My partner rarely focuses on me during sex, even though I give him oral. How do I tell him it bothers me?

My partner rarely focuses on me during sex, even though I give him oral. How do I tell him it bothers me?
Samantha Lee/Insider
My partner rarely focuses on me during sex, even though I give him oral. How do I tell him it bothers me?
Crystal Cox/Insider
  • It's normal to feel uncertain about how to approach sex talks with a partner.
  • Give yourself grace, and understand changes in sex aren't an inherently bad thing.
  • Tell your partner you're nervous, and focus on being curious so you can find solutions.

Dear Julia,


My partner is starting to focus more on his pleasure than mine.

I noticed that when we first started dating, he'd pleasure me a lot and not really focus on himself. Then he started to want more in return. I gave him that, so we were pretty equal.

Now, I seem to give him blow jobs and other sexual favors, but I don't really receive the same pleasure, unless it's penetrative sex.

What should I do? I don't know how to approach him about it.


- Cleveland

Dear Cleveland,

I'm sorry that you're not getting the sexual reciprocity you're looking for in your relationship.

The good news? It's normal to not know how to ask for what you want, but you can learn how to ask.

If your high-school sex education was anything like mine, with a focus on fear-mongering about pregnancy and STDs, you may not have learned how to explore your own pleasure and advocate for it. I know I didn't, but it turns out that's a major part of building a satisfying sex life.


It requires a level of vulnerability and curiosity, New York City-based sex therapist Rachel Wright told me, but it's entirely possible to become a seasoned sex communicator.

As humans, our sexual desires and needs are constantly changing, just like our tastes in food and friendships, and our outlooks on life, evolve.

If you can come to terms with that, it can take some of the pressure off when you talk to your partner about sexual reciprocity.

If you're nervous, try calling out the awkwardness of the situation first

People change their sexual behaviors for a variety of reasons, so it's better to ask, rather than assume, if someone's behavior is about your character or your relationship, Wright told me.

Changes in medications, stress, hormone levels, and lifestyle can all play a role in how someone shows up in the bedroom.


"The real question is to ask the person who is experiencing the change what's going on and how they're feeling," rather than center the conversation around a theory in your head, Wright said.

If you've never had a conversation like this before, don't despair.

"We don't learn sex education for pleasure, and we don't learn how to communicate in our relationships, so we have no idea what we're talking about or how to talk about it," Wright said.

So give yourself some grace as you learn, and look at this nerve-wracking conversation as an opportunity to show your partner your vulnerable side and connect on a deeper level.

To start, Wright suggested naming your concerns about the conversation upfront. She said you could kick things off by saying, "Hey, I know we haven't really talked about sex, and I'm feeling really nervous, so please give me some grace as I stumble through what I'm about to say."


Then you can name the changes you've noticed during sex, and explain how a lack of non-penetrative pleasure has made you feel, like unimportant or disconnected from your partner. You can ask him how he's been feeling about your sex life, and if he's noticed a similar change. Here, it's important you ask because you want to know where he's coming from, not because you want to prove your side.

"Being curious is different than berating or asking for an explanation," Wright told me.

Finally, explain what you need to feel more connected the next time you have sex, and ask your partner to do the same.

Practice makes perfect, so set up a time to talk about sex again

If you notice your first conversation hasn't led to changes in your sex life, that doesn't mean they'll never come.

These things take time and lots of talks, so Wright suggested checking in and scheduling a second sit-down with your partner.


You could say something like, "Hey, we talked a couple weeks ago about our changing sexual needs, and I noticed that nothing has shifted. I'd love to talk about it more or try again — what do you think?"

If the tone is too serious for you, you could also bring a bit of playful experimentation into the mix, Wright said. She created a card deck for exploring pleasure and intimacy, and there are plenty of other sexploration games to test out, like The Gottman Card Decks and The Oral Sex card game.

As Insider's resident sex and relationships reporter, Julia Naftulin is here to answer all of your questions about dating, love, and doing it — no question is too weird or taboo. Julia regularly consults a panel of health experts including relationship therapists, gynecologists, and urologists to get science-backed answers to your burning questions, with a personal twist.

Have a question? Fill out this anonymous form. All questions will be published anonymously.