Rachel Wright, LMFT, is a psychotherapist, sex educator, and mental health expert based in Brooklyn. She has a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and her work has been featured in SHAPE, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, and elsewhere.
January 12, 2022 — 13:57 PM
We don’t get much education (if any) on what a healthy sex life looks like. Our sex education gives us a lot of what not to do and not a lot of what to do. So, how do you know when your sex life needs a little bit more attention, intention, or TLC? Here are some signs this important part of your life (if you’re allosexual!) needs some love:
1. Sex feels like a chore.
Why this is a red flag: If sex is feeling like a chore, it’s important to ask yourself why it feels that way. Does it feel that way because you feel sex is expected of you or that you expect it of your partner? Does it feel like something you think you should be doing?
When something begins to feel like a chore, it’s probably because we’ve mentally made it into one. I know–probably not what you wanted to hear, but alas, it’s generally the truth.
Sex, because of how our society portrays it, is made to seem like this extremely sexy event (which it absolutely can be) that happens naturally (which it can) every single time, and each person involved is pleasured to their desired need (which can happen). However, what society and media don’t tell you is this: There’s a lot of communication, intentionality, planning, and messiness involved in sex–like, a lot.
So, if sex is feeling like a chore, try saying something like this to your partner: “Hey, sex is feeling like a bit of a chore to me lately, and that makes me sad because I really love connecting with you in this way. Could we talk about some possible ways to meet both of our needs?”
2. Your sex life feels imbalanced. You’re always giving or always receiving.
Why this is a red flag: I’d like to preface by saying that there is nothing wrong with giving more or receiving more if that is what you and your partner discussed you enjoy doing together and what best meets each of your needs. In this scenario, we’re discussing an uneven sexual balance where there’s a good chance there might not be a lot of open communication.
If you’re feeling like there is an uneven balance in your sex life, try starting a conversation like this: “Hey baby, I’ve noticed that you’ve been pleasuring me a lot more recently than I have been pleasuring you. In what ways can I help meet your needs better?” Or: “Hey baby, I want to preface by saying that I love pleasuring you, and I feel that there’s a bit of an uneven balance in our sex life. I would love to continue meeting your needs, and can you also help meet mine?”
Avoiding blame and approaching our partners with curiosity will also soften the blow of difficult conversations. Remember–these conversations might be uncomfy, but uncomfy doesn’t mean that they are bad conversations. You will make it through!
3. One person is always initiating.
Beat the bloat & feel and look your best.*
Why this is a red flag: There are truly endless reasons this could be a possibility, and it’s important that both people involved are asked why it is happening.
For the person who is initiating, it’s important to ask: How does being the one initiating every time make you feel and why?
For the person who doesn’t initiate, it’s important to ask: Why don’t you feel the desire to initiate?
Allowing each person the space to answer honestly will give each partner insight into the other person’s whys–then, from there, it’s easier to understand where the other is coming from and figure out next steps.
4. When you hear the word “sex,” you think only about penetration.
Why this is a red flag: I like to define sex as a meaningful experience of pleasure–meaning, a lot can fall under the umbrella of “sex.”
I like defining sex this way because for some people who struggle to reach orgasm, sex isn’t an orgasm. For some who struggle with sexual trauma, sex could be intimate touch and cuddling. While to others, masturbating is just as much sex as penetrative sex with a partner–because even though they are different, they are both forms of sexual expression.
If this is something you and/or your partner(s) struggle with, it might be a good idea to explore other avenues of pleasure. Meaning, try erotic massages, try oral pleasure, explore new sex toys–branch out in new ways on your own and with your partner(s) to discover new forms of pleasure. It’s fun, exciting, erotic, and extremely important!
5. You’re not sure what you want or like.
Why this is a red flag: Listen, we didn’t grow up in a society where our solo sexual exploration was encouraged, much less talked about. If you’re finding yourself unsure of how you enjoy being touched and what kind of pleasure feels good to your body, it’s time to go on a bit of an adventure, friend.
Take some time getting to know your body and all the different ways your body responds to pleasure–not only is this exciting for your personal sexual experience, but it will help you better communicate to partners what you like. Which allows your partners to be better lovers to you and creates a more connected experience.
Prioritizing you is necessary to have happy, pleasurable sex!
6. “I don’t have time” or “It’s not worth it” has been a thought around sex.
Why this is a red flag: If sex is the thing you’ve taken off your busy plate, it’s time to reevaluate, friend. Besides the fact that it feels good, there are wellness benefits to sex and connection benefits for you and your partner(s).
If you’re too busy for sex, I challenge you to ask yourself these questions:
What could I take off my plate to prioritize sex?
Am I purposefully avoiding having time for sex or genuinely don’t feel like I have the time?
Is there anything I’m afraid of?
Do I believe I deserve to slow down and enjoy pleasurable things?
Asking yourself intentional questions could help you get to the bottom of what you’re feeling–because sometimes, even though we exist inside ourselves, we have to dig to discover our own why.
P.S.: You deserve pleasure. No matter how busy you are.
7. It’s monotonous. You’re doing the same thing every time.
Why this is a red flag: There’s often no rhyme or reason why this sometimes happens in relationships–and there are helpful things to get you and your partner(s) out of a sexual rut. So many factors can play into sex becoming monotonous–schedule, seasons, kids, work, being tired–you name it.
One of the most important key things to remember in this situation is this: if you and your partner(s) are having monotonous sex, you’re still having sex. Which means each person is showing up because they care. Now, it’s probably time to have a loving conversation about your situation. Approach it with curiosity and intentionally. Something like this: “Baby, I love having sex with you, and I feel like I want to explore new forms of sexual intimacy together. Do you feel comfortable discussing this more?”
If both people show up, it will likely take some intentional communication to switch things up.
8. You haven’t made time for solo sex in a hot minute.
Why this is a red flag: Here’s the truth–solo sex is important for far more reasons than just an orgasm (though, that’s a great reason!). Having solo playtime is a great way to decompress, allows for personal exploration, and the intentionality we put into better understanding our own bodies will help us feel more confident with sexual partners. Plus–masturbation is just one of the many ways to care for our wellness. You and your body deserve it!
9. You can’t remember the last time you bought yourself a sexy treat.
Why this is a red flag: Listen, just like we can get into sexual ruts with partners, we can get into sexual ruts with ourselves. That means it might be time to spice it up and treat your bod to something yummy. A new toy, a new outfit that makes you feel spicy, possibly a subscription to an ethical porn site–anything that makes you feel good purely just to feel good.
Don’t get down on yourself if you identify with one or even all of these. As I mentioned before, we don’t get taught to value and prioritize sex. Quite the contrary–sex is linked with shame, confusion, and insecurity for many of us. I’m here to tell you that you can have the sex life you want, regardless of where it is today. It just takes a little focused intention and care.
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