How to give feedback in bed without crushing your partner’s self-esteem

6 ways to manage those tricky conversations

It’s a cliché, but it’s true: you can’t read your partner’s mind, and they can’t read yours. This is as true when it comes to sex as it is when you’re fighting about folding the laundry.

Yeah, we’re saying you’re going to have to talk. About sex. Because despite what we’ve all been told, good sex doesn’t just happen all by itself.

But how do you do it? It’s easy enough to say “I had a great time,” but what about when it’s more complicated than that? How do you tell someone, for example, that you want more oral or you really don’t like having your ears nibbled on? Here are 6 ways to handle it:

1. Mix your feedback in with dirty talk

Make it a compliment sandwich. Something like this: “That feels so good…a little lower…yes, right there, don’t stop.”

2. Focus on the positive

Try couching your feedback in positive terms to make it easier both to give and to receive. So instead of saying “I don’t like it when you kiss the front of my neck,” you could say “I love it when you kiss the back of my neck. It feels so good. Can you do that more?” (Of course, there are times when clear, direct negative feedback is called for. When something crosses a line for you, just saying “stop” or using a safe word is a good way to go.)

3. Let the non-verbal do the talking

Moans, hair grabbing, lip biting, back arching, and other forms of non-verbal communication are a great way to give your partner feedback if you’re not comfortable talking about these things yet. So when they’re doing things that feel amazing, show them, and when they’re not, don’t.

4. Show them how you do it

If your partner is struggling with something more complicated than can be communicated with a simple “a little to the left,” such as not knowing where to even begin with a clitoris, try putting on a show for them. “Can I show you how I like to do it when I’m alone?” will likely yield an enthusiastic “yes please” and will also be a learning opportunity.

5. Take it outside the bedroom

If you feel too shy to give feedback during sex, try sharing right afterwards or before the next time you have sex. For example: “I keep thinking about when you held my arms above my head. Can we do that again, only this time can you push me up against a wall?” Or if you’re feeling like sending a daring sext, try starting with “Here’s what I want you to do to me tonight.”

6. Be direct but be kind

If couching it in positive terms and trying to reinforce the good with moaning just isn’t working, you may have no choice but to directly address the issue. Just keep in mind that most of us are sensitive when it comes to sexual performance and would be hurt and embarrassed to hear we weren’t pleasing our partner, so try to weave in as much positive feedback as possible. “I have so much fun with you, and I love how passionate you are. Something I would love to try would be (insert whatever you want to try here).” Or “I love it when you touch my breasts during sex. Do you think you could do more grabbing and squeezing and less gentle caressing? I find firmer touch so sexy.”

We never said it would be easy, just that it has to be done.

Written by Lauren Kernan, MA

Lauren Kernan is the Director of Content and UX Strategy for Bedsider and Abortion Finder. In her spare time, she can be found sewing or starting and giving up on various other crafts.

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