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How To Actually Ask For What You Want During Sex

In this week's Sex Q&A, we asked a therapist how to deal when things are kinda boring in bed.

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Welcome to the BuzzFeed Sex Q&A, where you can ask us your awkward, confusing, gross, embarrassing, or thought-provoking questions, and we'll provide answers from leading sexual health experts. Have a question about sex or sexual health? Send it to sexQs@buzzfeed.com.

This week's question: How can I get that *good* sex back?

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My partner and I have been together for roughly five and a half years. There was about a year break in between during some emotional chaos, and honestly the sex has become so much different now. When we were together previously it was normally kinky, exciting, passionate and almost renewing. We could have sex up to twelve times within a ten hour period. When we reunited it was a glorious night of passion.

Now, we're approaching our one year back together milestone and I'm realizing I'm never completely satisfied. I've always been delicate and easy to hurt, yet, I've always enjoyed pain during sex. Hair pulling, spanking, biting, and even mild scratching was enjoyable. One of my favorite things is being tied down, yet every time I try to initiate a more kinky and rough romp around the bedroom, it falls flat with him being delicate and gentle. I've explained it over and over that it's okay to hurt me a little and that I won't let him push it too far, but it always falls back to his worries that he'll hurt me. I've tried to uncover his fantasies to hopefully spice things up for him as well, but there's just so much insistence that he doesn't have one.

I'm completely and utterly lost on how to communicate my issues without hurting his pride.

—Mari

Hi Mari! Thanks for your question! To help answer it, we spoke with sex and relationship therapist Brandy Engler, Ph.D., author of The Women On My Couch. Here's what she had to say:

It's totally normal for sex to fall into a routine in long-term relationships. Still, it sucks.

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Engler sees this all the time in her practice — couples who initially had amazing sexual chemistry and then fell into a rut at some point. And even though you're citing some specific sexual requests here, it sounds like what you really want is passion, says Engler.

When people ask for more passion, Engler notices that they often make this common mistake of asking for certain things that they associate with it. In this case: kinkier, rougher sex. But passion is more than just a combination of sex acts. "You can't just go through the motions like 'pull my hair' if he's not really feeling that." So instead of focusing on what to add for passion, Engler suggests looking at what's blocking it in your relationship. The hair pulling and other kinky additions will (hopefully) follow suit.

Keep in mind that any change in your sex life might have to do with some deeper emotional or relationship stuff.

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"It's very telling that you note that the sex has been different since [you got back together]," says Engler. It's definitely possible that there could be some leftover emotional stuff, resentment, fears, or anxieties contributing to this. This can have a numbing effect that can lead to problems with arousal, desire, and even sexual functioning, says Engler. And it's not always something you're consciously aware of — you (or your partner) might think everything seems fine, but your body's reacting to whatever's going on.

If this sounds like it could be the case, Engler suggests sitting down and talking about what's going on — outside of the context of having sex. She suggests something like, "Maybe we should check in with what's going on a year later. Is there still some anger or resentment there? Maybe there's a part of each of us that's still shutting down and maybe that's coming out when we're having sex."

Also, BDSM requests can be particularly tricky for some people.

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Engler's noticed that BDSM requests in particular are often shot down by partners who prefer a more gentle, sensitive approach. "What people don't realize is that when you're asking for rough play, you're potentially stepping into a land mine of anxieties for the other person," she says.

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Here are a few possible explanations for why people are really not into it, based on what Engler typically sees in therapy:

- They can't separate aggressive play from actual aggression and violence. "They'll say to me, 'I can't shift from loving and respecting my partner to hitting her [in bed],'" says Engler.

- They're not comfortable stepping into the dominant role. Lots of people feel pressure or insecurities about this, she says.

- Their lives are hard and competitive enough — they just want sensitive sex. "Sometimes the guy is just longing for softness and thats not to be understated," says Engler.

- Or they're just really not into it. And that's totally fine, too!

So here's how to ask for what you want (without destroying your partner's ego):

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- Bring it up when you can't actually do anything about it. Asking someone to spank you/choke you/pull your hair while you're having sex can sound like a performance demand — which can be very stressful for some people. But if you whisper it in their ear at dinner/on a walk/in the grocery store, it's more of a playful fantasy. Then they get the chance to flirt with the idea without having to figure out how they feel and act on it immediately, says Engler.

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- Show, don’t tell. Sometimes doing to them what you want done to you can work, says Engler. (Or do it to yourself, depending on what it is.) This way you’re not just expecting them to take the reins but showing that you can play into this, too.

- Ask if they’re into it. Most people just assume that if they get all adventurous their partner will be stoked. But certain things may bring up feelings or insecurities that you never anticipated, so always check in with them and have an actual conversation if they’re not immediately excited to experiment.

And here's how to ask what they want and fantasize about (without making them feel super uncomfortable and awkward):

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- Again, talk about it somewhere that you couldn't act on it. "It's almost like you're telling an erotic story, like 'I would do this to you' or 'I would have you do this to me,'" says Engler. You're having the conversation but bypassing all that pressure to perform or act on anything immediately. Plus, you're proving that fantasies can be just that — fantasies.


- Consider why they might be resisting.
It may be a problem with self expression, they might feel like they can't open up to you about this stuff, or they could be so disconnected that they genuinely don't think they have any fantasies, says Engler. Those are all things you can work through together, so just make sure they know that you're totally open, interested, and not going to pass any judgement.

Do you have a question you want answered by our sex experts? Email us at sexQs@buzzfeed.com.

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