Your new guy is just about perfect. He takes you on fun dates. He makes you laugh. Your friends like him. You dig his style. All that makes it even harder to deal with the fact that there's one place you're definitely not hitting it off: between the sheets.
"Sex is a big deal," stresses Tiffanie L. Davis Henry, Ph.D., a certified sex therapist. You can say that again. In a recent study in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, half of women surveyed said that bad sex is a relationship deal breaker. (Men are less discerning; only 44 percent of them say the same.) Meaning, no matter how much you're hitting it off, if sparks aren't flying in the bedroom for whatever reason, sooner or later you're going to have to address it.
But, again, sex is a big deal! It's hard to tell a person you like that they're just not doing it for you. That's why we enlisted Henry to tell us exactly how to fix a fizzling sex life.
First, Figure Out What's Going On
"There are plenty of ways people can be incompatible sexually," says Henry. Some common reasons: One of you is more experienced than the other. One of you has a kink the other person is hesitant to try out. He assumes that you'll like exactly what his last partner liked. Your libidos are mismatched. (Maybe even your gut bacteria are to blame.) Once you know exactly why your chemistry is off, you'll be able to start fixing it.
Then, Get Ready To Talk
Yes, this is going to involve a conversation. As Henry puts it, "If you can't have an adult conversation about what you like sexually, you shouldn't be having sex with the person anyway." (These 7 Conversations Can Help Supercharge Your Sex Life.) As you've heard before, the time to talk about what's going on in the bedroom isn't when you're actually in the bedroom. "Wait until you're sitting on the couch watching TV or eating dinner," suggests Henry. Then stay positive. "Rather than saying, 'Hey, I've noticed that every time you go down on me you do XYZ, and I hate that," go with, 'You know, I really love it when you do XYZ and I wish you'd do it more often.'" When you've gushed about his prowess, it's easier to slip in, "But the hair-pulling? Not so into it," without devastating him.
But Know When to Shut Up
Henry suggests avoiding bringing up issues your partner can't help. "If he has a micropenis, he can't do anything to make it bigger. If he's dealing with premature ejaculation, there's only so much he can do about it. We all have shortcomings and limitations," she says. Complaining that it's ruining your sex life is just going to make him feel insecure, which will probably make your sex life even worse. (Though there are things you can do to Deal With His Most Embarrassing Sexual Issues.)
Try an Always, Sometimes, and Never List
This is a technique Henry often recommends to couples struggling with sexual incompatibility. Come up with a list of things you're always down for in bed, you're sometimes okay with, and you never want to participate in. Talking about your ASN lists helps you and your partner share what they're missing in bed, and helps you spot areas where your desires really aren't lining up.
And Be Prepared To Compromise
Your ASN list may reveal that your partner really wants you to do something that you're just...not that into—or vice versa. "Sex isn't all about you," says Henry. She uses this analogy: "My husband hates peas, but I love them. When I make spaghetti carbonara, I don't use peas. I might add some peas to my plate after I serve the pasta, but I find ways to accommodate his preferences too."
Don't Be Too Afraid To Offend
No one's denying that it can be hard to talk about sex with your SO, especially if you're telling your partner that his skills are lacking. And it's true, no matter how positive you stay there's a chance your partner could get offended. Remind yourself that "both partners have an equal right to be happy and sexually pleased," says Henry.
Know When To Bring In an Expert
If you've had a preliminary talk and the sex has gotten worse (performance anxiety issues, your libido has pulled a disappearing act, etc.), it's time to see a certified sex therapist for help working through the issue, says Henry. You might be surprised by what you find. "Bad sex is often a symptoms of an underlying problem. Sex therapy can help you get to the bottom of it." (Check out these 4 Ways to Confront Common Relationship Roadblocks.)