A couple's compatibility doesn't hinge on just one thing. Compatibility takes into account a couple's habits, interests, attraction, and the effort both partners are willing to put into their relationship (among so many other factors). Sex is one important part of an even bigger compatibility "whole," but it's not everything, nor is it the most important part of a relationship for every couple. Nevertheless, a healthy sex life is a priority for some, and if you feel like you're not sexually compatible with your partner, you might feel a little discouraged. But don't panic, your relationship isn't doomed. There are a few solutions you and your partner can consider to help make your sexual relationship work.
Dr. Carol Queen, staff sexologist at sex toy company Good Vibrations, explains that sexual incompatibility tends to become an issue because of the taboo around sex. If you and your partner don't talk about sex openly and comfortably before you become super committed, you might not even realize how different your sexual tastes are.
"We talk about sex like there's a 'normal' baseline. There isn't!" Queen tells Elite Daily. "As long as we're not imposing on someone else coercively or non-consensually, we all have a right to our sexuality. It's not a problem that we're different. It's a problem that we don't understand that's one element of partner compatibility to consider."
Queen recommends three possible solutions: taking care of your sexual satisfaction through masturbation, opening up your relationship so you can see other people with whom you're more sexually compatible, or asking your partner to work on becoming more compatible with you. "The most effective way to do this is probably to see a sex therapist together, though there are other things you can do instead if that isn't an option," Queen says.
For starters, she recommends not having this conversation while in bed. "Do it over a quiet dinner, a glass of wine — but not a lot of glasses. This isn't a good mix with inebriation, or on a walk. Don't spring the conversation on them," Queen says. "Ask for some of their time to discuss something important."
Then, let your partner know that it doesn't seem like you two are a perfect fit in terms of your desires. For example, this could be a matter of your partner having kinky tastes while you prefer something a little more traditional, or vice versa. Your dissatisfaction might stem from the fact that your partner might not be able to help you orgasm, or perhaps they have a lower sex drive than you. There could be several reasons you feel this incompatibility. Tell your partner how you feel and then ask them what they think.
You might find that they agree with you and are willing to work on your sexual compatibility together. This starts with honest communication about your sexuality, including boundaries and priorities. According to Queen, one concrete way to approach this is by sitting down with your partner and creating individual "Yes, No, Maybe" lists. In the "Yes" category, you would write down all the things you already know you like and want to make a regular part of your sex life. In the "Maybe" category, you would write the things you'd be willing to try. And finally, in the "No" category, you would write the things you don't want to do. From there, you and your SO would avoid everything on your "No" lists, and work to find common ground on the "Yes" and "Maybe" lists.
"If you and your partner can talk openly about these kinds of things, you can pretty likely find a sweet spot of activities you both enjoy," says Queen.
If you find that you or your partner have one non-negotiable turn-on or kink that the other refuses to try, try not to panic. Queen admits this isn't an "easy fix," and describes the situation as one that has "led many couples to therapy, to open their relationships, or to even break up." Nevertheless, "if you can communicate clearly and lovingly about your differences, you have a head start," she says. Talk it out to work it out.
Ultimately, whether it's the sex you're having now or something new you try out in the future, make sure you're having sex because you want to. You should never feel like you need to have a type of sex that you don't want to just to keep a partner, Queen says.
If you and your SO are interested in opening your relationship, Queen says you'll "need to make sure you are caught up on your communication skills, can handle jealousy, time management, and all the things you need to be good at to successfully have an open relationship or a polyamorous one."
A book many sexperts (Queen included) recommend is Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures by Janet Hardy and Dossie Easton. "I promise you the book is wise and worthwhile," Queen says. You can also sit down with your partner and make "Yes, No, Maybe" lists for polyamorous relationships too.
Talking about sex can be tough. It's why you might find yourself dating someone long-term who you're not sexually compatible with. You and your partner might need some time to process the discussion, especially if it was difficult on you, and that's OK.
If after you have this discussion "your partner just won't hear you and denies what you're saying and experiencing, that's a red flag," says Queen. "In a situation like this, therapy is called for. Breaking up might even be called for. If a partner denies your perspective is even real, and does not commit to work on the relationship, you may not be in a situation that can be improved."
It might feel like a serious bummer, but try to remember that you deserve a happy, healthy sex life, and if your partner's not willing give that to you, you shouldn't be afraid to find someone who will.
No matter what you and your partner end up doing, it's important that you talk through your issues. Queen says that not talking about them can prompt problematic relationship behaviors, like affairs or faking pleasure. Talking to your partner isn't a 100% guarantee that all of your problems in the bedroom will be solved, but it's a start, and it's also one solid, brave, healthy step you can take to work on your relationship before calling it quits all together.