It’s a pretty big buzzkill to be really into someone you’re seeing, with plenty of mutual attraction and flirtation, and then have the sex itself be a total flop. (Anyone remember the first time Carrie and Jack Berger went for it in SATC? Brutal.) If you’re someone who feels sex is key to your relationship’s success—and not everyone does—you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to salvage the lack of sexual chemistry. Here are a few ways to tackle the situation:
Consider the Context
Ask yourself if this could be a random freak occurrence. Is it a one-time thing? (Or just the first few times?) Sometimes, when we start a relationship or hook up with someone new, it may not live up to our expectations. Lots of things can factor into this. Maybe it’s nerves. Maybe one or both of you had too much to drink. Whatever the case, if you haven’t had sex more than a couple of times, you might want to give it a few more shots just to see if things improve or if you can pinpoint what the problem is.
Drill Down to the Problem
Assuming you have tried multiple times and you still feel it’s not working, identify what, specifically, could be better. Are you not orgasming? Are the positions awkward? Are you in pain? Are you just bored and find yourself making a to-do list for tomorrow? There may be small adjustments you can make that make a big difference—from different positions to using more lube or incorporating a sex toy.
Talk About It Directly
Find a way to communicate about what’s going on. For some people, this is the hardest part, so it leads to avoidance, which can in turn leave people wondering why they were ghosted. A better way to handle it is by addressing the issue head-on—just make sure you’re not in bed when you do it. Asking questions like, “What turns you on?” can open up a dialogue without feeling like a big, stressful, “We need to talk” discussion. Listen and give them space to respond, and then share your own perspective and desires.
Give Subtle Suggestions
If you’re in bed trying to change the course of a ship that has already set sail, try incorporating requests into pillow talk so as to not come across like a drill sergeant (unless they’re into that!) Tell them “I love it when you ______” Or “I want you to _____ my _____.” Guide their hands to where you need them. Show them the kind of pressure and stimulation you prefer. For oral sex, gently using your hands on their head to position them can sometimes help them to find the sweet spot. I am a huge advocate of mutual masturbation because of the insight it can give you into the other person’s favorite techniques.
Move On If It’s Just Not Working
This last tip may possibly be the most important: Decide how important this is to you, and act accordingly. If sex never improves with this person, are you okay with that? Can you sustain a relationship without being sexually intimate? Many folks can and do, but if you aren’t on the same page, it can lead to serious issues down the road, including non-consensually looking for other ways and people to satisfy our needs. Being honest with yourself and your partner is key.