Tracey Cox: How honest should you be in bed?

A well-timed moan that wasn’t entirely genuine, pretending to love being tied up because you know your partner gets turned on by it….we’re all guilty of telling lies to boost our partner’s ego.

The question is: when is it OK to fib about sex and when isn’t it?

There are some who believe full sexual disclosure is always best for your relationship – I am not one of them.

Sex makes us feel vulnerable: we’re sensitive to criticism and quick to get performance paranoid if we’re told we aren’t doing something properly in a non-too-subtle way.


Relationship expert Tracey Cox reveals when to be honest with your partner in the bedroom and when a white lie really is the kinder option

Quite frankly, I find people who ‘tell it like it is’ and say things like ‘I never lie – people know where they stand with me’ to be the least likeable, least popular people I meet.

We tell a dozen social lies daily to make others feel better and to make life run smoothly, why on earth wouldn’t we tell white lies in bed with the person who means the most to us?

There are some sex situations that would devastate our partner knowing the truth: imagine coming out in some new sexy underwear and your partner saying, ‘Wow! That really does nothing for you!’

There are definitely some sex situations where lying will accomplish little but make your partner feel dreadful.

Then there are others when lying means your sex life and relationship will never, ever be satisfying for either of you. Here’s my take on what falls into which category.

You’d rather stick pins in your eyes than have sex

Your partner’s hitting on you and you have the worst cold you’ve had in years; it’s midnight and you have a hugely important work day looming; you have a baby or young kids that you’ve taken three hours to settle.

Is it OK to say ‘Sorry honey but I’m going to pass this time’? in this type of circumstance?

Hell yes! There are numerous occasions when you should be honest about not wanting sex.

Tracey says that it is OK to pretend to enjoy a partner's 'new technique' more than you did

Tracey says that it is OK to pretend to enjoy a partner’s ‘new technique’ more than you did

But what if your partner suggests sex and it’s a ‘perfect’ sex scenario (you’re on holidays, rested, feeling and looking good, just had a brilliant night out etc) and you’re still not interested?

If you fall into the category of ‘I am never going to want sex, ever’, speak up now or lose your relationship.

There are many reasons why this can happen: you love but don’t fancy your partner anymore, monogamy has become monotonous or you’ve lost your libido through surgery, medication, menopause or age.

There are ways to navigate these hurdles but without an honest conversation, you haven’t got a hope.

They’re doing something that hurts

You should tell your partner if sex is hurting, without exception.

Quite apart from the fact that (unwanted) pain is highly unpleasant, it’s a warning sign: it means they’re doing something to your body that it doesn’t like or there’s something wrong.

Sometimes, the pain can be fleeting and nothing to worry about: your partner’s penis hits your cervix, you say ‘Oww!’, you adjust the angle of penetration and all is fine again.

Other times sex hurts because you’re not fully aroused (there’s not been enough foreplay to allow the vagina to expand and lubricate) or your body has changed (menopause can lead to thinning of the lining of the vagina making penetration painful).

Not speaking up in that scenario means you’re going to start dreading intercourse – and be even more anxious the next time around, leading to even more pain.

Sex may also hurt when you’re trying something new – like anal stimulation or intercourse – when it’s even more important to give your partner feedback.

There is no situation when speaking up doesn’t apply.

Always, ALWAYS be honest about pain.

Their technique isn’t working

OK this is one that’s debatable.

If your partner has made the effort to try something new and is giving it their all and obviously pleased with themselves for making an effort, there is absolutely an argument for fudging the truth and pretending you’re enjoying it more than you did.

(On the flip-side, don’t be too convincing or they’ll think you want it every time you have sex!)

She says it is important to speak up if sex is painful or if you don't want to have it full stop

She says it is important to speak up if sex is painful or if you don’t want to have it full stop

If we’re talking that you don’t like the technique your partner uses pretty much all of the time, you have no choice but to ‘fess up (or have rubbish sex for as long as you’re together).

Besides, most men like honesty and guidance when it comes to technique because it’s not immediately obvious whether we like or don’t like something (whereas his penis instantly lets us know).

How to broach it when you’ve been pretending you like something for years?

Say, ‘I think my body is changing because I used to love how you do X but the last few times, it doesn’t feel as good as it used to. Could we try doing Y instead?’

I’m a huge fan of white lies that are used to protect our partner’s feelings, so no apologies for suggesting you package the truth within one.

Really, what’s to be gained by saying, ‘Actually honey, you know all those hours you’ve spent getting a cricked neck and knackered tongue? Well, they were all wasted’.

You know you’re not going to orgasm

Most people know their bodies well enough to know when there’s a strong chance they won’t climax.

One too many wines (alcohol numbs bits as well as brains), too preoccupied or anxious about something, you’re worried your kids/flatmates/mother-in-law will hear, don’t feel that great, who knows why but you just know.

Just because you know you won’t orgasm doesn’t mean you don’t fancy sex – the question is, do you let them know in advance that you won’t climax or fake it?

For most couples, this one’s a no-brainer: if you have no problems climaxing the rest of the time, it’s no big deal to say you probably won’t this time.

Not so for others.

I counselled a couple who eventually split because her partner was so hugely competitive, he refused to stop trying until she had an orgasm – no matter how long it took.

He took enormous offence at her body not responding to him and would insist on hours (and I do mean hours) of stimulation, determined to make it happen.

Meanwhile, she was equally as determined not to orgasm because of the pressure he was putting on her to do so.

(Hopefully, I don’t need to point out that if you feel under similar pressure, get the hell out of there.)

Whether you’ve already tried something with an ex

What do you have to gain by being honest about this other than making your partner feel uncomfortable?

Some people can’t resist saying they’ve done something before, simply because they like to ‘one-up’ their partner.

But this won’t score you sexual brownie points, simply spark unwelcome images of you with another person and make them feel paranoid they won’t measure up.

You had an STI but it’s gone now

BIG emphasis on ‘but it’s gone now’.

Most people know STI’s like herpes lie dormant but never leave and thanks to something called ‘asymptomatic shedding’ can infect others even when you have no symptoms.

Herpes is a viral STI which means it can be controlled but not cured (genital warts, HPV and HIV are also viral).

Bacterial STI’s like chlamydia and gonorrhoea, can be cured with a course of antibiotics.

If your STI was bacterial, you’ve been treated and there’s no way you can pass it onto your partner, it’s totally your business whether to own up to it or not – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

You had a sexually traumatic experience in the past

If it’s not serious, revealing something highly personal will do little more than make you feel vulnerable and exposed.

But if you want to have a relationship with this person, it makes sense to tell them what happened because it will have shaped who are you sexually.

Don’t rush into confessing: wait until you feel you can trust them 100 per cent and feel safe confiding in them, even if that takes months or longer.

If the trauma means you need to wait until you have sex with them but don’t want to reveal why, say ‘I’d really like to wait before we take this through to sex’. If they ask why, say ‘I need to feel sure of us and safe before I sleep with someone’.

A kind, intuitive partner will guess something has happened in your past.

If they press you for details you aren’t willing to give, this person is not right for you.

You’re actually not into the thing they are

This one definitely tips into the grey area.

Is it a thing that they like doing now and then and you don’t love it but don’t hate it?

I think this falls into the ‘things we do to please our partner’ category and is worth keeping quiet about.

But what if it’s something your partner’s really into and you really don’t enjoy it?

At the far end of the spectrum you have a fetish: when your partner persistently and repetitively is dependent on non-living objects (like shoes or lingerie) or needs to focus on a specific body part (like feet) in order to become aroused.

I’m not talking the boyfriend who gets off on your wearing your heels to bed but the guy who won’t go to bed with you, unless you are wearing your heels.

You have little choice with a fetish: you try to find a way to work with it or send them off to a sex therapist with fingers crossed.

But if it’s something they really like but aren’t wed to, it’s well worth opening your mouth and saying it doesn’t do it for you.

Most people are open to ‘tweaking’ their ‘thing’ to suit their partner or trying something else that makes both of you shiver with anticipation rather than dread.

Speak up!

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