Dear MKE SEX,
Suppose there is a thing in sex that your partner really fucking loves when you do. So much so, that over time, it goes from a fun treat to a regular-slash-expected part of the routine. And because it’s not that fun for you, but you do it anyway because you’re “GGG – good, giving and game” (and please let’s leave Dan Savage’s merits and flaws for another discussion), how do you ever get away from having to do it every time while making it seem like you still care about your partner’s pleasure? Knowing it’s like, their favorite thing that’s about to go away for a while?
Please advise. I am so done doing the thing.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Dear Good Thing,
I think it’s time for you to play one of my favorite games. I like to call it, “What advice would I give a friend?” If someone dear to you confided that they no longer wanted to do a specific sex act with their partner, what would you say? Would you tell them they had to do it to make their partner happy? I doubt it. Or would you tell them that they should stop doing it because it no longer sparks joy? That’s what I thought. It’s time to Marie Kondo your sex life.
I also know that this is difficult because we want to please our partners. For many people, sexual expression and release are a crucial part of our day-to-day existence. In monogamous relationships, sex is the one thing we can’t get from literally anyone else, so there can be a lot of pressure to do it right. We want the sex we share with our partner to be fun, exciting, satisfying, beautiful and meaningful. All relationships are about give and take, and that’s great. But sex is hottest when it’s hot for both people. Take a minute and think about this problem in reverse. If you found out that your partner had been doing something that you love, but they did not enjoy/actively disliked, would you expect them to continue? I think most people would want to spare their partner that particular emotional or physical discomfort.
Over time, many couples develop a typical order of sexy activities that they work through during any given romp. This happens not because we’re lazy, but because the puzzle-solving part of our brains crave efficiency. Sex is exciting in the beginning of a relationship because that same part of the brain is trying to figure out how to please our new partner, and how to get pleasure for ourselves. In new relationships, most people think about sex a lot more. We’re often happy to spend hours having long, drawn-out encounters and neglecting other parts of our lives. But once we figure out what combination of touching, tasting, and thrusting satisfies both lovers, we tend to stick to that same routine over and over. It’s all about efficiency. Generally speaking, this doesn’t lead to bad sex, per se. Just repetitious—and eventually kind of boring.
Breaking cycles like this can be difficult, because it means investing time in sexual exploration. By the time couples figure out they’re in need of an overhaul, they have built a life together which also takes a lot of their time and energy. Things like homes, careers, kids, aging parents, pets, community obligations, and other friendships are already competing for our time. Is it even possible to devote the time and energy to rediscovering new and exciting ways to be sexy?
In my opinion, it’s totally possible. And for many couples, it’s absolutely necessary if they are going to continue having a sex life that is satisfying for both people. It starts with a conversation with your partner where you share your desire to try new things. Tell them that you want to re-learn how to satisfy and be satisfied. That means avoiding the typical order of events, and getting off in different ways. Also, it likely means making some time commitments around sex, like having sex a certain number of times per week, or spending more time on each round of sexy play. While some folks think that scheduling sex isn’t romantic, I disagree. There are fewer things in the world more romantic than saying, “This is time that I set aside to spend with you, sharing intimacy and pleasure.”
Sometimes, it’s difficult to think of new things to try. If this is the case for you, I encourage you to do some intellectual exploring as well. Read some erotica or watch some porn together, or take a class at the Tool Shed as a couple. If you have a random sexy thought, text it to your partner or whisper it in their ear. Capitalize on erogenous moments throughout your day by allowing a fantasy to build around it. You can also check out the website www.mojoupgrade.com, where you and your partner can a take survey to find out your mutual interests (mojoupgrade only shares the answers you have in common). When either of you finds an interest that appeals to both people, give it a try. If it’s not right, you can always just try something different next time. If you can think of this period of exploration as a shared adventure, you might be able to have just as much fun as you did in those first months when everything was brand new and you were both trying to solve the pleasure puzzle.
Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll get back to you with an answer.