Silver is also very nice and should be something to be proud of
November 19, 2018 6:05 PM   Subscribe

I’m in a newish relationship. My partner admitted I’m not the best lover they’ve had. I am having some feelings. How do I deal?

My partner (a dude) and I (a lady) have a policy of total openness and honesty. Recently, I was unable to complete a specific sexual act that I know he and his previous partner enjoyed together. This made me feel insecure, a little bit like a failure, and overall less than his previous partner. (Why yes I do have competition issues how did you guess)

In a moment of insecurity, I asked him if I was better than she was in bed. (Big mistake). He paused and said that emotionally, no question, that he’s never loved anyone more than me and that emotionally in bed, I’m number one. But in a pure technique sense, she is better.

So. This has sent me a into a little rabbit hole and I don’t particularly want to bone anymore because my brain just keeps thinking, what is even the point, you’ll never be better than her. All my sex confidence has basically disappeared.

Some details about us: This is where I note that I am generally not a jealous person. My partner said these things reluctantly, but also kindly and lovingly. He has gone out of his way to reassure me and make sure I feel loved and that he is sexually fulfilled. We are grossly and stupidly in love with each other. We are both going through divorces, so we are basically stressed out all the time. We are in a traditional monogamous relationship and are both very sex-positive. I have been with a significantly higher number of partners than him. I view sex as a purely physical connection, he views sex as more of an emotional connection. I am pretty good at boning, have had no complaints and many compliments, but I also don’t think I would be number one for any of my previous partners? I am fat, she was not, and I think there are some body image Feelings I’m having about that too. It should be noted here that I think my partner is my best. I am in therapy and do plan on talking it out but I also think I could use some perspective here.

So. How do I get over this? Is your partner the best person you’ve ever had in bed? If not, do you secretly wish they were? How do I stop feeling like I’m the silver when I should be the gold in the sex olympics?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I view sex as a purely physical connection

You’re allowed to work on changing that, if you want.

Also, if you see it as more of physical and sensation-based fun time, that’s totally fine too! And it’s ok to work on your game to improve the mutual fun, if you want.

My personal opinion is that the size and shape of a lover is really not that important, compared to how we can make each other feel, when we both want to enjoy our bodies together. I know it’s not so simple and easier said than done; but I really don’t think your size or shape should hold you back; you can still boff each other into blissful oblivion if you’re both into it as a fun and free co-operation.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:15 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


You say he views sex as an emotional connection, and he says you’re number one emotionally in bed. You got the gold after all, but it sounds to me as if you were asking him awkward questions just to get the answer you didn’t want.

You can always learn new techniques. You can’t learn how to have an emotional connection in bed.
posted by tillsbury at 6:17 PM on November 19, 2018 [42 favorites]


When I feel insecure about stuff like this I remind myself that winning is not being number one in a list of experiences, but being Number One in his whole damn life.
posted by sm1tten at 6:18 PM on November 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


The key word here is "newer". And I see it as a long game, not a one-time playoff event.

You have all the time in the world to hone your + partner's boning into a well-oiled transcendental machinery. And the ex will always be .... the ex, who will never change or improve.

You win.

(that said, one of my early exes always extolled the bj skill of one of his previous exes, and that was a real buzzkill honestly, and i don't think he ever understood the self-inflicted damage on his part, but i'm ever so glad i never had to hear about it more, and again, ex is ex)
posted by Dashy at 6:24 PM on November 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


If this is his ex wife, I'm guessing he was with her for far longer than he has been with you so far. There's every reason to think that once you've been with him for that long, you'll know him well enough to get just as good or better physically. It always takes time and trial and error to learn what a new partner likes best (there is no such thing as "good in bed" other than being attentive when trying new things, because everyone is different). You're comparing your beginning to her finishing point. Keep learning what he likes and you'll get there.

And I know you know, but to emphasize, never ever ask these kinds of questions. No matter what the answer is, no good comes of it.
posted by randomnity at 6:48 PM on November 19, 2018 [14 favorites]


Sometimes people really like being open and honest because it gives them an avenue to be very hurtful. I don't even think that they consciously know that they are doing this, but the end result is the same: they say hurtful things to you that you cannot unhear in the name of honesty.

I would just suggest slowing way down, especially since you are going through a divorce. That's a very hard time and I'm sorry you're going through this on top of it. I would feel very turned off of sex too, and I think that that is a normal reaction. Just slow down a bit. Take care of yourself.
posted by sockermom at 6:55 PM on November 19, 2018 [24 favorites]


My partner said these things reluctantly, but also kindly and lovingly

I don't doubt he loves you and spoke gently and with hesitation. At the same time, I think it's very often a touch unkind or unconsciously manipulative to make unnecessary comparisons between people--it's such a common way to set off feelings of depression or anxiety that it's far more kind to just say it's apples and oranges to make a judgment, which is generally true in matters of aesthetics and emotions anyway. Try asking him why he likes some things and not others in a different domain, and I think you'll find he's vague and inconsistent and looking at some of his past with rosy retrospection like essentially everyone. So I'd reframe all this as a momentary lapse on his part, where--sure--maybe there's some practical matter to address in what y'all can try together, but it needs to be cooperative, enthusiastic, and, like, not a matter of you working your way out of a lop-sided judgment.
posted by Wobbuffet at 7:07 PM on November 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


In a moment of insecurity, I asked him if I was better than she was in bed.

You asked him, he answered. What was the answer you were looking for? None of them work. “Yes, you’re better.” Would you have believed that? “You’re better at X but not Y.” Is that, what, constructive criticism? “No, you’re not as good.” And now you’re spun up.

You asked him the sexual equivalent of, “Do these pants make me look fat?”

Here’s a better question. What do you want? You want more sensitivity on this front? Ask for that. Demand it, even. Just try to know what you want when you ask.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:30 PM on November 19, 2018 [27 favorites]


Strongly disagree that his answer makes him a jerk. She directly asked. At that point his options are lying, refusing to answer or saying what he did. Maybe a lie would have been kinder but answering honestly doesn't make him a terrible person either. If you don't want an honest answer (and none of us does to that question) don't ask.
posted by randomnity at 7:33 PM on November 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


There is no reason for you to know that deepthroating (or whatever the specific act is) was his wife’s specialty, just absolutely no excuse for him to be violating her privacy like that and setting up that kind of competition between his partners. Either he’s manipulating you into feeling insecure with this kind of inappropriate disclosure, or you’re pressuring him into saying things he really shouldn’t be. Either way, this is a terrible dynamic— that kind of “honesty” is something that just hurts everyone.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 7:42 PM on November 19, 2018 [30 favorites]


Sex can be hotter in a worse relationship. Maybe he subconsciously knew they wouldn’t last and that fuelled their passions! You can never know his mind so let that possibility go and accept his love as it is.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:52 PM on November 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Just want to point out that we have no idea how the Asker came to know that the sex act she attempted was one that her lover used to enjoy with his ex. I have had relationships where it was sometimes normal, even fun, to talk about the sex we'd had in previous ones. And it's entirely possible that the Asker found out by asking, the way she asked about whether or not she was her lover's best sex partner. I've known people who were competitive in the way that the Asker describes herself as being, and who would take learning of an ex's best move as a fun challenge. I've asked my partners about what things they'd particularly enjoyed in previous relationships, so that I could add them to my own repertoire. It's a bit of a leap to jump straight to the guy being a jerk who is trying to make his partner feel inadequate, even if a feeling of inadequacy was the result.

Asker, I think you kinda asked the wrong question of your partner. Most people, as far as I know, don't really keep a strict ranking of their past partners in their heads. Like, if you asked me who my best was I could probably come up with an answer, but if you asked me again a week later I might have a different one. The truth is that most of my partners have been about equally fun to have sex with, and also the quality of the sex varied a lot over the course of each relationship. None of them were really the best. It mostly just came down to how good we were able to make each other feel in the moment, which, yes, was as much about emotional connection as physical skill.

What I might suggest you do is open up to your partner about your hurt feelings—not in a blamey way, just in an explainey way—and ask for him to reassure you by having a sex session that was all about him pleasing you and stroking your ego. One where you are not expected to do anything other than be pleasured, cherished, and just generally loved on in as creative and thorough a way as possible, while he whispers sweet nothings to you about what a complete and utter goddess you are. Something that's all about making you feel good and reassuring you that you are the best and most sexiest person in his whole world.

And then stop comparing yourself to his ex.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:16 PM on November 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


Also hey both of you are going through divorces right now. I've never gotten divorced, but I hear it is intense and usually protracted as well. Chances are neither of you are exactly operating at your best right now. Maybe cut both of you some extra slack on this one. Or possibly even consider whether or not you think being in a relationship, at all, is a good choice for you at this moment in time.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:40 PM on November 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


You’re in the worst case scenario where you wanted just enough honesty to hurt but not enough to actually contextualize his answer. Was she the best at penetrative sex? Oral? More athletic in bed? Was she just “best” because of particular acts she was more comfortable with, or did they share a kink, or what?

I’m not saying you should necessarily ask these questions (though you could, “best how?”, may or may not help however), but his answer could mean a loooot if different things. It could mean the sex he has with you is mind blowing, intense, emotional, etc. whereas the sex he had with her was like a wild and exciting porno. (I doubt the distinction is this stark, but it’s possible.) That would totally be apples and oranges, and it’s not worth it to fret about why you’re not an orange-flavored apple.

Ultimately seeing sex as a sport is... difficult. In a way it implies that you have the purer, more objective view, but for an act that is so often charged deeply with intense emotions it’s really not more objective at all. It’s only one sliver of the pie. To belabor a pie metaphor, if she ran a homemade blueberry pie shop but his favorite was homemade cherry... I mean, running a more successful blueberry pie shop than his ex might feel good but it doesn’t really get you anywhere.

Anyway, better technically can mean a lot of things, it might not mean the things you’re imagining it does. I remember being HORRENDOUSLY jealous of a boyfriend’s coworker for months, thinking she was beautiful, accomplished, etc. (meanwhile he showed no interest in her) and then one day as a matter of course I learned a specific fact about her during a conversation and... poof. The whole fantasy of how amazing she was evaporated before my eyes. I realized who I thought she was was all in my head, she was a different person, and I felt jealous of a thing I had invented to make myself feel inadequate. And hey, don’t we all.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:44 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


It would be a mistake to get hung up on this. You have all the time in the world to win the bonking gold medal! But then, it shouldn't be a competition. He loves you. He said that he adores you. You love and adore him and you obviously (up until now) loved fucking him so please, just keep doing that and try and keep the past out of your head because it's over; the future is now!
posted by h00py at 4:07 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well, since you asked, he answered and unfortunately it wasn’t what you wanted to hear. You’re asking what do you do to make yourself feel better? I’d say work on improving that specific sex act. If there is something else that’s a flop, try to improve on that too. Read articles, watch porn, learn different pressure points, erogenous zones, etc. If you’re “fat” as you say, then working out also helps quite a bit as well for boosting confidence.
posted by AlexandriaParis at 5:28 AM on November 20, 2018


For me relationships are not about individual specific things but the whole picture. I've had partners where the sex was really good but we fought a lot and were incompatible for the long term and when I look back I'm not even fond of the sex because the relationship was so bad in other ways, the emotional part was lacking overall. I've had partners where we didn't date for very long so things never got into a bit of a rut so my memories are skewed towards the positives only because we broke up before the fantasies about each other wore off. For me the best partners are the ones where it is an emotional connection, I know they care about me and don't want to hurt me, and their actions reflect that (in bed and out of bed).

I've had partners attempt to engage in comparison and I try to keep it off limits as a topic because egos get hurt, and ultimately if I'm with someone it means I love and accept them as they are, who cares if I dated someone who was taller or more athletic or more effective at a certain sex thing? Unless said sex thing is a deal breaker it's a non-issue. I think if you look for this sort of thing you will always find something to be upset about and it's what's driving the upset that needs work, not the technique or appearance thing itself.

I've also had partners share about their thoughts on me versus previous partners and it's always been unhealthy for me to engage in even if they didn't mean badly, or even if I was "the best". I think comparison really does kill that sense of connection because it implies an objectivity that for me is not a part of love where I'm trying to accept someone for who they are. Sexual comparison creates a fantasy of what the relationship was like that ignores all the likely daily annoyances and other compatibility issues that were likely present if the relationship ended. I think people forget the last two parts of this little guide to good communication - is it: true, helpful, informative, necessary, and kind? I don't think these sorts of conversations can meet most of that criteria.
posted by lafemma at 5:37 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


My partner (a dude) and I (a lady) have a policy of total openness and honesty.

That's a romantic ideal that I used to subscribe to as well when I was younger. But as you're now finding out, it's not necessarily the best posture to adopt if maintaining a healthy, joyous, fulfilling intimate relationship is what you're trying to do.

Regardless of how much one would wish to, it is simply a matter of fact that we cannot escape the fundamental condition of being ultimately alone inside our own heads. None of us can actually share the life of another person, not even those closest to us. Each of us is as a matter of brute physical fact forced to live our own life, and we do so regardless of how desperately we might cling to the delusion that we do not, and how much fiction we might consume that suggests otherwise. There will always be things about our partners' interior lives that we will misunderstand, and vice versa, that no amount of earnest, sincere, loving, respectful communication will sort out. This is just inherent in the nature of sentient beings. There is nothing at all that can be done to make it not the case.

Accepting this, for me, involved a great deal of grieving. It seems that it would be so good to have company in here; for the dissolution of ego boundaries to become real and to actually merge with another person.

But it can't be done, and that is that.

So the next best thing is for two people who know this about themselves to offer each other their steadfast and loving support. If we can't merge and become one, the next best thing is to be the best and most solid pair that's ever walked the face of the planet. And a big part of that is putting the avoidance of no-win loaded questions well ahead of any policy requirement for "total" openness and honesty.

If I'm about to ask my beloved something that (a) reflects some degree of personal insecurity on my part and (b) would make me feel backed into a corner with no useful response available if my beloved asked it of me: then ideally I will just not ask and find some way to deal with it on my own, or go ask somebody else if that could possibly work.

If my beloved happens to ask me something similar, I retain the right to say in so many words that I simply have no useful response to that question if in fact I can't answer in a way that is both honest and supportive. And when she needs to deliver a similar refusal to me, then I will take that refusal as a completely legitimate request to honour the privacy that is really the only compensation any of us gets for the unavoidable separateness of our existences.

To be perfectly clear: I am not in any way opposed to openness and honesty. Both are fine things well worth embracing, and no intimate relationship will survive for long without them. But "total" openness is unavailable, and "total" honesty unachievable given the inherent crudeness of cross-sentience communication, and no intimate relationship built on impossible foundations has much of a future either.
posted by flabdablet at 6:29 AM on November 20, 2018 [24 favorites]


just keep doing that and try and keep the past out of your head because it's over; the future is now!

Also this.

For me, the best sex is always to some extent an attempt to achieve physically the very merger that the fact of having distinct lives prevents; for two to act as one, in the moment, with nothing other than these people being with each other right here right now given any importance whatsoever.

It's often said that the most important sexual organ is the brain, but that's just the brain big-noting itself as usual. The most important sexual organ is the other person's whole entire self.
posted by flabdablet at 6:43 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


You get over this by realizing it doesn't matter. Different relationships are better in different ways--so his ex was better at a specific sex technique. She was worse at being in a relationship with him because now he is with you.

Also I agree with the statement earlier in the thread about how sometimes the best sex is in the worst relationships.
posted by millipede at 10:02 AM on November 20, 2018


My partner (a dude) and I (a lady) have a policy of total openness and honesty. Recently, I was unable to complete a specific sexual act that I know he and his previous partner enjoyed together. ... In a moment of insecurity, I asked him if I was better than she was in bed.

I would try to shift this. At some point, it seems like maybe this policy and maybe your conversations aren't super helpful to you. Maybe it does bring you closer, or it feels like it does, but it's also hurting your feelings because it sounds like you have a lot of information about his sexual history. It's good to know your own limits, what's hard to hear. Maybe say, "Hey, we've been very open about past sexual partners. I've realized that while I appreciate your honesty, it might be okay if there are some things you don't share. Especially when it comes to things that might reinforce some of my insecurities like such-and-such."

You could also work on those insecurities. Are you sure they are your insecurities and he's not making you feel bad? If so, then sharing those insecurities with him (if you haven't already) might be healthy, so he has the context.

Also: try very hard not to ask questions you don't want the answers to. That way lies madness.

I'm going to offer two things now: first, a reframing of your conversation, and second, a way to focus on the positive.

A re-framing: it's fantastic that your partner had this exciting sexual past. That and his earlier relationships have made him the man he is, and the partner he is to you. It's so good that he had those relationships because they gave him pleasure and because they have informed this man you love.

Next, the positive:
he’s never loved anyone more than me and that emotionally in bed, I’m number one

This is amazing! This is beautiful! You asked how to get over this. There's your answer. He is choosing to be with you now, even though he had this past experience. So there's something you are giving him that he wants; he doesn't want that anymore.

Therapy also helps.

He loves you. You all connect profoundly. And guess what? Technique can be learned, if you really want. Or you can find other things you do together that are extra fun and extra sexy. Maybe ask him to tell you something sexually about you all that is the best? In addition to what he's already said? And you know what else is awesome? It's a new relationship. You have so much to explore!

Is your partner the best person you’ve ever had in bed? If not, do you secretly wish they were?
A previous partner was the best, if we're talking just about sex; we were each other's "best." The sex was so good and so intense that it masked other problems. The sex was so good that it took me a while to realize that I didn't always enjoy some other things in our relationship. It took me a while to see that it was a tumultuous relationship that created a huge amount of emotional disruption in my life. I adore my current partner and I love having sex with him. He told me something like what your partner told you: he's never connected with someone emotionally and intellectually like we connect. We enjoy having sex together and we have good and sometimes difficult conversations about that and how we can make each other feel good in bed. I talked about these things with my previous partner, too, and he and I did connect in other meaningful ways, but I'd much rather have a relationship that doesn't make me feel crazy rather than a relationship with the best sex of my life but where I'm regularly experiencing emotional upheaval.

For what it's worth, I also know that, even though I was my previous partner's best sex partner, I wasn't the most beautiful or fit woman he had been with. Not be a long shot. Those are different things.

How do I stop feeling like I’m the silver when I should be the gold in the sex olympics?
There are two approaches to this:
1. It's not a competition!
2. A silver is amazing! Silver sex and a gold in emotional connection means you win. It sounds he like knows that already.

Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:09 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


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