How to communicate your preferences and achieve a higher level of satisfaction without damaging your partner’s ego.

I always wished Tim would be more passionate in the bedroom.

For many years our inability to give and receive sexual feedback drastically hindered the passion in our sexual intimacy. During our early sexual encounters, my way of giving feedback was too blunt while his feedback was non-existent.

Even when I prompted him, “Do you like this?”, “Do you prefer it like this?”, “Would you rather not use a condom?”, he had no words he was able to use to voice his preference. Often, he didn’t even really have a preference—he felt totally incompetent when it came to sex.

Even the experts advise not to say anything

Sex is one of the most vulnerable actions we engage in and we are generally so delicate during this time that any negative feedback is taken pretty painfully. So much so, some sexual therapists advise against giving any negative feedback at all during sex.

Read: What to do when you have different sex drives

So how can we poor, sensitive beings manage to communicate our level of arousal or response during sex, when many of us have no access to words around this issue or are not able to communicate our preferences?

Even more importantly, how can we do it without damaging the other person’s ego?

3 types of feedback that work in bed

Here are a few ways that have really made a difference for Tim and I.

1. Pressure feedback

Have your partner place their hands on your shoulders or somewhere else that is comfortable position-wise. As you make love, get them to squeeze your shoulders. The harder they squeeze, the more they are enjoying the sensations; the less pressure they apply, the less they are enjoying it. 

You’ll need to spell this out beforehand but just a few words will do the trick: “Put your hands here, squeeze when you like it” or if you are the one giving the feedback: “I’ll squeeze when I like it.”

This was the first way Tim was able to communicate his level of arousal and enjoyment meaningfully to me during sex. It is a great way to start for people who struggle with use their voice to communicate sexually. It is also effective for those who communicate too bluntly as it can take the sting out of the feedback.

2. Noise feedback

If you’re already a noisy love-maker, this one’s covered. Otherwise, this is a skill you might well consider cultivating. If you want to increase the passion in your relationship, you want to start including other senses, not just touch, into the experience. Sound is a real passion-enhancer. If this feels phoney or frightening to you, start simply with your breath.

As you start to enjoy the sensations you’re experiencing, begin to breathe more deeply and audibly. If you’re very timid about this, try to position your mouth close to your partner’s ear so they can pick up subtle changes easily.

As you go, encourage yourself to expand on this. On the out breath, allow a sighing sound to escape your lips. Continue to expand on this sound, making it louder as your pleasure increases or softer if it diminishes. This will guide your partner to continue doing what you enjoy or to change to something else.

When I became aware that (despite blaming Tim) I was actually very withholding in the sexual feedback area myself, I started making an effort to make my arousal more obvious. Previously, I had only been criticising him of the things I did not like but gave no positive reinforcement for the things I did like—because I felt like he never quite got there.

However, when I pushed myself to respond to smaller things that I did like (anything in the right direction!), things finally started to change. When I started becoming more noisy in the bedroom, Tim’s passion really took a leap forward. The audible feedback allowed him to feel like he was finally “getting it right”. The other person’s turn-on is often what turns us on, and this becomes a positive feedback loop.

3. Verbal feedback

When you’re used to giving the first two types of feedback, start to grow your ability to share your arousal verbally. Replace the out-breath sigh/moan with “yeah” or “wow”. Try letting your partner know “that feels so good” or “I love how you’re doing that right now”.

You could also replace “good” with something more expressive: “Amazing!”, “Fantastic!”, “Incredible!” Remember, we create our experience in the relationship by the little words we use. If you want good sex, say out loud that it feels good. If you want incredible sex, say out loud that it feels incredible!

Find out seven things you and your partner can do to strengthen intimacy in your marriage.

Verbal feedback allows you to give more accurate guidance when it comes to your experience of pleasure. If your partner is applying pressure too hard, too fast, too slow or too soft, or in the complete wrong area, you can give them verbal feedback in a positive way to direct this.

Whatever the sensation, start with, “Mmm, that feels good” and add, “Could you try that up a bit higher?“ Or “Ooh, yes, I like that, even harder would feel amazing!” Use a feedback sandwich: positive-negative-positive*: “Ooh, that’s lovely, let’s try it a little slower . . . even slower . . . mmmmm, that’s perfect!”

*Note: There are times when sex may be painful or frightening. Make sure you communicate this clearly and directly.

To make myself give more positive verbal feedback, my rule of thumb in the bedroom is the same as in any other room—if it comes into my head, it will come out of my mouth. This means I aim to express verbally to Tim any positive thought or feeling I’m having. Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth for me to get the words out because I often feel silly, but the effect of them is so worth it. He wants to spend more time with me doing more of the things I love.

And you would absolutely not believe the things he now says back!

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