Have you ever found yourself making a mental grocery list in the middle of sex? You could be completely into the person beneath you (or atop you, beside you, what have you), and enjoying yourself immensely, and then bam. Nope, not an orgasm. Rather, you just remembered there’s no mylk in the fridge, and now there’s nothing else you can think about.
The problem, it turns out, is actually super common. “We used to have more clearly delineated lines between our personal lives, our work lives, and everything else,” says Daniel Olavarria, LCSW. “The convenience that’s afforded to us by the internet, mobile phones, flexible work hours, and social media also has a flip side: It’s hard for our brains to keep track of which moments and places in our day are dedicated to certain things.” Basically, we’re so great at multitasking that sex, too, can certainly fall victim to busyness.
Basically, we’re so great at multitasking that sex, too, can certainly fall victim to busyness.
Your mind very well might not know that once you slip between the sheets for some fun, it’s a “safe” moment for it to turn off. And if you’re someone who tends to look at your phone in bed—or binge-watch the latest and greatest on Netflix, or fire up the laptop for some hygge WFH—the effects may be more severe for you, since your brain associates stimuli with your mattress.
Furthermore, the tendency for your mind to wander tends to happen more with new partners, as sex requires a certain amount of vulnerability. “Sex requires people to forfeit control to some extent and to practice a level of trust with their partner,” Olavarria says. “If that feels scary to you, then it may provide some indication of emotional cues that are holding you back and not allowing you to keep your mind present during sex.” This is especially true for folks who are prone to anxiety, or who have a more type-A personality. “Enjoying sex requires people to engage in a certain level of vulnerability,” he says. And for people who are anxious or who tend to thrive with control, this can be a difficult thing to achieve.
While Olavarria says that both men and women are prone to mid-coitus mind-wandering, women are more likely to do it—and there are deeply rooted emotional reasons why. “Women are often cultured to believe that their sexual needs aren’t as important as their male partner’s needs,” he says. “This can result in deep internalizing of those feelings, and can result in women not being emotionally present during sex.”
Here’s the good news: Implementing just a few adjustments can help you shut your mind off during sex.
Sounds pretty terrible, right? Here’s the good news: Implementing just a few adjustments can help you shut off your mind during sex. Olavarria suggests practicing mindfulness. “If you know that you’re somebody who frequently checks your phone for emails or social media notifications, practice getting through just lunch with a friend or a partner with your phone off,” he says. Then work yourself up to longer stretches of time sans-phone. Keeping your phone out of your bedroom is also a great step for separating your workspace from your sexy space.
But most importantly, be gentle with yourself, and be open with your partner about what your needs are. “Find a way to externalize these thoughts in a non-blaming way with someone else, including your partner or a trusted friend,” Olavarria says. “Sometimes, just saying those thoughts and feeling out loud can be really helpful in allowing you to release the tension that they carry.”
Talking it through is the easiest way to make the thoughts in your head less scary. And once the fear is gone, you’ll find that it’s much easier to fall into a sexier state of mind.
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