When sex isn’t working out ok

16 June 2020

Feeling like you aren’t getting what you want in bed and being unable to ask for it can be frustrating and upsetting.

Sex can be a really a tricky topic. We may feel we don’t know how to express ourselves to our partner. Or we may feel confused or embarrassed about why things aren’t ‘working’.

And, while it’s important to remember that sex won’t always be perfect – after all, we can all have ‘off days’ – being able to talk about sex is important in any relationship. Sex can be a really important way of reconnecting – of being intimate, close and just enjoying one another.

Why am I faking orgasm?

There are a number of reasons why someone might fake an orgasm.

You may have trouble communicating openly with your partner in general. A lack of confidence talking about sex may be an extension of a general lack of confidence. Perhaps communication has broken down recently or perhaps it’s something you and your partner have always had problems with. Maybe you feel uncomfortable expressing yourself honestly or find it difficult to talk without things becoming heated and turning into an argument.

Alternatively (or additionally), you may have specific hang-ups talking about sex. Different people have different thresholds over how open they feel they can be on this topic. Some people are quite happy being direct and honest about it. Some may find it a little embarrassing but manage to say what they’re thinking. And some would rather just not talk about it at all.

Much of this has to do with how we’re brought up. If we learn that sex is just a topic like any other when we’re children, we’re more likely to be able to talk about it without embarrassment as an adult. Conversely, if it’s something that’s rarely mentioned when we’re growing up – or we’re actively discouraged from talking about it – we may find it’s really hard to talk about later on.

Faking an orgasm may also relate to issues of self-esteem. It may be that you feel you can’t ever say what you want. You may feel you don’t deserve to have what you want, or that you feel more comfortable putting other people’s needs before your own. You may have come to view yourself in a certain way or feel you have a certain role to play out and feel anxious about contradicting this.

How do I talk about sex?

The best way to get started is by simply giving it a go. Of course, this is easier said than done.

You may be worrying about your partner’s reaction to what you’re going to say. You may worry that they’re going to be hurt or upset – or even that they’ll just feel awkward and not know what to say. And, while there’s no way of guaranteeing this won’t be the case, remaining silent isn’t likely to yield any positive results either. Sometimes it’s worth thinking about how you’d feel if you didn’t take the plunge – what if things stayed the same for another year, or even two? This can help you appreciate just how big a problem this is for you – whether it’s something you can live with, or something you need to fix.

One useful tip is to try and talk when you’re both already feeling positive about the relationship and about each other. At a time when you feel close and relaxed, you’re much more likely to be able to listen to what each other has to say and take it in.

You might like to go out for a meal or a drink. Taking things to a neutral location can put you in the right mindset for dealing with new ideas. And, it may sound strange, but – if you are able to have sex successfully from time to time – you might also try talking about it afterwards. When you’re lying in bed together, you’re more likely to be feeling relaxed, close and positive (again, this is assuming you’re sometimes able to enjoy sex together – we wouldn’t recommend trying if this isn’t the case). As long as you phrase what you’re trying to say carefully, you may find you’re able to talk quite successfully in this setting.

If you think your hesitations around talking about sex may be more related to your self-esteem, this will need a slightly different kind of conversation. It will be more about telling your partner how you feel, what you find difficult. You may need to think about any insecurities that are making it tricky for you to express yourself in this way.

If you’re having trouble, simply start by how it feels when you think about asking for what you want – and where these feelings might be coming from. You may also think back to earlier experiences that could have affected your ability to do this – things that may have happened when you were younger, or in previous relationships.

While in some ways, it may feel like any insecurities are ‘your’ problem – something you’re bringing to the table that’s up to you to solve – ultimately, this is something that you and your partner will need to work on together. After all, you’re not just two separate people: you’re also sharing a life. And additionally – you’re much more likely to be successful if you do things as a team.

In the end, regardless of the reasoning behind it, the objective when it comes to talking about sex is usually the same. It’s about reconnecting as a couple, coming to understand how each other is feeling and learning how to work on problems together. And while it’s undeniably scary doing so – especially if you haven’t had much practice – the potential benefits usually more than outweigh the risks.

Psychosexual issues

One important thing to mention is that, in some cases, issues relating to sex can be a little more complicated.

Sometimes, we develop problems that are independent of our relationship, or that relate to subconscious or difficult-to-process ideas around the subject that make it difficult to enjoy or even have sex. In sex therapy, we sometimes describe these as ‘psychosexual’ issues. This is a complicated and wide-ranging subject that it would be difficult to describe in sufficient detail here.

However, if you feel your problems with sex may come under this category, we would recommend speaking to a professional sex therapist. Although we know the prospect can feel a little strange, it may be the best way to come to understand what’s happening, and usually the most effective route towards addressing it. Many people are surprised at just how effective sex therapy is once they get started.

How we can help

Sex therapy can be incredibly effective and very rewarding. 93% of couples who’ve used Relate’s sex therapy service said that it improved their sex life. Whether you’re single, married or in a relationship, gay, lesbian or straight, sex therapy can help you to improve your sex life and overcome any specific sexual issues.

If you’d like to talk with one of our counsellors on any of these matters do give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.


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