Will your sex life remain – or ever be – picture perfect? If the average answer was ‘yes,’ this sex advice blog – and likely the entirety of the sex toy business – wouldn’t need to exist.
Sex is more complicated than we’d all like to admit, and the longer we stay in relationships, the more likely we’ll all hit some sort of sexual snafu at some point. Whether based on the sex-negative attitudes we picked up as kids and teens or the bad experiences with past partners, almost all of us have some sexual hang-ups.
While we can’t choose our traumas and anxieties, we all have a choice in letting them destroy an otherwise great partnership. Navigating differences in sexual preferences and values is tricky, but when you’re dedicated to working together as a team with your partner, there’s no bedroom mountain you can’t overcome – and end up stronger on the other side.
These next 5 situations are more common than you think, and all too often, they can become the downfall in a serious relationship if you don’t work through these issues together. If you’re struggling to navigate a difference in sexual values, needs and desires, read on, and don’t hesitate to take your problems to a sex and relationship therapist if the waters become too treacherous on your own.
The Love of Your Life (Possibly) Had Sex With a Lot of People Before You
What is a ‘a lot’ anyway? Depending on your perspective, and often your own sexual ‘number’ of past partners, having sex with 5 different, prior people might seem like ‘a lot,’ or 500 might seem like a little. It all comes down to what you learned as a child and young adult, and how you’ve grown to incorporate those values into your life today.
Yes, it hurts to imagine your partner being intimate with someone else – even for couples in clearly communicated, non-monogamous relationships.
But here’s the good news: it literally does not matter in the now, and in the future, how many people you or a partner have previously slept with. Having a bountiful sexual past has no bearing on someone’s personality, their ability to be a great partner, or their likelihood of cheating.
If your partner is with YOU now, then you’re who they want – now, and maybe forever, if you’ve both clearly spoken your desire for a long-term relationship. If you or your partner someday decide that you don’t want to be together anymore, or that one or both of you want to seek sex or love outside your relationship, neither situation will be more or less likely based on your partner’s sexual past.
Remember, what happens in your relationship depends on the NOW, not what happened before you even knew each other existed. Having a lower number of past partners can never change that, or make you or a partner less likely to stay together.
You May Be Exposed to New Sexual Situations that Shake Up Your Views and Change Your Values (And Likely for the Better)
If you judge a person based on their sexuality alone, you’re potentially missing out on someone who could be a fantastic partner. For this reason, you might find that you’ve fallen for a person with a completely different sexual worldview from your own.
Maybe your partner has practiced non-monogamy in the past, whether in the form of an open sexual relationship, a poly triad (where 3 people engage in varying degrees of relationships together), or as a swinger (in which couples have sex with other couples or other single people together for fun).
Your partner could also be a big fan of visiting BDSM clubs, have a fetish for licking toes, or enjoy being dominated and tied up.
While you should never be manipulated into having ANY kind of sex that causes you to push through pain or trauma, don’t knock your partner’s sexual preferences before talking openly and honestly at length about them, together.
You never know what you might end up absolutely loving in your partnered sex life if you’re not open to positive change!
You Might Have to Adapt Your Sexual Desires to a Partner’s Comfort Level
Whether due to past trauma, physical limitations or medical conditions, or simply an inability to handle certain types of mental or physical stimulation, there’s a good chance your partner won’t be able to do everything you want in bed.
These days, many sex therapists are encouraging the discussion of sexual boundaries and preferences early on in a relationship. This way, you can decipher whether or not your shared sex life will be satisfying enough to stay together in the long term, before you’ve fallen hard for your partner.
However, if you decide to stick it out despite a mismatch in the bedroom, you might have to reckon with a partner’s comfort zones and hard limits that stop short of your sexual needs.
The existence of porn and masturbation are the easiest options for remedying mismatched desires. Whatever your partner can’t perform, you can always watch on screen, and whenever they’re not in the mood, you can always please yourself. Those are two options you or a partner should never take away. Self-love and self-induced orgasm are your human rights.
But having your every desire fulfilled by your partner, whenever you want, is not your right. Just as modern couples therapists explain that it’s impossible for any given partner to fulfill every single one of your needs, it’s also not possible – or at least unlikely – for them to fulfill all of your sexual needs.
Find things you do enjoy together in the bedroom, and explore what feels comfortable for both of you.
You May Be Unable to Practice Your Kink or Fetish in Your Relationship
While your partner should never ask you to completely give up your kink – as in forget or deny it exists – there’s a very good chance that the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life won’t be able to practice it with you.
If your kink is, say, anal play and your partner just can’t get into butt stimulation, you might have to stick to watching anal porn (or playing with your own bum!) to get your fix. Similarly, you might rely on fantasies of hardcore bondage to get turned on, but being tied up makes your partner feel claustrophobia, pain or enough discomfort that they simply can’t bear this type of play.
While you should never force a partner into engaging in sex play that could cause them trauma, your partner shouldn’t deny your fetish or kink, either. Both partners need to be open to communicating ways to work around your mismatched sexual needs, such as watching porn of your chosen kink(s) instead of practicing it, choosing lighter versions of your kinks (like furry cuffs and a soft blindfold instead of hard-tied bondage), or exploring alternatives you’ve never before considered, like practicing voyeurism at a sex club or BDSM club while getting handsy and making out on the sidelines.
There are always work-arounds to getting your fetishes or kinks satisfied if you truly care about the well-being of your partner. And if you’re the partner in question, try to remain open-minded and active in helping to find those work-arounds as a team.
Sex Might Not Be – And Doesn’t Have to Be – The Strongest Point in Your Partnership
Remember how many of our parents and grandparents advised us to find a partner for more than just sex? Though their original intentions may have been more about shaming our youthful sex desires than encouraging us to find our soul mate, there’s a decent grain of truth to this advice.
Unless you’re somewhere on the asexual spectrum – which means sex isn’t very important or frequent for you, or it does not even exist in your relationships by your own choice – sex is likely something you’re going to want with your partner.
But what we often forget is that sex drives will almost always change over time. We’ve all heard of the couples who ‘still screw like rabbits’ into their old age or ‘want ‘it’ several times a day’ for years on end, but those stories aren’t the norm.
It’s more likely that the frequency of sex and the types of sex acts you crave will change over time with hormone fluctuations, life situations and daily stress, and the evolution of your partnership itself.
If you’re in a really fantastic relationship – and mind you, that of course means one that’s also devoid of abuse of any kind – but you struggle in finding the perfect middle ground in the bedroom, you’re more normal and like everyone else than you think.
There’s a reason sex advice articles, like the one you’re reading now, are so popular. Sex is complicated! Unless you wind up with a partner who’s a literal mirror of your own desires, and that’s pretty rare, you’ll likely need to do some sex life maintenance at some point in time.
But sex truly doesn’t have to be the end-all, be-all that makes your partnership satisfying and great. The fact is, you’ll both probably end up spending more time talking together, spending time with friends and family, enjoying hobbies and leisure time, working, or traveling and exploring your world than you will having sex.
Yes, sex can be important and a priority, but you both have so many more connection points that foster the love and devotion you feel for each other. It’s seriously the most normal thing in the world if sex doesn’t come easily to you. Instead, find the parts of your relationship where you can both truly shine together.
Sex hardly ever stays the same for any couple, especially if they’re together across decades, but you can still find shared joy in everything else your paired life has to offer – and often, that’s even more meaningful than an ideal sex life.