Here’s what I got wrong about giving feedback

June 25,2019

“Am I supposed to say something now? Do I need to make some sort of request? Should I ask him to do something different than what we’re doing right now? What should I even ask for? Or can I just tell him that I’m enjoying what we’re doing? But me just saying I’m enjoying it isn’t really feedback, is it? Does it count? ”

That’s what it sounded like inside of my head while I was having sex with Xander when I tried to get better at giving feedback. An anxious, confused, clueless mess!

Last week, I told you my embarrassing story about realizing I wasn’t very good at sharing what I want. (Missed that post? You can find it here!)

Once I realized that Xander wanted more communication from me, my problem became how, exactly, to communicate…

I call myself a recovered perfectionist, but at the time, my perfectionism was in full force. I wanted to be the “perfect” communicator for Xander, but I was struggling with what the heck that even meant. 

As we would have sex, I would find myself lost in a swirl of questions about how and what and when I was supposed to communicate to him. 

Have you ever seen a panel of security camera monitors? Like when you’re watching Law and Order, and they go to check the hotel footage to see if they can spot the jewel thief, and there’s always a guy in a cramped dark room, surrounded by a wall of 50 grainy monitors, each displaying a different angle of the hotel?

That’s how I felt during sex! Like I was an outside observer, scrutinizing each angle for clues. 

And then when it came to sharing those clues with Xander, it got even worse! My desire to deliver the feedback perfectly and precisely made me feel like a robot.

(Cue robot voice) “Beep beep boop… Increase pressure by 11%!” “Blorp blorp… Change angle 17 degrees to the left!” “Initiate spanking sequence… Awoooga!”

I think it goes without saying that this is not a particularly fun way to have sex! 

I needed to come up with a different approach to feedback. 

So after a lot of thinking, I came up with an idea…

Tip #2: Talk about sex when you’re not having sex

When I was first learning how to ask for what I wanted, it was just too hard for me to give feedback in the moment itself. It felt super distracting, and it kicked my perfectionism into high gear.

So here’s what I started doing instead: talking to Xander about sex right after we’d just had it.

I feel really connected to Xander after we’ve just had sex (thanks hormones!), so it felt a lot easier to communicate with him when we were basking in the afterglow.

I was shy about this at first, and I didn’t want to go into robot mode, so I talked about sex in a more general sense, without making any specific requests. I would say something like, “I really liked how long we teased each other before we actually took off our clothes.”

Xander loved hearing those kinds of things for me, so it made me feel even more connected to him. It created a positive feedback loop that helped me gain more confidence. 

As I got more comfortable, I started to make more direct requests, like, “Can we have morning sex again next week?”

Talking to Xander after sex also gave me time to get my words right if there was something he did that I didn’t love. For example, I’ve never really loved oral sex. It’s not a technique thing; I’ve had what could be considered some world-class oral sex, but I’ve never particularly loved it. I didn’t want Xander to think he had done anything wrong (because he hadn’t!) so I waited until a time that he had fingered me, then said, “It feels so good when you use your hands on me. The stimulation feels so much more intense than it does with oral. I could have you do that every day!” 

(That example is also a bonus tip: Layer a compliment over a request!)

As I got better at describing and talking about my experience after the fact, all while having some great post-coital pillow talk with Xander, I noticed that I naturally started to tune into my experience more in the moment during sex. Not in a robotic, security-camera-footage way, but in a gentle way!

If Xander and I had previously talked about me liking Cowgirl position, I found it easier to request that in the moment. Or if I’d mentioned how much I liked making out, it felt easier to tell him how much I was enjoying myself as we were kissing.

So if you struggle with communicating during sex like I did, try to shift your focus to communicating after the fact. 

Here’s my challenge to you: Can you give your partner one specific piece of positive feedback after the next time you have sex? Let me know how it goes!


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I'm Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and writer specializing in helping you have more fun in the bedroom.

I have bachelor’s degrees in human sexuality and sociology from Brown University, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. I’m also a licensed psychotherapist. I’ve been working in the sex therapy field since 2002 and have been featured by The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, and many more.

If you’re interested in improving your sex life, you can work with me via my online courses or personal coaching sessions. I look forward to supporting you in creating the sex life you’ve always wanted!