You're in Love—But Are You Sexually Compatible?

Updated 04/07/19
Credit: Christian Vierig. Getty Images

Love and sex are not the same, though both contribute to our sexual identity. Only we can determine our own sexuality; that said, many terms fly around that may confuse anyone who is not a medical professional. "Sexual incompatibility" is one such phrase used in many different contexts, but what does it mean for you? 

Getting physical in the early stages of love can come with trials and tribulations, but does that mean you are incompatible? Is sex just not fun? Are you having sex at all? Has this changed over time? These are a few starter questions to ask yourself before declaring a state of emergency. No matter your answers, if you find yourself nervous about the situation, there are always ways to maintain your relationship and grow from the experience. 

Read on for steps to addressing your sexual incompatibility with your partner. 

Approach Without Blame

You need to find a way to talk with your partner about this without blaming one another. It is almost never so simple. It's possible that there are lots of options, but it may also be that you want such fundamentally different things sexually that it isn’t going to work. This doesn’t make either of you a bad person. It can be easy to go into these conversations feeling defensive or offensive, as the topic can be painful. If you’re going to get into it productively, you need to establish some ground rules and work hard on the sexual communication.

Unpack Sexual Compatibility for Yourself

To revisit an earlier question, what do you mean when you say you’re sexually incompatible? What does your partner mean when they say it? Start with yourself and try to get specific about the aspects of sexual compatibility you think are missing. Taking a step back to think about your own sexual history might also be helpful in this process.

Talk and Get Support

Once you’ve got something to share, you can start a new conversation with your partner. If possible, going together to talk with a counselor or sex therapist may be helpful. Particularly with issues that are so complicated and can be so emotional, having a third person in the room can really help make communication more productive.

Coping With Change

Getting out of old sexual patterns can be tough, and if you’ve developed a story about the two of you being incompatible it will take time to write a new story. It may not seem like the fairytale relationship, but there are coping strategies that couples can use to deal with sexual imbalances that they don’t want to end their relationships. Here are a few to get you started. 

  • Do it for them. We all do things for partners because we want to please them. And as long as you aren’t doing something against your will or that feels bad for yourself, being sexual together even when you feel ambivalent can be one way of moving toward a different sexual relationship. Saying yes when you feel maybe is fine. Saying yes when you feel no usually isn’t. 
  • Compromise. Not unlike the first point, making compromises is part of any relationship, and compromising on sex shouldn’t be off the table simply because its sex. You always need to feel fine about the compromises you’re making. But the idea of compromise that is stopping you, know it’s fine to take another look. 
  • Find the third option. The best option is one that neither of you initially thought of. Often when we have conflict we take a position and dig our heels in. Between two people there is always a third option, and finding it means unclenching your fist and opening your mind to creative possibilities. 

There are no quick fixes to the issues you're dealing with. Unfortunately, most of us are not raised with a lot of creative options around alternative relationships. We're told to be monogamous and be happy. If that doesn't happen, we can feel alone. The irony is that it's something most people struggle with.

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