Sexual incompatibility is a problem many couples face. What should you do when you are in love, the other person makes you happy, you dream of a future together, but you are lacking in the sex department.
It’s an issue that you both face not only your partner. You must fix it together because otherwise, it may lead to a life of frustration or to a breakup.
One problem that you may have is the frequency of sex. Maybe you want to have sex every day, or more than once a day, while your partner is happy to have sex once per week.
Perhaps you want to experiment with some kinks and fetishes but your partner looks down on such wishes considering them “wired”.
Or maybe your deepest fantasy is to have a threesome but your partner doesn’t even want to consider the idea.
There are many more situations in which a couple may not share the same needs or desires.
If you are committed to save the relationship, then you should wait for the problem to disappear. That’s not going to happen.
The best thing you can do is to get professional help.
Before you pay for an expensive consultation with a sex therapist, you should read this article. We reached out to 40 sex therapists, marriage counselors and sex experts and asked them to reply to the following question:
How can a couple improve their relationship if their sexual preferences are not compatible?
We received amazing answers with lots of useful tips that you can try right away. Keep reading to see what the experts recommend.
Meet it, then beat it..
I’ve noticed my own clients having sex on the first date – or maybe the fourth maximum. I’m not one to slut-shame anyone here, but I am one who can recognize you often need emotional intimacy before you can get down and dirty.
Especially for women, orgasms are difficult since they’re more of a mental barrier than a physical one. Grab an interesting activity together.
My clients used a ‘Paint Your Canvas, Your Way’ activity – where they sensually rubbed (edible and non-toxic!) paint all over each other and then after about an hour of this foreplay, allowed themselves to proceed further. And yes, they still thank me for that recommendation.
A little foreplay never killed nobody.
Can’t seem to settle on what to do? Try something new entirely! That way, neither one of you ends up upset or unsatisfied.
Remember all those other things you both talked about trying, but were too shy or just never got around to it?
Well, bust out that checklist and strap on (literally, if that’s what you’re into!) for an all-new adventure that leaves you both out-of-breath.
Go slow or go fast?
The age-old question. I can never give a definitive answer for either side, if I’m honest. Sex is deeply personal, and it varies with each partner. Mix. it. up.
Don’t be afraid to dip your feet into either side, slowly, and then perhaps all at once – or the other way around, if that’s what you prefer. My bottom line is always: don’t knock it till you try it.
There’s a lot more to your relationship than your dilemma over sexual preferences – so, don’t hold back and see what else is out there for you both!
Diana Wiley – Dear Dr. Diana
Sometimes a couple may focus on an obvious incompatibility, such as kink vs. vanilla, and this can lead to an impasse.
I recommend to my clients that instead, they find out what sexual activities they are both open to experience, and then explore those together.
Sometimes that exploration can lead to the discovery of unexpected mutual interests (“Hey, who knew we both would like spanking and fantasy role play?”).
More openness to trying new things can foster more experimentation, and that can lead to increased flexibility in what one partner might be willing to try.
Dainis Graveris – Sexual Alpha
It all starts with communication. Find time to talk to your partner about your sexual relationship (or your relationship as a whole).
Make it a weekly or biweekly thing to discuss your feelings. Checking in helps couples share their sexual preferences, expectations, then work toward finding a balance.
As much as possible, talk without blaming each other. Keep an open mind and be patient.
When discussions around sex lead to arguments or are unproductive, or if one partner shuts the topic down, it’s best to speak with a licensed sex therapist.
Seek professional help from someone who has experience helping partners talk about intimacy issues.
Issues surrounding sexual incompatibility tend to be complicated, painful, and full of emotions. However, when you have a third person in the room, communication becomes much more productive.
Aside from talking about sex, change the way you think about it. Hard work and effort from both partners could lead to sexual satisfaction.
Individuals who think this way experience higher satisfaction inside and outside of the bedroom than those who are all about finding the right partner.
Be willing to discuss and explore all sorts of physical and erotic sexuality with each other. Even if you have incompatible sexual preferences right now, who knows what new things you’ll discover when your sexual experiences overlap?
Getting out of your comfort zone may be challenging, but your efforts may be worth it in the end. Like checking in with your partner weekly, set a time to share ideas on some fun stuff and activities you can try together.
Come up with an agreement too that you or your partner shouldn’t make fun or put down the other with the sexual kink that you want to explore.
While doing something for your partner is a nice gesture, make sure that you aren’t doing something you feel bad about or are against your will.
Being sexual together can be a great way to move toward a different route of your sexual relationship.
Of course, you can also make compromises on sex as long as you feel fine about your compromises.
For example, make a weekly sexual date that alternates between your partner’s and your sexual interests.
Agree upon a safe word if one of you feels turned off or uncomfortable with what you’re doing.
Jessica O’Reilly – Sex With Dr Jess
Sexual compatibility is not something you stumble upon perchance. It can be cultivated with communication, effort and understanding.
This means that regardless of how compatible you are today, you can work to become more compatible in the future — if you’re willing to put in the effort to do so.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that you’re compatible with everyone — some issues make compatibility extremely difficult or impossible.
For example, if you want a monogamous relationship and your partner is consensually non-monogamous, it may be difficult to cultivate compatibility.
In order to cultivate compatibility, it can be useful to discuss your needs, desires and boundaries in detail. You can consider the following prompts to do so:
- What does sex mean to you?
- What are the emotional components of sex that are important to you?
- What are the physical components of sex that are important to you?
- What are the practical components of sex that are important to you?
- What are the relational components of sex that are important to you?
- What are the spiritual components of sex that are important to you?
- What types of sex do you enjoy?
- What were your early memories of arousal and pleasure? How do these affect the way you view sex today?
- What holds you back when it comes to sex?
- How do you want to feel before, during and after sex?
- What do you fantasize about? What parts of your fantasies do you want to share/explore?
- How often do you like to have sex (with a partner)?
Dr. Stephanie Buehler – Learn Sex Therapy
The kinky partner needs to get to the root of their sexual needs and negotiate with their partner how to get them met in a way that works for you both.
For example, if they want to spank their partner, maybe it means that they want them to submit to them.
They can ask their partner if there is a way that they would be comfortable showing submission without being spanked. Maybe they would be okay being blindfolded or having their wrists tied.
Another way that has worked for many couples is to negotiate a ratio of kinky to vanilla sex, so for every time they have kinky sex, they have vanilla sex twice, or vice versa.
Some couples with different interests will agree to open up the relationship. Sometimes a kinky partner gets a hall pass to have kinky sex with someone else, or they begin another relationship and develop a polyamorous arrangement.
Anya Laeta – Sf Sex Coaching
As a sex coach, I see many people thinking they are incompatible because their idea of sex is very narrow.
Ideally, if your sexual preferences are misaligned, you can still find things that each of you can do for each other at least once in a while. It will be easier to do by expanding your definition of sex.
If your partner is not open to talking, reading, exploring different options, or seeking out help from a sex coach or sex therapist, you can try using fantasy to merge your preferential gap.
This way, the partner who is into edgier play can still get their needs at least partially met by imagining it while engaging in sex that their spouse likes.
Court Vox – The Body Vox
Traditional therapists will tell you that being in relationship comes with compromise. I personally hate that concept and that word, as I don’t like to compromise my desires, and the fact is if a desire is deep rooted enough, one will move mountains to get it, live it, and experience it.
SO, I much prefer the concept of meeting your partner in their desires.
For someone who is into Vanilla sex, they may discover there are dynamics in kink or D/S (i.e. domination and submission) play that appeal to them enough, and they are willing to play in that space for their partner.
The pleasure of their partner becomes their pleasure, and vice versa for the kinkster who is willing to meet their partner in more sensual play.
If lovers can come to an agreement that connection, presence, and awareness are the common intentions in their sex lives, the type of play and the containers that hold these intentions can shift and vary with more ease.
Another option is to “eat out” or “outsource”. So your partner loves a good flogging or likes to get pegged and you are unwilling to do both. Within boundaries, you can support them in fulfilling this desire elsewhere with someone else.
It might feel safer for them to meet with a sex worker for this, or to have a f++k buddy that satiates this need in them, or maybe they are able to play when they are out of town.
As a couple/partnership you get to make the rules and create the boundaries that feel safe enough for everyone.
Nina Rubin – After Deafeat
Communication is key to sexual compatibility. Sometimes one partner is more experienced or has kinkier ideas/fantasies. The other partner may not know where to start in order to leave their comfort zones.
In these cases, it’s important to talk without judgment or domination and do a lot of listening.
Doing all sexual acts with consent is key.
Finding out where the line is and working gently and slowly up to it.
Talking about how it was.
Stopping at any time for whatever reason without being mad.
Convincing your partner, begging, or dominating the conversation to sway them in one direction is not going to be helpful. Your partner may feel pressured.
Instead, ask when a good time to talk about this is, and express your desires of wanting to enjoy new sexual acts together.
Sometimes seeing a relationship coach or therapist can be helpful to start these conversations.
Go to a sexual products store together and talk to a clerk. Most of the time, the people who work there are knowledgeable and helpful.
Often they offer classes (pleasure chest in Los Angeles) and can help couples become more familiar with safety and comfort leading up to certain sexual acts.
Dr. Talal H. Alsaleem – The Infidelity Counseling Center
Sexual incompatibility is one of the leading relationship factors that can cause sexual affairs. This is why it’s crucial for couples to identify and address these issues whenever they become apparent.
Oftentimes, compatibility is confused with sameness. I conceptualize sexual compatibility as the couple’s ability to have healthy compromises that allow for fulfilling their sexual desires despite their differences.
I always give the analogy of language.
Two people with completely different languages can find a way to have meaning and effective interactions if they can learn to be bilingual rather than abandoning their native tongue and assimilating into a language that is completely different and foreign to them.
In order for this to happen, both partners need to have a clear idea of their sexual identity and preferences and the ability to communicate about it directly and effectively.
Once that is achieved, the couple must determine whether or not those desires are healthy vs. pathological, and it’s important to note that different doesn’t mean pathological. Sexual pathology is defined by very specific clinical criteria.
Once it’s determined that those sexual desires are healthy yet different, the couple needs to negotiate the parameters of what would allow for the fulfillment of those desires without causing distress or harm.
They should distinguish the difference between “going out of my comfort zone by doing something that is not my cup of tea vs. doing something that would cause me physical or emotional harm.”
It’s important to see this as a process of exploration and discovery which lends itself to learning and making corrections.
Exploration and discovery are processes that take time which warrants the need for being methodical and strategic about trying out new things.
In other words, if you want to be successful, don’t jump into the deep end of the pool right away.
First, talk about it, research it, and find reasonable small steps to work toward it.
Lastly, clear rules and boundaries are a must, and those boundaries must be honored to ensure safety. It’s also important to treat this endeavor as an exciting opportunity to grow together through learning about one another’s sexuality.
Nikolina Jeric – 2Date4Love
Here are some ways sexually incompatible partners can do to improve their relationship:
Consider going to therapy.
Problems in the bedroom aren’t just physical in their nature. It happens that partners just have some psychological obstacles they need to overcome to improve their relationship.
However, the journey to resolution might be trickier than you might think and a visit to a trusted professional might help.
Free your mind, and the rest will follow.
Sometimes partners have strict visions of how sex should look like and they’re too afraid to try something new.
If your partner has a difficult time trying out new things, maybe they need to loosen up a bit. Try with small things at first, and one step at a time. Watch porn together, have longer foreplay, and introduce new things gradually, so it doesn’t come as a great shock.
Try an open relationship.
If you think there’s no cure to your sex life with your partner, but you want to stay together, maybe you should try having an open relationship.
They’re hard by default, but they do work for many people. Having other partners who’d be more eager to explore the things you find interesting will help you get the pressure off the relationship you have.
If you and your partner are having different sexual appetites in the bedroom- then you have to compromise to make it work. This means you make a plan to include all flavors of sexual activity- vanilla and spice.
It might seem difficult to do what is out of your comfort zone, but it is always beneficial to break out of your pattern. If you are kinky, it can be good to have plain vanilla and learn about another kind of intimacy.
If you’ve only done vanilla, it can be good to try something new and change the routine.
The important thing is that you both are grounded in love and the willingness to please each other. Talk about it with your partner, negotiate and plan nights where you can have your preference and they could have theirs.
Branching out sexually is good for opening the heart, letting your relationship grow and become stronger. CHANGE IT UP- the soul will benefit from crashing down walls.
Darren Pierre – The Invitation To Love
I believe that relationships are built on communication and trust – with intimate partnerships, I see no difference.
When navigating sexual relationships with a significant other, I believe it is not only appropriate but also something to be celebrated to call into consideration how physical intimacy is (or is not) satisfying your needs.
To come into the conversation clear of judgments (of your partner and more importantly yourself) are crucial first steps in improving the dynamics within a sexual relationship.
Joel Flynn – Gentleman Zone
Don’t put your kink cards off the table for too long. It won’t grow easier to talk about it over time.
Instead, you’ll feel increasingly strange for suddenly bringing it up, and you’ll both become more sexually dissatisfied in the meantime.
The most important thing is to be willing to talk. Communication acts as if a switch was flipped, and one might become a completely new person sexually.
The person who thought anal was gross and had no interest in role-playing or BDSM at all surprised me by building a dungeon in our basement while I was away.
The goal is to keep trying different toys, scenarios, and twists.
Leah Carey – Good Girls Talk
For instance, if a partner who wants kink play is with a partner who wants only vanilla play, conversations can be had around whether the ‘vanilla’ partner is willing to let their partner seek kink outside the relationship. If so, under what conditions?
Perhaps they agree the kinky partner will visit a sex worker to reduce the likelihood of romantic entanglements. Or perhaps they agree that the kinky partner can go to kinky public events as long as they don’t participate in any penetrative activities.
The most important part of these negotiations is that both partners are invested in their partner’s happiness and fulfillment. That doesn’t mean that they give in to everything their partner wants, rather they consider their partner’s wants, needs and desires to be valid and reasonable – no matter how tame or extreme they may judge them to be.
Whatever the boundaries are, they need to be clear, defined, and agreeable to both partners. Any time someone feels like they’ve been forced into a situation they didn’t choose, resentment will fester.
First, and most important, couples must have a conversation about their sexual preferences – and the earlier the better. It would be ideal if they had this conversation at the very beginning of their relationship, but sadly, most couples wait too long.
One partner says “yes” to something they wish to do sexually, and one partner says “no,” and wants the other person to respect their boundaries, however, the partner who still wants the sexual act should be able to have their sexual pleasures met, too.
So, where do you begin when one wants one type of sex only and the other wants to try many flavors?
First, start the conversation about what you like and don’t like and get it all out in the open.
The next step can be reading and/or watching erotica together and then begin fantasizing about the two of you in “erotica” together.
You also can talk about bringing in another person who is agreeable to more adventurous sex.
Take these steps slowly and carefully, examining each person’s desires, and try to problem-solve together honestly and openly.
If you find that, even after taking these steps, your sexual preferences still are not compatible and you have found no common ground, you may want to consider letting go of the relationship. You may not be with the right partner for you.
And yes, it is okay to end a relationship over sexual preferences. It is part of your identity. You don’t want to force your partner and you also don’t want to be caged.
Rebecca Blanton – Love Letters To A Unicorn
When a couple have different sexual desires andneeds, open communication and negotiation are the keys to making the relationship work.
For the partner who enjoys vanilla sex, they need to beclear about what they need for fulfilling intimacy. The vanilla partner should expressissues they have with the desired BDSM activities.
For the partner into BDSM, be clear about what your desires are and what you get out of the kink activities.
Sexual behaviors meet needs beyond the physical:psychological intimacy, emotional connection, and power exchange.
People whoengage in BDSM often enjoy the power play, the ability to be vulnerable, andthe physical intensity.
Likewise, is the dislike of the kink activity because the person sees it a humiliating, reminiscent of abuse they experienced, or arethey just unfamiliar.
The more both partners can communicate about their, the more space they have for negotiation. Every sexual activity has a spectrumfrom simple/easy to complex.
If partners are not on the same page initially, they can negotiate about engaging in parts of the activities they enjoy or findmutual new activities which meet both physical and psychological needs ofintimacy.
Effective and strong communication skills are necessary for any successful and fulfilling relationship, especially an intimate relationship.
Openly and nonjudgmentally discussing our sexual preferences, desires, expectations, and boundaries with our partner is just as important as discussing any other aspect of the relationship that is impacting one or both individuals.
Open communication starts with being clear on what you are sexually wanting within your relationship, your limits, and what feels safe and comfortable for you to share with your partner.
When communicating your needs, consider focusing solely on your own experience, rather than focusing on what you think the other person may want to hear.
A helpful skill is utilizing the “I feel” statement format to express one’s emotional reactions and needs, which can help reduce any defensiveness or discomfort the other person may be feeling.
It’s important to also consider if your preferences/desires are connected to an emotional need of yours, which can help your partner more deeply understand your experience and allow for greater emotional connection.
Effective communication is also being open to your partner’s responses, experiences, and reactions, and demonstrating a willingness to engage in dialogue as it feels safe and comfortable for both people.
Maj Wismann – Web Sexolog
I would ask the couple to focus on the times they felt good intimacy together and see where they could be a match.
It is normal to have different preferences – but sometimes the different preferences in bed get so problematic, that the couple forgets to look at all the things that actually work.
They could also focus on sensuality and eroticism and see if there could be new ways and paths they could walk together to create an “us”-erotic-love map.
Claudia Cox – Text Weapon
Communication is always important in relationships, but in situations like this, it’s key.
Even if you find it difficult to talk to your partner about sex, you need to share your desires. If you want to introduce more kink, explain what you mean. Spanking? Sex toys? Dirty talk?
Using a word like kink or rough sex might be intimidating, but when you break it down to specifics, it’s easier for them to digest.
Once you have gotten the conversation flowing, ask them what they would be comfortable with. Starting a dialog can open up the door to new possibilities.
You never know until you ask. Sometimes just bringing up the subject and talking it through can be a turn-on.
The key is to understand their hard limits and then respect them. Be patient. Something that starts out vanilla could turn into something adventurous…even for you.
Marsha Jackson – Foxtail
Love and sex are not the same, yet they all contribute to our sexual identity. We can only define our sexuality, yet many words are perplexing.
“Sexual compatibility” is one word used in many ways, but what does it mean to you?
In a relationship, physical compatibility is vital, and your bodily demands need to be addressed.
However, some of the couples do not have physical compatibility, and others cannot talk about and fully work on their physical requirements.
In a long-term relationship with low sexual compatibility, it is difficult to adjust and be happy. A flawless future relationship is not a given; however, the repercussions of every decision you make are entirely up to you.
If you’re dedicated, good dialogue and collaboration with your partner towards a common objective would be the finest strategy to handle this problem.
Frequently, couples are dissatisfied with the quantity and quality of intimacy they have with their partner. Couples frequently begin to feel a spiritual, emotional, and bodily disconnect from a loved one.
As the months and years pass, we may begin to feel exploited or taken for granted. Even the most experienced couples find it difficult to talk about sexual intimacy.
It’s generally considered “forbidden,” but after years of working with couples in therapy, it’s even more taboo to be sexually dissatisfied.
Lachlan Brown – Hack Spirit
Sex is an important part of any relationship, but sexual preferences don’t always match. The best way to improve your sexual connection if you’re on different pages is two-fold.
Your partner can’t know what you like if you don’t tell them. If it’s not their thing that’s OK. Don’t be weird or pushy about it but see if they’d be willing to try something new.
If you each like different things then do your best to compromise. I’ll guarantee there will be at least some overlap between your desires and that the compromises won’t hurt too badly if the overall chemistry is strong!
Sexually incompatible couples can use an “A, B, Z” list strategy to attempt to find commonalities or compromises in their disparate sexual preferences.
The “A” list includes physical intimacies or affection both individuals enjoy and want to continue in their sex life, or sexual activities both are excited to explore. The “B” list are sexual activities that can fall into a few categories:
· something one individual wants to try and the other is open to trying,
· something the couple has tried once and aren’t sure if they like it or not and want to revisit,
· something the couple or one individual has heard about and both are willing to try.
The “Z” list are sexual activities that neither member of the couple wants to try. This is important to discuss because it allows for the identification of similarities based on mutual dislike, rather than the more frequent tendency to focus on differences which create a divide in the relationship.
The lists are dynamic in that items can move among the lists as the couple tries new things or learns about new options. It also acts as a tool to encourage open discussion within the relationship about physical intimacy as the couple adds to or changes the lists.
Dr. David Rakofsky – Wellington Counseling Group
In any relationship, communication is key. Unfortunately, many couples neglect to effectively communicate their issues with one another when it comes to sex.
However, if you find that your sexual preferences are not compatible, then speak to one another about it. Just remember to be sensitive to each other’s needs and to listen to what the other person is saying.
Some individuals may struggle to talk openly and honestly about sex. Others may become defensive and uncomfortable when discussing the subject.
If you encounter difficulties when trying to discuss your sexual preferences, then it’s best to seek out a sex therapist, a couples counselor, or another mental health professional for help.
Their personalized and professional guidance will help you talk openly about sex and get to the root of your relationship problems.
Jackie Golob – Shameless Therapy
Couples can improve sexual preferences by seeking help from a sex therapist to navigate preferences and negotiations.
Preferences meaning, let’s run through yes, no, maybe checklists, because not everyone is 100% vanilla sex lovers or 100% kinky.
It’s important to determine that sexuality isn’t dualistic and the importance of exploration or curiosity. There, sex therapy can also dive into turn-ons/offs, fantasies, role-playing, and experimentation.
If one partner is saying nope no kinky sex ever, and the other person loves kinky sex so much that it’s a part of their sexuality, then can we negotiate.
Are there ways to practice ethical non-monogamy with a play partner. This way the person who loves kinky sex isn’t sacrificing their sexual pleasure or a part of them that is so deep and satisfying.
If the other partner doesn’t understand, then it can be important to process this with a sex therapist to navigate sex in the relationship to come up with a compromise.
Lots of times there also desire discrepancies that need to be taken into consideration as well.
Peter Cellarius – Your Growth Counseling
How do you know whether your sexual preferences are compatible?
Well, it’s more about similar erotic turn-ons (and turn-offs), preferences for tried-and-true versus experimentation, shared fantasies, and some alignment on what frequency meets each person’s wants.
That’s great, but what do you do if you miss your partner in one or more of these? How can you improve your relationship, despite differences?
Step one is – stop guessing and start talking. It can be awkward and scary to even talk about sex in a relationship. But here is why it matters.
Happy couples will say that 15-20% of their happiness comes from their sex life. But for unhappy couples, they will say over 50% of their unhappiness comes from their sex life.
Not only that, but a key driver in satisfaction is how each person rates their partner’s ability to communicate, with a more positive rating leading to greater emotional and sexual intimacy.
So in other words – if your partner communicates well about your sexual life, you will already feel more satisfied and compatible.
There is even research that shows that sexual self-disclosure may prevent a decline in sexual satisfaction over time in long-term committed couples.
How do we start, you ask? Sometimes a structured exercise can get you started. A gentle one is called Fishbowl. Here is a dramatization – you start with 100 questions in a bowl.
Take turns pulling out a question and answering it. And see what happens! You may surprise yourself by finding it is not so scary, and maybe even fun.
From here, it will be easier to say – “shall we talk about our sex life some more?” Good luck!
Chris Pleines – Dating Scout
Compromise but take things slow
Couples who are incompatible when it comes to sexual preferences should find a middle ground and work their way to meet each other’s needs somehow. Taking things slow is the key here.
For instance, if the other partner is into kink, they can start with kinks that are beginner-friendly and won’t take too much pressure such as blindfolding or a little rope-tying action.
Of course, you shouldn’t force your partner into things that are too uncomfortable. Take it one step at a time – eventually, you’ll both find the sweet spot of enjoying each other’s sexual preferences.
Be open to new things
Familiarity is often the more comfortable choice but a couple’s mindset should always be about change. B
e open to new things and let your relationship grow with these changes. This includes being open to trying new things outside your comfort zone in the sex department.
It does not hurt to experiment as a couple. Aside from exposing you to wonderful experiences, you will have something to look forward to together and actually helps keep the spark alive in the relationship.
You don’t need to go extreme; small baby steps are perfect as long as you both consent to it and enjoy what you are doing.
Katie Lasson – Peaches and Screams
Do differences in sexual needs always mean relationship failure? Not at all. But the couple must be willing to engage in a fair conversation and accept compromises.
Both sides need to work to find a common language and agree on the best solution.
The focus should be on how sexual intimacy helps and is valuable in the relationship, not on what each person’s individual needs are.
You probably aren’t too surprised by the importance of strong communication in sex life.
Sex can be a sensitive topic, especially if the partners do not feel harmony, but it is still important to express your thoughts.
I encourage my clients to pay attention to the ways in which their needs and insecurities are expressed.
Talk more about your feelings about sex and intimacy. If you communicate respectfully, you will be better able to understand the issue.
As long as you are able to express your views openly and really listen to your partner without blaming or embarrassing them, this aspect should not lead to the termination of the relationship.
Differences in sexuality can only lead to a break-up if you are unable to communicate effectively on the subject and get stuck in a situation where one or both partners are in a defensive position, feel hurt, or have unfounded expectations.
First of all, it’s important to note that it’s not uncommon for couples to have different sexual preferences. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong.
In fact, it can add a healthy dose of sexual tension. I suggest a practice of taking turns for my clients where each person has time and space to explore their desires.
How it looks in practice: decide together how much time to spend in this experimental container – 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours…and each person will have half that time for their turn. When it’s your turn, you get to ask for whatever you want.
Bring your desires forward, while respecting the limits of your partner. You might ask your partner, ‘will you spank me?’ or, ‘can I spank you?’ or, ‘can I pull your hair?’ Notice what sounds great to you at the moment.
Make the request and give your partner space to respond with a yes or no, or to ask for more information. If it’s a no, move on to another request. If it’s a yes, you get to do the action and then make another request. When the time is up, say ‘thank you’ and switch roles.
Now it’s your partner’s turn to ask for what they want. They might ask to be cuddled, or for soft strokes down their back, or for you to tell them five things you love about them. It’s their turn to put their desires forward.
Your job is to pay attention to your limits – are you willing to give them this gift? It may not be what you would ask for, but can you set aside what you want for this time to allow them to find what feels great for them? When the time is up, say ‘you’re welcome’ and close your container.
Amanda Pasciucco – Life Coaching and Therapy
I would use Betty Martin’s Wheel of Consent with that couple and see if we can find common ground.
Maybe one enjoys vanilla sex and one enjoys kinky sex, yet can we find a collaboration in both of them engaging in tantric sex?
This is different than either, yet incredibly pleasurable for those who enjoy long-term partnered sex especially for a couple that is planning on staying monogamously faithful.
Some would also say that they can engage in their preferences during solo sex, yet try to go back and forth each partnered sex time with vanilla sex to kinky sex, so that each of them has their desires met.
Lori Ann Kret – Aspen Relationship Institute
The most amazing, mind-blowing sex you can have is with a long-term committed partner, and it has nothing to do with positions or styles.
True sexual ecstasy is created by being with someone who knows you and loves you deeply. If a couple has that foundation, then there should be enough trust and safety for each partner to explore their desires and boundaries.
Being curious and finding a middle ground starts with identifying the stories they have about sex. Often we think “This is just the way I am..” without recognizing all of the factors throughout our lives that have influenced us to land in this place.
Family culture, religion, societal messages, and early sexual experiences can lock us into certain sexual beliefs and patterns.
When we understand these influences, we’re more empowered to see what else might be true or possible for us in the bedroom. But without taking this step, partners may try to compromise simply for the sake of their partner, creating the potential for more friction, dissatisfaction, and resentment.
Erica Caparelli – A Good Place Therapy
I have found that if couples are not compatible in their sexual interests, this is not a deal breaker! There are many ways that couples can find a way to connect intimately while also having differing sexual needs.
My first suggestion would be for the couple to try to find a middle ground: are there any kinky activities, for example, that are more vanilla-leaning that the vanilla partner would be willing to try out for the kinky partner that is within their limits?
If there is absolutely no middle ground, I would suggest that the couple outsource! This is a suggestion that often scares couples, but there is so much information about how opening a relationship can actually bring partners closer together because of the communication and trust required.
For example, if one partner really wants a dominant partner, but their partner is submissive, the couple can seek out a dominant sex partner for the kinky partner.
They can search together trying to find a good match, while discussing boundaries, wants, and goals, etc–which actually increases their intimacy.
If this isn’t something they’re open to, they could also try non-sexual intimacy exercises focused on emotions and general touch.
Rachel Sommer – My Sex Toy Guide
Having a good sex life is often overlooked by most people. And while it’s an important aspect of a healthy relationship, it’s not always there. Disregarded sexual incompatibility can lead to a sexless marriage or, even worse, lead partners into infidelity.
So, what do you do if your partner doesn’t share the same sexual preferences as you?
The most important remedy is to communicate your sexual needs and desires with your partner. Pick the place and time and have an honest conversation. This way, you can understand each other’s situation, and most importantly, negotiate a compromise frequency.
For instance, if you love bondage and kink and they don’t, you can agree to introduce kink to sex every once in a while so that both parties are happy.
Other interventions might include scheduling sex dates and talking to a sex therapist to help you understand and treat underlying reasons in severe cases.
Sometimes we meet the person of our dreams- they’re smart, funny, have great taste in music and food and you get on brilliantly but something isn’t quite right in the bedroom.
Either your labidos or sexual tastes simply dont match. In these situations sometimes relationships simply cannot work.
However, for the relationship to continue good, positive communication is key, keep each other relaxed and speak positively about the things you do enjoy sexually with each other rather than focusing on the things you don’t enjoy.
Experiment together as far as both parties are comfortable- slowly. Use of a safe word to say when things are getting a bit much- this can be helpful rather than saying stop which can totally ruin the mood.
Find intimacy in other ways, date nights, romantic trips away, snuggling up on the sofa and gentle sexual play are all wonderful ways of being intimate and improving that bond without necessarily involving full blown penetration.
Sarah Melancon – Sex Toy Collective
When there is little sexual overlap, it may be hard to sustain a relationship, but if you share at least some common interests it’s possible to negotiate so everyone is happy.
Have open conversations about your sexual likes, dislikes, and boundaries – and the “why” behind each.
Even if you don’t engage in all your favorite sex acts together, understanding and respecting one another’s desires and limits are still important.
Categorize your sexual desires into: need (cannot live without), want (great but not necessary), and maybe (interested or willing to try).
In a successful relationship, each partner’s “needs” and some of their “wants” must be satisfied, with potential for at least a few of their “maybe’s.”
However, with respectful communication and negotiation, partners don’t HAVE to be the ones fulling all of each other’s desires.
Some of these desires may be addressed through fantasizing, watching porn, reading erotica, enjoying webcam services, non-monogamy, or paid in-person sex work services (such as hiring a dominatrix).
You get to agree on the rules, and what’s most important is that you’re both comfortable — if one or both isn’t fully on board, it’s only a matter of time before it starts affecting your relationship.
Erin Dierickx – Erin D Therapy
Maintain conversation around your sexual preferences and needs. Sex is a huge aspect of relationships and when it gets put on the backburner, this can impact other parts of your relationship down the road.
To have dialogue around your sexual preferences, each partner shares which of their needs are met and which ones are falling short.
If you enjoy or want to explore some kinks or new sexual positions, for instance, discuss what you’d prefer, while also maintaining curiosity about your partner’s preferences.
What draws them to or away from certain preferences? What excites or scares them the most about trying this out? Oftentimes, a lack of experience or knowledge around these kinds of topics is the biggest barrier.
No one should ever feel pressured to try something they are not comfortable with or do not want.
But that does not mean there cannot be a conversation around their discomfort or fears regarding a new way of experiencing sex with their partner.
Through conversation around your sexual relationship, not only can you gain clarity on your partner’s preferences, but you may also find a way to compromise.
The continual dialogue will make conversations moving forward easier to have and may offer opportunities for new sexual experiences in the future.
If you are having difficulty with conversations around sexual preferences, needs, and differences, couple, relationship, and sex therapy can be helpful with navigating these conversations while also strengthening your relationship.
Justin Brown – Ideapod
When a couple has different sex preferences it can be difficult to compromise. The example of one partner liking kink and the other preferring vanilla sex is quite common.
The best solution is to communicate openly and express your desires to your partner. They can’t know what you want if you don’t tell them.
In addition, it’s important to be a little bit open to compromise. Never do something you’re uncomfortable with, but consider trying what your partner wants at least once and seeing if it’s your cup of tea.
Gabrielle Usatynski – Power Couples Education
There’s a huge difference between a couple having different preferences for sexual positions versus having major differences in sexual lifestyle choices that reflect each partner’s fundamental values or identity.
The latter type of difference is a big ticket item that should be discussed by the couple right from the start of their relationship as part of deciding if they’re a good match.
One partner may feel that certain alternative sexual practices, whether that’s kink, BDSM, or polyamory are not in line with who they are as a person.
In this case, getting into a relationship with a partner who experiences these practices as a basic need is a big mistake.
Many couples come to therapy because they’re well into their relationship and they didn’t deal with these major sexual differences right away.
They knew that these differences were probably going to be deal breakers for the relationship, so they chose to ignore the issue. Now they’re two kids and a house in and up the creek without a paddle.
The moral of the story: Communication is key, right from the beginning. Be true to who you are and what you want. Be willing to walk away if it’s not the right match.
I recommend trying something your partner prefers, which often leads to something new that works for both.
For example, May prefers sex with a rough edge and likes her lover to scratch her or bite her during sex. Jay prefers gentle, slow sex but doesn’t hate rough sex.
May and Jay talk openly about their preferences and their needs and agree to have some gentle, slow sex and some rough sex. Obviously, this works best if one partner feels neutral about the other’s preference.
If a partner has an aversion to their partner’s preference, then these negotiations can be more difficult. Sometimes considering consensual non-monogamy (having more than one partner) is a good solution.
For example, Jeff prefers BDSM and gets the most sexual satisfaction when he is receiving pain (like spankings). Robin doesn’t like BDSM. They agree to Jeff finding a BDSM partner to play with but not have genital sex with.
Jeff and Wendy meet for BDSM dates every few weeks. Because Jeff is getting his needs met and the pressure is off Robin to do something they don’t want to do, the relationship improves.
Adding another partner requires lots of communication and clear agreements, which is where I recommend working with a professional coach or therapist.
Saba Harouni Lurie – Take Root Therapy
My first suggestion is exploring your own sexual preferences, and becoming curious about your partner’s sexual interests.
From a place of curiosity and authenticity, have open discussions.
Take special care to be respectful and generous in how you receive information from your partner, and how you communicate about your own.
Research shows that actual sexual compatibility is less important than a couple’s perception of being well-matched in the realm of sexuality.
So for couples who have some areas of sexual incompatibility, it’s a wise idea to focus on the areas where compatibility is high.
For example, if one partner enjoys vanilla sexual intercourse and the other likes to get a bit wild, it’s important to focus on finding a middle ground that feels inviting to both partners.
And, if there are areas that are naturally pleasing to both partners—such as massage, kissing, and taking baths together—spend more time focusing on the areas that do provide mutual pleasure.
As with all other areas of romantic relationships, when we focus on the positive—the areas of sexual compatibility and connection—we’re far more likely to be satisfied.
Thank you so much to all the experts that have contributed to this expert roundup! If you feel that this post helped you in any way, then please share it with your friends and followers on social media.