Although there are people out there who are selfish lovers, most people these days tend to prioritize their partner’s pleasure over their own. Sometimes they even do this to their own detriment, which is why there’s so much sex advice out there that urges people to remember that their pleasure counts, too.
But are there certain situations where it’s not only better but crucial to put your needs aside and focus only on your partner’s? And if so, what are they, and how should you approach them for best results? Let’s look at a few examples.
1. Your partner experiences physical discomfort
There are lots of reasons why certain sex acts can be uncomfortable (or even painful) for someone. For example, health issues like arthritis can make getting into certain positions difficult to impossible. People with jaw issues may have trouble with oral sex. And sometimes, people’s unique anatomies make specific options plain uncomfortable.
Everyone is different, so it’s essential to pay attention when your lover says something specific hurts. Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter how common a sex act is or how much you enjoy it. If it causes your partner discomfort or pain, it should be off the table, period.
2. Your partner has sexual trauma in their past
When most people hear terms like “sexual trauma,” they immediately picture major, super obvious examples, like rape or childhood sexual abuse. And while those are definitely key examples of sexual trauma, they’re not the only ones.
Sexual trauma can occur within many contexts. Has your partner ever had a past partner actively shame them for liking certain things in bed or for needing to use sex toys to reach orgasm? Did they grow up in a household where certain sex acts were seen as something shameful and dirty? If so, it’s essential to be sensitive to their needs.
Always listen when your partner says something isn’t clicking for them in bed. Be gentle and move slowly. And be patient enough to help them work through any lingering issues they may have. If necessary, consider bringing a therapist into the mix to help you both move forward together.
3. One of your fetishes or kinks is traumatic for them
Terms like “kink play” and “fetish play” cover a lot of collective ground. They can be as mild and commonplace as liking to see your lover in lingerie or a specific type of shoe to an interest in elaborate rope play or bondage. And when both partners are on board with that type of play, it can be lots of fun and very arousing.
But remember, when someone is pushed or pressured to do things that make them uncomfortable in the interest of pleasing their partner, it can cause trauma. Exploration of fetishes, kinks, and fantasies always needs to be done with the full consent of a partner. If someone is hesitant about it but ultimately willing to try it, it needs to be approached with care and abandoned immediately if they express discomfort. And if the answer’s a flat no, that no needs to be respected, no questions asked.
For this reason, people with specific kinks they truly can’t live without should treat them just like they would any other type of dealbreaker. When seeing someone new, the topic should come up for discussion as soon as you two become intimate with one another, so you both know what you’re getting into.
4. Your partner is dealing with sexual aversion
One huge reason a person should never be forced, manipulated, or pressured into sexual activity they don’t want or agree to is it can eventually lead to sexual aversion disorder. The brain eventually learns to associate sex (or even just physical and emotional intimacy) with pain, stress, shame, or discomfort.
If your partner is dealing with this – whether because of you or because of a past partner – it’s important that the two of you work through things together. But until you do, their needs and boundaries should come ahead of your own when it comes to the bedroom.
Sex isn’t (and shouldn’t be) everything in a relationship. But it’s still really darned important, so it’s essential to ensure you’re sexually compatible with the people you date. If you find you’re dealing with someone working through sexual hang-ups or trauma, understand that those things are part of the package.
If you’re not willing to be patient with a partner’s issues and respectful of their boundaries (both in and out of the bedroom), don’t date them at all. Everyone deserves to be loved, accepted, and desired for who they are instead of pressured to be someone they’re not. This includes you for sure, but it also applies to the people you date.