Not Satisfied in Bed? Your Partner Can Tell

Medically reviewed in January 2022

At those times when it’s just not happening for you in bed, “going along to get along” might seem like the polite thing to do. But if you think you’re fooling your partner by faking it, maybe you should think again. Research shows that women (and men, too) in long-term relationships can tell whether or not their partners really are sexually satisfied.

Reading between the lines
Canadian researchers from the University of Waterloo surveyed 84 heterosexual couples about their sexual satisfaction, sexual communication, and overall happiness with their relationship, and they measured each person’s ability to read emotions in others. It turned out that, on average, both men and women know quite well when their partner is sexually satisfied in a relationship. This is true not only for couples who communicate well, but even for those who don’t express their needs so openly. The study was published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

You can chalk it up to what the researchers call a "sexual script" (or sexual routine) that couples develop over time, which helps guide their sexual intuitions. Think about it: After all your rehearsals together, you know your lines well—and she knows yours, too. So when your performance is less than convincing, try as you might, you can’t hide it.

Role reversal
Sure, everybody has an off night or two. But if your satisfaction stays in the dumps, don’t let it put your relationship at risk. Here’s how to take action:

  • Talk it out. The study suggests your partner already has an idea about your concerns. Break the ice and talk openly—but tactfully—about your needs and what you feel is missing.
  • Flip the script. Perhaps you’ve seen the same episode too many times.
  • Consider the causes. If boredom isn’t your issue, take time to find out what else—stress, relationship troubles, even health problems—is going on.

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