14 Things You Should Never, Ever Do in Bed

Updated: Apr. 05, 2024

Whether you’re with a new partner or the love of your life, stopping these sex mistakes will keep you happier, both in and out of bed.

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Avoid these sex pitfalls

Enjoyable sex isn’t necessarily about your sexual skills, but about being an honest partner. Avoid killing the mood with the sex mistakes you should never make in bed—and learn what to do instead.

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Don’t assume you have all the right moves

It’s impossible to know your partner’s desires right off the bat. “Everyone has personal preferences,” says sexologist Gloria Brame, PhD. Communication is critical to all aspects of the relationship, and by working to understand what your partner prefers, you’ll be building a more fulfilling physical and emotional relationship.

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Don’t make it a negative space

Many couples air their grievances before bed, says Brame, possibly because it’s the first opportunity they have to talk in private. But when you bring your anger and resentments into the bedroom, you turn a space for pleasure into a battleground. And if it escalates, it could lead to one partner withholding sex as punishment. If you’re upset with your partner, work it out in another room or put it off until tomorrow. “Going to sleep angry once won’t end your relationship,” Brame says. “What can change your sex life and the glue within a relationship is when you associate the bedroom with negative experiences.”

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Don’t be shy about sharing your fantasies

“So many women and men are focused on the sex or foreplay they’re not getting instead of talking about what they want,” says psychotherapist and sexuality counselor Ian Kerner, PhD, author of She Comes First. Her advice is to express your desires in a way that’s constructive. Try something like, “Here’s something that would drive me wild…” As a bonus, the language you use can be as arousing as the act itself, Kerner says. And if you’re itching to go a little 50 Shades of Gray, say so. “The woman or man who really loves you is going to listen,” says Brame. That said, neither partner should press for anything that’s outside their comfort zone. Trying something new should be exciting, not unsafe, or uncomfortable.

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Don’t fake it

Opt for honesty instead of flattery—or just as a way to end something you’re not enjoying. Instead, use the anti-climax as an opportunity to discover how your partner can better satisfy you in bed. “Allow your differences to prompt conversations about what’s working and what’s not,” advises Kerner. If you’re concerned that your partner might be putting on a show for your benefit, talk about it, rather than being embarrassed. “If you genuinely think they faked it, make it clear that you don’t expect that they will have an orgasm every single time and that’s totally OK,” says sex and relationship expert Tracey Cox, author of Hot Sex: How to Do It.

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Don’t feel pressured to have sex

A popular myth is that couples who have sex several times a week are generally happier than their less-sexually active counterparts. However, while having sex once a week will likely strengthen your bond, any more than that will probably not improve your well-being. If you start to feel pressure to have sex but you’re not into it, Kerner advises getting physical in other ways. “Take 15 minutes to make out, give massages, take a shower together. Appreciate being physical without the pressure of sex.”

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Don’t get hung up on the big O

Focusing on having an orgasm as the goal of intercourse can detract from the overall experience, especially with new partners. “Many women who are having casual sex or are having sex for the first time don’t necessarily orgasm,” says Kerner. “That doesn’t mean anything’s wrong.” And there’s nothing more likely to delay someone having an orgasm than continually asking if they’ve had one. “Hurrying someone toward orgasm accomplishes completely the opposite psychologically as well,” Cox says.

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Don’t bring your workday stresses to bed

Maybe you have a difficult project at work or you’re arguing with a friend—whatever the stressor, leave it outside the bedroom. Studies have shown that people, particularly women, need to be able to shut down their brains in order to experience arousal. That doesn’t mean that if you’re preoccupied with work, sex is completely off the table. “Arousal tends to be louder than anxiety,” says Kerner. “If you give arousal a chance, that can be helpful.” Fantasy could be a helpful way to detach from the events of the day and tune in instead to time with your partner.

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Don’t be a critic

Think she’s getting some laugh lines? Think he’s developing a paunch? A steamy moment is obviously not the time to bring it up. “Body confidence issues affect both sexes and never are we more vulnerable than when we’re naked in bed,” Cox says. Since low self-esteem is a cause of sexual dysfunction for women, according to Brame, and more than 90 percent of men worry about their penis size, according to Cox, you’re going to have a better time in bed if you make each other feel sexy and comfortable with your bodies.

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Don’t bring up your ex

No one wants to hear about your prior sexcapades while on a date, especially when things are heating up—even if it might seem like a good way to boast about your skills. Besides, everyone’s sexual tastes are different, so what worked with an old partner is not guaranteed to work with a new one. And even if it does, no one’s going to enjoy imagining your doing it with someone else. “We all like to think that our partners were delivered to us in zip-top plastic bags, untouched by others,” Cox says. “Positive sexual talk of exes destroys all of this.”

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Don’t let it hurt

“Some people assume sex is a little or a lot painful,” says Kerner. “That’s not true.” Pain during sex signals an issue with arousal, lubrication, perimenopausal or menopausal hormonal shifts, an improper position, or a lack of communication. Tell your partner, and don’t be afraid to integrate more lube or foreplay into your time together. Talk to your doctor if the problem persists, as it could be a symptom of infection.

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Don’t feel guilty about imagining someone else

“Having a fantasy playing in your head is a normal and quite effective way to perk up sex with someone you’ve slept with many, many times before,” Cox says. Fantasy can be a helpful tool in improving arousal or spicing things up, and there’s no reason to feel ashamed of picturing a celebrity, an attractive guy at work, or a stranger you’ve seen on the bus. Sexual fantasies are normal and perfectly acceptable—as long as you don’t judge yourself for it or feel guilty. That can cause relationship problems and less sexual satisfaction overall, research shows.

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…But don’t call out the wrong name

This may seem obvious, but be careful not to let fantasy intrude on reality. “Blurting out the wrong name in the heat of the moment will guarantee a big row rather than a big O,” Cox says. It could just be a slip of the tongue or a symptom of a deeper desire but either way, it’s not going to make your partner feel comfortable or special.

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Don’t fret over any mechanical problems

“Every adult male is going to experience episodic impotence at some point,” says Brame. “It’s meaningless.” It could be due to circulation problems, having had too much to drink, exhaustion, or just having had a tough day at work, having no bearing on how he feels about his partner. It’s also not generally a reflection on his manhood. Blowing it out of proportion will only make the situation worse. “If you start insulting your man, what might be a one-time thing can start developing into a chronic problem because he’s being criticized when he’s at his most vulnerable.”

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Don’t heed the pings and dings

It seems like an obvious mood breaker, but some people still grab their phones during sex. Not only does pausing to answer a call or text disrupt the rhythm and momentum, but it also conveys to your partner that even during sex, they aren’t your top priority. “Interrupting sex to get on your smartphone effectively says, ‘This is far more interesting to me than having sex with you,’” Cox says.

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