Have you ever had the thought, “my partner should know what I like/need/want?” Being able to give and request feedback can be a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page and fulfilled in the relationship. In fact, studies show that communication and effective feedback is strongly connected to relational and sexual satisfaction, and this includes both verbal and nonverbal communication. Read on to learn ways to make communication fun for you and your partner(s).
The Benefits of Feedback for Sex & Relationships
Take a second and think about the partners you have been with intimately and imagine these two below scenarios. If you haven’t had any sexual partners, use your imagination and think about what these two scenarios bring up for you.
Scenario 1: Your partner is completely silent during sex, not making eye contact, has their eyes closed, and you don’t know if what you’re doing is enjoyable for them, which brings up anxiety and racing thoughts.
Scenario 2: Your partner gives you compliments on the movements you do, the techniques you use, provides moans of approval, or tells you what they like and how they like it as a way to guide you, whether through verbal or non-verbal communication, such as guiding your hand to a certain place.
These two scenarios are polar opposites, but which one feels more clear and specific? If your answer is the second scenario, it’s probably because in the scenario, your partner was giving you positive reinforcement, which indicates they are enjoying what you’re doing.
Communicating about your desires may seem difficult at first, however, with regular feedback, the payoffs in the end may greatly enhance the trust you have in your partner, and your ability to be vulnerable. It also can help in enhancing communication outside of sexual intimacy as well.
How to Give Your Partner Constructive Feedback
Giving someone constructive criticism or feedback can sometimes make people feel more uncomfortable than providing positive feedback. It can be difficult for someone to hear that they’re doing something wrong or that what they’re doing doesn’t feel good to you. In Vanessa & Xander Marin’s book, “Sex Talks,” they state that pleasure is never fixed, and it always changes, which speaks to the importance of continued feedback throughout a relationship. Simply put, Vanessa states that “Feedback is all about reporting back to your partner about your experience, in the moment, moment by moment.”
One way to assess nervousness surrounding constructive feedback would be to start with the positives. For example, here are some things you might want to avoid saying:
- “You’re using too much tongue”
- “I don’t like that”
- “That doesn’t feel good”
- “Don’t touch me there”
You might aim for something like:
- “That pressure feels so good, can you move your finger a little bit lower?”
- “Remember that thing we did the other night; I LOVED that”
- “That slower stroke from a little bit ago felt amazing”
- “I love how you feel on top of me”
- “Yes, pin my hands down just like that”
Always remember to speak up, though, if you begin to feel any sort of pain (unless pain is one of your kinks of course).
What if Your Partner Struggles to Receive Feedback?
As previously stated, it’s not always easy to receive feedback, even when it’s given in a nice way. In addition, feedback can be especially difficult when it’s surrounding an issue when we don’t feel confident or we’re in a vulnerable state. The best way to have this type of conversation is after the sexual experience is over.
It might help to keep in mind that YOU are not being attacked when receiving feedback. Sex is best when both parties are both fully and completely enjoying themselves. Trust that your partner has good intentions, but also remind your partner that everyone’s body works differently. For example, your partner may be taking into this sexual scenario something that worked amazingly for a previous sexual partner, and it just doesn’t do anything for you and that is OKAY!
It is also important to know and understand why they aren’t wanting to take the feedback, or what exactly they are struggling with in general. In straight relationships, cis men are typically valuing their ability to please their partner and see it closely connected to their manhood. This can open the door for such a healthy conversation within the relationship and an area to grow closer. Another important tip that may seem like an easy suggestion, is to listen to what your partner has to say. You both are a team and it takes two to tango; both of your needs are valuable and valid in this situation.
Sex therapist Vanessa Marin states, “Pleasure is always in motion.” Keep this mantra in mind while you’re navigating this process with your partner. Turn sex into an experience of fun and exploration with your partner because, at the end of the day, you both are on the same team.