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Common Sex Problems Couples Have (& How To Fix 'Em)

Sick of not having great sex? Hmm, perhaps this can help.

Sex

I'm a quotes person, right? Well, one of my all-time favorite ones is, "Complain to someone who can help you." While I certainly don't profess to have all of the answers when it comes to sex, after working with couples for many years now, there are 10 major problems that I tend to hear, on loop. So, I figured that there's a pretty good chance that some of y'all may either be experiencing them as well or, you know someone who says their sex life currently sucks and they're looking for the reason(s) why that could be the case.


These aren't all of the challenges that couples face. Yet I do think that if fireworks aren't currently going off in your world, reading this might help to connect some dots, create some solutions and get you back to being all hot 'n bothered, in the best way possible, tonight.

1. Boredom

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I'm not the least bit ashamed to say that one of my favorite movies isThe Fault in Our Stars and one of my favorite lines in it is when one of the characters says, "A lot of times, we don't understand the promises we make when we make them." Man, if I could provide a bottom line statement for why so many married couples divorce, that would have to be it. A lot of folks don't take the "my word is bond" approach to their marriage vows and so, they'll call it quits, for just about any reason these days; including boredom. Yep. More and more, boredom is becoming a leading cause for why relationships are ending and sex lives are suffering. The love can be there. The chemistry can be there. And still, if folks feel like things have become too routine and ho-hum, they'll dip out.

If you're reading this and nodding your head up and down because, while you're not thinking about ending your relationship, you're literally bored to tears, it's not OK to simply — pardon the pun — lay down and take it. If you do, it could lead to resentment and/or faking it and/or cheating. If you're bored, you definitely need to let your partner know. Not just outside of the bedroom, inside of the bedroom too because if having sex with your partner is basically like watching paint dry, you deserve sooooo much more.

Solution: You and your partner should consider putting together a sex bucket list on an annual basis. Have each of you jot down 12 things that you'd like to try and then attempt to do two of them (one from each person's list) every month. It's an easy way to break up the monotony, add more spice to your boudoir and give you something to look forward to too.

2. Different Sleep Schedules

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According to several studies, around 75 percent of long-term couples do not go to bed at the same time. While on the surface, this might not seem like such a big deal, the reason why this isn't something to shrug off is, due to hectic schedules, a lot of people aren't able to get any quality time in with their boo until they are able to crawl into bed and pillow talk with them. Not to mention that it can be hard to get some if you're a night owl, your partner is an early riser and you'd prefer to have sex at midnight while they want it at 5 a.m. The result? Only sex on the weekends or sometimes, even less than that.

Solution: There are many couples I've worked with where having different sleep schedules has been a huge cause of why they have sex less and less. My suggestion has been to compromise. While it might not be realistic to expect you and your partner to cuddle up together, at the same time, each and every night, there should be at least two nights a week that it does indeed occur. It ups the chances for some much-needed quality time, feeling emotionally connected and…getting some as well.

3. Body Changes

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I don't care how old you are when you get into your relationship, at some point, your body is going to change. Age changes us. Hormonal shifts change us. Having children changes us. The list goes on and on. Thing is, if we don't stay on top of these realities, when we find ourselves having less sex, less stamina or fewer orgasms, it could result in us thinking that something is wrong with our relationship when really, it's just that physically, we are going through a bit of a transition.

Solution: I can't tell you how many people I know — mostly Black folks — who rarely ever go to the doctor. Listen, while I'm the first person to give westernized medicine the perpetual side-eye, there is something to be said for not "Google diagnosing" everything and actually having an annual physical. One of the benefits is so you can get your body — and hormone levels — checked out so that you can confirm that things are running smoothly.

Another thing to consider when it comes to body changes is to be intentional about remaining body positive when it comes to how you see yourself and your partner (check out "These 10 Hacks Will Help You Love Your Body More" and "10 Sensuous Ways To Boost Your Sexual Self-Esteem").

You know, I once had a blog that featured different married couples. When I asked one of the husbands what he loved about his wife's body, he said, "I love that when God created her, he had me in mind." This was a few years in and after kids, by the way.

Body changes are bound to happen. Taking care of your health while embracing your transitions is the key to remaining confident and maintaining a thriving sex life.

4. Mediocre Foreplay

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I believe I shared before that, one time, when I was about to close out a series of sessions (years' worth, in fact) with a particular married couple and I asked both of them what they desired sexually from one another, moving forward. The wife said that she wanted to stop using her own saliva to make herself wet. What. In. The. Entire. World? She went on to share that while the intercourse itself was pretty on-point, the foreplay, oftentimes, was mediocre at best. And yes, while I know that can sound crazy on the surface, when you stop to really think about it, some folks can get the positions and strokes down yet the warming up stage is a bit subpar. This can oftentimes be the case with a couple who's been having sex for a while and has taken the seduction phase for granted or a couple who never really made mastering foreplay a priority in the first place.

Solution: A very basic definition of foreplay is a prelude to intercourse that consists of acts that lead to sexual stimulation. Earlier this year, when I wrote the article, "Mental Foreplay Hacks That Ultimately Takes Intercourse To New Levels" for the platform, it was to serve as a reminder that the best foreplay masters are people who know that it's important to stimulate the mind, body and spirit. Flirt. Cultivate ambiance. Be more romantic. Play around with phone sex. Dress up sometimes. Try things like orgasmic meditation. Up your oral sex game. Bring in some ice, fruit and chocolate. Get out of your bedroom. TAKE. YOUR. DAMN. TIME. When foreplay is treated like a part of the experience and not just "a way to get him hard or her wet real quick", it can make sex so much better — from beginning to end.

5. A Bonging Biological Clock

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Babies are a blessing. I am reminded of this very fact, every time I am afforded the honor and privilege of helping to bring a baby into the world (as a doula). Unfortunately, for some couples, conceiving is way more difficult than it is for others. Believe you me, I get that. However, sometimes the desire to get pregnant can become so all-consuming that it ends up taking a real toll on a couple's relationship, including their sex life. Case in point, I know a wife who shared with me that she and her husband almost ended up getting a divorce while they were trying to have their daughter because a couple of years of "trying" resulted in sex that was so planned that it became mechanical which caused both of them to become turned off by the very act. A husband recently shared with me that he's considering cheating on his wife because all that she ever talks about is getting pregnant. It's gotten to the point that he doesn't even want to talk to her — or have sex with her — at all.

Solution: Sex is the most natural way to become pregnant. However, that is not the only purpose of the act. Shoot, the oxytocin boosts (which help you to feel closer to your partner) alone help to confirm that it's an activity that's also about emotionally connecting with your partner and experiencing an immense amount of physical pleasure. Y'all, something that I tell people who are trying to have a baby is it's a lot like making homemade chocolate chip cookies in the sense that, even when you've got all of the right ingredients together, you've still gotta give the oven time to do its job. Timing, along with good health and low stress, play a significant role in conception. CHILL. Besides, you don't want to be so obsessed with conceiving and/or your biological clock that it ultimately costs you a good sex life and, quite possibly, your relationship too.

6. Shifts in Sex Drives

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It's kind of unfortunate that, when a couple isn't having as much sex as they typically do, the natural assumption tends to either be that someone is cheating or that someone isn't interested in their partner anymore. While both instances are sometimes the case, it should also go on record that certain medications, fatigue, anxiety, worry, too little or too much exercise, the abuse/misuse of alcohol or drugs, low self-esteem and even straight-up aging can play a direct role too. In other words, sometimes the mind is willing while the body or emotions are waning just a bit.

Solution: When it comes to this particular sex-related issue, it's a good idea to go by process of elimination. One way to approach this most effectively is to do a little sex journaling. Try and think back to when your sex life was pretty consistent. Then jot down any changes that have happened between now and then. If they're lifestyle-related, you'll know what to add or eliminate. If it's something that requires a professional's attention, make an appointment to see a doctor and/or a reputable therapist/counselor/coach. Very rarely does a sex shift (especially an abrupt one) transpire out of thin air for absolutely no reason. Be intentional as possible about getting down to the root cause and then sharing the results with your partner (encourage them to do the same). It's an effective way to get back on the same page — and consistency levels — again.

7. Going to Bed Looking…Not the Best

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I'm a woman and sometimes, even I look at some women like, "Y'all are doing the most right now." And by "most", I mean not a helluva lot. Take how pissed a lot of Black women were when Mo'Nique admonished us about wearing bonnets in public. Listen, as someone who had grandmas, on the sides, who instilled the "Don't go out looking a hot mess" mentality to me, I get where she was coming from. However, what really made me be like, "Sometimes we as women just wanna be contrary to be contrary" is when I also recalled all of the hell that Derrick Jaxn's wife was sent through, again by Black women, for having a bonnet on in his "confession" (and her follow-up) video.

We've all got different styles. Noted. Still, why we would want to look like we just rolled out of bed in public is a little beyond me. Plus, as a wife of 35+ years had to say about it, "If you don't want to look the best for yourself, that says a lot about you. It's also going to cause issues in your relationship, whether you want to accept that fact or not." She's not wrong.

When it comes to what a lot of couples tell me is a huge hindrance in their sex life, you'd be amazed by how many times I hear that how their partner comes to bed is annoying AF. It's not just men who feel this way either. I mean, think about it — how is a big ass bonnet, footie PJs and older-than-most-of-your-kids boxers a turn-on? It isn't.

Solution: No one is saying that you've got to relive your prom when you're turning in. All I'm saying is there are too many different varieties of sleepwear out here for you to be looking like who-shot-Johnny. Even a tank top, some boy shorts and your hair up in a pineapple can be cute as hell. Some new boxer briefs for your man are pretty sexy too. Or, you can always do what is even more seductive and healthier for you. You can sleep naked. Amen? Hallelujah.

8. Laziness

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Wanna know a clear indication that either you are taking your partner for granted or they are doing it to you? It's if one of you is super lazy in bed. And just what does that even look like? Lazy lovers do the bare minimum. Lazy lovers are fine sticking to the same routine all of the time. Lazy lovers aren't that impressive when it comes to foreplay or afterplay (hell, a lot of them don't even know what afterplay even is). Lazy lovers barely ever go a second round. Lazy lovers lack creativity, seduction moves or ways to bring more spice into the relationship. And the crazy thing is, even if a lazy lover is able to get their partner off, after a while, that person is still going to feel like something is missing because, well, something is. Good lovers know that great sex isn't just about achieving a climax; it's about blowing your partner's mind before and afterwards too. Enough to go another round or two, for sure.

Solution: Two things that many lazy individuals have in common is a lack of planning and a ton of procrastination. That said, it's a good idea to keep in mind that synonyms for lazy include words like inattentive, passive, neglectful, out of it and dull. If you or your partner seem to reflect any of these words, on any level, it's time to reenergize your sex life. Plan a sexcation. Try some new sex positions. When's the last time you and your partner did it in the shower (check out "So, This Is How To Make Shower Sex So Much Better")? Have an oral sex "competition" to see who can go without having an orgasm the longest. Ask your partner to share a fantasy and then work to make it come true. The challenging thing about laziness when it comes to sex is it low-key sends a message of disinterest. No one feels desired or appreciated when that kind of energy exists.

9. Not Enough Emotional Intimacy

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Something that a lot of men and women will certainly vouch for is, while you can enjoy the mechanics of sex with many people, the experience is so much better when there is a strong emotional connection between two people. When folks who are in a serious or long-term relationship feel a disconnect, this can definitely translate in their boudoir. The main reason why is because a lot of relationships get to a point and place that it's not so much the physical attraction that makes sex outstanding. Don't get me wrong, being physically drawn to your partner is important (some folks forget or underestimate this part). Still, knowing that you are loved, respected and adored, for reasons well beyond what you look like, can be a type of aphrodisiac that is truly unmatched.

Solution: When's the last time you wrote your partner a love letter? When's the last time you told them all of the things (that you can think of at the time) that you love and like about them? Can you recall the last truly memorable date that you went on? When's the last time you asked them what their goals and dreams are and really just sat there and listened? When you've been wrong, have you owned it and apologized (builds trust) or found some way to deflect and justify your actions (cultivates distrust)? Can you recall the last time you and your partner did nothing but joke around and laugh (was it longer than a couple of weeks ago)? When's the last time the two of you just cuddled up and talked until sunrise? Some of the best sex is when both people feel extremely safe in each other's presence. Emotional intimacy is definitely what can help to make that happen.

10. Faking Orgasms

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I promise you, while I understand some of the whys behind why some women (and men) fake orgasms, you will never convince me that they are a good idea. For one thing, no matter how you cut it, faking is a form of dishonesty and secondly, if you're basically lying to your partner, how in the world is sex going to get any better? Case in point. There's a wife I know who's been faking orgasms her entire marriage (over 10 years) because she "doesn't want to hurt her husband's feelings". A couple of years back, they were going through a rough patch and she had an affair with an ex — a man who always made her climb the walls. Her husband doesn't know about either lie to this day. Tell me how that is a healthy situation. It's absolutely not one.

Solution: There's a male friend of mine who is oh so very confident that he's made every woman he's been with cum. When I asked him to provide me with the evidence of his confidence (eh hem, borderline arrogance), he talked about all of the screaming and shaking most of them would make. I simply asked, "Did you feel their vaginal walls contract?" What I got were crickets.

As we come to the end of this piece, the best solution for giving up fake orgasms for real ones is open and honest communication, followed by being highly attentive, so that you can learn your partner's body. That needs to be followed up with a willingness to be as patient, generous and willing to learn as possible. After all, orgasms are more of an art form than anything else. Meaning, oftentimes, they don't "just happen". They must be made to happen. That said, if there's one thing that will almost guarantee that you won't have (many of) them, it's faking it. So…don't. It's the first step to getting this particular sex problem…solved.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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