Health & Medical

3 Things to Do When You Have Bad Sex With a New Partner

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Apologies to Bridgerton, but first-time sex isn’t always the mind-blowing, corset-busting stuff of historical romance novels. In real life, hooking up with a new partner—even one you’re super into—can be awkward, uncomfortable, or otherwise…not good. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t get so much better.

I’m not talking about the sex that’s bad in that they didn’t respect your boundaries or otherwise made you feel unsafe, of course. (No second chances in that situation.) And maybe the sexual sparks just aren’t there—in which case you can trust your instincts and don’t need us to tell you what to do. But it’s also possible that you just need to work out some, ahem, kinks.

To help you figure out if your unsatisfying experience was merely a stumbling block on the road to a much more pleasurable connection, we asked Chamin Ajjan, LCSW, a Brooklyn-based cognitive behavioral therapist and certified sex therapist, for her best advice on what to do if sex with a new partner left a lot to be desired.

Try to get out of your head.

When you’re excited about getting naked with someone for the first time, it’s normal to fantasize about how it’ll go down. The problem is, setting your expectations too high can also set you up for a possible letdown, Ajjan says. If your first hookup was, uh, anticlimactic, she recommends asking yourself, Was I in the moment, or was I focused on the experience that I built up in my mind?

“If you’re comparing this sexual experience with the one you imagined or with others you’ve had with past sexual partners, you’re missing out on what’s actually happening in the here and now,” Ajjan says. Of course, maybe what was happening right in front of you really wasn’t so hot, but if you’re into your new partner and willing to give it another go, staying present can help you decide if there’s more sexual chemistry between you two than you initially thought.

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Ajjan’s best advice for tuning into the moment during sex: Focus on your senses by paying attention to what you’re hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling. “This mindful approach to sex can increase your pleasure by making it a wonderfully sensory experience where you’re more in sync with your partner,” she says. Basically, you’re getting out of your head and into your body.

Get clearer about what you both want in bed.

“Bad sex is often just a case of bad communication,” Ajjan says. “Speaking up seems simple enough, but we often worry about hurting our partner’s feelings and panicked away from advocating for our sexual preferences and desires.” However, avoiding the conversation after a lackluster hookup ends up being a disservice to everyone and minimizes your chances for real pleasure, she adds.

Communication with a sexual partner can be verbal or nonverbal, and you don’t need to be harsh to get your point across, according to Ajjan. Instead of telling them what you didn’t like (“It turned me all the way off when you nibbled on my ear”), try sharing what you did or do enjoy (“It was so hot when you kissed me here”). “Being explicit about your turn-ons can be a turn-on itself,” Ajjan says. “You can also try gently moving their hand or body to where you’d like it to be and show them how you’d like to be touched or let them know what you’re enjoying with a sexy sound or outright telling them, ‘This feels so good.’”

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