5 tips on giving your lover guidance (without making them feel bad)

By Maya Khamala

So in case you didn’t know, having good (nay, great) sex doesn’t always click into place immediately with a new lover or partner—regardless of what Hollywood may have us believe. According to The Gottman Institute, couples that communicate about sex tend to have better sex, and yet a 2018 study found that people would rather have an unfulfilling sex life and avoid potential conflict than talk to their partners about how to improve it. And this included couples who are usually good at discussing issues not related to sex. 

If you’re among those who think that giving your partner some guidance in bed is sure to rub them the wrong way (and are willing to forego it rather than open yourself to the possibility of being rubbed the right way), I’m here to prove you wrong. 

Consider the following 5 ways to talk through sex with your lover- without making them feel bad. On the contrary, if your relationship is at all worth its salt, you’ll be happy you started the conversation.

1. Know what you want

This is a first step. Obvious? Maybe. But if you simply have some vague idea of what you would like, take some time on your own to figure out how to ask for what you want. As a long-ago friend of mine once so-wisely stated when she discovered I had never had an orgasm: if you can’t get yourself there, you can’t expect anyone else to. This is true of all pleasure-acts, not just climactic ones. If you don’t know what you want, it’s going to be a lot harder to get it. Masturbate, lovelies!

2. Let them know when something is working

A lot can be said for some positive reinforcement. If you feel close to your partner and care about their feelings, you probably want to point out any shortcomings gently and with tact. But why not get there gradually, by starting the conversation with something positive? Start off by pointing out what they’re doing well, and why. Even better—do it in the moment: "I love the way you're holding my hips.” Feedback is more effective when the effects can be immediately seen. If you create a space where it’s normal to give positive feedback, this also facilitates the sharing of constructive feedback in cases where either something doesn’t feel good, or you want more of something they’re not doing. Side effects may include a stronger bond and better communication overall.

3. Show rather than tell

“Show, don’t tell”: This was one of the first rules we learned in my creative writing class. If using your words makes you uncomfortable, non-verbal cues (demonstrating to your partner what you want) may work just as well, and can up the heat in your bed too. A 2012 study found that nonverbal communication was closely tied to sexual satisfaction. Show your partner where and how you want to be touched by doing it yourself. Seeing you get turned on at your own hand will likely be a huge turn on, and your partner will probably want to have a hand in making you feel that way. Pun intended. If they don't get it right, you can help by literally guiding their hand with yours.

4. Suggest alternatives

If your partner is straight-up doing something you don't like, you need to tell them to stop—because sex shouldn't be about endurance in that sense of the word, really. Sure, it’s natural to want them to feel good about themselves, but not at your expense. If you want to be gentle about it, simply try offering an alternative. For instance, you might suggest your partner go slower, or softer, or harder, or deeper, or faster. If you feel inspired, you might even couple it with some dirty talk to make it clear that feedback is all part and parcel of gettin’ down and dirty and delighted with the likes of you.

5. Talk about sex when you’re not doing it

While talking about sex in the heat of the moment is a great way to offer clear and unambiguous feedback, it needs to happen outside of the proverbial bedroom too—both are equally valuable. You might use fully clothed sex talks as an opportunity to share longstanding fantasies and desires, offer positive feedback on something your partner does in bed, ask for feedback yourself, or offer suggestions for what you’d love to experience with them in the future.

Bottom line: sexual communication and offering feedback on what your partner may or may not be, um, tapping into in bed with you is not about giving an itemized, step-by-step instructional. After all, what you want changes, hence the need for #3.

Think of it this way instead: you're sharing how you feel and what you want with your partner, and opening the door for them to do the same with you. Mutual vulnerability, baby. It's hot.


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