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Sex can be complicated. We all have different ideas of what ‘good’ sex is, which partly come from our experiences. When you have sex with someone for the first time, you have to acknowledge that their sexual experiences might look different from ours. Especially if they’ve had more sexual partners than you.
This week’s reader, Nicole, says that her lack of sexual experience is affecting her sex life. “I am seeing a guy who’s had way more partners than I have. He seems to be used to women sexually performing a certain way.”
“My experiences have been a bit different as it takes me time to build trust. I now have performance anxiety and worry that I’m always being compared to previous partners by not living up to the bar other women have set,” Nicole says.
“In this case, I’m referring to having orgasms which I haven’t been able to do with him yet, although he’s doing all he can.”
“Apparently, most women he’s been with have at least a couple of orgasms. Now I’m just in my head and feeling really insecure like I’m letting him and myself down.”
How can Nicole ease her sexual anxieties? Counselling Directory member Siobhan Butt writes in.
How can she discuss her worries with her partner?
Butt says talking about this will certainly help because it doesn’t sound like either of them are happy with their sex life, “I wonder when he says he has been able to give other women orgasms. Is it because he is feeling insecure and also because you haven’t had one with him yet?”
“Do you know how you like to be sexually stimulated or is this something that feels unknown to you also?”
This is bound to be an uncomfortable conversation and it may even feel too personal. “But being honest with each other about your sex life will unlock the door to confidence and joy,” Butt says.
“Try being in an environment where you both feel relaxed and comfortable to have an open conversation, discuss some of your fantasies, some of your mistakes, some funny stories, what have you always wanted to try but haven’t been able to, what do you daydream about, what parts of each others bodies do you really like?”
Talking about sex more will help to break down some of the barriers that have been created. “You are not letting anyone down by not having an orgasm, does sex always have to result in an orgasm? Can it just feel nice and deepen the connection between you?,” Butt asks.
She adds that sex doesn’t always have to mean penetration, most women find it difficult to have a full orgasm with penetration alone. “Maybe you could discuss other things you enjoy doing together sexually and just have fun together.”
“A big part of sex is about joy, pleasure and fun, if your sex life doesn’t feel like this between you think about how you can bring this into the bedroom.”
What is performance anxiety and what does it look like during sex?
“Performance anxiety is a result of someone’s negative thoughts about themselves, their body and their ability to perform well sexually,” Butt says.
“During sex it can show up as not wanting to be seen naked, not being able to communicate, feeling too anxious to try new things for fear of doing them ‘wrong’ (fyi the first time you ever do anything it’s always going to feel “wrong” because it’s your first time) and just a lack of confidence in who you are,” Butt explains.
“You might find it difficult to have an orgasm for fear of looking or sounding weird and different, when we have an orgasm we lose control of ourselves and the fear of losing control could be another thing that holds you back from experiencing pleasure.”
What practical tips would you give this reader?
A large part of sex is communication. “Where else in your relationship do you think you and your partner work together well and can communicate openly and honestly?” Butt asks.
“Think about what feelings and thoughts you have in those situations, what is it about that situation that brings you the confidence to talk openly together and can you bring this to your sexual encounters.”
What Butt is really hearing from Nicole is some shame and embarrassment about her lack of sexual experience and that this feels really difficult for her. “Remember someone could have had 1000 sexual encounters but still be terrible in bed for you because your body is unique and you experience pleasure differently and that is ok because you are you.”
“Have confidence that it is ok to ask for your wants and needs to be met (in any situation, not just the bedroom) and that your body is worthy and deserving of pleasure.”
“Really great sex is a lifelong journey involving openness and honesty and it can be a really fun journey to go on together,” Butt says.