The Hook Up: Spicing up a long-term relationship and how to recover from a regrettable night

I have been good friends with this straight girl for a while now. I’ve always had a little crush on her but never anything we explored. She recently asked me if we could fool around and I agreed. We got drunk and had sex and now I’m finding it difficult to cope. She has gone on with life without giving it a second thought (at least she hasn’t discussed any thoughts with me) and I’m finding it hard to think about anything else. I thought I would be able to handle it, but obviously I was wrong. Where do we go from here?

Anna says: The short version is you cut your losses, learn from the experience, and realize that next time you might have to be more cautious about straight girls you share your sheets with. The longer version involves more introspection. Did you go into this scenario thinking that you would start dating? What exactly is consuming your thoughts? Think about that, and once you’ve pinpointed what’s bothering you, sit this girl down and have a talk with her. She might be reeling from the same kinds of conflicting emotions you are and is just better at hiding it, for all you know. Or, she may have simply decided that sleeping with women is not her cup of lube, but doesn’t know how to broach the subject with you now that you’ve crossed a friend boundary. That happened to me once. I almost lost a really good friend out of the deal because we both didn’t want to have an awkward conversation or hurt each other’s feelings. We did finally sit down and apologized to each other for being silly and then we hugged and cried like lesbians. It was great.

Whatever her story is, you’ll never be certain until you have a face-to-face. Do it sooner than later, so you can avoid torturing yourself wondering what’s going on with her and with your friendship. It’s worth it, in the long run, I assure you. Have the talk. And think twice next time before saddling up with a straight gal. Maybe think three times, actually.

I haven’t been very interested in having sex with my girlfriend of two years in a while. It’s very rare that we do, and it’s almost always her idea, and it’s a bit mediocre for me. And this has not gone unnoticed. She’s asked me if she’s a good lover, and I’ve always reassured her that yes, she is, and it’s entirely my fault that I’m not in the mood, and found something else to blame it on.

Except when I decided to actually think about it and be honest with myself, it’s her. I love her dearly and plan to marry her, but the sex has been stale for a year or so. She considers herself sexually adventurous, but I’ve never really seen much of that. I’m really bored, sexually, and am terrified thinking of this being my sex life until I die. So, I gotta fix it. But I’ve spent so much time telling her she’s a good, nay, great lover that I don’t know how to reverse this and say, “This is boring! You need new tricks!” And how does one learn new tricks without sleeping with new people? (Something I’m actually not opposed to and would probably welcome but she might be against it. Or not.) I don’t want to lose a good relationship because of bad sex, but I’m getting frustrated! Help!

Anna says: One of my dating profile pet peeves is when someone says they’re great in bed. Not because I don’t believe them (though I often don’t), but because being “great” in bed is so subjective. It varies not only from person to person, but even from moment to moment, depending on mood, chemistry, time, quantity of 3 am nachos consumed, etc.

That said, it’s not about being a good or bad lover, per se. Wanting to stoke the fires in a long-term relationship doesn’t mean you were lying the whole time when you said she was rocking your world in the sack. Though in this case you were lying, but frankly, telling her that now isn’t going to help your cause, or your stale sex life. So, going forward, no more lying. No more sugar coating. If you’re unhappy with the sex you’re having, and you want to do something about it, you have to speak up! Also, just as an aside, you should be comfortable broaching issues like this that are important to you before you even think about exchanging any kind of vows. Yeah? Yeah!

Moving on to the tricky part. We have incredibly fragile egos, and I’m guessing your girlfriend does especially, otherwise she wouldn’t be asking you for sexual validation so often. So you have to frame your conversations (yes, there will be more than one) in a positive way that puts the onus on both of you to get out of this rut. Thankfully, all honesty doesn’t have to be “brutal.” You can be direct without going all Simon Cowell on her. For instance, under no circumstances should you say, “This is boring” to someone you’re regularly sleeping with. Unless you’re playing some kind of perverse Mr. Rogers role-playing game, insulting your partner isn’t going to do anything to help them feel comfortable and confident, two vital components to stellar sex. Instead, make it about you by saying something like, “I want to try this new thing.” In a similar vein, you’ll want to avoid blanket statements like, “You never” or “You always” when talking about sex, which are counterproductive and tend to make people grouchy and defensive.

It’s also important to be as specific as possible. Most of us are terrible about this. We assume that certain acts are no-brainers, and that our partners should know exactly how to please us all the time, especially if they’ve been with us for a long time. When they don’t understand that a jaunty sidekick means a little to the left, we get frustrated that our needs aren’t being met. This is why it’s important to be specific. When you say, “You need new tricks” or “We always do the same things” what does that actually mean? If you can’t break it down, then you’re going to have a hard time getting your partner to change her behaviors for the better.

I’m not against you opening your relationship up to include other people, but not as a solution to your current bed troubles. You can approach outside partners only after your relationship is back on solid ground. This includes lots more communication, trust, and honesty to draw from. If you try to short circuit the process, and treat orgies as the ticket to fixing your relationship problems, the whole thing will blow up in your face. And not in the good way.

Lastly, don’t forget to show a little compassion. It takes two to make a stale sex life. If your partner has inhibitions that are interfering with intimacy, be sympathetic, and ask what you can do to make her feel good. Ask how you can be a better lover to her. This not only takes some of the pressure off, but shows that you’re both in this together, and willing to work toward making your relationship the hottest imaginable.

Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at askthehookup@gmail.com.

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