How to compromise in the bedroom

Words by Evangeline Polymeneas

Sexual negotiation.

Have you ever wanted to cuddle with your partner, but they don’t want to because they’re too hot? Yeah, me too and it sucks. Finding a compromise where I feel physically connected to my boyfriend but he can survive through the night without heat stroke comes in the form of having one of my legs touch one of his legs. And that’s on compromise. 

When navigating a relationship, identifying, acknowledging and achieving each other’s needs together can be frustrating at times, even for seemingly perfect couples.

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But it’s normal for this to happen when two unique and separate people come together, regardless of how much love or mutual respect there might be – especially when your needs or desires change. It’s important to find that happy medium to ensure resentment is kept at bay and you’re both getting what you need out of the relationship.

And what happens or doesn’t happen in the bedroom can involve compromise too. If there’s a discrepancy in your sexual desires or interests, healthy dialogue and open communication are vital. 

To grab some tips and tricks on compromising in the bedroom, I enlisted the help of sex coach, Georgia Grace“The first thing is to talk about it. Sit down in a non-sexual context to speak it through. Learn what they’re curious about and try not to shame, embarrass or judge them for being open. Just create a safe space to talk about it. 

“As you gather information together and share boundaries, you share what you’re curious about and if it’s still something that you don’t want to do, let them know that just because they want to do it, [it] doesn’t mean you have to and that’s totally okay and healthy and normal,” she explains.

Georgia notes that just because you might not see eye to eye with your partner when it comes to something they want to try in the bedroom, that doesn’t mean that you’re not sexually compatible or in the wrong relationship, “It just means that you have different interests about this specific thing”. 

In terms of actually having these conversations, Georgia says the way to approach them will vary from relationship to relationship, but at the end of the day it comes down to consistent communication.

“Talking during, before and after [trying something out]. Be open about your wants, needs and desires and have the capacity to check in and create that capacity for one another to learn about each other’s bodies. Give information about your body, be really open about how you want to be touched.” 

Georgia emphasises the importance of the concept of ‘willing and wanting’ which is the delicate tug of war game that you play with your partner when you’re discussing your sexual desires. To have healthy compromise in the bedroom, Georgia says you need to know the difference between wanting and willing. 

“Wanting being ‘I am wanting this for myself, I am receiving this’ and willing being ‘I am willing to do it with a full heart’,” she explains. “Often I feel like people think, ‘I want you to want to give this to me’, and that’s very human. Everyone wants their partner to go down on them or to kiss them, or to want to have sex with them, but you need the ‘willing’,” she explains.

To decide whether you’re willing Georgia suggests asking yourself, ‘Can I give this with a full heart? Am I present? Do I feel safe? Do I feel connected? Does it feel exciting? Does it feel great?’.

If you don’t feel comfortable straight away, you could say to your partner, “No, I don’t want to do that thing, can you ask for something else?”, or “I would be willing to do it if it looked like this or if we practised it first, or if we did it with our clothes on”. These discussions aim to co-create a sexual experience that both people involved are consenting to and enjoying.  

Georgia says not to underestimate the power of being willing to give. “It can feel really great to be willing, to be giving, to be generous, to be able to give someone what they want, there is lots of power and beauty and greatness that comes from that, but just getting really clear on those two roles and if you think that perhaps, in those moments, you’re not really willing or you’re putting up with or it doesn’t feel like you’re giving with a full heart, then you would want to touch base.” 

After these discussions, if you or your partner is not willing to move ahead with something, it’s vital that it’s dropped. “If they aren’t willing then you’re intending to persuade them. Yes, there is open communication to talk about it, but if they say, ‘No I don’t want to do it’, ‘This conversation isn’t exciting to me’ or it’s verging on triggering, then you have to take that as their no,” explains Georgia. 

So far, our discussion on compromising has mostly been in the context of trying something out, whether that be a position, sex toy or kink – but how do you compromise if your sex drives are different? 

“Frequency is something I work with all the time with couples,” Georgia says. She suggests that couples with a mismatched sex drive should discuss what the person who desires the sex is wanting out of it. “What is sex giving you? Why do you want it? Is it to feel intimate? Is it the physical touch? How could you ask for more of that or have that on a regular basis that maybe isn’t just about sex?”.

For the person who may not be desiring sex as often, Georgia says if they’re still actively acknowledging that sex is important to them and their relationship, they could work on what they would be willing to do to compromise in the situation. 

In saying all this, while contemplating the concept of compromising in the bedroom, a few alarm bells rang in my mind. Consent is non-negotiable. If it isn’t a fuck yes, then it’s a fuck no. So is it even possible to compromise in the bedroom if consent requires all parties to be 100 per cent on board with everything going on? I put this to Georgia.  

“I think the word compromise can get people sometimes, because, of course when it comes to consent we want a full-bodied yes, we want to feel safe, it is so obviously essential,” she says. “When people think ‘compromising’ they think you’re compromising your consent, but this is not what that is about – this is meeting, communicating and finding a way to co-create together, whilst you’re consenting and getting creative.” 

The word ‘compromise’ has particular connotations that could suggest you’re changing what you’re comfortable with to satisfy someone else’s desires or needs. But in this context, that shouldn’t be the case. 

Compromising is coming together as individuals and creating a situation where both of your needs and desires and met. It’s about creating a new situation where to obtain consent, everyone involved is answering “Fuck yes”.

For more on compromising in the bedroom, try this.

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