me” or “Everything was amazing right up until you switched positions, can we backtrack?” Positive communication is key.
Sometimes stopping altogether or extending foreplay can make both of your bodies more receptive to the experience you are trying to have. It can be easy to think that something is wrong when that happens, but it is a perfectly normal sexual struggle that many couples experience from time to time. On the other hand, if painful sex is a regular thing, talk to your doctor about what is happening. You may benefit from some kind of medical treatment or sex therapy.
When You Want to Change It Up
You have to love those nights when everything seems to be going right and you are both into it, but maybe you are wanting to add a little spice to your typical lovemaking routine. Changing up your usual rhythm can be exciting and help reignite heat in the bedroom. Completely new experiences should probably be discussed beforehand in order to reduce a sense of pressure or surprise to your partner. More than likely, your partner wants to please you and it is only fair to give them a neutral situation in which to decide if they are willing to try something different. Setting up a time to have these conversations in a safe place can help.
If you are just wanting to do something just a little different in the moment, it is still a good idea to ask anyway.
This can keep you from startling your partner or making them feel unsafe. Even if they trust you and are comfortable with you, surprising new positions or words may trigger a sense of anxiety which could shut down their arousal in a snap. Instead, keep your voice low in line with the moment and ask, “I want to try _______. Would that be hot for you?” By stating your intention and asking for clear consent, you have reinforced your value for your partner’s boundaries while including their interest in your risqué venture. Win, win!
When You’re Just Not That Into It (even after you were into it before).
So you got all hot and heavy and at first everything was sexy and fun, but the further you go, the less into it you feel. First of all, this is okay! It is common to feel a sense of obligation to “finish what you started,” but sex is not a marathon, it is a relationship. Think about it — if your partner was not feeling interested but faked their way through and you found out later, wouldn’t you feel a little deceived? For all of the playfulness in sex, honesty is the key to keeping your sexual relationship safe. You can let yourself off the hook without hurting your partner’s feelings (too much, anyway). It is only fair to tell your partner what is going on in clear terms. If you are not sure whether you want to really stop or not, bust out the “slow down” phrase again and try: “Can we slow down? I’m not really there right now.” Then, the two of you can talk about if you want to keep trying, if you want to stop, what else might feel good, or if you feel like simply taking care of your partner this time. If you are completely over it, do not continue doing something you do not want to do, even if you have done it dozens of times before. When you do something against what you want, you communicate to yourself and your partner that a feeling of being unsafe is tolerable, and sex begins to become assocaited with unplesant feelings. Neither of these things we want – which is why direct communication is so very important during sex. Honor yourself. For a healthy sex life, you need two enthusiastically consenting people.
A kind way to say you are finished might be, “Babe, usually I think I would love to do this but now that I am in it, my mind and body are not having any of it. Can we try again another time?” With these words you are communicating your value for the sexual relationship and not blaming your partner for your not feeling up to the current experience. Keep in mind that if your libido consistently flakes out on you, you may want to check with a doctor and also look into increasing your healthy habits like good nutrition and regular exercise to ensure that a separate biological issue may not be at play.
Use Your Voice!
Using your voice during sex is an empowering way to make sure that you and your partner take care of each other emotionally as well as sexually. For all of the implications of sex in the media, a partner who reads your mind and anticipates your every need does not really exist. On the other hand, when you talk about sex during sex to communicate what does and does not work for you, your partner learns to tune into your emotional and sexual needs all the more accurately. And should all else fail, make sure to have a follow-up conversation later. A great opener is, “So how was that for you?” Your partner may respond by asking about you. When it is your turn, tell them what you liked and follow up the statement with “and I think I would enjoy it even more next time if…” It is important that you feel safe to talk about your sexual experiences with your partner in order for you to both have that fun, passionate sex life you deserve. But if you never speak up, your partner will not know! Research has shown time and time again that couples who talk about sex have better sex. So go on ahead. Talk about sex during sex!
About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653