Any athlete will tell you that the key to reaching peak performance is to relax and to maintain your self-confidence when the big moment arrives. And any good coach knows he must boost his player’s self-esteem while still pointing out where he needs to improve. It’s a difficult trick on the ball field, an even harder one in the bedroom.
In a world where we’re surrounded by Viagra ads offering better sexual performance, it’s no wonder many men are anxious. Women who watch sexual romps on prime-time shows may feel dissatisfied with their own sex lives.
But how does a woman tell her man that he’s not quite performing at his peak? Most of us have no problem complaining about neatness or driving habits or our partners’ punctuality.
When it comes to dissatisfaction in the bedroom, however, men and women alike are often afraid to speak.
We want our star player to step up to the plate. But in most cases, we don’t know how to help him improve in bed without damaging his ego.
The first step to helping your partner sparkle, however, is to realize that you’re not alone. In a TODAY Show/Men’s Health survey of 5,000 men and women, you revealed your most common bedroom complaints:
- About one in five women rates her partner’s sexual skills as average or worse. But 25 percent of all women have never given their man any suggestions in bed. Main reason by far: “Afraid of hurting his feelings” (50 percent of those women who keep quiet).
- And yet, men claim they are open to criticism. Fully 80 percent of men say: “Whatever you want, all you have to do is ask.” An additional 17 percent are open to feedback … if she’s “nice about it.” Only 3 percent say they don’t want to hear anything.
- Women are more reserved — 59 percent of them say “whatever you want (almost), all you have to do is ask.” Another 32 percent will take feedback if it’s nicely presented.
- 64 percent of women say that when they’ve given their partner feedback on his bedroom skills, it’s really improved their sex lives. Among men who gave suggestions to women, 58 percent say it worked.
- The best time to offer constructive criticism is during sex, according to 58 percent of men and 53 percent of women. Many sex therapists, however, say it’s better to wait until you’re outside of the bedroom to bring this up.
- Men are most insecure about how long they last in bed (36 percent), followed by their size (18 percent). Among women, 22 percent of women say their partner’s lack of staying power is their biggest complaint.
- Women are most insecure about their weight (40 percent), and their struggle to reach orgasm (14 percent).
- 39 percent of women say the biggest mistake a man makes is not spending enough time on foreplay. But 34 percent of men say it’s the area they’re most proud of.
- And here’s a bit of a surprise. When listing complaints, 29 percent of men say she does everything just fine — they just want to do it more often. Among women, that number jumps to 35 percent.
- Among both men and women, one in four agrees with the statement “It’s extremely important that my partner thinks I’m great in bed. It affects my confidence in the rest of my life.”
To find the full results of the TODAY/Men's Health survey, click here.
Sound familiar? Well, here’s the good news: You don’t have to settle for mediocre sex. Here are six strategies for getting the sex you want:
Make feedback sexy, not strained
Improving your sex life doesn’t have to mean a stilted discussion. The change can come from in-the-throes encouragement rather than pointing out his flaws. Show him how you’d like to be touched by grazing his body gently with your fingers rather than grabbing. Moaning, increased urgency and verbal enthusiasm will let him know what turns you on, while gentle redirection with hand or body position will show him what doesn’t.
Foreplay should be a progression, not a sprint. Watching a sexy movie together, flirting over a romantic meal, whispering compliments in the midst of a crowded party or cooking breakfast together can all be a prelude to more connected sex. Slow-burning foreplay isn’t only better for you: Longer foreplay helps men synchronize with their partners, giving them better control over ejaculation. And according to a “Men’s Health” survey, more than 75 percent of men said that they want foreplay to last 15 minutes or more, which ought to please the 84 percent of women who agree.
Get the timing right
Most couples fall into a rut of having sex at bedtime, but the workweek is the worst time for rock-the-firmament lovemaking. In a survey, 64 percent of men said that exhaustion, stress and packed schedules are the three biggest sex blockers, and women cite being “too tired” as their No. 1 turn-off. So switch up your regular schedule: Order dinner in after a stressful day and canoodle while you wait, or indulge a lazy Saturday morning in bed — times when you’re both stress-free, well-rested and better able to focus on one another.
Foster a feeling of emotional closeness
A third of men and almost half of women say that feeling emotionally connected is the most important part of mind-blowing sex. Open your eyes and savor the moment. Pause to breathe and establish eye contact between kisses, be aware of every touch and caress and be open in conveying your pleasure. The more secure you both feel, the less guarded sex will become.
Quell his insecurities
While you may feel shy about stripping down, men are most insecure about pleasing you physically. Let him know what he’s doing right. What turns men on most in bed, according to 39 percent of the men surveyed, is not that you have a perfect body or expensive lingerie. It’s your unbridled enthusiasm. So grip the sheets. Beg. Plead. For men, there’s no better way to ease his fears than to show him you’re enjoying yourself.
Take the lead
According to a 2006 “Men’s Health”/“Cosmopolitan” survey, 66 percent of men wish women would initiate sex more often. Men want to feel wanted. And harnessing your sexual instincts may have a scientific basis as well. An Illinois State University researcher found that if the woman initiated sex as often as the man in a relationship, the couple reported having a more satisfying sex life than if the man was the main instigator.