Worried you’re not good in bed? Here’s how to manage performance anxiety.

November 24,2020

“Am I doing a terrible job?” Xander asked, his face flushed red with embarrassment.

It was the moment that we discovered one of our biggest miscommunications in the bedroom. 

You see, as I get close to orgasm, I tend to get pretty quiet. I go internal, and focus on my experience.

Me going quiet is a GOOD thing!

But early in our relationship, Xander would notice the change and would start to panic, thinking it meant I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore. He felt like he was doing something wrong, but didn’t know how to fix it.

I didn’t realize it, but he had secretly been struggling with one of the four performance anxieties we’re talking about this month…

Performance Anxiety: “I’m Anxious That I’m Not Good In Bed.”

We ALL want to feel like we’re able to skillfully pleasure our partners, and give them exactly what they want. We all want to know that we’re doing a good job.  

But for many of us, that desire to be a good sexual partner starts to verge on obsessive. 

We don’t just want to be good in bed; we want to be perfect.

We stress out about every little moment, wondering if we’re doing the right thing, making the right moves, creating the right stimulation, fulfilling all of our partner’s wildest fantasies.

But that translates to feeling a LOT of anxiety in the moment. 

And I’m sure you know that when you’re anxious, you don’t perform very well anyway. 

What you need to know

First of all, it’s important to understand that sex is not perfect. You will rarely – if ever – have a sexual interaction that unfolds perfectly from the very beginning to the very end.

There’s going to be a position that doesn’t work, or a thrust that’s too hard, or hair that gets accidentally pulled, or a kid that knocks on the door at the worst possible moment!

The more you can learn to roll with the punches and laugh at the goofy stuff that happens, the more fun you’ll have with sex!

You also need to respect the fact that you’re not a mind reader! 

It’s not your responsibility to know exactly what your partner wants. It’s their responsibility to communicate what they want and like to you. 

I like to say that there’s no such a thing as being “universally good in bed”, since we’re all so unique. 

You could have a patented move that drives your partner absolutely wild. But then the very next partner could absolutely hate it.

What to try

I’m going to share with you one of my favorite techniques, which I call the A/B test. 

Here’s how it works: pick two different ways to stimulate one part of your body. You can pick both, your partner can pick both, or you can each pick one. 

For 5 minutes, one of you will be receiving the touch, then you’ll switch roles and the other person will receive for 5 minutes.

When you’re receiving, it’s your job to pick your favorite of the two options. Even if it feels like both options are pretty similar, try to really tune in to the sensation and choose which one is ever-so-slightly better than the other. 

So for example, let’s say you and your partner are playing around with their shoulders. Try massaging your partner’s shoulders, then try gently scratching them. Go back and forth until they pick their favorite. 

Or let’s say you’re playing with kissing. Try a few gentle pecks on the lips, then try running your tongue across your partner’s lips. 

The goal is not to come up with the “perfect” way to stimulate any particular part of your partner’s body, but to experiment with different types of sensation. 

This exercise is deceptively simple, but it serves a number of purposes:


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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!