Sex advice: I can’t cope with the constant compliments

Sex advice: I can’t cope with the constant compliments

I’ve been seeing my boyfriend for six months and it’s going well, but I can’t cope with the constant compliments about my sexual performance. Apart from it throwing me during sex, what am I supposed to say back?

The occasional compliment is always welcome, but you can get too much of a good thing. Say something nice once and it is meaningful. Say it 10 times and it begins to sound hollow. Most people thrive on compliments it’s true, but there is a discernible line between authentic appreciation and empty rhetoric.

This is never more true than during sex. When a man gasps out his thanks after orgasm, it is easy to tell that his gratitude is genuine. By comparison, your boyfriend’s habit of constantly doling out compliments while you are having sex could be incredibly irritating. A straw poll of four female friends confirms that women nurture an inherent suspicion of any man who gushes over them too effusively. The kinder interpretation is that it is a sign of deep insecurity - the harsher critics use the word “creepy”.

The thing that bothers me is that, however well intentioned it is, praise, like criticism, is a judgment, and no one wants to think that their sexual partner is evaluating their performance during sex. Putting aside the creepiness factor, what happens when the compliments stop? If they are a measurable indication of his sexual satisfaction, their absence might leave you with self-doubt and insecurity.

There is also something controlling about a syrupy running commentary during intimacy. In bed, or out, constant complimentary narratives can be a form of manipulation, when flattery is actually persuasion in disguise. “You are so good at that” translates into “Keep going”, and “I love it when you go on top” means “Keep doing all the work”.

Whether this idiosyncrasy indicates arrogance or insecurity is hard to know, but either way it is spoiling sex for you. It is very difficult to stay focused on what you are feeling if something else is distracting you. Mind you, it is impossible to be the actor and the audience, so the same is obviously true for your boyfriend. He can’t possibly be fully present to sexual sensation if he is simultaneously delivering a panegyric about your skills in the sack.

Because compliments don’t tend to require a response, they don’t even constitute communication, so perhaps he gets off on the sound of his voice. Or maybe, if you tend to be very quiet in bed, he is simply trying to fill the silence. Silent sex can make some people feel uncomfortable, and in this context the unidirectional nature of compliments would make sense. If this rings true with you, taking yourself off mute might be the easiest way to help him to relax.

Although it sounds like a small gripe, you are right to try to resolve this issue now. In new relationships, people often choose to ignore small problems because they don’t want to offend their new partner. However, in the honeymoon period people are much more forgiving than they are later on, so now would actually be the best time to try to iron out minor irritations.

Being able to broach difficult subjects is key to all successful relationships, so the sooner you understand the problem, the easier it will be to find a solution. Talking about sex requires honesty from both of you, but that is a good thing because a wealth of research has found that emotional bonds tend to get stronger, not weaker, when people are willing to share their vulnerabilities with each other.

Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com

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