Sex Therapy: How to Handle 9 Super-Common Sexual Incompatibilities

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STYLECASTER| Troubleshooting Sex Incompatibilities
Illustration: Allison Kahler

It’s never fun to face awkwardness in the bedroom with someone you’re really into, whether it’s a new fling or a stable relationship. You might be wondering: If we don’t click physically, can we really have a future? What’s the point?

But don’t throw in the towel just yet. Lots of—in fact, most—couples go through phases where they’re not exactly on the same page about things between the sheets. That doesn’t mean you can’t get past it, though. If you’re both willing to put in the time and energy to figure out what’s going on, you could be in for an even better sex life than you had before.

Ahead, we talked to experts to get their take on how to handle nine super-common sexual incompatibilities.

Differing Sex Drives

Schedule sex like you schedule any other appointment, and don’t cancel, says Gail Crowder, a certified relationship coach and best-selling author. “That way the person with the high sex drive will know what day to expect sex, and the partner with the low sex drive will know that they have an appointment to have sex. Both will look forward to it in their own way.”

You Like Different Positions

First, avoid positions that cause body pain, as this becomes a distraction that can cause a sexual “malfunction,” such as loss of erection or being unable to orgasm, explains Jacqui Olliver, a sex and relationship counselor. “Take turns in which position you prefer to orgasm; this can make sex more fun and spontaneous. When you eliminate the sexual “malfunction” issue, most positions become favorable; then it’s just a matter of knowing and participating in each other’s preferences for mutual satisfaction,” she adds.

One of You Needs More Time, the Other Needs Less

In heterosexual couples, the desired length of time for sex is much longer for women, on average, explains Dr. Nicole Prause, a licensed psychologist who studies sex. “Some couples feel comfortable alternating sex for different purposes. For example, Saturday is more “for him,” while Sunday is more “for her,” she says. For example, Saturday might involve some activity or sex position he enjoys more, where Sunday he agrees to make sure to leave more time and not orgasm too quickly.

MORE: Meditation Can Amp Up Your Sex Life, Says Very Helpful Study

You Like Sex at Different Times of Day

If you want sex at night, but your partner is exhausted, try to help each other out with tasks and chores so they’re not feeling exhausted or overwhelmed at the end of the day. Let him/her chill with a glass of wine or take a nap while you cook dinner. They’ll be more relaxed and likely up for an evening session. “If one partner wakes early and wants sex, initiate a slow, delicious foreplay with splayed fingers gently touching and caressing skin. Give your partner time to wake up without pressuring them with your own need,” adds Olliver.

Mismatched Height and Weight Is Making Sex Feel Awkward

Use a position pillow to allow a smaller person to get into different sexual positions that can manage the weight of the heavier person or the height of the taller person,” suggests Crowder.

You Only Engage in Penetrative Sex, When One Wants More Oral

You both really need to change your perspectives and open yourselves up to other things. “Sex can be broad and doesn’t have to only include penetration. Oral sex and mutual masturbation can also be great ways of sexually connecting. Add these to your activity list, and you’re likely to feel sexually close to your partner,” explains licensed sex therapist Michael J. Salas.

MORE: 12 Morning Sex Routines to Start Your Day Off Right

You Prefer Different Paces

If your partner likes it hard and fast, but you don’t, try to get them to focus their attention on the bonding, rather than the orgasm.  It should naturally slow them down. “Remember that the most important aspect of sex is the feeling of connection. Whatever your partner’s preferred pace, always aim for an even, regular rhythm as this helps to keep both partners in “the zone” says Olliver.

Your Dominant-Submissive Preferences Don’t Align

Balance is easy if one of the partners is more on the dominant side and the other one on the submissive. “The key to solving lack or abundance of sexual initiative is to take turns being in control,” says relationships and sex coach Alice Wood. This gives each of you a chance to find ways of achieving pleasure and exactly what you want even when you are not in your regular role. “Giving up control or taking more of it is a compromise you have to make in order to keep the sensual bond strong and make the most of sex for both of the partners,” says Wood.

You Can’t Agree on Kinky vs. Vanilla

When one partner is interested in introducing kink into the sexual routine whereas the other partner could be hesitant, it can lead to insecurity, so Dr. Nagma V. Clark, a licensed psychotherapist and sex therapist, says the kinky partner must acknowledge their partner’s fear and reassure them of the love and safety in the relationship. “The most important tip for such couples is to go slow and allow the non-kinky partner to set the pace. It is also important to engage in joint research and exploration into the many different ways in which to play with kink and to only select the ones that feel comfortable and safe for both partners.”

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