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Personal Advice from Lucy Jane Bledsoe: Help! How do You Tell Someone They are Bad in Bed?

Personal Advice from Lucy Jane Bledsoe: Help! How do You Tell Someone They are Bad in Bed?

Author: Edit Team

September 9, 2018

Do you have problems with your love life? Hate your job? Your social life lacking that certain zing? All questions can be answered through literature—or maybe at least by the people who create it. With that in mind, we here at The Lambda Literary Review have started our very own advice column called “Reader Meet Author.” Think of the column as sort of a “Dear Abby” for the LGBTQ literary set. You can send “Reader Meet Author” questions for publication to

This month’s column is overseen by Lucy Jane Bledsoe. Lucy is the author of eight books, including the 2018 novel The Evolution of Love and the 2018 story collection Lava Falls.

Dear Author,

Sex talk is hard! How do you tell someone that you are dating that they are bad in bed? Is there a way to couch that conversation in a humane, non-harsh, non-offensive manner? I like them and every other aspect of our relationship is thrilling, but the sex is very, very, bad.



Dear S.O.S.,

Sadly, in my humble opinion, bad sex is a deal-breaker. Especially, “very, very bad” sex, as you describe it. I mean, that tide of sexual joy and connection is what launches most relationships, and while good sex does not necessarily mean a good relationship, I can’t imagine a good one that doesn’t start there.

Okay, now let me backtrack a little. I have a good friend who’s been through a long series of relationships, never able to find the one that really works for her. She especially wants someone with whom she can communicate well about emotional stuff. She’s finally found a woman who has everything she wants, including excellent emotional IQ and communication skills. But the sex is uninspired. In this case, I’ve advised my friend to stick with it. I’m suspicious that she (my friend) will never be satisfied and if she’s found someone who has everything else just right, maybe it’s worth working at the sex. I also suspect that, in this friend’s particular case, the trusting, good communication itself somehow detracts from the sex. That might be more her problem than one with the partner’s skills in bed.

So I’m curious about the line “every other aspect of our relationship is thrilling.” I wish you’d spelled out what exactly is thrilling. Can these thrilling parts get connected to the sex to make it more thrilling? I also wish you’d spelled out why or how the sex is bad because there might be clues in these details.

Finally, the answer to your actual question, “how do you tell someone you’re dating that they’re bad in bed?” is, you don’t. But, rather than tell them how they’re bad, you can tell them what you want. Rather than spell out what’s wrong, you can say what would make it good for you. You also can tell them what you find “thrilling” about them and the relationship, and possibly find a way to parlay those thrilling aspects into good sex.

Dear Author,

I met a great woman. We have been dating for one year. She is sweet, kind, funny, a little stubborn, and a little older—I am 38 and she is 54. We have both previously been in long term relationships—mine was eight years long and her last relationship lasted ten years. We both lived with our previously long-term partners and the dissolution of both our past relationships ended amicably.

The problem is that she is ready to live with someone again and I am decidedly not. While I love her, I also really love living alone. I like being the captain of my own ship. During the week, I cook what I want, go to bed when I want, make my bed when I want, and play the music I want. I realized that after my last relationship, I feel stifled sharing accommodations with someone—I actually think this caused the breakup.

My girlfriend asked me point blank if I can imagine living with someone again–the answer is no–but I have not been able to communicate my feelings out of fear she will break up with me. She has said, “If you can’t see yourself living with someone, tell me now. I am looking to build a life with someone.” I am too, just in separate apartments!

Should I share with her my current feelings about cohabitation or wait it out and see if my feelings will change? We have only been dating for a year, so my feelings about moving in with someone could evolve. I really just don’t want to lose her.


Loving Living Alone

Dear Loving Living Alone:

Your statement of why you like living alone is detailed, cogent, and convincing. Don’t give up on this. I’m a big believer in there being a multitude of ways to be in a relationship, including living together or not, marrying or not, monogamy or not, and on and on. While your new lover may need to live with someone as much as you need to live alone, and while her need is of course perfectly valid, it’s a fact that her position aligns more clearly with the dominant paradigm. Which can have the effect of giving it more weight or credence.

Also, because of that dominant paradigm, it’s possible that she’s just assuming this is what she needs. Is she fairly traditional in most of her other lifestyle choices? Does she consider herself a risk-taker? She might find, with some thought and experience with the fabulous you, that her horizon could expand.

The thing is, if you buckle on this, I’m pretty sure the relationship will fail. (You’ve already said that the last one did.) You’re just too clear on what you need and want. Ask her if she can try stretching, maybe for a period of time, like a year, and then reassess. Maybe also find out what it is about living together that she wants. If it’s security, then that’s a bad reason (because there’s no such thing as security in a relationship). If it’s something like cooking together, then there may be ways to include lots of that even while living apart. Try to get her to say, and be very specific about, what it is that she really needs from cohabitation.

And finally, ask yourself if you think she loves the part of you who is clearly independent and wants to spend time alone. It sounds like that’s a core part of who you are. I’d hope she values that. If she does, then she’ll want to find ways to support your independence. If she doesn’t, then maybe she’s trying to force you into being someone you aren’t.

Good luck. I admire someone who knows what they want in a relationship.

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