As a therapist, I often see heterosexual women complaining of sexual dissatisfaction. Often at the root of the complaint is either a lack of knowledge of their own bodies, a fear of telling their male partners what they want, or both.

As I explain to these clients, teaching your partner to satisfy you sexually is similar to teaching a teenager to drive. You have to know how to drive yourself. To teach your teenager to drive, you need to know where the gas pedal is located and how to push it; to teach your partner to be good in bed, you need to know where your hot button is located and how to turn it on. To teach your teenager to drive, you have to refrain from using a sharp tone of voice-such harshness will only make your teen anxious while driving and less likely to want you as a driving teacher. To teach your partner to be good in bed, you have to refrain from shaming and blaming statements--such nastiness will only make him anxious and angry and less likely to perform well in bed. Teaching both skills requires giving clear and direct verbal instructions, as well as providing demonstrations. With both, sometimes you have to put your hand over theirs and show them the way to go.

• Give Him the Keys. The vast majority of women will not reach orgasm with intercourse alone and instead, require direct clitoral stimulation. Despite knowing that clitoral stimulation leads to orgasm during masturbation, many women (and even more men) cling to the mistaken notion that the woman should orgasm during intercourse. Male partners become better lovers when they understand the realities, rather than the myths, regarding how women's bodies function. Just like a teenager can't learn to drive if you don't give her the keys to the car, your partner can't improve as a lover if you don't know about and show him the keys to your body.

• Slow Down! Although there is great variability, men take an average of 4 minutes to reach orgasm once they begin intercourse and women take somewhere around 11 minutes. This is not 11 minutes of intercourse; it is 11 minutes of stimulation. This amount increases with stress and exhaustion. Just like your teenager can't drive well when speeding, your partner can't be a good lover if you are both rushing to finish.

• Stop Faking. Research shows that more than half of women fake orgasms. Reasons for this, such as protecting partners' feelings, are explained in my Psychology Today blog, Orgasms: You Can't Fake it Till You Make It. Faking won't improve your lover's skill. It will do the opposite: He will think you liked what he was doing and keep doing it, rather than learning what you need for a real orgasm.

• Start Talking. In my book, A Tired Woman's Guide to Passionate Sex, an entire chapter is dedicated to improving sexual communication. Couples are encouraged to talk about sex as they would any other topic. It would be unthinkable to tell our spouses that talking about parenting made us uncomfortable and have this be accepted as a legitimate reason to shut off discussion. Sex needs to be a topic for open dialogue.

• Talk About Sex at the Kitchen Table. Don't bring up sexual dissatisfaction in bed. The danger of doing so is creating a negative association to a place that you want to be fun, exciting and positive. It is better to have these talks in a safe, non-sexual place such at the kitchen table. Also, make sure that the timing is right for these discussions; having them when tight on time or exhausted is likely to be unproductive.

• Start Your Sentences with the Word "I". Say, for example, "I think it would help me get turned on if you..." rather than "You don't seem to know how to turn me on."

• Give Verbal and Nonverbal Instructions. During a sexual encounter, say "move your hand here or there" or provide specific instructions or requests ("softer please"). You can also communicate your desires by guiding your partner's hands the way you want them to go.

• Compliment with Moans and Verbal Utterances. Often people moan during sex. These sounds, along with heavy breathing, are a way to tell our partners what we like. Actual verbal utterances made during sex can also be used to give positive feedback. Telling your lover "That feels good" will reinforce what he's doing. There's an extra benefit as well: Research shows that making sounds increases the excitement of the person making them.

• Review the Experience. Often, couples with the best sex lives are the ones who discuss it afterwards, including both what worked well and what could have gone better.

If your partner is a bad lover, teach him to be better using knowledge, good communication, and praise. If he still can't, or won't learn, then seek couple's therapy. I taught two teen daughters to drive, using the same teaching strategies. One did great and the other had difficulty. I sent that one to driving school. Sometimes a little help goes a long way.

You are reading

Stress and Sex

A Letter to Sexually Active Young Women

Together, let's close the orgasm gap. Let's become "cliterate!"

Implementing Amy Schumer’s Orgasm Advice

How-to tips to advocate for your own orgasm.