Health

When the Sex Sucks But You Really Like Them, Here’s What to Do

I’m Zachary Zane, a sex writer and ethical manwhore (a fancy way of saying I sleep with a lot of people, and I’m very, very open about it). Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of sexual experiences, dating and sleeping with hundreds of people of all genders and orientations. In doing so, I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating issues in the bedroom (and a bunch of other places, TBH). I’m here to answer your most pressing sex questions with thorough, actionable advice that isn’t just “communicate with your partner,” because you know that already. Ask me anything—literally, anything—and I will gladly Sexplain It. To submit a question for a future column, fill out this form.

This is the transcription from last week’s “Sexplain It Live,” which was recorded on Men’s Health‘s Instagram. I was joined by sex and relationship therapist Todd Baratz, LMHC, to answer a bunch of your sex and relationship questions.

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If you’re talking to someone online, how do you get a sense if they like you?

TB: The first thing we have to think about is the underlying anxiety for all of us that comes up when we put ourselves out there. Do we fear rejection, abandonment, et cetera? Even if it’s just on a dating app, we’re putting ourselves out there. It’s vulnerable. So what feelings are coming up for you? The second question that I think we have to ask ourselves is do I know if I really like them? We put so much time and effort trying to anticipate other people’s feelings, moves, thoughts, and decode their behavior.

So, if we’re talking to somebody, what are the things that we like about other people before we meet them IRL? Do you want somebody that’s responsive? Do you want somebody that’s going to ask you to meet up for a COVID-appropriate date? After that, sure, I guess you can analyze if they sent you a text back 10 minutes or an hour later. If you want to get into that stuff, fine, but do so lightly.

ZZ: Yeah, you touched on a few things here. The first is that I don’t want this guy to overanalyze every single little thing that happens during texts. Sometimes people are busy, so they just don’t get back to you. Sometimes they have a different way of using punctuation. If you’re used to using exclamation points, and they just happen to be someone who uses periods, that can come off as very uninterested when that’s not necessarily the case. So you can drive yourself crazy analyzing rhetoric or messages that you receive.

But I think there all some—not necessarily telltale signs—but things you should look out for. I think one of the biggest ones is when you ask them a question, do they reply, being like, “And you?” If you ask, “How was your day?” and they just say their day was good and don’t ask you how your day is, they’re not trying to keep the conversation going. I think that is a pretty decent sign that they’re simply politely responding to you [but are not interested].

How do you remain faithful to your partner when women throw themselves at you?

ZZ: You know, there’s something called Big Dick Energy. I believe there’s also something called Small Dick Energy. And I believe this man has SDE. The way he phrased this, I was like, “All right, dude, let’s calm down here.”

TB: I mean, I laughed. But also, I have more questions. Well, first I was like, “Good for you. Isn’t that wonderful?” But I’m interested in knowing what it is that you’re doing that’s attracting these women? Are you walking down the street, and women are just throwing their underwear at you? Like what’s going on there? Because again, I think we have to look at what’s going on underneath this question. There’s something where this person is picking up on some kind of energy that they’re assuming is coming from somebody else. And they’re discounting the type of energy that they’re either putting out there or that it’s maybe just coming from them and not everybody is throwing their shit at you. And you may be misinterpreting your own desires for other people’s desire for you.

ZZ: I agree that there’s something about the energy that you put out. If this guy is extremely flirty with everyone and putting off this energy or vibe, you’re going to get that in return. That doesn’t mean, “Oh, you need to stop doing this.” Just be aware.

TB: And if you’re feeling yourself, feel yourself. I don’t think it’s necessary to shame this person if they’re feeling really desirable. It’s like, more power to you.

What if the sex was bad, but you like the person?

TB: We have to ask what’s “good sex” and what’s “bad sex” to answer this question. Often, people say the sex was bad simply when they encounter a sexual challenge. Then they’re like, “I’m out. Peace!” Sometimes it is that simple; it’s just a lack of chemistry. But oftentimes, it can take some work. It’s worth communicating to your partner what good sex means to you, and then enlisting them to whatever that experience is defined by, whether it’s kink, saying certain things, or anything else. You’re really gonna want to communicate that definition of good sex to your partner and see what kind of impact you can have. Often what I hear and encounter in my practice are people who experience bad sex and aren’t doing anything about it. People assume it’s going to be like, “Boom. That was amazing the first time. We have perfect chemistry.” Sometimes, that happens, but honestly, not so much.

ZZ: Yeah, sex is often not amazing the first time you have it. It’s often better once you get to know the person a little bit better so you feel more comfortable expressing what you want. Also, there can be a tie between emotional and sexual intimacy, so the more you like this person, the better the sex is. But the fact that you still like this person after the sex was bad speaks volumes. I feel like a lot of guys would just be like, “Oh, the sex was bad. I don’t like this person anymore.” So it shows how much you like this person.

I think there’s a way to kind of communicate how to have better sex. You don’t have to have a big sit-down talk where you say, “This is what it was that you were doing bad.” That would be very aggressive when you just met and started dating this person. But the next time you have sex, there are subtle but clear ways to express what it is that you want. You can say, “I find it really hot when you suck on my nipples. I find it really hot when you do this. Oh my God, I love hearing you moan.” Whatever it is. It’s a way to communicate with your partner without making it this big to-do.

Watch the full conversation here:

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