In all relationships, there are similarities and there are differences regarding morals, values, and experiences. While nobody needs to mirror their partner, it can still be awkward when you differ in your level of sexual experience. Such differences, when not addressed, can lead to misunderstandings in the bedroom. One or both partners may feel that the less experienced partner is less interested in sex, while the more experienced partner is perceived, either mistakenly or correctly, as bored. These kinds of misconceptions due to lack of communication can play into an individual’s fears of being flawed or inadequate, and can make people question the relationship and its future. I’m here to tell you that different levels of sexual experience can actually lead to a deeper understanding of each other, both sexually and as individuals.
Let’s look at “Barbie” and “Ken.” Barbie grew up in the suburbs, played on girls’ sports teams in high school, went to college on a sports scholarship, and then worked in a small law firm with much older colleagues. She was a virgin when she met Ken, and had only one oral sex experience with a college classmate after a concert. Ken grew up in the country, had three sexual partners, one in high school (one time), one in college (dated for six months), and lived with a young woman for one year in his twenties. When they met, Barbie and Ken were age 26 and 30, respectively. They’ve been dating for a year, are engaged and living together, and hope to set their wedding date soon. But Barbie wonders if she can hold Ken’s interest sexually, because she still hasn’t had an orgasm, doesn’t know how to have one, and is afraid to ask Ken for help. Ken enjoys sex with Barbie, finds her beautiful, and longs to please her as well as be more aroused sexually. But he doesn’t know how to make suggestions without sounding critical, and, of course, can’t feel and therefore understand how she’s responding sexually.
If any of this scenario rings true for you, it is important to remember that every couple has their own shared set of experiences together, that’s unique to them, and can’t be compared to any other couple. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s perfectly normal to have a lot of sexual experience before your current relationship, or none at all. If you have less experience, let your partner know that you find him/her attractive, and that you feel passionate with him/her, but you don’t know what to do next. Get resourced about the physiology of sex on both your gender and your partner’s by reading practical guidebooks and articles on the subject. You might wind up learning things your more experienced partner didn’t know, and get the enjoyment of finally being the one who initiates something new. If you’re the more experienced partner, reassure your partner that you love him/her as a whole person, not based on performance or expertise. Try not to fall into the role of teacher and student.
As a couple, keep talking during sex, checking in with each other about what feels pleasurable, when to use a softer or more vigorous touch, or when to start or stop a touch. Try one new technique each time, but also repeat something that worked well in a recent lovemaking session. This will help you both to feel the confidence that comes with expertise, along with the joys of new discovery. There’s no need to talk about past partners, which can set up false comparisons. Rather, focus on being in the moment with your partner, sharing something unique and exclusive.
- Place high value on female arousal and orgasm. Since signs of a woman’s arousal are more subtle than a man’s, be sure to take time, especially at the beginning of lovemaking, to focus on what pleases the woman. This month, try one new thing that helps the female partner become aroused at the beginning of the lovemaking session (such as more refined oral sex, fondling, or nipple arousal).
- Place high value on male delayed climax. Try one new thing this month to help him delay his climax. Read up on the benefits of the squeeze technique or keeping the hips still. This enhances lovemaking and helps the less experienced partner, male or female, to feel more competent.
- Place high value on connection. This month, say your partner’s name during sex. This tells your partner that you are thinking of only him/her in this moment.