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How to Overcome a Bad Sex Experience

Couple on the bed is trying to overcome their bad sex experience

A bad, disappointing sex experience… It happens to the best of us. Some even say that if you haven’t had one, you haven’t lived your life. Jokes aside, it might not feel fun at all, especially if you’ve hit it off with someone new, created a very special connection and had high expectations for your first sex with them to be nothing less than epic, mind-blowing and out-of-this-world. Alas, despite all the anticipation and steamy pre-sex fantasies about this special moment, the reality of it was far from satisfying. It left you feeling insecure, hurt, doubtful, disconnected or frustrated. You are not alone.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to deal with disappointing sex and manage challenging emotions related to it so that they won’t negatively impact your sexual health and future sex experiences. We won’t focus on serious, abusive incidents that made you feel unsafe or put your life and health at risk. Those situations should be promptly handled with the help of a professional. Instead, we will focus on initial consensual encounters that left us feeling more “meh” than “wow.”

Rewrite your sexual script

Young couple making out on the bed

Before diving into trying to work through how you feel after a bad sex experience, take a step back. First, take some time to think about your sexual script and how it’s been influenced by culture, religion, mainstream porn, romantic movies and fantasies. You see, we all have a certain sexual script and it shapes how we perceive sex.

For some of us, it’s full of shameful, judgmental, guilty, or unrealistic messages. For example, “Sex should always be flawless, effortless and spontaneous. Men should always be ready to have sex and have an erection. Women have less sexual desire than men. Talking about sex with a partner is unnecessary; if they are good lovers, they should know what to do. If the first-time sex is bad, your relationship is doomed. Real sex is penetrative sex only.” And that list could go on and on. As you might guess, all these internalized messages significantly affect our sexual health, choices and experiences. That’s why it is so crucial to be aware of this and give yourself a chance to rethink and rewrite some damaging messages in your sexual script.

Normalize real-life sex

Young couple laughing after sex on the couch

So, the biggest belief, which is, honestly, one of the predisposed factors of bad sex, is that your first time together is supposed to be perfect, just like in movies and books. But real-life sex has nothing to do with scenes performed by professional actors or plots weaved by writers that feed our idealistic and fairy-tale views on sex. Sex is not supposed to be perfect. Let’s normalize real-life sex. Your sex expectations (or sexpectations, if you will) might be very high. Sure, who doesn’t want instant passion, simultaneous orgasms and a partner who magically knows all your turn-ons?! But that’s just not realistic from the get-go…

Sex, especially with a new partner, is commonly an awkward, stressful, tense and confusing experience. And that is okay. We are not robots. We can’t expect our partners to be flawless machines either. Sometimes certain positions just don’t work and you end up feeling very out of sync. Sometimes our bodies get numb and crampy. Sometimes you feel bloated, or maybe you are both drunk, tired, or frustrated. Maybe your partner doesn’t know your preferences yet. Or they are so much into you that they just can’t focus and this tension kills all the vibe. Maybe you are too shy to tell them how you want to be touched, or maybe you even have to fake an orgasm just to be done with it because you need to wake up early tomorrow.

Couple on a bed discussing their sexual experiences

The reasons that can cause bad and disappointing sex are vast. But that’s the beauty of it. The imperfect beauty of our human bodies and experiences. It’s the focal point where our compassion toward ourselves and others can bloom, which can then help us build strong and genuine intimacy with others. We are all just human beings trying our best to navigate our lives, love, relationships and jobs. So, maybe that sex that you labeled “bad” wasn’t that bad. Perhaps it just didn’t fit into the box of your idealistic first-sex encounters. And that’s okay too. We are all learning here.

Therefore, try to take a closer look at your sexual scripts and reframe them a bit. This will allow you to readjust your high sexual expectations. Every sexual encounter is unique and may not always meet your wildest fantasies. Which is totally OK. We should all embrace the unpredictability of intimacy and approach future encounters with an open mind, allowing room for different possibilities. And remember: while some people might not meet your expectations, others might surprise you in all the right ways.

Managing your feelings

Brunette young woman sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee looking thoughtful

Now you’ve got reframing your sexual script on your radar, let’s focus on some steps that can help you deal with unpleasant feelings about your bad sex experience:

  1. Don’t blame yourself. Treat yourself with compassion. Even though it is quite easy to slide down the hill of negative self-blaming talk, thoughts like, “Oh, it’s my fault,” “I suck at sex,” “I am not sexy enough,” or “Something is wrong with me” are not constructive and can make you feel even worse. Instead, try to tell yourself that it’s part of the learning experience and that you are not alone.
  2. Acknowledge and validate your feelings. Nothing good ever comes out of suppressing or avoiding our feelings. It’s okay to feel confused, insecure, upset and disappointed. Try not to judge yourself for experiencing this flock of emotions. They are a natural part of being human. In fact, the ability to reflect, accept and process our emotions is a great foundation for developing intimacy and a genuine connection with another human being, which can truly enhance the sexual pleasure experience.
  3. Practice some self-soothing techniques to redirect your attention from negative feelings: breathing, meditation, walking, or talking to a trusted friend or professional.
  4. Give yourself time and space to recover from feelings of disappointment. Whether you decide to try again with your current partner or not, allow yourself time and space to process your emotions and heal. Pamper your body with pleasant activities, help out your mind with positive self-talk and surround yourself with understanding and supportive people.

Let’s self-reflect

Black woman looking into a round mirror

Since you’ve got the knowledge of how to manage your negative feelings, it’s high time to get some clarity and analyze what actually went wrong. Here are some prompts to help you with this:

  1. What did you miss in this particular sexual experience?
  2. What didn’t you like?
  3. What would you have liked to experience instead?
  4. Were you fully present during sex, both mentally and emotionally? What about your partner?
  5. Were you 100% ready for this sexual experience?
  6. What were you feeling before, during and after the sexual experience?
  7. Were you feeling stressed, insecure and doubtful from the start?
  8. Did you communicate your likes and dislikes in the moment? If yes, how did your partner react to that. How did you react to that?
  9. How did you handle the initial disappointment? If you could go back to that moment, what would you have done and said differently?

This self-reflection is not intended to make you feel worse or regret that you didn’t act a certain way. Instead, it is designed to give you another perspective and help you approach this experience from a clearer angle now that the initial disappointment has faded a bit. It can help you take this experience to another level, where you can regard it as a chance to learn more about yourself, your sexuality and even deepen the connection with your partner.

Educate yourself

Confident woman dressed in a white robe, posing on a comfy chair

Before bringing up your feelings and insights with your partner in an open discussion, you need to first be clear about what you want and don’t want in your sexual encounters. Of course, for some people, it can be a challenging task, but there is no way we can skip this milestone because that is where our sexual intelligence starts. “Know thyself”, as they say.

If you haven’t yet worked on that area of your life, it’s just the right time. Sometimes bad sex can also be a result of a lack of knowledge or understanding about our own bodies and desires. Consider educating yourself about sexuality, communication, consent, boundaries and sensuality. Explore self-pleasuring activities to discover what brings you pleasure; watch erotic movies or ethical porn; read or listen to erotica to get more insights about your sexual universe and ideas on how to expand it. Make a list of all the things you’ve responded to with sexual curiosity and desire. Add more humanness, aka compassion, and flexibility to your sexual menu. Allow yourself and others to make mistakes, grow and learn.

Communication is lubrication

Young couplevtalking on the sofa trying to improve their sex experience

Remember, a disappointing sexual experience isn’t the end of the road. Great sex takes time, effort, some readjustments, willingness and communication. Undoubtedly, communication is the key to happier and more fulfilling sex. And yes, it’s not easy, even for the bravest of us, to talk about our bad sex experience, especially with a new partner. But uncomfortable conversations are usually the most important and needed ones. What’s more, it can turn into a very transformative experience for both of you. For some people, open and honest communication about sex can be quite challenging and nerve-racking, so here are some pointers:

  1. Write down what you’d like to say. Do it a few times. Read it out loud. It will help you decrease the emotional charge, calm your nervous system and make you feel more confident.
  2. If you feel extremely shy, anxious, or scared, consider sending a text first. But I’d still recommend talking in person later because it’s an essential skill that will help you a lot when it comes to sex and your general relationship.
  3. Be honest about your feelings and your experience. Avoid sounding accusatory. Use “I” statements. “I feel… “, “For me… “, “I would love us to try… “, “I liked how you… “, “Will you be open to touching me this way…?”

Observe how your partner reacts to that. If they respond maturely and express their willingness to try again, cheers to that! That’s a positive sign. If they start attacking, blaming and gaslighting you, run. If they’re somewhere in the middle, give them some time and maybe they’ll come round. Regardless of the outcome, don’t forget to acknowledge your courage, confidence and sexual maturity in dealing with a bad sexual experience.

Giving it another try

Young couple hugging romantically while touching each other's necks

So, you’ve had that important conversation and decided to try again. But you still feel a bit anxious. That is okay. Now that you know how to deal with disappointing sex and handle unexpected twists in a sexual experience, it is going to be easier. Whatever happens between you two, try to focus on pleasure and connection rather than performance. Slow down. Start with mental foreplay and sprinkle it with humor, compassion and vulnerability. Don’t forget to communicate along the journey and take time to get to know each other’s bodies. If you feel distracted and overwhelmed again, just shift your focus to your breathing and your body sensations. Consider adding some kinky spice to your intimate activities, but make sure you are both comfortable and consensual about it.

Whether you decide to try again with the same person or move on, remember that sexual disappointments are inevitable for anyone who has sex. So, don’t take it too personally, but rather look at it as a stepping stone to learning and growing into a more confident, satisfied and empowered sexual being.

Disclaimer: #Dating’s blog posts are for you to view at your discretion, and the sexual health insights presented are for general information only. It is not intended as medical advice and readers should seek professional guidance if appropriate.


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