In an ideal world, every time you had sex would go off without a hitch. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t work that way. As any couple’s therapist can tell you, a variety of problems can arise when you’re getting down to business. Luckily, they know how to solve the following 12 issues so you can have the best sex possible.
1. “My mind won’t stop wandering.”
“My female clients often say they’re too distracted to be in the moment during sex,” Julie Bindeman, Psy.D., Co-Director of Integrative Therapy of Greater Washington, tells SELF. This is especially true for many moms, since the pressure of parenting can obstruct any sexy thoughts. It may seem counterintuitive, but scheduling sex may help. “When you know something is going to happen, you might be better able to adjust to it,” says Bindeman. Beyond that, introducing some novelty via toys or new sex positions can help keep you present.
2. “Since I’m a man, I can’t be warm and fuzzy.”
That rumor about how guys are unfeeling, sex-obsessed robots is doing dudes a disservice. “When I talk to couples in my practice, the men often feel like they’re trapped by this notion that they’re emotional Neanderthals,” Gary Brown, Ph.D, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles. “Many reveal that they would actually like to feel closer in and out of the bedroom, but they just don’t know how.” Make it easier for him by being vulnerable with your own feelings to encourage a monkey see, monkey do dynamic. You can also be extra affectionate when he does get mushy—it’s all about positive reinforcement.
3. “I always have to initiate.”
If one person thinks the other doesn’t get the good times rolling enough, resentment can bubble up. “Rather than waiting for your partner to initiate and feeling disappointed when it doesn’t happen, you can do it instead when you’re in the mood,” New York-based marriage and sex therapist Jane Greer, Ph.D., and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. And if you’re on the other end of the equation, understand that your partner’s request that you start sex more often is really about feeling desired, so taking that step can boost your bond in a big way.
4. “What happened to the foreplay?”
You may have heard this one around the table at happy hour, and if it applies to you, you know how frustrating it can be. “If you’re in the heat of the moment, it’s best to physically show your partner what feels good to you by placing their hand in the right spots,” Fran Walfish, Psy.D., a Beverly Hills child, parenting, and relationship psychotherapist and co-star of WE tv’s Sex Box. If you’re going to speak up, it’s helpful to frame what you want positively, like “I love it so much when you do XYZ.” That way it seems less like a critique and more like an encouragement of something they already do.
5. “I wish we were more affectionate.”
Luckily, this has a fun fix. “Each day you should tell each other one thing you appreciate about the other person,” Chicago-based therapist Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., and Telehealth counselor for Betterhelp.com. If that’s too rote for your tastes, Martinez recommends incorporating the small moves you probably relied on to show affection when you first started dating: holding hands, putting your arms around each other when sitting together, rubbing each other’s shoulders, and the like.
6. “Our emotional connection is lacking.”
While it’s OK if both people are just in it for the physical release, things become murkier if one wants an emotional connection but isn’t feeling it. This is what Brown calls “empty sex,” which doesn’t sound especially appealing. To help banish this feeling, work on fostering intimacy outside of the bedroom. “Spend more time together, find new, common activities that can help you form a bond, and explore what brings you and your partner pleasure in multiple ways,” says Brown.
7. “The pressure to make a baby is insane.”
When a straight couple is trying to conceive, the man may feel like he’s performing on demand. “There should a balance between articulating when you’re ovulating and spontaneity,” says Bindeman. Communication is key in determining how to toe that line, since some male partners want to know every detail about your cycle while others would rather be less clued into the specifics. No matter where he lands, both of you can bring a sense of excitement back into sex, even if the ultimate goal is to conceive. “Doing things like wearing lingerie and sending sexy texts can help the act of making a baby seem fun rather than like a chore,” says Bindeman.
8. “My partner won’t perform oral sex.”
If you love oral sex but your partner refuses to do it, you might feel rejected. “Then you become angry and disappointed, and you’ll likely lose interest in being sexually intimate,” says Greer. If your partner isn’t a huge fan of oral sex but you really value it, ask them to think about it as something they can do every so often to show they’re invested in your enjoyment. “When someone gives a little, it goes a long way toward their partner feeling cared about,” says Greer.
9. “Starting a family has completely screwed our sex life.”
Although the sleep deprivation and stress can give your sex drive a real walloping, all is not lost. “I’ve known many couples who were able to resume a fulfilling romantic life after starting a family,” says Brown. Figure out whether logistics are stopping you from feeling satisfied, or whether the problem is even physical in the first place. “This often has more to do with unexpressed or unfulfilled needs for emotional connection and intimacy,” says Brown. One way to suss out the real issue is by making an appointment with a therapist who can talk you both through it.
10. “I think my partner takes me for granted.”
Feeling like your partner doesn’t appreciate you damages your connection with each other, which only compounds the problem. “In therapy, I have couples communicate this directly instead of dancing around the subject,” says Martinez. “They need to hear, ‘When you do X, I feel like Y,’ so there’s no room for ambiguity. Those “I” statements are essential for helping your partner not feel attacked.
11. “He ejaculates prematurely.”
If there were ever a time to tread lightly, this would be it. “My experience with patients is that when premature ejaculation is a problem in the beginning of the relationship—except for possible nervousness during the very first time—it pops up as an issue throughout,” says Walfish. If it happens the first time you two have sex, she recommends keeping your womp-womp feelings under wraps and moving on, either to other acts if he’s up for it or to something non-sexual. “If it happens again, this is a problem that is not going away,” says Walfish. Gently encourage him to see a doctor to make sure there’s not a medical cause and get some advice about what will help his body convey when he’s raring to go.
12. “We just don’t have enough sex!”
This one often muscles its way into relationships after the honeymoon period has worn off. “The person who wants sex more may feel deprived, but their partner might not realize it without a discussion,” says Greer. Luckily, compromise can save the day. “Discuss how often you’d each like to be sexually active, then work out a plan in the middle ground,” says Greer. Or give Martinez’ tip a try: “Set times that you’ve both agreed to be intimate and have a running list of things you’d like to try.” Experimenting with what turns each other on can help you look forward to good sex again.