10 Things That's Causing Bad Sex & How to Fix It (Men's Guide)

Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Social Psychologist, researcher at The Kinsey Institute
by Dr. Justin Lehmiller Last updated 12/07/2023
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10 Signs You're Having Bad Sex & Why

Stuck in a bad sex rut lately?

Are you having the kind of sex that leaves you and your partner disappointed or unhappy?

Are you both wondering what you’re missing and how the heck you got there?

Thoughts like these can be extremely discouraging; however, the good news is that there are a lot of steps you can take to improve your sexual performance and make sex better for you and your partner.

Am I Having Bad Sex? What is Bad Sex Exactly?

“Bad sex” can mean different things for different couples, just as “good sex” can, too. So what is good sex vs bad sex?

First off, bad sex for one couple, ironically, could be great sex for another.

The beauty of sex (and sometimes its downside) is that both partners need to feel regularly satisfied for it to exit the ‘bad’ category.

And since each of us are unique, it stands to reason this often is easier said than done.

After all, even if one partner thinks the sex is great and the other thinks it’s bad, this still means bad sex.

In other words, think about good sex as a game where everybody wins and nobody loses.

Build A Better Relationship As a Couple

What should you do if your sex life is lousy lately? If your first thought was, “I guess we should just break up,” hold on for a minute.

If you give up on a relationship because of lousy sex mistakes, you might very well find yourself facing the same issue in a new relationship simply because you didn’t take the time to work on your bedroom game.

Focus first instead, on getting better at lovemaking and remember that sex is a skill, something that you learn and hone over time.

The first step to resolving bad sex is identifying the problem(s). Once you’ve done that, you can work on solving it. In that spirit, here are 10 signs of bad sex and how to fix them.

1. You Aren’t Comfortable with Your Partner

What To Do in a Awkward Relationship

Sex is one of the most vulnerable things you can do in life.

You’re sharing a very personal part of yourself. Not only are all of your best (and worst) physical traits on full display, but you are also revealing your deepest intimate secrets about what turns you on.

Because of that, the best sex usually results from being comfortable with each other.

Think about this: Do you feel more at ease talking with your friends or a complete stranger?

Typically, you feel way more comfortable chatting with those you know best or those who accept you for who you are even after knowing the good and bad about you.

The acceptance you feel from good friends and family makes you feel safe to be yourself without fear of being judged. Because of that, you can open up in conversations better.

The same is true in a romantic relationship. The best sexual ‘interactions’ will happen when you’re comfortable with your partner and vice versa. When you can feel ‘safe’ together, sex drastically improves.

How to Fix it

Make time for each other besides just sex. Talk about how life’s going. Have fun and build some memories together.

This takes constant maintenance too. Even if you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, you still need regular fun times in your relationship outside of sex.

The more quality time you spend together out of bed, the safer and more comfortable you’ll feel in bed. Think about it this way: the more relaxed you are in your relationship, the more magic will happen in the bedroom.

2. No Foreplay

How Do I Learn Foreplay?

When it comes to sex, most women don’t want a partner who goes right for the gold. Foreplay is crucial for satisfying sex, and apparently most of us aren’t doing enough of it.

In a study where men and women were asked to estimate how long they usually spend on foreplay and, ideally, how long they’d like to spend on foreplay, both men and women said they’d like to spend about 50% longer on it. Clearly, most of us are missing the mark.

While most of us—regardless of gender—want more foreplay, foreplay is something that is especially important for women’s sexual pleasure and satisfaction for a few reasons. For one thing, foreplay allows more time for arousal to build and for vaginal lubrication to increase, thereby creating conditions for more comfortable sex.

For another, women take longer to reach orgasm on average than men, so a longer foreplay session is a great way of helping to ensure that everyone orgasms in the end.

In short, if you try to skip the foreplay step, odds are, you’re in for some disappointing sex. Unfortunately, a lot of guys blame their partners for bad sex when the real problem is a lack of foreplay. Don’t be one of those guys.

How to Fix it

While most couples will occasionally have sexual romps that are hot and fast - you know, the moments where you rip each other’s clothes off, it’s unwise to expect this to be the norm.

Instead, be mentally prepared for foreplay as the first step and go in with that as your usual expectation.

As an analogy, you know it’s dumb to start your vehicle up on a sub-zero temperature day and immediately ‘floor it’. In the same way, you can’t expect to immediately ‘floor it’ with sex.

Don’t rush sex.

Set aside ample time together so that both of you can take your time and enjoy every minute of it.

3. Sex Ends When He Finishes

Men Who Focus on Sex

In any aspect of a romantic encounter, only thinking of your own needs will backfire tremendously. This is especially true of your most intimate moments together.

Michael Castleman M.A, shares this surprising data in his "Psychology Today" article titled The Most Important Sexual Statistic :

"This bears repeating: Only one-quarter of women reliably experience orgasm during intercourse—no matter how long it lasts, no matter what size the man's penis, and no matter how the woman feels about the man or the relationship."

Castleman makes it clear that this isn't an obscure finding either. It was a conclusion reached after combining the results of 33 different studies.

Want to know one of the fastest ways to make your girlfriend or wife dislike having sex with you? Thinking sex is over as soon as you climax.

When you say, “I got mine, thanks. Moving on…”

Reaching orgasm while not giving your partner the opportunity to enjoy the same not only makes for bad sex - it’s also likely to lead to relationship conflict.

It’s kind of like going to a football game or movie with your partner where only you get to go inside and your partner has to wait outside until it’s over.

Sounds absurd, right? But, thinking sex is over because you climaxed is just as ridiculous.

How to Fix It

Remember that, good sex isn’t over until you’ve both had a chance to have your needs met. Sometimes one of you will focus only on meeting your partner’s needs without expecting or wanting anything in return, and that’s great.

However, this shouldn’t be the norm. Make a consistent effort to meet each other’s needs and to help your partner climax every time she wants to, whatever it takes.

It bears repeating that women take longer to come than men on average. Also, it’s worth pointing out that the determinants of female orgasm are very diverse according to the National Institute of Health. Be sensitive to the fact that different sexual techniques work for different women, and also that mental and relationship factors play a big role in women’s orgasms.

Think about how you’d feel if the tables were turned. Would you consider it good sex if you always satisfied your partner, but the favor was never returned?

Highly unlikely, right?

4. Bad Hygiene During Sex

Do I Have Bad Hygiene?

While both men and women can and do experience disgust, research tells us that the bar for women is set lower than it is for men. This suggests that, when it comes to sex, women may be a bit more sensitive to things like poor personal hygiene.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how this could lead to sexual problems.

For example, coming home from the gym all sweated up and hoping to get intimate without cleaning up first isn’t likely to impress her, Nor is failing to apply deodorant, brush your teeth or take care of other basic hygiene considerations.

Of course, “bad hygiene” is a subjective thing, and different people may find different things to be a turn-off. This is why it’s important to not make assumptions and to figure out what your partner does and doesn’t like.

How to Fix It

Unless your partner has told you that coming in from the yard or gym all sweaty is a huge turn-on, it’s a good idea to clean yourself up before having sex in the interest of everyone having a good time.

Ask your partner what good hygiene before sex means to her.

If you’ve never asked her before, you may be surprised by her answer.

At least you’ll know where she stands.

Also, you can discuss the same thing with your partner if you have special hygiene concerns or preferences, too.

Just make sure to frame them in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re attacking or criticizing your partner.

The key is to know your partner’s unique hygiene standards so you can impress her. Once you're on the same page, it shouldn’t be hard to ace this one.

5. Not Communicating with Your Partner

How To Fix Communication Issues With Your Partner

Failing to communicate with your partner is one of the easiest paths to bad sex.

Imagine walking into a restaurant, sitting down at a table, and refusing to say what you want for lunch—but still expecting the waiter to give you exactly what you want..

How do you think that would go?

It’s possible they could take a lucky guess and provide you with a superb lunch. But it’s more likely things wouldn’t turn out as you hoped.

In the same way, communication in the bedroom matters. How will you and your partner know what each wants unless you open up about it?

Sexual fulfillment isn’t automatic, and you can’t expect your partner to read your mind.

It takes discussing what you like and don’t like if you want the sparks to fly how you want them to.

How to Fix It

Make an effort to talk to your partner about intimacy issues. This starts by getting comfortable talking about sex. A lot of us don’t have practice with this, so start off easy.

For example, you might begin with a non-threatening subject like how both of you first learned about sex, and use this as a springboard for talking about other sexual issues in your relationship.

When it comes to sharing your wants and turn-ons, be very careful about the way you frame them.

Again, you don’t want things to come across as criticism.

Tell your partner what you like, but validate them in the process: “I love having sex with you, and I think it might be hot if we tried this next time…”

If you start to get frustrated with a sexual conversation, keep your cool

Getting upset will only shut the conversation down.

Redirect it to something productive and positive.

Lastly, remember that a failure to communicate in the bedroom can be a symptom of broader communication struggles in a relationship.

Maybe you have a tough time opening up with each other and don’t know how to fix it.

Seeing a relationship counselor could help you communicate better in this case.

6. Not Understanding Your Partner’s Nonverbal Cues

When Your Partner Gives You No Attention

When it comes to sex, it’s possible to be ‘there’ but not really there. Similar to the phrase, “the lights are on but nobody's home”.

You can get so used to the routine of intimacy that you’re no longer paying attention to your partner’s non-verbal cues. This can be problematic because research shows that much of our sexual communication is nonverbal, sometimes because we find it easier to communicate with our bodies than by saying things aloud, especially when it comes to deeply personal topics like sex. (Blunt-Vinti H1, Jozkowski KN1, Hunt M1).

Familiarity can make it easy to take the beauty of the moment for granted. It’s like someone who lives next to the ocean compared to someone visiting as a tourist.

The tourist typically is more in awe of their stunning surroundings because everything’s new to the senses. The person living close to the ocean can become less in awe over time unless they intentionally make themselves more aware.

If you’ve been in a relationship for a while now, but have stopped paying attention, it could be costing you in terms of sexual enjoyment.

How to Fix It

Consciously think about the beautiful person you’re with. Focus all your attention on pleasing your partner.

Compliment them on their body and pay attention to their nonverbal cues—the way they move their body, changes in their breathing, their moans, and groans.

These are all clues as to how they’re feeling and what they enjoy.

Make frequent eye contact, too. Few things are more sensual than eye contact during sex.

However, when you become complacent with your sex life, consistent eye contact has a tendency to wane.

Also, practice mindfulness in the bedroom. Be in the moment when you’re having sex, focusing on all of those wonderful sensations.

Let yourself become fully alive and attentive to the needs of your lover.

7. Forgetting to Experiment

What New Things Should I Try With Sex

Imagine that you are a fishing enthusiast.

Now imagine that you always went to the same lake at the same time of day and fished out of the same boat using the same techniques.

Despite your love of fishing, don’t you think your hobby would get boring in a hurry?

People like trying new things in all aspects of life. While we do like predictability to an extent, we also crave novelty and newness.

Research shows that we tend to lose interest in sex when it ends up being the same thing over and over again.

One of the keys to consistently awesome sex is, therefore, trying new things. ‘Variety is the spice of life,’ as the saying goes. And it’s no exception when it comes to sex.

How to Fix It

Discuss some new things you could try to make intimacy more fun, exciting, and pleasurable.

Be respectful of each other’s boundaries and don’t pressure your partner into things they’re uncomfortable with.

Consider doing some research to help the process. There are more resources out there to help than ever before, so consider picking up one of the many guidebooks to great sex for inspiration.

Discussing what you’d like to do before you’re in the heat of the moment is smart too. That way, you'll have time to think about how to be different and creative. A little planning can go a long way, especially if you’re thinking about acting on a new sexual fantasy.

Also, mix it up when it comes to sex.

This could mean doing it in a different room, at a different time of the day, or in a different position. You might not like everything you try, and that’s okay. It’s only through experimentation that you’ll find out what you do and don’t like.

And you’ll surely miss out on some new sex moves you might really love if you don’t at least give them a try.

8. Your Partner Isn’t in the Mood

When Your Not in The Mood For Sex

Most of us have times when we don’t feel in the mood.

This could be due to work stress or just not feeling well.

It’s completely normal to occasionally hear, “I’m not in the mood for sex tonight,” from your partner.

However, if your partner isn’t in the mood on a somewhat regular basis, that could be the sign there’s a big problem in the bedroom.

One of the main reasons this happens is because your partner doesn’t feel consistently satisfied during sex.

How to Fix It

If you find yourself in the midst of what sex therapists (K. Killian Ph.D., 2019) call a “sexual desire discrepancy” where you seem to want a lot more sex than your partner, the first step is figuring out why.

Until you know the answer, it’ll be tough to resolve.

There are a lot of potential reasons for this, but sometimes it can be resolved simply by changing the way you have sex.

For example, it might just be that your partner needs more foreplay or wants a different kind of sex and once you get on the same page about that, the problem goes away.

Alternatively, maybe she’s too tired for sex or is feeling stressed out.

This is a particularly common reason for a drop in sex drive, especially if there have been big life changes lately, such as the birth of a new child, taking on a new job, or financial strains.

Women also tend to take on a disproportionate share of work around the house.

Make sure you’re doing your fair share to make sure things like stress and resentment aren’t interfering with your sex life.

Also, take a hard look at your relationship. Does your partner feel loved and supported?

Remember that there’s a huge psychological and mental component to sex and sexual desire.

The better you treat your partner, the better they’ll respond to you.

9. Being Too Drunk

Does Alcohol Effect Sexual Performance?

A little alcohol can be good for stoking the coals of your love life. Indeed, in small doses, alcohol can be a great aphrodisiac.

As with all other areas of life though, you’ll need to exercise moderation.

If you’re too drunk, sex won’t be as enjoyable for you or for your partner.

Research tells us that too much alcohol can numb physical sensations, as well as delay or prevent orgasm.

Alcohol also affects our ability to pay attention, which means we might not put as much effort into pleasing a partner or picking up on their nonverbal cues.

And, of course, too much alcohol can impair decision-making abilities too.

That’s certainly not something you want to mix with sex because it can lead to a lot of regrets.

How to Fix it

For starters, don’t drink so much.

This is easier said than done because some guys are prone to think they can handle more than they actually can.

Set a limit in advance on how many drinks you’re going to have so that you’ll be fully available later on.

Learn your limits and keep your eye on the prize.

Otherwise, things may not be as enjoyable as you (or your partner) hoped.

10. You’re Coming Much Earlier Than You Want To

Why Men Can't Last Long In Bed

One of our previous points focused on intentionally not bringing your partner to orgasm because you ‘already got yours’.

This is a similar problem, except that failure to satisfy your partner doesn’t stem from willful negligence. Rather, it’s a frustrating matter of coming long before she even has a chance to and long before you want to.

You want to make intercourse last long enough to satisfy her, but, from a biological standpoint, you simply can’t. For that reason, it can be highly frustrating for couples when this happens.

This is a very common problem since, as previously mentioned, women generally take longer to reach orgasm than men do.

How to Fix It

If you’re coming too early to satisfy your partner, there are several things you can do to help. For example, you might try doing Kegels exercises, which can help you gain more ejaculatory control. Or perhaps try masturbating before sex so you can last longer during the act itself.

Using a product like Promescent’s Desensitizing Spray can also help you last considerably longer. While maintaining your sensitivity and that of your partner, the delay spray allows you to last longer, leading to a quick solution to this vexing problem.

And since most other solutions to premature ejaculation can take a while to see results, a desensitizer can make all the difference now.


Although bad sex can feel like a ‘failure’, you don’t have to look at it that way.

Rather, view it as a learning opportunity—a way to become better at sex.

Bad sex allows you to notice what’s wrong so you can work towards a solution. Ironically, in all areas of life, ‘failure’ is a part of success.

It shows you what you need to do specifically in order to improve.

It’s normal for everyone and every couple to go through challenges. Those difficulties don’t have to define you or your relationship.

Practice, communication and thoughtfulness make all the difference.

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  • Dr. Justin Lehmiller

    Dr. Justin Lehmiller

    Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He is author of the blog Sex and Psychology and the popular book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. He is also a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works, including a textbook titled The Psychology of Human Sexuality that is used in college classrooms around the world. Dr. Lehmiller is one of the media's go-to experts on sex and has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and CNN; he has also appeared on dozens of radio, podcast, and television programs.


    Absorption Pharmaceuticals LLC (Promescent) has strict informational citing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic or research institutions, medical associations, and medical experts. We attempt to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references and only citing trustworthy sources. Each article is reviewed, written, and updated by Medical Professionals or authoritative Experts in a specific, related field of practice. You can find out more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

    • Kyle D. Killian Ph.D., LMFT. (n.d). About Kyle D. Killian, Ph.D., LMFT. Psychology today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/contributors/kyle-d-killian-phd-lmft. Accessed 29 Jan 2022.
    • Justin Lehmiller. 2019 January 28. How Long People Want Sex To Last Versus How Long Sex Actually Lasts. Sex & Psychology. https://www.sexandpsychology.com/blog/2019/1/28/how-long-people-want-sex-to-last-versus-how-long-sex-actually-lasts/. Accessed 29 Jan 2022.
    • Michael Castleman M.A., Reviewed by Lybi Ma. 2009 March 16. The Most Important Sexual Statistic. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-sex/200903/the-most-important-sexual-statistic. Accessed 29 Jan 2022.
    • Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D., Reviewed by Devon Frye. 2018 January 09. Why Men Will Always Be More Disgusting Than Women. Psychology today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-ooze/201801/why-men-will-always-be-more-disgusting-women. Accessed 29 Jan 2022.
    • Osmo Kontula, Researcher Professor, PhD* and Anneli Miettinen, Researcher, MSSc. 2016 October 25. Determinants of female sexual orgasms. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5087699/. Accessed 29 Jan 2022.
    • Heather Blunt-Vinti, Kristen N Jozkowski, Mary Hunt. 2019 April 11. Show or Tell? Does Verbal and/or Nonverbal Sexual Communication Matter for Sexual Satisfaction?. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30040593/. Accessed 29 Jan 2022.
    • Kyle D. Killian Ph.D., LMFT, Reviewed by Abigail Fagan. 2019 February 27. Sexual Desire Discrepancy: Why It’s a Big Deal for Couples. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intersections/201912/sexual-desire-discrepancy-why-it-s-big-deal-couples. Accessed 29 Jan 2022.
    The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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