Dear Yana,

I’m a 30-something guy in a long-term relationship with a bisexual woman. She’s got a high sex drive and wants to have sex almost constantly. My desire doesn’t really match up with hers but I wonder if the issue is really that her sexual techniques don’t really line up with my tastes. Her confidence seems tenuous and I’m worried that my requests will deflate her.

How could I best make suggestions towards what I want her to do and request changes to her existing approach without making her retreat from me or feel bad?

Thanks for any advice,

Cautious Critiquer


Dear Cautious,

I know for some readers this might sound shocking, but I was once a church youth group director. Okay, well, it was a Unitarian Universalist church youth group but still. One thing that’s really great about working with teenagers in an intentional, pure, community-building setting such as a UU church youth group is that they teach you how to be a nice, ethics-forward, person in the world.

What does this have to do with your sex life, Cautious? Well, not all sex advice is sexual in nature. Sometimes, learning how to communicate directly and kindly is just the skill set you need to further your sexual satisfaction. And with that, I introduce to you the The Compliment Sandwich, courtesy of my former church youth group days.

The Compliment Sandwich is a technique great for delivering constructive feedback in a way that strikes a nice balance between honoring your partner’s/friend’s/co-worker’s strengths, and being direct and clear about what you’d like to see change. In a Compliment Sandwich, compliments are the bread and your request/suggestion/critique is the meat (or vegan meat substitute, as it were).

For example: “You write such a good sex column every week. We’d love it if you wouldn’t talk about Compliment Sandwiches so much in the next one. Your columns about desire discrepancies in long-term couples have been a huge hit! Keep it up!”

Or, in your case, Cautious: “Babe, I love how excited you are about giving me blowjobs; it’s super hot. I’m wondering if next time you can move a little slower and try this hand/mouth coordination technique I saw in our favorite porno. Our sex life is so awesome and I’m such a lucky guy to have it with you.”

See how much easier that is to … swallow?

Bonus points to you, Cautious, if your request of your partner is as positive, specific, and attainable as possible. Meaning, often when we make requests of our partners – whether they be sexual, relational, or emotional – they are too vague (“Love me more!”), non-specific (“Do that thing you did that one time…y’know – the thing”) or overwhelmingly negative (“You’ll never be good at blow jobs, so just forget it”).

In contrast, requests that are positive and specific offer something productive for our partners to offer us and are detailed enough so that our partners actually have a shot at understanding and achieving them. This, rather than a negative, vague complaint, has a better chance of making you both feel better, happier, and successful in your relationship rather than defeated, criticized, and blowjob-less!

Remember that the central thing about “requests” is that they are just that: requests. Not demands, not orders, and certainly not expected to be done without the person’s willingness and consent. Positive, specific requests should always be presented with flexibility and compromise — so maybe your partner doesn’t want to do the cool hand/mouth coordination blow job thing, but maybe she is open to trying some new techniques that are more in her wheelhouse.

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website,